Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Monday, July 17, 2017

Arrowood by Laura McHugh

ArrowoodArrowood by Laura McHugh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love a gothic mystery and this one covered many of the reasons why - old houses, a hint of the supernatural, history, and romance. The overarching theme is about nostalgia and how our personal memories shape our perception of history and the meaning of 'home'. The author resides in Columbia, MO.

288 pages.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Suddenly One Summer by Julie James

Summary: "Divorce lawyer Victoria Slade has seen enough unhappy endings to swear off marriage forever. That doesn't mean she's opposed to casual dating--just not with her cocky new neighbor, who is as gorgeous and tempting as he is off-limits."

Another fun read from Julie James! I love reading the fancy lives of her characters in Chicago. The way she describes their world is fascinating and interesting. I hope she continues with this series, but I hope that she adds a little more action and intrigue to her future books. They are getting a little too procedural and not enough WOW factor. 

291 pages

Friday, June 30, 2017

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Summary: "On board the Jump Station Heimdall, Hanna is the captain's pampered daughter; Nik a member of a notorious crime family. When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station's wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two. The fate of the Hypatia-- and possibly the known universe-- is in their hands."

I want Amie Kaufman to write anything and everything. I would read a grocery list if it was written by her.

The creativity and story-telling in the Illuminae series is unmatched. I don't know how I'm going to find another book to read after this. 

659 pages

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Summary: "Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot."

This book was cute-ish and fun-ish. I appreciated the Cinderella parallels, and the sci-fi geekiness. 

However, I needed just a little bit more drama and pay-off at the end. 

319 pages

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon

War is brewing in the year of Our Lord 1771, a fact Jamie Fraser knows to be true because his wife, Claire, assures him it is so. Jamie has little choice but to believe her because Claire has the gift of prophecy. It is not a gift she was born with, but rather the gift of a time traveler's dreadful knowledge of what's to come. Sure enough, Jamie receives orders from Governor Tryon to gather a militia in order to suppress the Regulators, a group of citizens dissatisfied with the colonial government. Given what Jamie knows about the future, he must walk a fine line as he supports a government he knows will eventually fail. Meanwhile, the Frasers, their daughter Brianna, and her family must face other battles far more personal than the revolution that is to come.

Book 5 in the Outlander series. 979 pages.  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Summary: "The planet Kerenza is attacked, and Kady and Ezra find themselves on a space fleet fleeing the enemy, while their ship's artificial intelligence system and a deadly plague may be the end of them all."

I need therapy after finally finishing this book. It was incredibly creative yet horrifying and agonizing.

Illuminae is zombie horror disguised as sci-fi, and while it was intriguing, it was depressing as well. 

Amie Kaufman is a beautiful writer, but she has a sick way of twisting your insides out in ways you've never experienced with a book before. 

Proceed with caution. 

599 pages

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

From Pulpit to Podium to Policy by Richard Tobias

There is only one word for this book…polemic. Even if I agreed with the premise (which I do), its tone is off-putting and strident. The more I read, the more upset I became. It is so one-sided as to be offensive. There are better approaches to the topic that are less dogmatic.I really can’t recommend this book.

Posted for Donna Riegel

160 pages

The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End by Katie Roiphe

The author has done a long of research on her selected authors (Sontag, Sendak, Updike, among others) to depict the progress of their deaths. Its not as morbid as it sounds.  Reviews were overwhelming positive (“meticulous”, “poetic”, “[a] meditation on morality”). I don’t share those sentiments.  While the book was interesting reading, and I did finish it, I don’t know that it was all that “poetic”, though it was “meticulous”. I guess it rather much depends on whether or not you consider her subjects “great writers”. Even if I was to concede that Dylan Thomas is in the category, I pretty much changed my mind after reading Roiphe’s. Thomas came off as a drunken bore.  Of course, that’s merely my opinion.

Posted for Donna Riegel

321 pages

Animals in Photographs by Arpad Kovacs

Arpad Kovacs is the Asst. Curator of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. This book was produced in conjunction with an exhibit held in 2016. The title pretty much says it all. The pictures include daguerreotypes, early Victorian photos, and up to modern photos.  The book description says there are photos with “vibrant color”…but quite frankly, I couldn’t recall even one color shot. It is the black and whites that are the most engrossing. There is one shot called “Mother and Child” that is the most haunting and heart-rendingly sad photo I have ever seen about animals. The picture is very disturbing, but it captures your attention. The image will stay with you for a long time. I would recommend with caution.

Posted for Donna Riegel

112 pages

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Devil's Triangle by Catherine Coulter

If you like the older James Bond movies, give this book a try.  The villains are outlandish and crazy, and the plot has a lot of action scenes, some of them a bit hard to believe and far-fetched.  Sorry, not much sex in the book, and the characters are pretty well stereotyped.  I'd call it a fun beach read for those who like action novels.  495 pages.

100 Million Years of Food by Stephen Le

The subtitle of this book is 'what our ancestors ate and why it matters today.' Le explores how humans became omnivores, how we developed our tastes for some foods and think others are off limits.  He takes us on a worldwide explorations of cultures and developments, ending with some conclusions that are pretty mainstream, like 'get enough exercise', and others that are off beat, like 'eat less meat and dairy when young, and more when elderly'.  This is well researched, and an interesting read, although he does ramble at times.  294 pages.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Summary: "Desperate to uncover the Sultan's secrets by spying on his court, gunslinger Amani is taken captive by the forces of the Sultan, whose agenda seems less tyrannical than originally believed."

I cannot figure out why this book is almost 200 pages longer than the first one. It is slow and full of unnecessary drama and filler. While the first book is fast-paced and action-packed, this installment is quite the opposite. The first one is full of excitement and intrigue, but I was disappointed that it turned into another revolutionary story - isn't this story-arc overdone at this point? How many overthrown governments are readers really supposed to care about? 

Anyway, I'm still glad I read it, even though it was a chore to do so. The last 100 pages are incredible, and the ending is heart-wrenching in the most delicious and terrible way. 

518 pages

Monsters of Appalachia by Sheryl Monks

Monsters in Appalachia: StoriesMonsters in Appalachia: Stories by Sheryl Monks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This collection of Gothic Southern/Midwestern short stories range from poignantly realistic, a daughter tanning with her mother, to mystical realism, an elderly couple cohabitating with Biblical monsters at the End of Days. Through her characters, Monks explores the balance between morality and circumstances, choice and complacency.

180 pages <

Monday, June 5, 2017

The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth

The One Safe PlaceThe One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is not for me. It's middle grade, but it's definitely lower middle grade. I thought that the ages of the characters (which I never really figured out or somehow missed), were upper middle grade, but the voices of the characters were incredibly young, more like 8 or 9 years old, which is fine but not what I was expecting based on the description and cover. Also, the characters actions and voices often seemed at odds for me, which I struggled with throughout. It's like the two never meshed in a way that felt honest.

The writing is what really killed it for me with this one. It just needed a lot more editing and better character development. There's a major disconnect, like the characters are caricatures, or ideas, instead of real people. I just didn't care about any of them.

As for the rest of the writing, there's a line that stuck with me from the first part of the story that basically sums up my dissatisfaction with the writing throughout the story. The whole book just sounds rough around the edges, like it lacked good editors. It's full of telling, instead of showing. The line said something about drinking water, and it read similar to, "it tasted orange and brown and gritty."...even though you can't taste orange. You see it. And if you tell me something tastes orange, I immediately think Koolaid or orange soda.

Also, you can't taste gritty. You feel it. I know that sounds nit-picky, but when I'm trying to understand a scene or moment, the word choices and senses impacted matter. Good choices have a strong impact and pull people into the story. Weak or bad choices are off-putting and lead to a disconnect for the reader. Basically, this story lacks imagery and description , and while I'm not a huge fan of excessive description, there has to be some level of successful scene setting in a story like this that's not all telling, as I want to see what's happening, not just read lists about things.

That basically sums up the writing throughout the book. It's just not as effective as it could/should be, because sentences and phrases are tossed around without any careful consideration for what is actually occurring. A good editor should have pushed for clarity and pointed out more of the issues, in this story, like the poor use of clues, the too obvious setups and story line, and all the telling instead of showing. I'm giving the author credit for having good intentions and just having some blinders on to the writing issues, because I think this story could be significantly better if it had been edited more thoroughly.  However, the actual editing, in the end,  is done by the author, so the reality is that it's not clear where the fault lies. The only thing is clear is that this needs more work.

I guess what it boils down to is that I just can't connect to this book, and typically I love this genre.

Maybe it's just me.

Pages: 304

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry

The Girl Who Was Supposed to DieThe Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not bad. Fast-paced. This book would be good for reluctant readers.

For me, the story was thin. I don't hate it. I just would only recommend it to young, reluctant readers, rather than to everyone. It has mystery, but it lacks depth.

Pages: 213

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

This is the story of the people who stayed behind during the Dust Bowl. Much has been written about those who migrated to get away from the misery, but we know little about the majority of the residents who stayed in place and rode it out.

The government encouraged farmers to plow up the natural buffalo grass, that anchored the soil of the Great Plains, and plant wheat. During World War I, they supplied Europe and America with millions of tons of grain, and became prosperous. However, in the process they destroyed the land, and when drought came in the 1930's, the winds blew away what was left. Residents lost everything they owned, including the land, and many died from malnutrition and 'black pneumonia'. The drought went on for eight years.

Having grown up with parents who lived through the 'Great Depression', I thought I knew a lot about it, but I learned that I didn't know it all! This book is a cautionary tale about our stewardship over the earth. If we destroy it, it may destroy us.

353 pages

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Leave MeLeave Me by Gayle Forman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Initially, I did not love this story, but it grew on me by the end, enough that I felt slightly more satisfied that I hadn't completely wasted my time.

My major complaint, beyond the initial disconnect, is that the story doesn't end far from where it started. None of the major issues are resolved, or even addressed. None of the mysteries are answered. Threads start and then just drop. Kerplop. Never to be picked back up.

While some of the characters are interesting, the majority of them don't change or grow.

(Spoilers removed)

Pages: 343

Boy by Anna Ziegler

BoyBoy by Anna Ziegler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this free from SYNC, and since it's a play, it transitions well to audiobook. It's dramatic and heart wrenching.

This takes place in the 1960s-1980s and is based on a true story. Back in the 60s, a well-meaning (but rather misguided) doctor convinces 2 parents to raise their infant son as a girl, after a tragic accident. They don't tell the child that he was born a boy, like his twin brother, and instead, they try to shape him into girl using sterotypical "girl talk" and "girl activities" to try to cultivate "female" interests.

This play explores gender identity, and the understandings of gender, from past perspectives, which were less than accurate. It's a short, painful read with touches of humor and hope.

Pages: 55

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Clash of Kings  (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2)A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 2 in A Song of Fire and Ice series

This book was slow for me, especially in the first half. I enjoy the many different story lines, but they drug a bit. It lacks strong forward motion for a while, and that left me with a feeling of random wandering. In return, my attention wandered, and I cheated on this book with other stories, which slowed my pace.

However, I do love many other things about the story lines, characters, and world, so I am still debating whether or not to continue reading this series. I think I need to take a break before moving on to book 3. I want to know what happens, but I feel exhausted.

Pages: 761

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

Claire Randall's first unexpected trip to the past led her into the arms of an 18th century Scottish warrior named Jamie Fraser. Now they are happily reunited, but Claire has left someone behind in the 20th century---her and Jamie's daughter, Brianna. Brianna has fallen in love with a Scottish historian named Roger Wakefield MacKenzie, a man who also has ties to the same mysterious stones that led Claire to Jamie. As Roger is helping Bree research what has happened to her parents, he stumbles upon a disturbing discovery he is determined to hide. Unbeknownst to him, Bree has uncovered the information herself. It leads her to the stone circle known as Craigh na Dun, resulting in Bree plunging headfirst into the past to meet the father she never knew, setting off a chain of events that could leave her stranded forever ... or perhaps just where she was always meant to be.

Book 4 in the Outlander series. 880 pages.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Awakening by Amanda Stevens

The Awakening (Graveyard Queen #6)The Awakening by Amanda Stevens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Readers who enjoy Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse stories will also like this series. I am sad I've read the last book!

416 pages

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since I'm late to this game, I'm not sure what I can add to the discussion on this novel.

In some ways, it's very Tolkien-esque, in that Martin definitely digs deep into the fantasy world building, and it's clear there are many layers of information hidden beneath the story that I will never even see or read. In fact, by the end of a novel by either author, I think I have probably forgotten more than I have learned, because it can be so difficult to file away all that information on a first read.

In other ways, it's nothing like Tolkien, in that Martin writes edgier, darker, bloodier, sexier, and more horrifying scenes and moments than Tolkien ever did. And I both like and hate that, at any given moment.

After I finished reading this, I watched the first season of Game of Thrones, and that worked great. The TV show stuck reasonably close to the book, and it helped me to see all the characters come to life on the screen before moving on to book 2.

Also, it should be noted that I listened to a lot of this on audiobook, and it's a particularly good recording. I think I almost prefer listening to it over reading it, though I did both, depending on what was convenient in the moment.

Last thought: I recommend this to anyone who digs deep fantasy. You have to be someone who can weather the storm of heavy descriptions, in-depth histories, an extraordinary number of characters, lengthy battles, and multiple, complex story lines. If you can tackle that, I think you'll find there's a lot here to love.

Pages: 835

Monday, May 15, 2017

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Kindred SpiritsKindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an adorable novella with the perfect combination of Star Wars nerdery, line culture, and unlikely friendships.

Everything by Rainbow Rowell is brilliant. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer.

Pages: 96

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Young Wives Club by Julie Pennell

Summary: "In Toulouse, Louisiana finding your one true love happens sometime around high school. If you're lucky, he might be the man you thought he was. But as four friends are about to find out, not every girl has luck on her side."

Well, I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It was a somewhat cozy and easy read. It made me laugh a little, cry a little and sigh in frustration a lot. The story is told from 4 different points of view, but they all kind of meshed together. And some of the messages, whether intentional or not, were a bit alarming at times. Actually, the girls' relationships with their boyfriends/husbands were downright disturbing throughout much of the book.

Ultimately, it was an okay read, and I liked the author's writing style. I may give her future books a chance as well.

308 pages

The Visitor by Amanda Stevens

The Visitor (Graveyard Queen, #4)The Visitor by Amanda Stevens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fourth book in the series unveils more clues regarding the heritage and strange calling of both the series' protagonist and her love interest. Photography and stereoscopy play a key role in the plot.

379 pages.

Better Than New by Nicole Curtis

Better Than New: How Saving Old Homes Saved MeBetter Than New: How Saving Old Homes Saved Me by Nicole Curtis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Nicole Curtis's work ethic is admirable. It's what I love about her show. She is willing to clean, repair, and restore old homes. By doing so, she preserves their unique character and reduces the construction waste that would be created by tearing homes down in order to build something new. The way that the book was organized by houses was clever. But the focus of the book was on Curtis's career and relationships.

224 pages.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

Summary: "When twenty-eight-year-old Lexi Smart wakes up in a London hospital, having survived a car accident, she has lost a big chunk of her memory--three years to be exact. And that's not all. Somehow Lexi went from a twenty-five-year-old working girl to a corporate big shot with a sleek new loft, a personal assistant, a carb-free diet, and a set of glamorous new friends. And who is this gorgeous husband--who also happens to be a multimillionaire?"

I couldn't stay away from Sophie Kinsella for long...her books are just so fun and interesting. I loved Remember Me? for the laughs as well as the intrigue. It pulled me in, and I couldn't put it down! 

Even though there were a few plot holes and loose ends, I enjoyed this book very much overall. 

389 pages

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Thing About Love by Julie James

Summary: "FBI agents Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd have a past. The former lawyer and cocky Army Ranger clashed during their training at Quantico and gladly went their separate ways after graduating from the Academy. Six years later, the last thing either of them expects is to be assigned to work as partners in a high-profile undercover sting."

The Thing About Love is Julie James' highly anticipated next installment in her wonderful FBI/US Attorney series. 

That being said, I think I was anticipating this book just a little too much and thus set my expectations way higher than they should have been. The premise is juicy, but the story just didn't live up to its high potential. I loved the entire FBI Training scenario, as well as the enemies-to-lovers storyline, but the actual case/plot of the story significantly lacked action and excitement. It never quite made my heart race or had me eagerly turning the page. Usually, the plots of James' books are intense, but this one just fell a little flat. I'd still give the book around 4 stars...just lower your expectations.

384 pages

Monday, May 1, 2017

All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg

All the Best PeopleAll the Best People by Sonja Yoerg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I drug my feet while reading this multigenerational adult novel, because it’s so gorgeous and intense. Yoerg has a style that’s beautiful, simple, and subtle. She says powerful things that really sit with me.

Actually, she rarely tells me what to think. Instead, she shows the story in a way that makes me think knew things, different things, or forgotten things, which is what I love best about her stories. She has a real talent for storytelling, and nothing ever feels forced or false. It’s always truthful, raw, and introspective.

I confess, I was almost afraid of where this was headed--not that it might be bad--just that it might hurt to get there. But it doesn’t hurt, not any more than it should. There were moments when this story could have gone in 10 different directions, and I remain fascinated by the direction it chose. It took me time to wrap my head around the characters and the way their stories wove together across time, but it was so well done, with each generation and voice contributing another layer.

Also, I love the subtle interchanges between magic and reality, luck and choice, good and bad. There are so many fascinating contrasts in this story, and the historical elements were a nice touch, as well. It’s clear Yoerg did her research, and she approached the history of mental illness in a way that is honest, accurate, and sometimes disturbing.

Now, I’ve said plenty, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the lake-dwelling people of Vermont, who were endlessly fascinating to me. I’d read a whole story about these “pirates” if one existed.

Pages 368

PS: The release date for this book is tomorrow, May 2, 2017!

The Prophet by Amanda Stevens

The Prophet (Graveyard Queen, #3)The Prophet by Amanda Stevens
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amanda Stevens introduces a dynamic new character and increases the romance in the third book in the Graveyard Queen series.

347 pages

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

The Morrison family lives in an isolated Northern Ontario rural community. There are four children; two older teenage boys, a younger girl, and an infant. Education is very important to the family, and the oldest son, Luke, has just been admitted to university. When the parents go to town to buy him a suitcase, they are hit by a farm truck and killed, leaving the four children to fend for themselves.  Luke gives up going to university to stay home and take care of the girls.

Matt, the second son, is more scholarly anyway, and Luke plans for him to be the one to get the education. Matt plans to work and save money for college, and then help Kate to go to college, who in turn will help Bo, the baby girl.

However, plans go awry, and what follows is years of non-communication that keeps the siblings from keeping the close bond they once had.

306 pages

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quinlan

Rebecca is a world renowned photographer. However, that isn't much consolation to her. Right now, she is in a small, dilapidated cottage in upper New York State, wondering what the racket is in her attic. Turns out, it's a raccoon, but finding that out isn't much consolation, either, although that's definitely better than some things it might be..

Only Rebecca knows that sales of her photographs have dried up, and the money she is spending to take care of her elderly parents have driven her to near-poverty. So she has rented out her lovely New York City apartment, and moved to the country to live cheaply while she tries to figure out how she is going to earn enough to recapture her former comfortable life.

She really hates this small-town life and all the inconveniences she experiences. But slowly the eccentric people and slower pace begin to seep into her soul, and she finds inspiration for a new photo series that  bring her back to the attention of the New York art world. Does she want to go back to that world?

263 pages

Thursday, April 27, 2017

United by Melissa Landers

United (Alienated, #3)United by Melissa Landers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a satisfying conclusion to an enjoyable series. I'm happy I read this trilogy. It's sci-fi, but it somehow still manages to be light. It's fast paced and easy to read with memorable characters.

Pages: 317

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Did You Ever Have a Family: A Novel by Bill Clegg

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

June Reid is the sole survivor of an unbearable tragedy that grips the entire town of Wells, Connecticut. Shortly before her daughter’s wedding, a gas leak leads to an explosion at June’s house, leaving a bereft June and gossiping townspeople to make sense of it all. Directionless, June leaves Wells to drive across the country. Those she leaves behind whisper about what happened and if Luke, June’s thuggish boyfriend, was really responsible. With poetic language and through multiple perspectives, Clegg slowly reveals the narrative of a town touched by tragedy and the truth about those at its heart. Readers should note the novel contains drug references as well as language.

293 pages   

A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern

A Step Toward FallingA Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Belinda's POV was well done. It was nice to read a perspective of someone with some developmental disabilities. I especially enjoyed the audiobook version of this story.

This books was a reminder for me, not in how to treat those who have some kind of challenge be it physical, mental, emotional, or all of the above, but instead, in how to think of people. I don't know if that makes sense, so now I'm going to ramble as I try to process that comment. If you're not in for some existential rambling today, this is your cue to check out now.

What I think I'm trying to say is that I get that I should be kind, patient, and understanding with all humans. Am I always? Nope, not at all, and least of all with myself.

However, kind, patient, and understanding behaviors are really not enough. People don't just want me to behave politely. Most of them also want me to take them seriously and check my snap judgments at the door, even the quiet, internal judgments that are never spoken aloud.

Do I always do that? Nope.

Do I know I should? Yep.

Do I feel guilty when I pretend to be a better human on the outside than I actually feel on the inside? Definitely.

This book reminds people to be a good human on both the inside and the outside, and it shows you how to both succeed and fail at that, based on your every day choices. That's what I like about it.

Pages: 384

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval (Caraval, #1)Caraval by Stephanie Garber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The writing is pretty, and the story is imaginative. The problem for me is that the characters are just a bit too flat and underdeveloped to be truly interesting. It's not that I'm not interested at all. It's just that I wanted so much more from everyone. They needed to be a little less "caricature" --like, the good girl, the bad boy, the pretty flirt, the abusive father, etc. I also really wanted the relationships between characters to be deeper and more faceted.

It does remind me a bit of Night Circus, which definitely isn't a mark in its favor, as I had similar complaints with that story. I could have done with less fancy sentences and just a bit more depth in characters and relationships. I needed more than just the surface level stuff and the major plot points.

Also, despite the overabundance of description in this story, I felt like it was light on actual world building. I had a lot of description but not enough about the actual world and how everything within it worked and why.

Again, I still gave it 4 stars, so I found many other things interesting and charming about this story. It just didn't live up to its full potential, at least, not for me. I'm not sure if I will continue on and read book 2 or not. I guess I have a year to figure that out.

Pages: 407

Monday, April 24, 2017

Roomies by Sara Zarr

RoomiesRoomies by Sara Zarr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a YA novel based around emails exchanged between 2 soon to be roommates the summer before their freshman year at college. The concept is fun, and the story is easy to consume.

Pages: 279

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn

Naomi and Ely's No Kiss ListNaomi and Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's a 3.5, that after careful consideration, I decided deserved to be rounded down, instead of up. I like both authors, but this didn't come together to create a story I loved. It was just okay.

Pages: 230

Saturday, April 22, 2017

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #2)P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story was just as sweet, naive, and hopeful as book one. I liked it.

Pages: 337

Friday, April 21, 2017

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Summary: "Aza Ray Boyle is drowning in thin air. Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak-to live. So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn't think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name."

After reading Becky's review, and also falling in love with the gorgeous cover, I had to read this book. 

It was wonderful and unique in a breath-taking (pun-intended?) way. It was a special book, the kind that you're always on the hunt for but aren't sure if you'll ever find.

309 pages

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of UnrequitedThe Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Becky Albertalli is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

First off, she has a fantastic name, which is completely irrelevant to people not named Becky.

Second, this book was so much fun to read that my face aches from smiling so much.

Third, Simon was one of my favorite 2015 reads, and I didn't think anything new could touch that adorable, huggable book. But I was wrong. This story was so enjoyable and relatable.

Fourth, a lot of YA gets heavy, regardless of genre. Albertalli's books have a way of tackling real issues in a way that's fresh and easy. It doesn't take anything away from the seriousness of a topic, but she also doesn't try to pulverize my heart, which I appreciate.

Fifth, the characters are authentic and delightfully teenagery. That should be a word. Just roll with it.

Sixth, the writing is funny.

Seventh, the pacing is solid.

Eighth, the parental units, actually most of the adults in the story, are decent, layered, and running the show as is typical of the real world.

Ninth, the depictions of neurotic first love/crush behaviors are amusing and spot on.

Tenth, Molly's voice is so earnest and honest, even when she's being unreasonably hard on herself. It's nice watching her grow, but it's realistic in showing that people change and grow slowly. It's more about the process, and evolving, not about achieving perfection.

Pages: 338

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nothing I say in a review could do this story justice.

It’s well-written, full of voice, current, relevant, timely, insightful, and heartbreaking. I think everyone should read it. Right now. And then we should all sit down and discuss it. Everywhere. In every library, school, and home across the nation.

Goodreads Blurb: (Contains spoilers!!)
"Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life."

Pages: 464

You Deserve a Drink by Mamrie Hart

You Deserve a Drink: Boozy Misadventures and Tales of Debauchery by Mamrie Hart

My rating: 4.0/5 Stars

Mamrie Hart describes herself as “a drinking star with a YouTube problem,” and this does indeed appear to be true. Hart is the founder of the YouTube series You Deserve a Drink, and she has compiled her best drinking stories into a novel. The book is set up to be a drinking game and a cocktail recipe starts off each chapter. Every time she references an old TV show, mentions a food product that can be found at 7-Eleven, or refers to a reproductive organ by a slang term, the reader is meant to take a swig. With stories ranging from a spring break spent at a gay nudist resort to celebrating Day of the Dead in Mexico with her friend Maegan, where a group of swingers mistake them for a lesbian couple, boozy misadventures abound. As Grace Helbig notes in the forward, “None of what you’re about to read is exaggerated, fabricated, or G-rated.”

288 pages

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Wait for You Series by J. Lynn (6 books/3 novellas total)

Wait for You (Wait for You, #1)Wait for You by J. Lynn (Book #1)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's well-written, as is everything by Jennifer Armentrout. The characters are well-developed, and for romance, it's not too fluffy.

I like her YA supernatural/paranormal stories, which has led me to read some of her previous works, including this NA contemporary romance series.

It was nice to read something with depth that still flows easily and is hard to put down. The characters are flawed and have difficult back stories, but the heaviness is tempered by sweetness.

Pages: 332

Trust in Me (Wait for You, #1.5)Trust in Me by J. Lynn  (Novella #1.5)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is Wait For You (book one), from Cam's perspective (the guy). It's fun and sometimes funnier and more lighthearted than book one. While it's not totally necessary, it is totally enjoyable and has enough difference and variety to keep you attention, despite being basically the same story.

The real difference is that you get everything from Cam's perspective, which is interesting, since as the reader, you are often just guessing what is going on in his head in book one. Sometimes, I was guessing wrong, which makes this even more enjoyable.

If you liked book one, you're going to like this.

Pages: 352

Be with Me (Wait for You, #2)Be with Me by J. Lynn (Book #2)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book 2 is also good and about a different set of characters, which I enjoyed. While reading this series, I have frequently found myself hoping a certain character will be at the heart of the next story. Usually, my guesses/hopes are wrong, but this is one of those times when it felt good to be wrong.

It's another story with characters with dark pasts, and it's nice to see them change and grow.

Pages: 365

The Proposal (Wait for You, #2.5)The Proposal by J. Lynn  (Novella #2.5)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a short bit of fun, available for free online, for those who truly enjoy the series/characters.

Pages: 6

Stay with Me (Wait for You, #3)Stay with Me by J. Lynn  (Book #3)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an interesting change of pace. It's longer than the other stories but felt shorter. Some of the drama stays surface level, but I kind of prefer that in this instance. It helps keep a book with heavy topics still light enough that it reads quickly and you come out of the experience feeling good and not just miserable.

Pages: 448

Fall with Me (Wait for You, #4)Fall with Me by J. Lynn  (Book #4)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one falls hard towards adorable, with a very creepy subplot.

Pages: 389

Forever with You (Wait for You #5)Forever with You by J. Lynn  (Book #5)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally. A love story for that girl who is unfairly categorized as the unlikable side character (sometimes even the enemy/frenemy/villain) in every single other romance novel. I'm happy she got her own story, and I like it as much or more than some of the others.

Pages: 370



Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens

The Kingdom (The Graveyard Queen)The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

While restoring a private graveyard in upstate South Carolina, Amelia uncovers dark family secrets. I was disappointed with this book after devouring 2 others in the series. There was less of the local history that I enjoyed in previous books, and the paranormal events were less realistic - if that's possible.

376 pages

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

Our Chemical HeartsOur Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this story a lot, but it totally gutted me.

This book is about the fallout that occurs when love finds you at the wrong point in your life, and you aren't able to handle or accept it (due to grief and guilt in this case). If you've ever been on either side of a situation like that (or perhaps both at different points in your life), then I think you'll find something to relate to.

Even if you haven't, there are a lot of good comments about love and relationships here that aren't commonly heard opinions in YA, especially in the contemporary genre. Also, the characters have fresh voices, and I particularly adore the side characters.

(view spoiler)

Pages: 320

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Under Rose-Tainted SkiesUnder Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is about Norah, who has agoraphobia (which keeps her inside), OCD (to extremes), and very severe anxiety, which leads to some self harm. Living inside Norah's skin and world for the duration of this story was both painful and eye opening.

I would probably lean towards 4.25 stars on this, and while I don't love it quite as much as Everything, Everything and/or OCD Love Story, I think it's a great YA read for helping people understanding these different disorders better, including how differently they manifest in each person.

Also, the voice is captivating, and it's well-written. I'd recommend this to anyone, as I think that not only is it an interesting read, it's also very informative. I especially appreciated the fact that Norah's mental illnesses were not spurred on by any specific tragedy or event. They just crept up on her unexpectedly in her early teens until they were unmanageable, and not being able to explain to people why she was so severely anxious (other than that's just how her mind functioned), was a real challenge for her.

I spent a large chunk of the book feeling incredibly sorry for Norah and wishing there was something someone could do to make life easier for her. I mean, her mom and therapist both helped with that, but the sad part is that there was no perfect solution or magic cure. If she was a real teenager, she'd probably struggle the rest of her life with these disorders, and I couldn't help wishing it didn't have to be that way for her. I wanted a better and faster solution, even though I was fully aware that doesn't exist.

Pages: 320