Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff

Cover Art Courtesy of Amazon
I chose this book for my "Read an author's first book" selection for The Reading Rush and I was so excited to get to it. Touted as "The Road meets 28 Days Later," Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff is a zombie survival story perfect for fans of The Walking Dead.

Orpen needs to get to Phoenix City. There, the famous women known as Banshees fight the skrake and keep people safe. But in order to get there, she must brave the dangerous landscape and the horrors that lurk around corners, in abandoned buildings, and behind bushes. This story is her journey, both the physical and mental challenges she must endure to get to a location where she believes she will finally be safe.

This alternated between present time chapters and flashback chapters, allowing the reader to understand what has happened to Orpen leading up to present day events. You don't really get any backstory on what caused the creation of the skrakes though, and I would have appreciated some sort of overarching "WHY" vs just jumping right into how things are. I think this would technically be a dystopian horror story, but I didn't find it that scary. That being said, I read and watch a lot of horror so it's pretty hard to scare me overall.

I am really hoping for a sequel to this read because I am very curious what happens to Orpen and the other characters! The ending was exciting, and I was on the edge of my seat as I read the last major scenes of this book.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Flatiron Books for an ARC of this read! Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff releases Tuesday, August 27th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
The cover of this book about ballerinas is absolutely stunning. Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small follows two aspiring dancers, Marine and Kate, at a ballet academy in Paris. Best friends and equal competition, each girl has her eye set on The Prize, the one female slot in the corps de ballet. But what exactly are Marine and Kate willing to do to win it?

This is told in alternating perspectives of each of the two dancers. Marine dances for her deceased brother, while Kate dances to escape her life back home in the US. As they near the end of their schooling, the competition heats up, sparks fly, and friendships are tested.

This book was just okay. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. It wasn't a struggle to finish it, but I definitely wouldn't pick it up again. I didn't really like either of the characters, and didn't have reason to root for either one of them. I was happy with one part of the ending, but not the other, and almost all the guys in this book were complete jerks. 

I am a former dancer myself, so I really identified with some of the struggles these girls were going through. From your place at the barre to your body image, dancers have so many things to think about in addition to the steps, and ballet is a mental sport just as much as a physical one. To me, this book was Black Swan mixed with Center Stage.

Definite trigger warnings are needed as well for a forced miscarriage, anorexia, drug use, and suicide references. This book got very dark and intense at points, which did a good job highlighting how far these girls were willing to go to achieve their goals, as detrimental as they may be.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

I received an ARC of this read at ALA. Bright Burning Stars is out now!

The Retreat by Sherri Smith

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
It's always so disappointing to me when a book starts off really well and just tanks as it goes. Unfortunately The Retreat by Sherri Smith was one of those books.

Katie Manning is a washed up child actor. Having played the famous Shelby Spade as a girl, her life is now in shambles as an adult. As she blows through her money and drinks herself into oblivion, Katie realizes she needs to make a change. So when her future sister-in-law suggests a wellness retreat, ending with a transformative hallucinogenic tea experience, Katie can't say no. Not wanting to be alone with Ellie, Katie decides to invite her two best friends Ariel and Carmen along as well.

While this book started off engaging enough, I very quickly started to lose interest. I flew through the first 75 pages or so, but after that point had to basically force myself to get through this. This book was told from the points of view of all four main characters: Katie, Ariel, Ellie, and Carmen. To me this made the whole story feel disjointed, almost as if I was reading 4 different books instead of one. There was entirely too much going on. From a missing guest to an inappropriate relationship with the retreat leader to a drug plot and more, I just didn't know which way was up, and as such just wanted to abandon the whole story.

The ending was just chaos. So much didn't make sense, and I found myself more confused than thrilled or excited. This story had so much potential and I hated to see that it was wasted. 

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Forge for a finished copy of this read! The Retreat is out now!

Author Spotlight: Vera Brosgol

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I love a good graphic novel. They are perfect for getting out of reading slumps, boosting your numbers for your Goodreads challenge, and providing a light respite after trudging through thick and dense reads. I've been obsessed with them recently, so I figured I would do a spotlight on one graphic novelist in particular: Vera Brosgol.

I'd ordered Anya's Ghost from Book Outlet a while ago after hearing great things, but for some reason hadn't ever gotten around to reading it. After getting through The Reading Rush, I just wanted a quick and easy read, so I finally reached for it. I flew through it just like I expected, and really enjoyed the time I spent with this story! After falling down a well, Anya discovers an unexpected and creepy new friend at a time where she desperately wants to fit in. But does her new BFF really have Anya's best interests in mind? This story was really cute, and touched on some important subject matter like embracing your culture and being loyal to the friends that have always been there for you. Brosgol's art style in this was amazing, and even though it was done in a very muted, monochromatic hue, I thought the images were engaging and beautiful. This would be the perfect graphic novel to pick up as Halloween approaches. I gave this one 4 stars.

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
After reading Anya's Ghost, I immediately ran out and purchased Brosgol's newest graphic novel, Be Prepared. This art style was slightly different than Anya's Ghost, and much more colorful (even though the colors were still muted, more colors were used overall). This story is a memoir-esque tale about Brosgol's own time at camp. In the author's note at the end, she notes that some of the story is fabricated, while other elements draw directly from her personal experiences. Excited to finally find a place to fit in, Vera begs her mother to send her to Russian summer camp. But when Vera arrives and still isn't fitting in like she'd hoped, she's unsure if she'll be able to survive the duration of the experience.  I liked this one fine, but not as much as Brosgol's other graphic novel, and it got 3 stars from me.

Vera Brosgol has some children's books out as well, but these are her only two full-length graphic novels. Even though I didn't love the newest one as much as her older work, I am definitely excited to see what she puts out in the future! I especially love the way she intertwines her Russian culture into her work, and think her art style is super cute!

Have you read any of Vera Brosgol's work before?

Scooby Apocalypse by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Howard Porter

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Jinkies, this comic is everything! What do you get when you mix gorgeous artwork with mystery, sci-fi, some meddling kids, and an adorable dog? Scooby Apocalypse!

Daphne and Fred are washed up TV has-beens. Velma is an advanced scientist at a top secret government research facility. Shaggy is a dog trainer at that same facility, responsible for the care and training of the genetically-enhanced dogs, including the failed experiment Scooby-Doo. After meeting by chance, they all have to team up to save the world from gene-changing nanites that threaten life as we know it before terrifying monsters destroy the human race.

I knew from the moment I first flipped through this bind up that I had to buy it, if just for the visuals alone. The artwork is absolutely stunning. The colors are more vivid than I've ever seen in a comic and the images just explode off the page. There is a ton of dialogue in this one compared to a lot of comics as well. 

I am absolutely a classic Scooby-Doo fan, but this comic takes some of the characters in a slightly different direction. Fred and Daphne have almost switched roles here. Daphne is strong, empowered, and fearless, with some very obvious anger issues. Fred is meeker and hangs on Daphne's every word, regularly professing his unreciprocated love for her. Velma is completely clueless about social norms and even more awkward than she is in the show, but she's still extremely intelligent. 

And Scooby and Shaggy, well they never change much do they? Except Scooby is now genetically modified and has killer fighting instincts that kick in when his friends are in danger. Their classic catch phrases still abound throughout the story even though some of their personality traits have changed. And of course Scrappy makes an appearance as well!

If you are a Scooby purist, I'm not sure that you would be happy with the character changes, but I still really loved the new spin they put on this.

Even though I've only read the first collected volume of this, I can tell that Scooby Apocalypse is something special. Can't wait to pick up more volumes and continue on this journey!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman takes online dating, murder, and domestic terrorism and blends it all into one bad-ass LGBT action adventure.

Bored an alone in a fancy hotel room, Aidan turns to a dating app for a quick hookup. But he has no idea how intense things are about to get. When the guy he meets ends up dead and Aidan is mistaken for a black hat hacker, he finds himself on the run from a terrorist organization called The Swans. Battling both internal and external forces, Aidan must decide what side to take in order to save himself, his family, and tons of innocent lives.

When I first started this book, I wasn't sure I was going to like it. But that turned around really fast! It was full of action, danger, and even a little romance! The ARC I had was over 400 pages, but I flew through it as every page just builds and builds to a very dramatic ending. 

Continuously making mistakes in the hope of getting someone to love him, Aidan is borderline reckless. His brother's death left him detached from his family. And chaos seems to follow him wherever he goes. I found myself very invested in his fate and rooting for him through the trauma.

So many different pieces of this story intrigued me. The conversation about whether or not the government can use you without your consent was an interesting one.  And this book highlighted that the LGBT population still does not have the acceptance it deserves. 

Trigger warnings needed for domestic terrorism, a consenting sexual relationship with a minor, drug use, the cruel killing of a rabbit, and suicide. Yes, this book was extremely intense. But it was incredibly engaging and this story kept me hooked the entire time.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Jimmy Patterson for an ARC of this read! Swipe Right for Murder just released this week, so be sure to pick up a copy!

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

"A girl with a guitar never has to apologize for anything." 

― Grady Hendrix, We Sold Our Souls

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Mix rock and roll with horror and you've got the perfect lure for me, and that's exactly what We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix is. Plus the Rolling Stone-esque cover? I'm sold. Just in opinion though. No soul dealing for me.

Kris Pulaski is washed up. Now working at a Best Western, her rock and roll dreams have long been crushed since her Dürt Würk bandmate Terry left everyone high and dry to go solo. But what really happened the night everything went down? Why can no one remember? With Terry's new act Koffin going on the road again, Kris is determined to find out. Reuniting with her bandmates to get to the bottom of things, Kris learns that Terry didn't just steal her songs, her money, and her future. He also stole her soul. 

This book hit all the right notes (if you'll pardon the pun!), and takes the idea of "selling your soul to the devil" in a new direction. There were definitely some great horror elements, some good action, and a little mystery as well! I really liked how interspersed throughout the book were interviews about the different rock artists (real and fictional) mentioned throughout the story. It definitely made everything feel more real. And titling each chapter after a famous album? Genius. Kris's journey was fantastic, and every interaction she had along the way was unique and added something to the story, versus just being fluff written to fill space.

I will leave a trigger warning on this for suicide, and if you get easily grossed out by gory descriptions, this might not be the book for you.

The reason I knocked off a star on this one was because the title completely gives away what happens. Yes, you don't know the intricacies until you read the story, but the bottom line is given away on the very front of the book.

This was the first Grady Hendrix book I've read, and definitely want to pick up more. I've heard great things about Horrorstör, so I think I'll try that one next!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Quirk Books for a finished copy of this read! We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix is out now, so be sure to pick up a copy!

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
This was another pick of mine for The Reading Rush, and I absolutely adored this read. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware is an adult thriller that follows Rowan as she undertakes a position as a nanny. Not able to pass up the excellent benefits and salary, Rowan ignores the fact that numerous nannies have vacated the position before her under the pretense of the house being haunted. 

But when Rowan actually arrives at Heatherbrae House and begins work, she realizes that she may have underestimated things. And when one of the children dies and the truth about Rowan comes out, she finds herself accused of a murder she swears she didn't commit.

It's basically told as one long letter from Rowan to a lawyer, but it's very easy to forget that you're reading a letter and not just a story. I loved the inclusion of the smart house, and could easily see myself struggling with the advanced technology the way that Rowan did. Ruth Ware is great with creating an environment and atmosphere that sucks you in, and this book was no different. I could easily picture the massive house up in the Scottish Highlands and its surrounding woods. I was also a huge fan of the history of the property that Ware created, and this really added to the ghost potential of Heatherbrae House. 

I loved seeing the different personalities of the children that Rowan was charged with watching, especially the teenage daughter. At no point did I have any idea what was actually going to happen, when I usually have at least one theory or two. This was definitely a creepy read and it sent goosebumps shivering up my arms on more than one occasion. I liked the added elements at the end of the story as well and thought they gave it a good finish. 

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Scout Press for an ARC of this read! The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware is out TODAY, August 6th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

2 Year Blogiversary!

I can't believe that yesterday was my 2 year blogging anniversary. Honestly, I'm not one to stick it out with things, so I'm pretty impressed that I've not only maintained this hobby for this long, but gotten more and more into it as time progressed! I love being a blogger and am so happy I started this hobby.

I've learned a lot in these last two years. I've figured out my post style, and learned more about stats, keywords, and marketing. I even bought my first boosted Facebook post yesterday! I've definitely stepped up my Instagram game, and hope to continue to grow on that platform as well! I do want to get better about a blogging schedule, vs just throwing posts up when I feel like it. I also want to reevaluate how I rate books and get back to the stricter ratings I devised when I started...I've gotten a little slack and have probably been rating some things a little higher than I should be!

I've rebranded twice (so that's three blog names/URLs total!), but am finally very happy with what I've landed on! I've made 202 posts (including this one!) for an average of 101 posts a year, and according to Goodreads, I've read 210 books since Day 1 of my blog. 

It's hard for me to pick favorite posts, since I like all of them! I did write them, after all. But if I had to narrow it down, these would probably be three of my favorites:

This was great for evaluating my reading year thus far! I haven't done many tags, but enjoyed this one so much I really want to do more!

This was a hard post to write, but it was nice putting some things out there and sharing my experiences. I do lifestyle posts occasionally, and I think this one was a really important one. I'm glad I did it. 

This was my very first post! It's fun to look back on this and see that the style of my reviews hasn't really changed much!

I love seeing how my blog has grown in the last two years. I was recently selected as a Book of the Month YA Affiliate, which is super exciting! I've gotten to partner with a few companies, like Literary Book Gifts, to showcase products. I've worked with tons of wonderful publishers and met some amazing new blogging friends. 

I absolutely can't wait to see what the future holds for Books and Wildflowers, and I hope you all will continue to join me on this journey into books, lifestyle, and inspiration as I embark on year 3 as a blogger!

Book of the Month YA

I chose Hello Girls as my BOTM YA title this month!
I've been getting Book of the Month for quite a while now and really love this subscription. In fact, I have run out of space on my BOTM shelf and have to expand to a second one! I love both YA and adult reads, but BOTM's picks were 99% adult books, so I was incredibly excited when BOTM came out with a YA specific subscription! Even more so, I was over the moon to be chosen as a YA BOTM affiliate. 

Just like the regular Book of the Month subscription, BOTM YA allows you to pick a book from a curated list of 5 new release titles each month. If you don't like any of the choices, you can skip that month! You can also add on more books to your box if you would like more than one choice. You can cancel at any time, so it's great if you're not sure about committing long term. And there's always free shipping!

For those already subscribed to BOTM who want to sub to the YA box also, you still can! Just be sure to sign up for the YA version using a different email address than the one you used for the regular BOTM.

If you'd like more information, or want to sign up, you can do so here. As an affiliate, I do get a small commission when you use my link. And this month, you can use the code FLEX when you sign up to get your first book for $9.99! Be sure to follow @yasofthemonth on Instagram for great bookish content. They are also still looking for affiliates, so let me know if you are interested in applying!

Have you ever subbed to BOTM? What are your favorite book subscription services?

The Reading Rush Wrap-Up

Whew! The Reading Rush is over! This was the first time I have ever participated in a readathon from beginning to end, and I COMPLETED EVERY READING CHALLENGE! I am so proud of myself, but honestly I'm exhausted. I think I pushed myself a little too hard...this is a lot of reading for someone with a full time job! Every night all I did when I came home was read, so I'm excited that it's over and I can binge some trash TV now!

Here are some mini-reviews of the books I completed, along with the challenge that each one met!

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: I read this one for "Read a book you meant to read last year." So many people love and treasure this book, but I didn't feel the same. It was a solid 3 star for me, and I'm glad I read it, but I wouldn't pick it up again. The illustrations are adorable though!

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson: This fulfilled the challenge of "Read a book with purple on the Cover." I actually did a full review for this one, which you can find here. This was a pretty good read! It was slow at first, but picked up well and was very shocking at the end. I'm definitely going to look into more of this author's books! I gave this read 4 stars.

Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff: This was for the challenge of "Read an author's first book." This one will have a full review eventually, and it got a 4 star rating from me. Think The Walking Dead meets The Road with 99% female characters.

Animal Farm by George Orwell: Ick. I didn't get the point of this one. I know it's supposed to be satire but I just didn't enjoy it. I felt bad for the animals and wasn't entertained. At least this was a short read for the "Read a book with a non-human main character" challenge. I would rate this one 2 stars.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware: I ADORED this read. Absolutely a 5 star. A full review will come for this one soon! This completed the challenge to "Read a book with 5 or more words in the title."

Little Girls by Nicholas Aflleje and Sarah Delaine. I chose this for "Read a book in one location" and this may be the biggest letdown of the entire readathon. I had really high hopes for this one and had heard great things, but it ended up being basically a deranged version of The Lion King. I didn't love the art style either, and this one ended up as a 2 star.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: I panicked a day before the readathon was over and swapped this one in for the "Read and watch a book to movie adaptation" challenge. The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books of all time and I love this movie as well. This was the last challenge I completed and I'm glad this is how I ended up wrapping up the readathon. 5 stars again, to both the book and the movie.

Total books finished: 7
Total pages read: 1661

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
This was the book I chose to fulfill the "read a book with purple on the cover" challenge for The Reading Rush, because come on, all that purple is gorgeous! In Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson, Amy Whey has a seemingly perfect life: a great husband, infant son, and stepdaughter, a wonderful best friend, and a job she loves at a dive shop. But when mysterious Roux comes to town, all of that is put in jeopardy. Amy's past is no longer something she can run from, and when Roux issues an ultimatum, Amy has to decide whether to give in, or to play Roux's own game against her.

At first, I thought this book was only okay. I was enjoying it enough but it hadn't wowed me. Until it did. This book went from fairly tame to pretty dark in an instant, and it's honestly hard to describe because it probably needs a trigger warning, but that warning would give away a major detail at the end. 

I thought the diving element was an excellent add to the story, and is something you don't really see often. The side plots were great as well, and I loved seeing Amy's interactions with her stepdaughter Madison. I did think Amy's husband was a little oblivious, but aren't lots of husbands? It was so easy to imagine Amy's neighborhood, the book club, and her frenemy neighbors. Everyone involved had so much at risk, so much riding on Roux's game, and I was so anxious to see who would escape as the victor.

Overall this was a really solid read. It does start off a little slow, but it is absolutely worth pushing through. Juicy and intriguing, this is a great thriller to pick up this summer.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to William Morrow for a finished copy of this read! Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson is out next Tuesday, July 30, so be sure to pick up a copy!

The Reading Rush TBR

This year, I decided I wanted to participate in The Reading Rush readathon (formerly known as the BookTubeAThon)! It starts TODAY and runs through through July 28th, and you can learn more about the readathon here.  I'm not the best with readathons, and usually either forget or taper out in the first few days, but since so many people are doing this one I really wanted to give it a shot! I don't think I've ever read 7 books in a week before so we'll see if I can rise to the occasion! Here is my TBR that I hope to knock out during the week of challenges:

1. Read a book with purple on the cover: Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

2. Read a book in the same spot the entire time: Little Girls by Nicholas Aflleje and Sarah DeLaine (I'll be trying to finish this whole graphic novel in our hammock!)

3. Read a book you meant to read last year: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

4. Read an author's first book: Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff

5. Read a book with a non-human main character: Animal Farm by George Orwell

6. Read a book that has five or more words in the title: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

7. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Bonus: Read 7 books!

Yes, I am aware a few of these books are pretty short. Nothing wrong with setting yourself up for success, right?

Are you participating in The Reading Rush? What books are on your TBR?

Love at First Like by Hannah Orenstein

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've been getting a lot more into chick lit lately and this book definitely fell into that category. Love at First Like by Hannah Orenstein follows Eliza, part owner of a small Brooklyn jewelry store. 

When Eliza sees that her ex boyfriend is engaged, she takes one of the rings from her store and drafts an Instagram engagement post of her own to make herself feel better...even though she is single as can be. When she accidentally posts the picture and her business starts reaping the marketing benefits it provides, Eliza finds herself stuck in a lie that she can't get out of. But maybe, if she meets the right guy, it will all end up working out...

The story absolutely spoke to the realities of the internet today. From online dating to the importance of Instagram likes, from internet scams to app creation, it really does have it all when it comes to addressing the digital age we live in. It really makes you wonder how many "influencers" are actually honest vs how many do or say whatever it takes to get free clothing, trips, etc. 

This book was definitely a fun read! It was pretty predictable, but that didn't take away from the story for me. I will say that I wasn't the biggest fan of Eliza and was appalled at some of her actions. I think she had some great friends in her life, even if she didn't always deserve them. I really liked Raj and Carmen as side characters, and appreciated that Eliza and her sister were entrepreneurs owning their own business. The story behind why Eliza wanted to work in jewelry was precious as well. This was a cute, light read that is perfect for poolside reading this summer!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Atria Books for an ARC of this read! Love at First Like by Hannah Orenstein is out Tuesday, August 6, so be sure to pick up a copy!

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!

A Good Enough Mother by Bev Thomas

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
This suspense novel absolutely drew me in with its gorgeous cover. A Good Enough Mother by Bev Thomas is a suspenseful drama that follows trauma psychotherapist Ruth. After her son Tom goes missing, she is assigned a patient, Dan, that reminds her so much of him-appearance and all. Desperate to help Dan as she was unable to help her son, she struggles to keep the rigidness in place that she normally exhibits with her patients as the professional lines start to blur. 

I thought this book was fine, but I was kind of hoping for more. The thriller element didn't really come into play until towards the very end and until that point the plot moved fairly slowly. Much of the story was more emotional, focusing on Ruth's grief, the relationship she has with her family, and how these things impact her work as a therapist. A lot of pieces of the story didn't come together until the very end, so throughout most of the book I was wondering why they were relevant. I'm glad I finished it as the ending was worth it, but there were many times I struggled to keep going.

I was very engaged by her patient Dan, and found it interesting how he referenced so many movies throughout his treatment. I also liked the added dynamics from Ruth's relationship with her daughter, ex-husband, and trusted adviser. 

Being that this book does center around trauma therapy, there are some triggering elements mentioned, such as rape, suicide, self-harm, child disappearances, and sudden death.

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Pamela Dorman Books for a copy of this read! A Good Enough Mother by Bev Thomas is out now!

In at the Deep End by Kate Davies

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I don't think I quite knew what I was getting myself into with this book, but I definitely didn't hate it. In at the Deep End by Kate Davies follows Julia as she realizes she might in fact be a lesbian after realizing that sex with men is always terrible for her. This book was definitely explicit, so be aware if you are taking a copy of it with you into public! 

Julia throws herself headfirst into the world of lesbianism, experimenting both sexually and emotionally with women and finding herself more satisfied than ever before. When she meets the alluring Sam, she falls head over heels, but there is one problem...Sam doesn't like being monogamous. And she might also be more than a little controlling.

This was an excellent read for pride month! It was rewarding seeing Julia find herself and achieve happiness for the first time in a long time. I loved the supportive friend group that Julia had throughout the story, and I wish I had more people like that in my life! I also really loved that Julia had a super commonplace job as a civil servant. She wasn't in fashion, or an executive, or anything fancy...she was just an average woman, and I think that made it easy for readers to identify with her. I also really liked the side stories happening in the book.

I think we have all dated a Sam at some point or another...someone that makes us furiously happy one minute then puts off red flags all over the place the next. We don't want to lose those moments of happiness, but also have to decide if all the negatives that come with it are worth it. You know the relationship isn't really healthy, but it's just so hard to leave. This might be challenging for some to read if you have had a Sam (I know I have) and have traumatic memories associated with that relationship.

I was super satisfied with the ending! I did take off a star because some parts just made me squirm. I was proud of Julia's sexual liberation, but sometimes it was just a little too much to read about if you aren't typically into explicit literature. I think the point could have come across just as well with a little less graphic detail.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an ARC of this read! In at the Deep End by Kate Davies is out now!