September Reading Update

ARCs
The Victoria in My Head by Janelle Milanes – DNF pg 182, review
Invictus by Ryan Graudin – Currently Reading
A Dangerous Year by Kes Trester
Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones
Berserker by Emmy Laybourne
Gray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott

Other
Stars Above by Marissa Meyer – Currently Reading

So far this month I’ve only managed to DNF one book. Reading has been going super slow for me and I can’t quite figure out why.

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Mini-reviews to prove that I’m still alive

I think I’ve been watching too much TV lately instead of reading and blogging. Actually, to be honest, I usually get posts written during down time at work and work has been SUPER busy recently. So there’s that. But anyway…on to these mini-reviews.

RefineRefine by Nichole Van
I just like all of these books. They’re nice, clean romances with a combination of both modern and regency storylines. I like how we keep catching up with old characters and learning more about secondary characters. This is the fourth book in the series and I would actually recommend reading them in order. I know there’s at least one more after this one as well. Our main character in this one was just as delightful as all the other main characters have been. I was really glad to get more insight into Linwood’s character because he really had been portrayed in a pretty poor light in the previous books. I honestly think I could read hundreds of these books without getting tired. Van does a good job of not being too formulaic. 4/5

My Lady JaneMy Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
This book is so fun! It’s told from three alternating perspectives, but I honestly loved them all. I’m not sure if each author took one perspective to write or if they all worked on all three, but the whole thing was just so good. It was a really funny and fun take on an alternate history and it actually made me want to look some stuff up afterwards. This isn’t a part of history that I’m super familiar with, so it was definitely interesting to actually learn some things. I thought the chemistry between characters was really well done as well. My only issue was that I wished the shape-shifting had a little more logic to it. Why do people turn into the animals that they do? And why is there a flash of light? I just wish that aspect of the book had been a little more fleshed out. But overall, I REALLY enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to more from this series! 5/5

You Are HereYou Are Here by Jennifer E Smith
For some reason it’s taken me a really long time to read this book. I started it a while back, but just never finished it. It’s not my FAVORITE Jen E Smith book, but it’s also not my least favorite. I think the main character was a little aloof and hard to connect with at times. It was interesting getting the two perspectives because I felt like our main character was one way in her head, but then came off completely different when Peter is just observing her. I obviously liked the road trip aspect of the book (always a good time) and I liked their dog as well. Though…let’s be honest, the three-legged dog was a LITTLE random and didn’t really add much to the story. 4/5

P.S. I Like YouP.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Lately, I hadn’t been super impressed by Kasie West’s books. I really enjoyed her first one and moderately enjoyed the next one, but she’s had a few that I just really didn’t connect with. This one was different. A lot of times I find the enemies to lovers trope a little tiresome, unrealistic, or cliche.  Luckily, this one broke the mold a little for me. I thought both characters were pretty fun and I really liked Lily’s family. Her interactions with them seemed so genuine and her parents really just seemed like some of the coolest people. I definitely recommend picking this one up. 4/5

So there you guys go. Proof that I’m still alive and reading stuff.

August Wrap-Up/September TBR

Wrap-Up & TBR
August

ARCs
Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta – DNF 43 pgs, review
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust – Read, review coming
I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn & Allison Raskin – DNF 115 pgs, review
Odd & True by Cat Winters – Read, review coming
When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter – DNF 8%, review

Other
Stars Above by Marissa Meyer – Currently Reading
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro – Read, review coming
Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins – Currently reading
Dream a Little Dream by Giovanna Fletcher – Read and reviewed
By Your Side by Kasie West – Read, review coming
Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch – Read, review coming

I had a ton of stuff going on this month so I wasn’t able to read as much as usual, but I did have time to finish 6 books with 3 DNFs.

September

ARCs
The Victoria in My Head by Janelle Milanes
Invictus by Ryan Graudin
A Dangerous Year by Kes Trester
Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones
Berserker by Emmy Laybourne
Gray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott

Other
Captive Rebel by Erin McDermott

Was anyone else super busy in August like I was? What was your favorite read from this month?

August Reading Update

ARCs
Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta – DNF 43 pgs, review
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust – Currently Reading
I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn & Allison Raskin
Odd & True by Cat Winters
When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Other
Stars Above by Marissa Meyer – Currently Reading
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
Dream a Little Dream by Giovanna Fletcher – Read and reviewed
By Your Side by Kasie West – Currently Reading

So far this month I have finished 1 book with one DNF.

How’s your reading going for this month? Any faves already?

Accidentally reading Christian Fiction | Mini-Reviews

First off, let me just say that I have nothing against Christian Fiction. I’ve read, reviewed, and enjoyed multiple Christian Fiction titles. However, when you’re not expecting a book to have a religious slant and then it does, it’s a little jarring. Am I the only one who thinks that?

11948994First Date by Krista McGee

I thought this book was going to have a really fun teen Bachelor-esque vibe to it. Instead, it mostly focused on our main character and her internal debate about whether or not to tell the people around her that she’s Christian. Which…to be honest, I don’t really understand the dilemma especially when she’s reading her Bible out where everyone can see. She also has an internal struggle about not being able to date someone who’s not Christian. Here’s the thing, I grew up in a very religious household and our church definitely has a culture of encouraging people to marry within the same church. However, it’s definitely not expected that someone would not go to Prom with someone else because their beliefs weren’t the same. So I just thought that whole subplot was weird and unnecessary. To be honest, I didn’t really like much about this book. The characters were dull, the plot and backstory too contrived, and mean girls/antagonists were mean for no reason. 2/5

An Uncertain ChoiceAn Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

This was an easy, clean romance and I actually found myself enjoying it quite a bit. Again, I didn’t know it was going to be Christian Fiction going into it, but this one I didn’t mind as much as the other two. It wasn’t so in your face. The main character seemed like a genuinely lovely person, though I do wish she had asserted herself a little bit more (of course, if she had, then there wouldn’t have been a story). There were a few times when the POV changed suddenly and without warning so I was left scrambling, trying to figure out who the narrator was. The author is obviously trying to keep it a mystery who a certain character is, but it’s so obvious from literally the very beginning of the book. I either wanted it to be an actual mystery, or I wanted it to not be a mystery at all. 4/5

The Healer's ApprenticeThe Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

Okay, so again, let me just emphasize that I am a VERY religious person, but there are still times when I feel that the religious aspect of a book is too much. This was one of those times. I think part of it was an attempt to be historically accurate (they were super religious back then, right?) but it just detracted from and bogged down the rest of the plot in my opinion. The book felt like it was moving so slow. It was agonizing because I spotted the plot twist from a mile away. I was pretty much just waiting for the characters to catch up with me for 2/3 of the book. 3/5

Aliens! The End of the World! | Zero Repeat Forever by G.S. Prendergast [ARC]

28945665Raven, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s identical twin brother got in some trouble. Instead of being sent to Juvie, they were given permission to work at a summer camp as camp counselors instead. That’s where they were when the Nahx arrived. The Nahx use their high-tech dart guns to kill any humans they encounter sparing no one. That is, until Raven. Not only did the Nahx she meet leave her alive, but he carried her to a place where her friends could safely find her. A Nahx has never showed a human mercy before, so why her?

First of all, I find the overall premise of this book kind of weird. I don’t know why I keep requesting sci-fi alien books, because I don’t actually like them very much. But anyway, I did like some things about this book. The emotions that I felt at times really took me by surprise. I was going along reading and then all of the sudden one of the scenes really hit me and I really began to empathize with Eighth. Like seriously, my heart just broke for him. Raven, on the other hand, I never really liked. I just didn’t really find her authentic as a character. She had all these mood swings. I mean, I understand that she’s currently witnessing the end of the world and that her boyfriend was killed and all that, but the context in which she has mood swings just didn’t really fit. So with that being said, her and Eighth’s relationship wasn’t my favorite. Eighth deserved better.

The writing in this book was kind of weird at times. It was very slow-moving to begin with, but then the flow wasn’t great or consistent. I mean, the book is almost 500 pages so it’ll take a little while to get through. It also deals with some HEAVY topics like abusive relationships, racism, grief, hope, identity. Just to name a few.

Overall, I thought this book was just okay. It didn’t blow me away, but I didn’t hate it either. Like I said earlier, I was surprised by the depth of the emotions I was feeling in the middle of the book, but I still didn’t particularly care for almost all of the characters. If you’re already into sci-fi, though, you might like this one.

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

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

This book was pure magic | Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the DreamerLazlo Strange has always been obsessed with the city of Weep. Abandoned as a child and raised by monks, Lazlo is ecstatic to receive an apprenticeship at the library where he is able to continue his research on the mysterious city. When a band of warriors from Weep arrives, Lazlo knows that this is his only chance to lay his eyes on the city he’s heard so much about. The leader of the group from Weep is named Godslayer and he claims that they have a problem and require outside help, but he won’t divulge any information beyond that. What kind of problem could cause the great warriors of Weep to leave their city? Lazlo isn’t sure, but he knows that he must go with them.

First of all, I had no idea this was going to be a series (duology?) but I don’t necessarily mind. I just wanted to say that first thing so anyone who only likes stand-alones can go into this review with their eyes open. Right away, it’s obvious how GOOD a writer Laini Taylor is. I love reading books by other YA authors because I’m not really looking for super high quality writing (don’t get me wrong, they’re good for sure, but it’s nothing AMAZING) but I feel like Laini Taylor is on another level. I’m not usually one who really notices the quality of the writing (unless it’s really bad) but reading this book…I couldn’t NOT sit up and notice. Honestly, it makes me want to reread her first series to see if I just missed that the first time or if she’s really stepped it up with this book. Everything about this book is interesting and beautiful but the writing is SO BEAUTIFUL. The way that Taylor describes things…it could be the most ordinary thing, but she can pull the beauty from it. The writing just flows throughout the book in a really elegant way.

But enough gushing about the writing. I thought the plot moved a little slow at the beginning. I wasn’t super into it and I kept finding myself reading a few pages and putting it down. It probably didn’t help that I had literally no idea what to expect from the book. I just knew that it was getting great reviews from everyone and it was written by an author I had enjoyed in the past. I honestly don’t think I read the synopsis once. With all that being said, once the pace picks up a little bit, I was hooked.

I thought the characters were all amazing. They are all super complicated and have a certain depth to them. None of the characters have just one motivation–no cardboard cutouts here. The book is in third person and so it jumps around between characters letting the reader get a deeper glimpse than we would have if it had been written from a different perspective. I really enjoyed Lazlo as one of our two main characters because he is just so…GOOD. Like, seriously good in this really pure and innocent way. There’s just something about him that makes you want to take care of him, but at the same time you have complete trust that he could take care of you too and wouldn’t expect anything out of it. I also loved Sarai and how she develops throughout the book. Her and Lazlo’s relationship was intense but it still felt real and I thought it grew at a realistic pace. I can’t get into all the secondary characters here, but they all rock (except for the ones who suck).

I definitely saw the “twist” at the end coming, but I also think that maybe the reader is supposed to be able to guess? It will definitely make things a lot more interesting in the next book.

Okay, but really, here’s why I like this book. There’s so much push from readers, reviewers, and basically everybody in the book community for more diversity in YA. As a POC, I appreciate that. However, I feel that the push for more diversity has, in some cases, caused diversity to be included in ways that are harmful or disingenuous (see my last mini-review for Hello, Sunshine by Leila Howard for one). With all that being said, Taylor does diversity the right way, in my opinion. She’s created a society where there are two skin colors, brown/white or blue. The dynamic between the two “races” is definitely hostile and I think the next book is set up real nice to address some tough issues in the safe setting of a fictional world. She’s not trying to make overt statements but rather lets the content of the story speak for itself. Taylor also includes an LGBT couple in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Most of all, I appreciate that she doesn’t feel the need to incorporate every single type of diversity that exists into her story (when authors do that I feel like it seems SO FORCED). She includes what feels natural and leaves the rest for another book, perhaps.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. Content-wise it’s pretty clean though there are a couple of non-graphic scenes that may not be suitable for young readers (though it’s even possible those scenes might go over their heads). With that being said, while I feel like this book could definitely be read by younger teens, I don’t feel like they’d totally understand it–I know I wouldn’t have when I was 14. So yeah, older teens would be my recommendation here. If you like beautiful things, you should read this book. And then go read Laini Taylor’s other series.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: None
Violence: Moderate (mentions of child abuse, rape, and infanticide, but no graphic depictions).
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Moderate