May Wrap-Up/June TBR

Here’s a link to the checkpoint that I did half-way through May.

A School For Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin – Read and reviewed
From a Distant Star by Karen McQuestion – Read (will not be reviewing on this blog)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik – Read (will not be reviewing on this blog)
They Call Me Alexandra Gastone by T.A. Maclagan – Read and reviewed
Spelled by Betsy Schow – Read and reviewed
Boywatching by Chloe Bennet – DNF, I just couldn’t.

Bonus ARC (not originally anticipated)
The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker – Read, review coming

Other Books
My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins – Read and reviewed
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – Read and reviewed
The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter – Read and reviewed
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – Read and reviewed
Firefight by Brandon Sanderson – Read, review maybe coming

Three TBR jar titles
1) Little White Lies by Jodie Esch – Read and reviewed
2) An Abundance of Katherines by John Green – Read and reviewed
3) Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen – Read and reviewed

Total I read 14 books in May, which I’m pretty proud of. Now here’s my plan for June:

The Astrologer’s Daughter by Rebecca Lim
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
The Cooridor by A.N. Willis
Tangled Webs by Less Bross
Ghosts of Shanghai by Julian Sedgwick
The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

Library Books
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

One book from the TBR jar

I’m hoping to get to at least 14 books this month. If I have time for more, I’ll pull them from my TBR jar.

Book Haul – Last Week of May

It’s been a pretty successful day. I was able to volunteer at the Provo library and help set up their annual (semi-annual?) book sale. In exchange, they let all volunteers take up to five free books. What a deal! I’d seriously work for books any day. Here are the books that I accumulated this week.

BH 4

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige – I checked this one out from the library this week. I’ve heard some good things about it.

Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg – This book has been on my TBR for a while now and when I saw it at at thrift store I had to get it.

Hush, Hush and Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick – I’m pretty sure I’ve already read these two (at the very least Hush, Hush) and I’ve been wanting to finish the series. Especially once I found out that Becca Fitzpatrick graduated from BYU.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Another book that’s just sitting on my TBR. I picked this one up because I thought my husband would enjoy having it as well.

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins – You may remember that I bought the electronic version of this book for my birthday last month and I haven’t had the chance to read it yet…but when I saw this just sitting in a box at the book sale my gut instinct said, “Must…have…book” so I just grabbed it.

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare – The last book in the Mortal Instruments series and the only one that I haven’t read yet. I’m still working on accumulating the entire collection (hardback only please) and then once I get that, I plan on reading all of them as a refresher before reading this one.

There you have it. I’ll be back at the library tomorrow to see if they put any other boxes out so I might end up with a couple more books, but I was just too eager to share what I’ve gotten so far. Any favorites in my haul?

The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter

Book Summary: “Deep in the woods of northern England, somewhere between a dilapidated estate and an abandoned Victorian asylum, fifteen-year-old Jane Standen lived through a nightmare. She was babysitting a sweet young girl named Lily, and in one fleeting moment, lost her.9780553418521 The little girl was never found, leaving her family and Jane devastated.

Twenty years later, Jane is an archivist at a small London museum that is about to close for lack of funding. As a final research project–an endeavor inspired in part by her painful past–Jane surveys the archives for information related to another missing person: a woman who disappeared over one hundred years ago in the same woods where Lily was lost. As Jane pieces moments in history together, a portrait of a fascinating group of people starts to unfurl. Inexplicably tied to the mysterious disappearance of long ago, Jane finds tender details of their lives at the country estate and in the asylum that are linked to her own heartbroken world, and their story from all those years ago may now help Jane find a way to move on.

In riveting, beautiful prose, The World Before Us explores the powerful notion that history is a closely connected part of us–kept alive by the resonance of our daily choices–reminding us of the possibility that we are less alone than we might think.”

Right off the bat, I thought the writing in this book was BEAUTIFUL. The language and the flow of it was so fluid and engaging. Take this quote from page 9 for example:

This is the problem with imagination: it is prone to filling in gaps, takes what it knows from one set of experiences and sinks them into another to create some semblance of truth, bridge time.

I loved the way this book was written. That being said, about half-way through the book I got to the point where I just wanted the plot to move along and it felt like the language was holding it back a bit. Obviously not all books are or need to be plot-driven, but I find myself enjoying the type of book that does have a driving plot more than ones that don’t–especially since I found myself wanting to call this book a mystery. There’s a mystery solving feel to it, but the fact that the plot unrolls so slowly makes it a not very engaging one.

I really liked the characters in this book. Jane was very real. She was complicated and had a lot of emotions going on–which was very understandable given the circumstances. It really made me reflect how I would have reacted if I had lost someone that I was supposed to be watching. It was obviously a very hard thing that she went through when she was younger and the reader can still see the effects into her adulthood. I also liked that the book changed perspectives from young Jane to older Jane to way back in the past to the “ghosts” in the present. I liked that it gave the reader a perspective that none of the individual characters had. The reader is given a more full picture than anyone else in the book.

Overall, I thought the book was okay but I probably would not read it again. Like I said earlier, it was beautifully written and the characters were well-written, but I don’t think I’d be able to make my way through that slow-moving plot a second time. If you are interesting in finding out more, though, here are some links to additional info as well as an author bio.

More Info
Author Bio

Overall Rating: 3
Violence: Mild
Language: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

HELP WANTED: Audiobooks

Hello readers! I’m going to be taking a long road trip fairly soon and I get carsick if I try to read in the car (this is something that has caused me much sadness throughout my life). So I’ve decided to give audiobooks a try instead. I can’t remember the last time I listened to a book on tape, so I need YOUR help picking out what audiobook(s) to bring with me.

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time you can probably tell that I read a lot of YA–mostly romancey or fantasy stuff–but I am open to reading other books. What are some audiobook titles that a first timer like me should pick up? Note: I leave next week so think about titles that won’t have holds at the library.

Favorite Quotes from Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

I just finished this book tonight…so many feels. I absolutely loved it! I’ll be giving a more detailed review at a later date, but it’s rivaling “The Truth About Forever” as favorite Dessen novel. I loved it that much. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book (no spoilers, I promise!):

“There’s a weird thing that happens when something goes from a one-time thing to a habit. Like the problem is no longer just a temporary houseguest but has actually moved in.” pg 10

“Happy, normal lives going on in happy, normal ways, in a world that was anything but. Once you realized this, experienced something that made it crystal clear, you couldn’t forget it. Like a face. Or a name. However you first learn that truth, once it’s with you, it never really goes away.” pg 75

“With shame, like horseshoes, proximity counts.” pg 76

“When I rolled over to check on Layla, she wasn’t there. Confused, I sat up on my elbow and rubbed my eyes, then spotted her. She’d moved her bed so it rested against the closed–but unlocked–door, and was curled up there. Keeping watch, keeping safe. I slept better than I had in months.” pg 117 (picture me bawling my eyes out about how good a friend Layla is)

“‘There’s no shame in trying to make stuff work, is how I see it. It’s better than just accepting the broken.'” pg 244

“To me, the Chathams were like that merry-go-round in the middle of nowhere in the woods. I hadn’t been aware they’d existed; it was pure luck to have stumbled upon them. Now that I had, I couldn’t forget and go back to the way I’d been before. Just knowing they were out there changed everything.” pg 333

“It wasn’t that I’d broken down, but that I hadn’t been alone when I did so. You only really fall apart in front of the people you know can piece you back together.” pg 387

“In any moment, there were so many chances for paths to cross and people to clash, come together, or do any number of things in between. It was amazing we could live at all, knowing all that could occur purely by chance.” pg 400

“. . . I thought again of that long-ago afternoon in the courthouse. When faced with the scariest of things, all you want is to turn away, hide in your own invisible place. But you can’t. That’s why it’s not only important for us to be seen, but to have someone to look for us, as well.” pg 401

“That was just it. You never knew what lay ahead; the future was one thing that could never be broken, because it had not yet had the chance to be anything. One minute you’re walking through a dark woods, alone, and then the landscape shifts, and you see it. Something wondrous and unexpected, almost magical, that you never would have found had you not kept going. Like a new friend who feels like an old one, or a memory you’ll never forget. Maybe even a carousel.” pg 413 (she seriously could have ended the book on this one)

“Anyway, it was unrealistic to expect to be constantly in the happiest place. In real life, you’re lucky just to be always somewhere nearby.” pg 416

Top Ten Tuesday: Great Beach Reads


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week there is a new topic and this week’s topic is: Ten Books I Think Make Great Beach Reads

In my mind the beach isn’t a place for serious reading and it isn’t a place for something scary either. It’s a place to read books that make you feel as warm on the inside as the sun and sand make you feel on the outside. When I think of beach reads I think of something light and fun and, yes, romantic. So that’s pretty much the underlying theme with the ten books I picked.

1) The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen – This is my all-time favorite Sarah Dessen book (but may soon be replaced by Saint Anything? Seriously. Loving that book.)

2) Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen – Yes, she made the list TWICE. Her books are just that great to me. I feel like this one is her beachiest book yet so definitely fits on the list.

3) Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson – Summer, doing new things, meeting new people…

4) How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True by Sarah Strohmeyer – This book is about a girl who does an internship at a park similar to Disneyland. I loved the summery aspect of it while at the same time, it’s not your typical beach book.

5) This is What Happy Feels Like by Jennifer E Smith – I love all of her books and really, any of them could have made the list. I ended up choosing this one because I think it’s set on the coast so it has a tad more of a beachy feel than her other ones.

6) Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson – This book may seem really similar to the one for #5, but they are different and I loved them both.

7) To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – Not a book set during the summer, but still light and fun.

8) Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park – Another book not set during the summer, but fun and romantic and a little bit more serious than some of my other choices.

9) What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick – This book was great and really made me want to find an island somewhere to live on.

10) The Distance Between Us by Kasie West – Again, just another fun and fluffy read.

Did any of you choose any of the same books? Did I miss any books that would fit with my list?

They Call Me Alexandra Gastone by T.A. Maclagan [ARC]

Alexandra Gastone isn’t really Alexandra Gastone. She’s a sleeper cell in a terrorist organization. She replaced the real Alexandra Gastone after a terrible car accident killed her and her parents. She’s sent off to live with the grandfather–someone who hasn’t seen the real Alexandra in years. Now she’s 17 and it looks like she’s finally about to be activated. What she didn’t count on was becoming attached to the life–and the people–that aren’t really hers.

Right off the bat the main character (Lex) seemed like she was really strong. At the same time, it was kind of hard to relate to her and I didn’t find myself connecting with her emotionally. It wasn’t a really bad thing, but I did feel like the book would have been better if I could relate to her or had some connection with her. I thought the premise of the book was very interesting. I’ve read a couple of books where they’ve replaced a person, but not one set in real life, so that was different. The cast of secondary characters were pretty great. I liked Albert a lot. Like, A LOT. He seemed like the ultimate grandpa and it made me wish that I had been the one to replace Alexandra Gastone haha. Grant was a cool guy as well if a little overbearing. It seems like he really loves Lex…which is actually something I always have a hard time with in YA. You’re in high school. Do you really know what love is yet? I know that there are countless couples out there who were high school sweethearts, or who even got married right after high school, but it happens MUCH TOO FREQUENTLY in YA. I think I’d almost rather read a book about a really strong bond between friends. That seems a little more believable to me at that age. Anyway, Grant was a nice guy and young love is at least better than insta-love in my book.

As far as the plot goes, I didn’t see some of the twists coming (which is good for me–I can usually sniff out a plot twist). The only part of the plot that I didn’t like was Lex’s identity struggle. It really seems like she should’ve had this struggle at least a couple of years ago…but maybe being activated changed something in her? It just seemed a little too contrived and “coincidental” to me. What I did really like is that Lex as a character was as smart as she should have been. I’m a little tired of female characters who have a weak aspect to their backstory just so they can have a special skill that no one else does. Lex’s backstory was really well fleshed out and so I found her character (and her character’s skills) believable.

Overall, I liked this book and I definitely plan on reading the next one.

Overall Rating: 4 (maybe more a 3.5, but I’m feeling generous)
Violence: Moderate
Language: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild (some underage drinking)

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Little White Lies by Jodie Esch

Rachel has a lying problem. She lies to everyone. Her parents, aware of the problem, have been making her attend weekly appointments with her school counselor. Rachel goes, but she doesn’t stop lying. Soon she’s met someone online–Lonely Guy. And her lying only gets worse. She stays up late every night chatting with Lonely Guy and as a result her grades start to suffer. Her parents and best friend want to help, but when Rachel won’t tell the truth, they find there’s not much they can do.

17835436My initial impressions of the main character were not favorable. First, it was never really explained why Rachel lies. Is it a psychological thing? Is she acting up because her father got remarried? Does she do it for the thrills? The reader doesn’t really know. She also seemed really immature, selfish, and naive to me. At the same time, she is supposed to be a kid in middle school, so that does kind of fit with her age. It was just hard for me to read about a character that kept making me roll my eyes. I feel like that could totally be on me though. I HATED junior high. I think back on 7th to 9th grade and cringe. My friends and I were all boy crazy and self-centered and looking back on it, I just feel so embarrassed of how I acted. So maybe the character’s hitting a little close to home in that aspect and that’s why I had a hard time with her.

Rachel’s naivety gets her in big trouble even though she insists that she’s being safe online and knows what she’s doing. Her situation made me reflect on what I would have done at her age in her situation. I’d like to think that OF COURSE I’d see that this guy who I was chatting with online wasn’t real, but would I? Rachel wants a boyfriend really bad, and I know that’s something that I struggled with at her age as well. That longing for someone to love her might have left her a little blind to some things. I was really glad that the best friend character, Steph, stayed with her through everything. I felt like they had a good relationship and genuinely cared for one another.

The last criticism that I have for the book is that the ending didn’t really seem resolved to me. The creeper she’d been talking with online was still out there (at the end of the book, the police were just looking for him to my knowledge) and he still knew where she lived! Totally creepy. In the end, I just felt really sad at how much Rachel felt like she needed a boyfriend and I kind of wish the author had placed more emphasis on boys not being everything. I feel like that “need” to have a boyfriend gets girls in trouble at a very young age. Just relax on the boy thing until you’re done with high school, okay? Overall, this book kind of reads as an online predator awareness campaign…so not exactly my cup of tea. I know a lot of other people gave this book great reviews though, and even though I didn’t particularly care for it, I do feel like it’s something I’d want my daughter to read when she’s starting junior high. I think it’s a good book (and probably a  good series) for girls around that age.

Overall Rating: 2
Violence: None
Language: None
Sexual Content: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild. One mention of smoking.

I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour | Spelled by Betsy Schow

I just finished reading an ARC for this book (thanks NetGalley!) and was asked to participate in its blog tour. If you’re a fan of fairytale/story retellings then this could be right up your alley. I’ll be posting my review for this book in a couple of weeks so make sure to be on the lookout for that as well. Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom!



By Betsy Schow

Sourcebooks Fire

June 2, 2015

Advance Praise for Spelled

“A cute adventure with romance set in a world full of fairy-tale mash-ups. Readers will love Dorthea’s evolution from spoiled princess to strong, confident heroine… For Oz fans, this work is a great clean-read alternative to Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die.” –School Library Journal

“This wickedly funny, fast-paced adventure has it all: brains, courage, and heart. (Plus a kickin’ pair of heels.) .” –Jen Calonita, author of The Secrets of My Hollywood Life and Fairy Tale Reform School series

“Fairy tale survival rule #1, do NOT read this book late at night. You will wake up your entire family with loud laughter. Fairy tale survival rule #2, if you love the Wizard of Oz, clever fairy tale mash-ups, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing what will happen until the very end, you MUST read Spelled.” –J Scott Savage, award winning author of Farworld, Case File 13, and the Mysteries of Cove series.

A hilarious and snarky reimagining of the world of Oz, along with many other fairy tales injected throughout, “Spelled” is one fabulous read…Kick off those silver slippers and tuck in with this wonderful tale!” —Senator Sipes, Lil Book Bug (Palmdale, CA)

Book Info:

Talk about unhappily ever after. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the not-so-charming prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving Dorthea with hair made up of emerald flames and the kingdom in chaos. Her parents and everyone she loves are stuck in some place called “Kansas.” Now it’s up to Dorthea and her pixed-off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse…before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.

Amazon | B&N | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound | Kindle |  Nook

Betsy Schow:

Betsy Schow is the author of the memoir Finished Being Fat, and has been featured on The Today Show and in The Wall Street Journal. She lives in Utah, but travels the country with Color Me Rad 5k, and partners with nonprofits to teach kids creative thinking and how to reach their goals.

Website| Twitter

Excerpt from Spelled:

Most of the crowd had dispersed. The final few stragglers looked at me with the all­too-common look of fear mixed with trepidation. Pix ’em. They were just servants. It wasn’t like their opinion mattered.

Only one remained, watching me with open curiosity. He looked to be in his late teens or was magically enhanced to appear so. He could have been a hundred for all I knew. I’d never seen him before in my life. He was handsome enough, for a commoner, even in his worn leather pants and cracked work boots. A foreigner, his hair was unruly and dark auburn, which complemented his tanned but dirt-smudged complexion, though the tall, dark stranger vibe was ruined by his piercing pale blue eyes.

Well, I’d had enough of being a sideshow for the day. “If you’re the new gardener, the hedges are overgrown and in need of a trim.” I pointed in the direction of my father. “While you’re there, you can help the king with the wisps.”

The young man’s expression clouded over, but he didn’t move.

I stamped my foot and pointed more forcefully. “Off with you. Courtyard’s that way. Be sure to clean those awful boots before coming back in.”

“Someone told me I’d find a princess of great worth here. One with the strength to be the hero this realm needs.” He stared at me with those unsettling blue eyes. They were cold, like ice water—made me shiver from head to toe. Then his gaze seemed to search even deeper. Finally, he looked through me, like I was nothing.

In brisk steps, he strode across the marble to the courtyard. But before crossing the threshold, he turned back to glare at me with his lip curled ever so slightly. “It seems she was mistaken.”

Just like that, I had been sifted, weighed, and found wanting.

I felt my own lip curl in response. How rude! Who the Grimm was this peasant to judge me? I was wearing a Glenda original. Original! Not some fairy-godmother knockoff worn by those servant girls turned royal. I was a crown princess, for the love of fairy, and no one dismissed me.

Before I could put the boy in his place—down in the dirt, where he belonged—a clatter came from behind, making me nearly jump out of my shoes. I checked and was relieved that Sterling had simply dropped his sword. By the time I looked back, the gardener was gone.

After stowing his blade, Sterling held up his shield, not in defense of the entrance but so he could look at his reflection. “Clearly he’s blind and doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

I didn’t ask for Sterling’s opinion, but it made me feel better.

Until he opened his mouth again.

“Worth, pffft. I mean, look around at all the jewels. Your palace has everything you could ever want. Honestly, I don’t know what you’re fussing about. Why would anyone want to leave?”

Because a cage is still a cage, no matter how big or glittering the bars are.

And I would find a way free, no matter the cost.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Authors with Ties to BYU


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week there is a new topic and this week’s topic is a freebie so I’m choosing: Top ten authors with ties to Brigham Young University.

So yeah, I’m just giving a shout out to my Alma Mater there and some of these authors were actually surprising to me. I had no idea!

1) Brandon Sanderson – Author of the very popular Mistborn series as well as The Reckoners series (I’m hoping to start reading the second book Firefight any day now…) He got both his BA and MA from BYU and currently teaches creative writing here as well. Fun fact: Wikipedia informs me that he and Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings were college roommates!
2) James Dashner – Author of The Maze Runner series and The Mortal Doctrine series (along with a couple others). He graduated with a Masters degree in Accounting.
3) Ally Condie – Author of the Matched Trilogy. Graduated with a degree in English Teaching.
4) Becca Fitzpatrick – Author of the Hush, Hush series. She graduated with a degree in Community Health. I think I read the first two from this series and I remember liking them…I’ll have to go back and read them again!
5) Brandon Mull – Most recognized for his Fablehaven series. While at BYU he was part of our sketch comedy group Divine Comedy (the group that feeds into Studio C if anyone’s seen that).
6) Charlie N. Holmberg – She is behind The Paper Magician Trilogy (gorgeous covers!) which I still need to read. It’s on my Kindle…just waiting. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in Editing in 2010.
7) Stephanie Meyer – Okay, so I’m pretty sure we all know who she is. Twilight. There, I said it. She graduated with a BA in English in 1997.
8) Orson Scott Card – Despite how you may feel about him as a person, I think Ender’s Game is one of the best books ever written and I hate to think that things from his personal life might take away from that for some people. He graduated from BYU in 1975.
9) Shannon Hale – Author of the Princess Academy Series and the Austenland books. While not a graduate or attendee of BYU, she did grow up in Salt Lake. Even though she went to the University of Utah (BOO) she still has some ties to BYU. Next month BYU, in collaboration with Utah Valley University, is putting on a play based on the Princess Academy books. She’ll actually be in attendance for the June 13th matinee and will be answering questions after the show.
10) Nichole Van – Okay, I’m sure this is not a familiar name to most people. She has a series out called the House of Oak series (currently has two books). I LOVED the first one, Intertwine. It’s kind of a time travel/romance/regency era kind of book. I have the second one, Divine, on my Kindle but just haven’t gotten around to reading it. She graduated with an MA in English from BYU and taught Technical Writing here for ten years.

So there’s my list. Are any of your favorite authors on here? Any surprises?