American Royals by Katharine McGee

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I loved Katharine McGee's Thousandth Floor series (although I still need to read the final book!) so I was excited to see that she had a new release coming out. American Royals is the story about the American Royal Family, or what the country would look like today if George Washington became king rather than president. 

Beatrice is laser-focused on her role as future Queen. Samantha is grappling with being the "extra," the future Queen's sister with no real point or direction in life. The younger brother Jeff is trying to have a normal love life with a commoner, and Nina (the commoner) is struggling with having a royal boyfriend and best friend (Sam). And outsider Daphne is just trying to get her clutches into everything.

This story was told from something like 5 different perspectives, some of which were more useful than the others. Beatrice reminded me a lot of Elizabeth in The Crown, accepting her duty without hesitation (most of the time). I thought Samantha was way too entitled, Jeff was clueless, Nina was naive, and Daphne was just plain cruel. I didn't really like any of the characters except for Beatrice, and even then I think it was more that I felt bad for her rather than truly liked her. I did like the pop culture references in this book, and occasional nods to the British Royal Family, but overall I was pretty let down.

I honestly don't know if this is supposed to be a standalone or the first in a series. If it's a standalone, I'm super disappointed in the ending. And if it's a series, unfortunately I'm not sure I liked it enough to continue. **Sidebar: Just looked it up. It's a series. Crap. ** 

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

I received an ARC of this book at the ALA Annual Conference. American Royals by Katharine McGee is out now!

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I have finally started to venture out of my Christina Lauren romance cocoon and branch out to some other romance authors! Jasmine Guillory is one I've seen mentioned a lot, so I decided to pick up The Wedding Date. 

When Alexa and Drew are stranded in a hotel elevator together, Drew spontaneously asks Alexa to be his date to a wedding he is dreading: the wedding of his ex-girlfriend and his best friend. Alexa agrees, thinking it would just be a weekend of fun in her chaotic life, because after all, they live in different cities and Drew told her he doesn't do relationships. But when the two have a fantastic time at the wedding and want to keep seeing each other, things get complicated. What are they to each other, and how long can this possibly last?

I'm really falling in love with these romantic comedy reads. Yes, they're incredibly predictable. But I think that's why I like them! You can just enjoy the journey of the story rather than worrying about what will happen or trying to guess the outcome of the plot. I loved Alexa's character in this book, especially her confidence in herself and her high-powered job. I adored the side character Carlos as well, and thought he provided some great comic relief and support to Drew throughout the story. Overall it was a super cute and enjoyable romantic comedy.

Can't wait to pick up The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory next since it features Carlos as a main character!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Graphic Novel Mash-Up Review #2

Halloween is quickly approaching, so I have been all about the spooky reads! I just can't get enough of these, so today's mash-up review is for 3 middle-grade spooky graphic novels. Even though I didn't love them all, they will definitely set the mood for the Halloween season!

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreadds
Suee and the Shadow by Ginger Ly and Molly Park: In this story, Suee finds her shadow come to life right around the time that kids in her school are turning into zombies. Could her shadow be behind this, and if so, how does Suee stop it and get her friends back? This one really seemed like a knock-off of Anya's ghost to me, but not nearly as good. I liked the art, but the story left much to be desired.
2 out of 5 Stars

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel: When a ghost hunter comes into the human world, Garth is accidentally taken back to the spirit world with him. He has to figure out a way back before the evil mayor of Ghostopolis gets him, and he even gets to meet the ghost of his grandfather along the way. I loved this story! I really enjoyed this art style, and there were some super cool skeleton animals in this one!
4 out of 5 Stars

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads

Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry: In this graphic novel, sisters Victoria and Katia go off to boarding school. When they get in a fight and Katia runs away, she finds herself in the underworld of a graveyard. Victoria has to find and help her before Katia falls victim to madman Nikola. Unfortunately this one was way too all over the place for me. It had some good lessons in it, but the story was extremely hard to follow and disconnected.

2 out of 5 Stars

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
This book was so unique and wonderful and I absolutely loved it! Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia is the perfect adult paranormal mystery thriller for this spooky season and was completely up my alley. Tuesday Mooney has always been a little odd. She wears all black, she's obsessed with all things dark and spooky, and she doesn't have a lot of close friends. But she's completely content with that. When a wealthy man in her city dies (who is named Vincent Pryce, btw!) and leaves behind a whale of a scavenger hunt, Tuesday finds herself teaming up with the few people in her life she has ever let get close to her, and finds out how much they mean to her in the process.

It's so hard to even summarize this book because so many different things happen. You get inside the head of multiple characters, each struggling with their own demons and identities. There's an amazing scavenger hunt that incorporates spooky things, Shakespeare, Poe, and all the other things I love. There are Stevie Nicks references, horror movie references, X-Files references, Salem references...need I go on? This book absolutely spoke to my weird girl heart. I adored Tuesday as a character and loved seeing her work through all the mysteries she was presented with throughout the story. 

It did take a while to read, just because there were so many different things going on that you needed to keep track of and file away. Dex, Dorry, and Archie were all great side characters and I was actually happy to follow their stories in addition to Tuesday's, when normally too many character story lines annoy me. My only real issue with this read was the ending. I thought it felt really rushed compared to how drawn out the scavenger hunt was in the majority of the book, and didn't like that there were some characters added towards the end who weren't necessary.

If you like scavenger hunts or spooky pop culture references, you would definitely enjoy this read.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an ARC of this read! Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia is out today, October 8th, so be sure to pick up a copy to add to your fall TBR!

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I got this book in an Uppercase box a long time ago, and it arrived right when I was in my "I hate fantasy" phase. I read around 20 pages and put it down, assuming I would never pick it up again. Well, now that I've started appreciating fantasy again, I decided to give An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson another try.

Isobel is a portrait artist, and painting is her craft. She protects her family through earning wards and spells by painting portraits for the fair folk. When one day, the faerie prince of the Autumn Court, Rook, appears at her home to be painted, Isobel is beside herself. 

The more time she spends with Rook, the more enraptured she becomes. She paints him as she truly sees him, with a sorrow in his eyes - a human flaw that Rook is furious to discover. Set on making Isobel pay for what she has done, Rook steals her away to face trial for the crime she has committed. 

I think the best word to describe this story is simple, and I don't mean that in a bad way at all. So many fantasy stories are drawn out, elaborate, and confusing, with many tiny elements and details to remember. These types of fantasy stories overwhelm me, and are the reason why I take frequent breaks from reading fantasy. This one was easy. It flowed well and was easy to comprehend. It's a standalone, so you don't have to worry about getting wrapped up in an extensive series. 

The writing was beautifully descriptive. Rook was enigmatic and brooding. Isobel was strong and family oriented. The plot made sense, was engaging, and I was definitely satisfied with the ending. There were magic forests and terrifying creatures, both of which I love! It was a quick read, and the perfect story to read and be engaged by, then put down and move on. Now I definitely want to pick up Margaret Rogerson's newest book, A Sorcery of Thorns!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I am a huge Star Wars fan, but I'd never read any of the canon novels until now. When Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson was released, I had to pick up a copy to read before my visit to Galaxy's Edge at Walt Disney World, a land featuring the Black Spire Outpost: the main setting for this read. Vi Moradi has been sent by General Leia Organa to the planet Batuu, specifically the Black Spire Outpost, to determine its feasibility and set up a new base for the Resistance. But the First Order is onto her, and sends a party to Batuu determined to find her and shut down her mission.

I can't even begin to put into words how much I loved this story. Vi Moradi was an amazing character with startling ambition, especially when faced with tremendous adversity. I couldn't get enough of the sassily morose droid Pook. All of the side characters were wonderful, and Batuu was so well described that when I walked into the land at WDW I felt like I was coming home.

Me outside the Droid Depot
with some blue milk!
I'm so happy I read this book before visiting Galaxy's Edge. It made the whole experience so much better for me. I recognized all the businesses, as well as understood the back story and characters present in the land. I was thrilled to have drinks at Oga's Cantina, especially after knowing how terrifying its mob boss owner was, and excited to grab a snack from Ronto Roasters. I even shrieked as I saw Vi Moradi herself, blue hair and all, running through the land on her quest to evade the First Order. If you're planning a visit to Galaxy's Edge at WDW or Disneyland, I highly recommend reading this book first!

After reading and loving this novel so much, I've decided to read all of the Del Rey Star Wars canon novels in order, starting with Dooku: Jedi Lost by Cavan Scott, which just came out yesterday. I'm sure I've spoiled some things for myself, since Black Spire comes towards the end of the canon, but I'm totally fine with that if it means I get to experience more amazing Star Wars novels.

Bright suns!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
As a former Disney employee, I am all about theme parks! So when I saw that The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg was a read all about a high-fantasy, high-tech theme park, I knew I was going to need to read it! This story follows Ana, one of The Kingdom's "Fantasists," or human/cyborg hybrid princesses genetically engineered to make dreams come true. 

Ana's thoughts and feelings are supposed to be steady, restricted, controlled. So when she meets Owen, a park employee, and starts feeling emotions she shouldn't have and having thoughts and ideas that should never cross her mind, Ana starts to wonder if she is broken.

Chaos ensues as her "sisters," other Fantasists, start to have breakdowns of their own, ultimately resulting in being shut off for good. And when Owen is murdered and Ana looks incredibly guilty, what will become of Ana, the Fantasists, and The Kingdom as a whole?

I absolutely flew through this story and really enjoyed it! Of course I loved all of the theme park elements, and saw so much of Walt Disney World and other theme parks in this book. Theme parks are constantly competing with one another for the newest technology, the most personal experience, and the highest attendance, so it's not at all outside the realm of possibility that something like these Fantasists could be a reality one day. I loved the alternating chapters of Ana's point of view, emails, and interview material, and thought the story was pretty unique overall.

Fans of theme parks, fairy tales, and technology would absolutely love this read!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I really adored both of Riley Sager's other books, Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied. I knew I was going to love this one as well, and I was right. Riley Sager's books are always BOTM picks, so I'm excited to have added this third one to my collection. Lock Every Door is Riley Sager's newest release, and it follows Jules after she moves into The Bartholomew in NYC as an apartment sitter.

Jules has basically hit rock bottom. She was laid off, she caught her boyfriend cheating, and she only has about $500 to her name. But when she sees an ad for a high-paying apartment sitter position in the posh Bartholomew and gets the job, she thinks fate has blessed her tremendously. 

Then come the rules: No guests. No spending the night away from the building. No engaging with the building's residents. But it's all worth it for that paycheck, right? Then Ingrid, Jules' new friend and fellow apartment sitter goes missing, and Jules realizes that things at the Bartholomew might not be so perfect after all.

Oh man this plot was good! There was absolutely no way to predict how this was all going to turn out! Honestly, this may be one of the most unique thrillers I've ever read. It was so easy to imagine the glamorous Bartholomew with its gargoyle statues and dark past. This story got better and better with every page and I enjoyed every minute of it. The elements using the old apartment dumbwaiter were so clever and added to the authenticity of the old building. The stories of the Bartholomew's sordid past were fascinating, and I loved the story behind Heart of a Dreamer, the fictional novel mentioned frequently in this book.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager was engaging, twisted, and suspenseful. Just read it. If you're interested in Riley Sager's books, and Book of the Month, you can sign up using my link here, and we'll both get a free book!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Minor Prophets by Jimmy Cajoleas

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I absolutely adored Jimmy Cajoleas' last book, The Good Demon, so I was really excited to discover he had another release coming out. Minor Prophets follows Lee and his sister Murphy after their mother dies, leaving them to defend themselves against their step-father and flee to their estranged grandmother's house.

To make matters worse in this tense and terrifying situation, Lee isn't a normal kid. He has visions, visions that tell the future that his mother has always discouraged him from sharing or acting on. But now that she's gone, his grandmother is encouraging the visions, pushing Lee to the destiny he never knew he had. And his sister Murphy doesn't know what to think, other than that something is seriously wrong with their grandmother, her farm, and the residents of the small town they now call home. 

Based on the fact that this story is full of things I typically love, like spooky atmospheres and creepy cults, you would think I would have really enjoyed this book. Unfortunately, I didn't. It was just entirely too much, and while the overall plot was good, the execution left much to be desired. I couldn't stand the main character Lee, or his sister and grandmother, and everything they did or said just made me angry.  Some parts were pretty disturbing and shocking for YA as well, and while that normally doesn't bother me, I don't think they added anything to this story.

The plot had a lot of American Horror Story vibes which I absolutely adore, but it just didn't work and I think the potential was wasted here.

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Abrams for an ARC of this read! Minor Prophets by Jimmy Cajoleas is out now!

The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I absolutely love horror, but don't read enough of it. I knew I needed this book from the first time I saw it, especially going into the Halloween season. The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht is a horror fantasy novella following a monster and a sorcerer, both with a love of magic and murder.

Johann knows he is a monster and nothing else. Florian is a sorcerer, bent on bringing back the plague that killed his family. Alone, they have nothing. Together, they have a power to bring the entirety of Elendhaven to its knees. But someone is watching them, hunting them, threatening to send their plans crashing down.

This book had so many different elements: horror, fantasy, queer representation, Victorian-esque history, town legends, and more. The writing was vivid and descriptive, and it was so easy to imagine the dark alleys, abandoned factories, and black ocean of Elendhaven. The blurb likens the setting to Jack the Ripper's London, and I definitely see that. There is a lot of fairly graphic violence in this one, so I want to make people aware of that. It's ruthless, dark, and gritty, much like the cover would suggest.

While I did enjoy this story, I found myself wanting more. It was hard to follow at first, and there were some plot lines that I didn't think tied up well. That being said, it was a novella, so it couldn't have the robustness of a full-length novel, though I think a full-length novel would have done this story more justice.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much for Tor for an ARC of this read! The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht is out tomorrow, September 24th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About We Speak in Storms

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

About the Author

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

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

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

Naturally Tan by Tan France

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

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

Well Met by Jen DeLuca

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

The Nobodies by Liza Palmer

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Graphic Novel Mash-Up Review #1

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

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

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

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

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

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