August 2017 Wrap Up

Hey everyone! Sorry I've been missing for the last week or so, I had a last minute medical emergency and ended up having to have surgery. Luckily I'll be fine, but the important thing here is recapping August's reads! This month I completed 10 books (and started but DNF 2 more). Here are the titles and my brief ratings, as always let me know if you would like to see full reviews of any of these I haven't yet posted!

Did not finish:
*ARC courtesy of either Edelweiss+ or Netgalley in collaboration with the publisher

Warcross by Marie Lu

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I have been in such a streak of great books lately! This one was definitely no exception. Warcross by Marie Lu follows Emika Chen, a teenager who is used to making her living as a bounty hunter capturing wanted gamblers. But one day, her tech-savvy personality goes too far and she hacks into the championship game of Warcross, a virtual reality game that has taken over the world using augmented reality glasses to transform everything around you. 

This attracts the attention of Hideo Tanaka, the young techie who created the world of Warcross, and he flies her to Tokyo to assist in hunting down a hacker who appears to be tampering with the game. As Emika plays undercover as a member of one of the Warcross championship teams, she gets in deeper than she might have expected, with both Hideo and her assignment. Soon things start to escalate as lives are at stake and suspicion abounds. Does the mysterious hacker win and execute his plan? Is everyone safe? And are people's motives really what they seem?

Without any spoilers, I can say that this book was fantastic and definitely took an interesting turn! It was full of action, and even a little romance, and was thrilling from the first page to the last. The visuals that Marie Lu created through her writing were fascinating, and I keep picturing an amazing neon universe with unrivaled technology and creativity, and I just want to be a part of it! I've never read anything by Marie Lu, but based on this book I just want to go devour everything she's ever written! I've heard this is similar to Ready, Player One by Ernest Cline, but since I have yet to read that I can't really comment.

Warcross really made me want to be a badass like Emika, and it definitely made me more curious about technology. I can tell this will be a book that sticks with me for a while, which is always my favorite type of book! Warcross by Marie Lu hits shelves on September 12th!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

An e-copy of this book was provided to me by Edelweiss+ and G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review, but this book really was 5 stars-awesome!

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Ok, WOW. This book was way heavier than I was expecting, but definitely in a good way. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera follows two teenage boys, Rufus and Mateo, as they live out their last day together. In this world, you know when you’re going to die. That’s because a company called Death-Cast calls you in the middle of the night on your last day. They don’t tell you exactly when or how you will die, just that you will die in the next 24 hours. And weirdly enough, the world seems okay with this. There are numerous apps and websites dedicated to chronicling people’s last day, and various companies with offerings for what they call Deckers (those on deck to die). Mateo and Rufus find each other through one of these apps, Last Friend, and decide to spend their final day together.

Mateo has always been introverted and scared to really live his life, while Rufus has lived but has really been hardened since his parents and sister died. Together, they learn to overcome their weaknesses and really take advantage of each other’s strengths. From virtual skydiving to visiting a cemetery (where Mateo actually sees his own grave being dug…how creepy is that?!), they spend their last day with each other and their best friends, truly trying to make the most of the time they have left. Mateo finally lets loose and truly lives his last day, while Rufus finds the closure and peace has been looking for, and they both find love in one another.

I kept having to put this book down, not because it was boring or hard to read (I read it in a few hours I was so hooked), but because it really made me think. What would I do if I got a call from Death-Cast telling me I had a day or less to live? Would I be happy with how I lived my life thus far? The take-away from this book was really fantastic: to appreciate those you love and to make the best use of your life while you have it, because we never know when that last day may be for us, and unlike the characters in the book, we won’t even get a warning.

This book was phenomenal. I love books that have a lesson to take away, and this one definitely did. Rufus and Mateo were wonderfully developed characters that were easy to love. There were even a few side stories of other characters thrown in for good measure, which I really enjoyed.  My only complaint was the ending, which to me left a major thing unanswered, although I *think* I can guess what happens (for spoiler’s sake I won’t share my theory here).  This was definitely one of the best books I’ve read all year, and I will 100% be getting a copy the second it comes out. They  Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera hits shelves on September 5, 2017.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

An e-copy of this book was provided to me by Edelweiss+ and HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review, although this review is 100% honest and I really did adore this book!

The Lauras by Sara Taylor

The Lauras by Sara Taylor is a combination coming of age/travel tale of young Alex and Alex's mother. Having abandoned Alex's father, the mother takes the two all over the country tying up loose ends, doing things like paying back debts, kidnapping a girl controlled by a religious cult family, and scattering ashes. Throughout the story, Alex struggles with identity, sexuality, and a desire for home.

While the premise of this novel was interesting, there were a few things I just didn't like. First, you never knew whether Alex was a girl or a boy. While I understand that this was trying to help better explain gender fluidity, it made it hard to understand certain parts of the story, without at least knowing the sex that Alex was born as. The part where Alex's classmates tried to ambush Alex to determine a gender was heartbreaking, and it really helped me understand some of the things that those who don't identify with a gender have to deal with on a daily basis.

The other, and way more major, thing I just couldn't get behind is that this book really didn't have a plot. They just went from place to place doing different things, but it never really ended. Now again, I can see that this might have been intentional, but I just don't like books that don't give me closure when they're finished. Where did Alex end up?? Did Alex's mom tie up all the loose ends she needed to?

And lastly, the title wasn't very related in my opinion. Yes, Alex's mom tells the story of a few friends she knew named Laura, and one of them is where she ends up at the end of the book, but they didn't seem to have a big enough impact on things to warrant naming the book after them.

Sadly, I had to struggle to finish this. There just wasn't anything exciting or grabbing about the story or the characters. 

Overall Rating: 2.5 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 Book Sacrifice Tag

While this is a blog rather than a BookTube channel, I love the tags done on BookTube and wanted to jump in myself in blog form. I wanted to start off with the Book Sacrifice tag, created by Ariel Bissett. Take a look at her video, then scroll down for my answers!

1) An Over-Hyped book: HA this is easy, as it's currently #1 on my over-hyped hate list. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. Everyone raves about this book, but as you already know based on my earlier unpopular opinion post, I couldn't stand it (or even finish it for that matter). Zombies, you're going down.

2) A Sequel: Typically sequels are a letdown for me, with both books and movies. One that comes to mind immediately is The Nightmare Dilemma by Mindee Arnett. I absolutely adored The Nightmare Affair and was excited to jump into this one, but it paled in comparison, and I couldn't even finish it, let alone move on to the third book The Nightmare Charade. Such a letdown. I would totally sacrifice this book to protect my hair.

3) A Classic: There were a few I could have chosen here, but overall I do enjoy most classics. I would have to go with Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. It was long and confusing and the characters were weird (but not in a good way) and overall I could not wait for this book to be over. And the thing with the old wedding cake? Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. DISTURBING.

4) Your least favorite book of life: Oh man, this could also be considered as a classic, and I had a hard time deciding if I wanted to use it above or for this one, but it really and truly is my least favorite book of life. For this I would immediately burn The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I HATED this book. Everything about it was just terrible. The main character Holden is the most annoying character ever created, and all he does is whine and complain. Burning this one first for sure!

Still Here: A Novel by Lara Vapnyar

Cover Art Courtesy of
Penguin Random House
Still Here: A Novel by Lara Vapnyar is a book about four friends, Russian immigrants Sergey, Vica, Vadik, and Regina, who are learning to live and love in New York City. This story follows them as their relationships fall apart and back together, their jobs shape who they are, and they evaluate whether or not it was worth it to immigrate to America in the first place.

Each of the characters has characteristics that make them distinct from one another. For example, Sergey can't hold a job but is the most ambitious of the group. Regina married for security not love, but is slowly learning what love really is. Vadik can't make up his mind when it comes to anything, like his apartments or his women. And Vica is just trying to maintain security while raising her son Eric. 

The story centers around Sergey's idea of an app (one of many app ideas he has, I might add) called Virtual Grave, something that will preserve us long after we're gone. It makes each of the characters really evaluate their lives and what, if anything, they would be able to leave behind and be remembered by.

Overall, while the concept was unique and I had high hopes for this book, I really didn't like it. I honestly found all of the characters annoying, especially Sergey, and they were all weirdly romantically tied together in one way or another. Sergey and Vica are married, but Vica used to date Vadik and Sergey used to date Regina, yet somehow they don't think this is weird at all and still hang out together. When Vica kicks Sergey out, he goes to crash with Vadik, and here you really get a taste of Sergey's slothiness, which made me dislike him even more. The writing was great, however, and that's what got me through the story. While I didn't like the characters, the character development itself was spot on, and although I didn't like this plot in particular I would definitely give Lara Vapnyar another try since her writing was great.

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
So, I finally got around to making this book a priority, and I'm SO glad I did. I chose to listen to the audiobook rather than read the text itself because I had heard amazing things about the narration, and I definitely made the right choice. Michael Crouch narrates this coming of age tale about a boy being blackmailed regarding his sexuality, falling in love with an anonymous classmate via email, and struggling with the typical family and friend dynamics that a teenager encounters. The entire time, I felt engaged and connected to the story, and I was so eager to learn what would happen next.

Simon was such a relatable character, even though I'm a straight female, simply because he was so down to earth and real. This story really showed not only the struggles that a typical teenager faces, but the ones that homosexual teenagers deal with on a daily basis that many of us will never understand. It really puts things into perspective about being kind to everyone, because you never know what they may be struggling with internally.

Simon's friends Abby, Leah, and Nick were great examples of how real friends should be, supportive yet hard when they need to be. And Blue, let's not even get started when it comes to Blue! Simon and Blue's emails were precious, and they made me feel all the warm fuzzies throughout the story. This was an easy read/listen with a really great message and a feel-good plot. I don't know why it took me so long to commit to this story, but now that I have I can see this being something that I will listen to, and even read, time and time again.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Unpopular Opinion: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (Witchlands #1)

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
When it comes to hyped/popular books, I usually agree with the mainstream. I loved hyped books like Cinder, Fangirl, and Throne of Glass. But when it came to this book, I have to say I disagree with the majority of the views out there, so it's time for my first post in (what is hopefully a short) series on unpopular opinions.

Truthwitch, and its sequel Windwitch, by Susan Dennard have been hyped all over the internet, Booktube included. So when I saw that it was an action-packed fantasy novel with a badass female character, I knew I needed to hop on this train. But unfortunately, I couldn't even finish this book. 

It was just too confusing! There were so many new concepts and terms to understand and they weren't explained well at all. From the very beginning it was throwing around terms about the witches and different nationalities and where people are from and I couldn't follow it. For example, it right away mentions a "Threadsister" and "Threadwitch" that can see "threads" in other people, but it never really said what threads are! Emotions, life forces, thoughts, what?? You had to try to piece together what she was seeing to really understand the concept, rather than getting a clear explanation. Another example is that it kept mentioning that Iz a Nomatsis and she was basically in exile, but again it didn't explain why, just that she was. 

I had to work so hard to try to figure out what was going on, this book gave me a headache. I was too confused to actually enjoy the plot and really follow the storyline, which I very may well have enjoyed if some of the background information had been explained better at the beginning. Even though this is the first book in a series, it felt like I was jumping into the middle of a series without any explanation of what was going on. I am giving this book two stars since the concept is pretty unique, and like I said I can see liking it if it was clearer, but I couldn't even complete the book.

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

August 2017 TBR

Just some of this month's TBR!
I've got a pretty ambitious TBR for August, especially since some of these I've been putting off forever, but lucky for me it will be a fairly easy month in terms of plans. Let's see if I can get some of these (if not all) read this month!

  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
  • Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
  • Goodbye Good Girl by Renee Blossom
  • This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
  • Still Here by Lara Vapnyar
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

July 2017 Wrap Up

So in total I read 9 books in July. A few were ARCs but most are books already on the market. Here are the books I read and how I rated them. If you would like me to do an in-depth review on any of these I haven't already reviewed, just let me know! Otherwise, check out my Goodreads account for brief reviews.

*ARC courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher

You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando

Cover Art Courtesy
of Goodreads
Fighter. Faker. Student. Spy.

I absolutely adored this book! You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando follows a high school student named Reagan who was born to two extra-secret CIA operatives. Because of her parents, Reagan has to move around all the time and keep her true identity secret, and she herself has been training to become one of these operatives, known as the Black Angels, since she was 10.

Reagan is conflicted by the life she was born into, especially since she just got a taste of real life for the first time: true friends, a love interest, and a town she really likes. She feels that the way her parents raised her is unfair, not giving her a chance to make her own choices and regularly putting her in danger. But when one of her parents' missions goes awry, Reagan has to choose whether she really wants this life or not.

This book was full of all the things I love: action, teen angst, romance and friendship, and did I mention action? It was a super quick read, and very different from anything on the market right now. I'm extremely anxious for the next book in the Black Angels series to come out! But now, it's time to head to the gym, because Reagan makes me want to be a badass girl just like her.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Yes. Yes. Yes. This book. I can't.

Aside from it's kickass cover, the story itself was incredible. It follows Quincy, a "final girl" who was the lone survivor of brutal massacre, as she battles with herself and her identity following the incident. Along the way she is connected with two other final girls, Sam and Lisa, but when Lisa turns up dead things start getting weird. Is someone hunting down the final girls? Is Quincy in danger? And what about Sam, this mysterious third final girl who appeared out of nowhere and seems to be turning Quincy against herself? Is Quincy really as malicious as she is now appearing, or is Sam turning her into someone she's not?

The character development in this book was spot on, and the writing was great. Since Riley Sager is a pen name, I would love to know who the actual author is! I loved how Quincy used baking to escape her demons. It's written so that you get occasional flashbacks of the night of the massacre, so you get the same bits and pieces of memory as they come back to Quincy. This was a page turner until the very end. And without spoilers, the ending is DEFINITELY unexpected! So glad I chose this as my July 
Book of the Month.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Of Jenny and the Aliens by Ryan Gebhart

Cover art courtesy
of Goodreads
I was luckily enough to snag a digital copy of this book from Netgalley to review, and I tore through it like a bat out of hell! To preface, any time you say the word "aliens" I'm on board, no matter the context. So when I saw a YA title with a super cute cover that included aliens in the plot, I knew I had to request it! 

Of Jenny and the Aliens is the story of Derek, a high school boy who has been through the ringer with his divorced parents and a forced cross-country move. While he's not completely miserable, he's never been truly happy...until he meets Jenny at a crazy end of the world party. You see, humans have finally made contact with aliens, and no one is sure what will happen next. This story follows Derek as he struggles with himself and to win Jenny over, and he has a few, well...unique, encounters along the way. 

This book was SO different than what's out there right now. Yes it was boy meets girl, but it was so much more than that. It was a quick read, but one that sticks with you. What Derek did for Jenny I think will hit home with a lot of people, not just in the sense of how much you love someone, but the existentialism of how much is really out there, the meaning of life, all that jazz. I think this book had a lot of unobvious lessons in it, and I'm glad I was able to take so much away from it. I think Of Jenny and the Aliens will mean different things to different people, but it's up to you to read it and find out!Of Jenny and the Aliens will be released on August 1, 2017.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley and Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

It's no secret that I love Star Wars. When Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) passed away in December, I was distraught. Shortly before her passing she had released a new book, The Princess Diarist (in fact, she was on the press tour for this book when she had the heart attack that ultimately killed her). I put it on my to-read list right after it came out, but due to her death it was sold out virtually everywhere. I FINALLY managed to get my hands on a copy, and devoured it immediately. 

The book details Carrie's experiences filming the first Star Wars movie, her naivete in Hollywood, and of course, her affair with Harrison Ford *swoon*. In addition to her modern narrative, it also includes excerpts from the diaries she kept while filming-everything from self-loathing entries to romantic poetry. It closes with what it personally meant to her to be Princess Leia, which was in my opinion the most touching part of the book. Interspersed throughout the book are also black and white images from Carrie's golden years, including snaps with her Star Wars costars and with Warren Beatty on the set of her first film, Shampoo. 

This was a quick, enjoyable, and sadly nostalgic read. I feel like Carrie was the perfect combination of brutally honest, sarcastic, and witty, and that came through so well in this book. My only complaint would be that I wish the diary entries were more scattered throughout the book rather than all shoved smack dab in the middle.

Thanks, Carrie, for giving us one of the most badass female characters of all time. Rest in peace, Princess, and may the Force be with you.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

Aren't these two CUTE?!
It's no secret that I love Fixer-Upper on HGTV. Chip and Joanna Gaines are miracle workers, as far as I'm concerned. And as for shiplap, if you could make a coffin out of that stuff I would want to be buried in it. I had been wanting to read their book for a while, but I was worried it would have too much of a religious tone. Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against people who are religious, I just don't like others to try to shove it down my throat (I wanted a story about their business, not their religious beliefs).

I decided to give it a shot anyway, and I'm glad I did! There was barely any religious tone at all (they referenced God every now and then, but it was far from preachy), and it really did focus on Chip and Joanna's rise to HGTV fame. And man, did these two HUSTLE. Chip especially, that guy was the king of hustle, upside down, backwards, and sideways. From the time they met, Chip and Jo seemed to constantly get involved in one financial endeavor after another, reinvesting any profits they made, which slowly led them to where they are today. It really showed the meaning of hard work and dedication, and the fake-it-till-you-make-it mentality. Chip and Joanna grew up in average families, and really did make their own way in life, unlike many "celebrities" who have been raised in wealthy, well-to-do families.

One thing that rubbed me the wrong way, however, was that things always seemed to work out for them. When they had a construction project about to fail because they couldn't get a loan, they had someone who was virtually a stranger lend them 100k. When they wanted a location for Jo's store but couldn't offer as much as other interested parties, the property owner just up and decided to give it to them for much less than the others had offered. And this is really the theme of how they dug their way out of many a hole. Now this does not at all, in my eyes, diminish the value of Chip and Joanna's hard work. It just doesn't seem like reality. No matter how hard you try and how much effort you put in, there will be some failures, but it seemed like these two narrowly avoided failure more through luck than anything else.

I liked how the book was written from both Chip and Jo's perspective, and this was distinguished by different fonts (although Joanna definitely wrote more than Chip did). It also read very quickly. Their personalities really showed through their writing, which made it easy to imagine that these two were sitting in the same room telling you their story. Overall, it was a decent read and a good motivator.

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars