Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge


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


TOTAL BOOKS: 7

TOTAL PAGES: 2,263


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

The Season by Jonah Lisa Dyer & Stephen Dyer

Summary: "When her mother enters her and her twin sister as debutantes for this year's deb season in Dallas, soccer star Megan McKnight is furious. She has no interest the dress-filled life of a socialite deb, but her season turns out to be one full of twists and turns - and more than one dashing suitor!"

I do love a good Pride and Prejudice retelling, and this one was dang near perfect. I appreciated Megan's spirit and spunk, much like Lizzie Bennet's. Her humor and sass were right up my alley. Her story was so strong, that I actually wasn't as invested in the love interest as I usually am. The end of the book was a bit rushed, especially since the first half had such great substance and build-up. I didn't want it to end!

344 pages

Monday, April 10, 2017

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

And We StayAnd We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Nope. This is just not for me on so many different levels. This book would have been a DNF (Did Not Finish) if it hadn't been so short, and if I hadn't been listening on the airplane to try to pass time.

I just have these 6 quick things to say, then I wish you the best of luck, if you decide to read anyway. I hope you fare better than I did.

1. Pronunciation matters. And this story has a mispronounced word that is repeated (intentionally) so often it makes me want to peel my skin off. With a spoon.

2. It lacks real depth. Very heavy topics are handled in a flip manner that takes away from the intensity of the events, in a very uncomfortable and indifferent sort of way.

3. The characters are all bland and shallow and don't grow or develop into something deeper or more interesting.

4. Plot: snooze-fest

5. I love poetry, particularly Emily Dickinson, so this should have been an ideal book for me. But nope. The poetry tie in feels so at odds with the story, world, and characters...like everything is disjointed in the most uncomfortable and awkward sort of way. Somehow, this story made poetry annoying and boring, when the truth of the matter is that I absolutely love poetry, both reading and writing it, which should have made me the perfect reader for this book. But again. Nope.

6. You know how the adults on the Peanuts talk? Wa-waaah-wa-wahh-wah-wa. That's what almost every chapter felt like to me. A few pretty sentences just doesn't fix a story that lacks real depth and emotion.

I don't recommend this to anyone. Instead, I'd point people at better stories over the same complex topics (school shootings, suicide, abortion, etc.). And now that I just wrote that and read it back, I've realized this book shouldn't have tried to tackle so many big issues in so few pages.  It didn't handle any of them well or thoroughly.

Pages: 240

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

The Thousandth Floor (The Thousandth Floor, #1)The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is like Gossip Girls meets Sci-Fi, but not the wickedly cool, fast paced, action-packed kind of Sci-Fi (like Illuminae, The Lunar Chronicles, or The Diabolic) . It's more like a bunch of wealthy people with a ton of incredible tech who feel continually sorry for themselves about their misfortunes and complicated lives.

If you love brainless drama, this isn't too bad, except for the fact that the Sci-Fi edge doesn't allow you to read brainlessly, which disrupts the glee that comes with a fluffy book that is easy to devour. I listened on audio and found myself getting frequently distracted and sidetracked (because the story just wouldn't hold my attention). I rewound a lot, and at one point, I almost gave up, but my love for the genre forced me to trudge onward, in the hope of something better.

In about the last 8% of the book, something dramatic finally happens (though I'm not sure how happy I was to see the story move in that direction, when there could have been so many other interesting options). That's probably the point at which the book should have begun, but unfortunately, it's the point where the book ended. Since the story finally got started, right at the end, you would think I would be interested in reading on to book 2, but I guess I'm not. I think I'm done with this series.

It's probably more of a 2.5 for me, but I rounded up on behalf of the interesting tech/world. I really did appreciate that element of the story (and wished there had been more of that), even when everything else started to become boring. I guess there's only so much wealthy teenager drama that I can read and watch before it all starts seeming the same.

ALSO, I almost forgot to mention the multiple POVs. It has a lot, which I would normally love, but I found it very difficult to settle into the POVs for the first 15-20% of the book. So the POVs are rocky at the get go and don't transition smoothly, but that does get better as the story progresses.

In conclusion: it's not terrible. I just don't love it, and I wish I had buried myself in a Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Maas, Veronica Rossi, Pierce Brown, or Marissa Meyer book instead. They create far more intricate worlds and faster-paced plots.

Pages: 448

Saturday, April 8, 2017

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next DoorMy Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book had so much potential, so the fact that the last 1/4 of the book was so unfathomable unacceptable has shocked me to my very core. I was sure this was going to be a 4 star book with occasional, sparkles of 5. Everything about it showed a depth and sweetness that drew me right in. The writing was solid, and it had some things to say that I haven't heard very much in YA.

WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS MAY OCCUR IN THE VAGUE RANTINGS THAT WILL FOLLOW. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.

Then blamo. The most ridiculously out of the blue incident occurred. That was okay, because these moments occur in every contemporary romance, and it gives the characters a chance to rise up and overcome obstacles to become stronger people and/or couples. Blah, blah, blah.

But nope. That's not what happened here. Instead, characters behaved in ways that are so uncharacteristic of themselves that I couldn't even recognize them for the characters I had known and loved for hundreds of pages. Also, to make matters worse, really big, overwhelming issues were resolved, after extended periods of ugliness, with just a few sentences and a kiss. . . or hug? Can't even remember. BECAUSE NO. JUST NO. Teenage lust does not resolve life-altering events.

Finally, the resolution is weak, unsatisfying, and reeks of mistruth. For realistic fiction, it definitely misses the realistic mark in a disappointing and frustrating way. Then la-di-dah, everyone lives happily ever after, except all the side characters and the reader who invested way too much of her time caring about what happened to all of the characters (which she'll never known, because none of their subplots were resolved. NONE OF THEM).

AND MAJOR SPOILER:
A completely inhumane and intentional criminal act (okay, technically 3 criminal acts, because that's how bad it was) perpetrated by what should be a responsible adult is completely brushed under the rug, after the selfish individual throws a sum of money at the issue, that in my opinion was quite pathetic and not nearly enough to account for the damage that was done, both financially and in terms of quality of life and life expectancy, especially considering this villain showed a complete lack of believable remorse.

Basically, I'm leaving the book angry, offended, and extremely disappointed in everyone. The whole heart of the story was sacrificed to this unnecessary and unsatisfactory plot twist. Due to the extremely poor resolution of both the plot twist and the story, I might hesitate to pick up another book by this author, even though I like her writing style overall. She creates interesting characters and really develops the world, but there's something lacking here in terms of story structure, particularly in the way she fails to wrap up so many of the subplots. If all you want in the ending of a romance novel is for the two characters to be together, then this delivers that, just nothing else that you spent hundreds of pages wondering about and/or hoping for.

Pages: 394

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

A Little Something DifferentA Little Something Different by Sandy Hall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I guess this is kind of NA, but it definitely reads like YA...

It's either bizarre or surprisingly unique, with way too many POVs in first person narrative, including a squirrel and a bench. While that is quirky and sometimes amusing, the extra POVs are overwhelming and confusing in the beginning, and the non-human POVs are completely unnecessary to the storyline. I'm a reader who loves multiple POVs (just throwing that out there for a baseline). This kind of works but could be better. I think perhaps this was written in the wrong perspective, and the story could have been better accomplished in some form of 3rd, maybe 3rd omni.

If you like to drown in endless existential angst and enjoy tediously drawn out romantic drama, while seeing very little forward motion or character growth, through many different perspectives, you'll probably love this. If that sounds like your worst nightmare, take a slow step backwards, don't make any sudden moves, and quietly slip into the darkness before this book hooks a claw in you.

This is basically a "will they ever get together" story with the two shyest, slowest moving, and most oblivious characters ever. Some will find that endearing, while others find it epically frustrating. I land in the middle of the spectrum, finding it both frustrating and a bit endearing, the same as I find the writing choices to be unexpected in a way that is both interesting and perhaps a bit misguided.

Pages: 272

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Summary: *SPOILER "Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets--a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world."

Crooked Kingdom is the follow-up novel to Six of Crows, and it was a roller-coaster of the very best kind. The intricate plot and the well-rounded characters twisted up my emotions to where I didn't know right from wrong, good from bad or joy from grief. 

546 pages

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard

Girl Mans UpGirl Mans Up by M-E Girard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Just when I was starting to feel like all the books I've been reading lately have blurred together, this one stands out in the best ways.

I've read a lot of LGBT YA in the past few years, and this one pointed out all these subtleties to gender identity that I still wasn't aware of or didn't quite understand. The story has a refreshing angle (Pen, the MC, is a girl who fully embraces her masculine side, despite the displeasure of her Portuguese parents).

I also enjoyed that Pen was Portugese-American, as it was an interesting look at the differences between two cultures, as well as what it's like to grow up caught between cultures.

As an added bonus, it was great to see a healthy relationship play out between two girls. This definitely offers something new and more to the YA LGBT Contemporary category.

Pages: 384

Monday, April 3, 2017

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

Daughters Unto DevilsDaughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This would be the book baby of Laura Ingalls Wilder and William Peter Blatty. Bizarre, creepy, and demonic meets the prairie.

Pages: 231


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Galgorithm by Aaron Karo

GalgorithmGalgorithm by Aaron Karo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is sweet, adorable, predictable, and yet still satisfying and unique. I enjoyed the characters and all of their quirks.

I also appreciated seeing a male character who is obsessed with love, matchmaking, and helping others be their best. It's nice to see a "regular guy" with so many nurturing instincts in a YA novel. It quietly defies some of the common gender stereotypes, and I really appreciate that.

Pages: 320

Friday, March 31, 2017

Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner

Phantom LimbsPhantom Limbs by Paula Garner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is truly a wonderful YA contemporary, coming of age story with a solid dose of the expected diversity, tragedy, grief, and romance. It's well-written, with characters that show a lot of depth and growth. Perhaps the most interesting part is the complicated relationships between different characters.

The reason I can't give this 5 stars is that I feel like I've read a hundred other different versions of this story, in this genre and category, in the past 2 years. That does not take away from the fact that this was still a beautiful and heartbreaking story, but it does raise the bar for stars.

I recommend it. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn't pick it up and read it again. So 4 stars.

Pages: 368

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Summary: "Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map, the key to a legendary treasure trove, pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies. Now the only thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate Riden."

Um, can I have the next book right now...please?! 

Daughter of the Pirate King is exactly the kind of book I would have loved in high school. The adventures are grand and the love-hate main relationship is charming and swoon-worthy. I liked the fast-paced plot and pirate-lore. For once, I actually was craving a little more backstory and world-building, which is very unusual for me.

The ending is incomplete which leaves me hungry for the next book!

311

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Cross the Line by James Patterson

 Alex Cross is back, and chasing the latest serial killer(s). This time he is working two cases simultaneously; the murder of his very own Chief of Detectives, and a team of murderers killing drug dealers.

The two cases seem to have no connection, and yet....do they? As with all Alex Cross novels, the usual murder and mayhem ensue on the streets of Washington, D. C. - and around the country.


401 pages

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella (Books 1-4)

Summary: "Becky Bloomwood is bored to death writing for Successful Saving. So, with a handsome credit line from her bank, she liberates herself the best way she knows how -- by shopping! Think of it as an investment, she tells herself. But, soon she is buried in bank notices and cursed VISA bills."

I had previously seen the Confessions of a Shopaholic movie, and wasn't sure if I'd like the book series. Turns out, as usual, the book series is much better than the movie! :) I'm so glad I picked these up, as they put a big goofy smile on my face no matter what.


310 pages












Summary: "With her shopping excesses in check- for now at least-and her new career as a TV financial adviser. But now Becky's business minded boyfriend needs to move to New York and he wants her to move with him!"

Becky's spirit, creativity and imagination are often the best bits of this series. Becky's daydreams are vivid and wild and most importantly, something we can all relate to! 

However, Becky can be a very frustrating character as she often lies to her loved ones and continues to make repeated mistakes. But in these books, the good ultimately outweigh the bad!

323 pages







***SPOILERS***


Summary: "Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) returns from her honeymoon only to discover she has a half-sister-who hates to shop."

Surprisingly, this is my favorite of the series so far! It had more drama and heart in it than the previous two installments. Becky faced down some tough situations with grit and determination. I could hardly put it down!


352 pages










Summary: "Becky is pregnant! She couldn't be more overjoyed, especially since discovering that shopping cures morning sickness. Everything has got to be perfect for her baby. But when her must-have celebrity obstetrician turns out to be her husband Luke's glamorous, intellectual ex-girlfriend, Becky's perfect world starts to crumble."

I enjoyed this installment of the Shopaholic series, but it wasn't as good as Shopaholic & Sister. Becky's foray into the baby shopping world was funny, but alarming. I enjoyed certain parts very much, and found others to be frustrating and upsetting. I did not enjoy Luke's storyline at all because he is such a great character who deserves much better treatment!

358 pages

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fans for this book series are wild and devoted and fill up my twitter thread on a daily basis. I wanted to love this to the extremes that they do, but I’m not quite there yet. It’s possible it is something that will creep up on me in time. I'm hopeful for that.

I do adore the story and characters, and the world is fascinating. I listened to this on audiobook, and I think perhaps I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to read this book (maybe to read any book), as I was continually distracted and had to rewind a lot. That might have curbed my overall enjoyment, so I’m willing to suggest that if I reread this in print, my stars might increase.

I’ll definitely read the next two books, once I get my hands on those.

Overall, this is a good YA fantasy with creative magic, solid world building, and quirky, lovable characters. Two thumbs up and four sparkly stars.

Pages: 400

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the UniverseHolding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This YA contemporary novel has two unique characters. Libby, who due to extreme weight gain, had to be cut out of her own home a few years before, and Jack, who has Prosopagnosia (Face Blindness), cross paths due to a very poor choice that ended up having one good side-effect.

Initially, I was a bit --shall we say—ruffled?? by what felt like two extremes coming together for this story, because some part of me just found it all to be too unlikely. Then I reminded myself that I was reading a fiction novel (well, duh), and that I needed to suspend disbelief and check my reality at the door.

Honestly, Libby and Jack helped me get over it, with their unique voices and interesting situations.

Also, I had never heard of Prosopagnosia before, though it is apparently more widespread than I would have even guessed, so this definitely created awareness for me. It’s a reminder to be patient and helpful in social circumstances, because you never know what’s happening with the person on the other end.

Pages: 391

The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

The Restorer (Graveyard Queen, #1)The Restorer by Amanda Stevens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a taphophile and history-lover, I can't get enough of this series. Better yet, it is set in one of my favorite places, Charleston, SC.

368 pages

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Colder War by Charles Cumming

A classic old-school espionage novel, with some intriguing plot twists.  Tom Kell, an out of favor British agent is sent to investigate the suspicious death of another British agent in Turkey.  Kell is tasked with searching out a potential mole in the British or American services in Turkey - and the plot begins its twists and turns.  Cumming is great at bringing us into the world of spies, where nothing can be accepted on its face.  382 pages

Some Like It Hot: Food, Genes, and Cultural Diversity by Gary Nabhan

Ever wonder why some people love hot peppers, and others can't tolerate even mild ones?  Or why some ethnic groups have a greater propensity to certain diseases like diabetes? Nabhan explores some of the recent research behind the interaction of genes and foods, and how sometimes a food may cause not only unwanted harmful reactions but also helpful ones.  For example, fava beans cause an allergy type reaction among many people living in the Mediterranean/North African area, but also help to protect from malaria.  Nabhan also explores how genes, diet, ethnicity and place can influence how we interact with different diet types.  He explains why more attention should be paid to each culture's traditional food sources, as the foods to which people from that area and culture are best adapted in complex ways.  This also helps to explain why the latest diet fad will fail many people, because it is not well suited to their body's genetic predispositions.  210 pages

Monday, March 27, 2017

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Lily and DunkinLily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This middle grade novel is about Lilly, a trans girl who is still attending 8th grade as a boy, while trying to figure out how best to express to the world that she’s a girl, and Dunkin, a boy with bipolar disorder who just moved to the neighborhood with his mom after something mysterious occurred with his father. The story is told in alternating POVs.

I really wanted to finish this book and give it 5 stars, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. And it’s really bothering me. In fact, for the past 30 minutes, my mind has been whirling, and I have been interrogating myself, much like this:

Was this a good book: YES

Was it well-written: YES

Did it address important topics: YES

Do I appreciate the diversity: YES

Were the characters interesting: YES

Does the world need more books like this: DOUBLE YES

So I’d recommend this to everyone:
*hesitates*
*lectures self*
*reviews previous questions*
*hesitates and lectures self some more*

What? WHY NOT?
*shrugs and cowers*

Is it the (probably unintentional) gender stereotyping: Maybe

Was that hard to swallow: Yeah, sometimes.

Did it bother me how some of the plot points and subplots seemed unnecessary and distracted from the story more than they added to it: Kinda. . . sorta. . . yes, okay.
Definitely.
*sigh*

What about the friendship between the two main characters: It didn’t feel as authentic as I wanted it to.

Whoa! That was quick. Who are you to judge their friendship: Well, I’m nobody….except the reader. So I kind of showed up to judge, in a non-judgey sort of way. . . right?

How about that ending: Acceptable but lacked a certain resolution and stirred up more cans of worms

Um, is that an appropriate use of that idiom: *rolls eyes*

But really, are any of these issues solid reasons not to love and promote the book: Probably not. . . but maybe? I don’t know! Stop pressuring me!

Okay, fine. Calm down. What’s the real problem here? Are you just hating on middle grade, because you prefer YA: No, that’s not it. I like how middle grade it is.

Are you letting stupid little things take away from your complete enjoyment of this story: Potentially

Are there better stories out there on being transgender and on bipolar disorder: Yes, but maybe not for this age level . . .?!?!?

So should an almost great story be labeled as satisfactory, considering that’s better than no story at all: I want to say yes, because it seems like any representation should be better than no representation. But my heart keeps thudding, may-be-not. May-be-not. May-be-not. . . Po-ten-tially? Per-haps? Pro-ba-bly?

Then what in the world is your problem: I DON’T KNOW.
*holds book at arms length*
*despairs*
*reconsiders for far too long*
*shakes head*
*sighs again*
*facepalm*

*Whispers into the void:*
Unmet potential leaves me twitchy.

Conclusion: Any book that leaves me with this much internal struggle is probably worth reading and discussing.

Pages: 352

Prayers the Devil Answers by Sharyn McCrumb

Prayers the Devil AnswersPrayers the Devil Answers by Sharyn McCrumb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Prayers the Devil Answers is inspired by the true story of a female sheriff and the role she played in the last public hanging in Kentucky history. The book is well-researched and includes storylines centering on the Great Depression, Appalachian folklore, and the WPA. I would like to read another book by this author.

353 pages

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Beast by Brie Spangler

BeastBeast by Brie Spangler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a captivating Beauty and the Beast retelling (and I use retelling lightly, as there were only a few parallels) that captured my full attention from the first moment.

POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD: YOU'VE BEEN WARNED! 

Dylan is a hairy, hulking “beast” of a 15-year-old brainiac, and Jamie, the “beauty,” is a smart, stunning trans girl with a love of photography. 

The catch is that Dylan is so busy feeling sorry for himself in his first group therapy session that he doesn’t listen when Jamie talks about being trans. Then when the rest of the girls in group ask what he thinks about that, he covers up the fact that he wasn’t listening by saying it sounds great. That’s the beginning of a miscommunication spiral that winds itself tight, as the two fall into a sweet romance. The last 1/3 of the book is what happens when the spiral unravels.

Pages: 305


Pages: 305

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly

MonstrousMonstrous by MarcyKate Connolly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an unusual MG fantasy novel that has both an innocence and depth that I found fascinating. Basically, it's the love child of a dark fairy tale and a Halloween horror story.

It's also a novel of contradictions. The story is dark but with just enough rays of hope to make the ugliness feel beautiful. The MC is indeed monstrous, with animal features, instincts, and a strong fight or flight mode, but she's also so desperately human that it almost aches to read about her wants and desires. There are good guys who do bad things and bad guys who do good things. All of this added such interesting textures and layers to the story.

Pages: 432

Friday, March 24, 2017

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting by 7sCounting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a sweet, quirky middle grade story about loss and finding family in unexpected places. It's best if you don't overthink anything. Once you do, it's a downhill slide that you won't recover from, so I recommend you put on your fiction blinders and cinch them tight before you read this novel.

I finished this story 4 days ago, and I gave it 4 stars in the moment. Today, I couldn't even remember the story well enough to write this review without going back through to read a synopsis to prompt my memories.

After careful reconsideration, I have reduced my rating by a star.

This story has a few things that may be interesting or amusing in the moment, but that in reality, I didn't actually appreciate. There's a bad counselor, a strange relationship to money/wealth/poverty that lacks depth and truthfulness, some truly unbelievable moments and occurrences for a contemporary story, a lack of character development in most side characters, and a depiction of loss and grief that doesn't resonate as well as it could.

HOWEVER, there are these sentences and moments throughout that are so perfectly charming and touching, that I think it makes it really easy to look past the flaws of the storyline. My advice to readers is to not overthink anything, and to enjoy this book for what it is, without thinking too hard about what it could have been. Once you do the second, it will be impossible not to fixate on everything that just doesn't add up.

PAGES: 380

A Year in the World by Frances Mayes

A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate TravellerA Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller by Frances Mayes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In beautiful prose, Mayes examines how place influence personality and character. Her practice of reading books by local authors while traveling is one I would like to adopt. Her practice of traveling the world is one I'd like to adopt! This is a great book for lovers of travel writing, food, and living the good life.

448 pages

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Goodbye DaysGoodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautiful. Excruciating. Funny. Excruciating. Beautiful. Funny. Excruciating. Beautiful.

It’s strange how those so often go hand in hand, and that none of the 3 ever seems to exist without another lurking nearby.

Pages: 416

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

The Tales of Beedle the Bard (Hogwarts Library books)The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an amusing set of short stories for the true HP fan, with commentary on the stories from Dumbledore. They're the HP version of fairytales. Ridiculously fun.

Pages: 128

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender

Marie Antoinette, Serial KillerMarie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is okay. It's kind of fluffy and obvious. If I had known it was a ghost story, I would have skipped it completely (not typically my cup of tea). However, it doesn't follow the pattern for a usual ghost story, in that there isn't much suspense, and it's never scary (which I found disappointing).

This is definitely not a thriller/horror. It's more of a contemporary story with a bit of a twist. I think that's the biggest mark against it. If you have a serial killer in the title (and the story), I should get the chills at least once while reading. My heart should beat fast, or I should get nervous about the fate of a character. Unfortunately, that did not occur. I felt like -- "Meh. Whatever"--so I think that was a missed opportunity. The book has only a very narrow range of emotions that it will make you feel, because everything is a bit superficial.

I don't hate it. I finished it. The writing isn't bad in a general sense, though there were too many characters, they didn't grow enough, and the majority lacked depth. The MC wasn't bad though, which is why I stuck with it.

Pages: 304

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Season by Jonah Lisa Dyer

The SeasonThe Season by Jonah Lisa Dyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Technically, this is a Pride & Prejudice retelling. It’s cute and sassy with the requisite drama and minimal heaviness. It was just what I was in the mood for after reading about a lot of complex worlds and characters this past month.

It has a YA voice, with NA characters, which is unusual, but I didn’t mind the disconnect.

Pages: 326

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lifeblood by Gena Showalter

Lifeblood (Everlife, #2)Lifeblood by Gena Showalter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Book 2 in the Firstlife series)

I love creative worlds that explore the gray that exists between dark and light, but what is best about this series is the underlying themes and messages about the power of humanity to forgive, overcome, and/or evolve.

There are not just good characters and bad ones in this series. Instead, there are electric characters with depth who make a series of both good and bad choices for many different reasons. I can't help but like a book that presents its characters as more than just: the good guy, the bad guy, and their devoted side characters. This world of warfare should be dark, depressing, and brutal, but the story brings a feeling of hope and faith of overcoming past missteps to be a person who is no longer defined by them.

And on top of all that, there are some sentences and phrases in this novel that are so small but also so mighty. I believe they will cling to me for some time.

Pages; 443

Friday, March 17, 2017

After You by Jojo Moyes

After You (Me Before You, #2)After You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn’t realize there was another book after Me Before You. That story was emotionally brutal, so obviously I decided to further torture myself by reading the follow up.

It doesn't touch book one (Let's be realistic though--nothing was going to touch that. It's in a realm of its own), which has me wondering if maybe it would have been better not to continue this story.

However, that being said, I did "enjoy" this novel, as much as you can enjoy any novel that is about grief and moving on with life after hard times. I read it quickly, but I wasn't wowed by the last 1/4 of the book.

If there isn't going to be a 3rd book, I probably should have been stingier with my stars. Although, now that I reflect back on the impact the 1st book had on me, I'm questioning if it actually would have been better to leave this at 1 novel.

One thing to note if you listen to the audiobook is that it is cued to such a low volume for Overdrive that I struggled to hear even at the maximum volume for my headphones and my phone. Also, the narration is good but drags, which is typically not an issue. I listen to most audiobooks at double speed or faster anyway, but this is one that is very difficult to speed up due to the dips of volume in the speaker's voice, her accent, and a general lack of clarity in words and across sentences that becomes even more present at a higher speed. If you want to try the audio, maybe try Audible (instead of using Overdrive from your library), as they have more options and their files tend to play back at a level where you can at least differentiate all the words in a sentence without some falling away. I almost had to give up on the audio and switch to ebook, because it was so frustrating.

Pages: 353

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

Summary: "Workaholic attorney Samantha Sweeting has just done the unthinkable. She's made a mistake so huge, it'll wreck any chance of a partnership. Going into utter meltdown, she walks out of her London office, gets on a train, and ends up in the middle of nowhere. Asking for directions at a big, beautiful house, she's mistaken for an interviewee and finds herself being offered a job as housekeeper. Her employers have no idea they've hired a lawyer--and Samantha has no idea how to work the oven. She can't sew on a button, bake a potato, or get the ironing board to open. How she takes a deep breath and begins to cope--and finds love--is a story as delicious as the bread she learns to bake."

I've been on a Sophie Kinsella binge lately, but I think it's time to step away and take a break. I noticed some similar themes and plot points in this novel as the Shopaholic books, and it's just a little too stale for me. Overall, this is a good chick-lit novel, and had some laugh-out-loud moments. I enjoyed all the characters and it was a good reflection on life's priorities. 

374 pages

Saving Alex by Alex Cooper

Saving Alex: When I Was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I Was Gay, and That's When My Nightmare BeganSaving Alex: When I Was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I Was Gay, and That's When My Nightmare Began by Alex Cooper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The teacher that still lurks inside me fought a constant battle between rage and sorrow while reading this true story. I’m horrified that any adult would behave this way towards a child, despite the fact that I’ve seen and heard even worse.


POTENTIAL SPOILERS: YOU'VE BEEN WARNED

I’m proud of Alex but ashamed of many of the adults in this novel, including her parents, whom I still find to be an epic disappointment. I don’t feel that sacrificing basic humanity and kindness is ever acceptable behavior, regardless of your religious beliefs.

I appreciate how facts and statistics about the LGBT community were included, so it becomes clear that this was not just a rare or random act of abuse, intolerance, and hatred.

From my perspective, the parents both belong in jail (as well as the Siales), and they should consider themselves lucky that Alex protected them, despite the fact that they never protected her. Their neglect and complete lack of support, even after finding out what she suffered, is appalling.

This book will make you angry, sad, and hopeful. If it doesn’t, then you might need to take a long look in the mirror and reevaluate your life and perspectives.

Pages: 256