BLOG TOUR: The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cestari [GIVEAWAY]

the best kind of magicThe Best Kind of Magic
by Crystal Cestari
Release Date: May 16th, 2017
Genres: YA, Paranormal, Fantasy

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SYNOPSIS:¬†Amber Sand is not a witch. The Sand family Wicca gene somehow leapfrogged over her. But she did get one highly specific magical talent: she can see true love. As a matchmaker, Amber’s pretty far down the sorcery food chain (even birthday party magicians rank higher), but after five seconds of eye contact, she can envision anyone’s soul mate.

Amber works at her mother’s magic shop–Windy City Magic–in downtown Chicago, and she’s confident she’s seen every kind of happy ending there is: except for one–her own. (The Fates are tricky jerks that way.) So when Charlie Blitzman, the mayor’s son and most-desired boy in school, comes to her for help finding his father’s missing girlfriend, she’s distressed to find herself falling for him. Because while she can’t see her own match, she can see his–and it’s not Amber. How can she, an honest peddler of true love, pursue a boy she knows full well isn’t her match?

The Best Kind of Magic is set in urban Chicago and will appeal to readers who long for magic in the real world. With a sharp-witted and sassy heroine, a quirky cast of mystical beings, and a heady dose of adventure, this novel will have you laughing out loud and questioning your belief in happy endings.

REVIEW: My expectations weren’t super high going into this book. I thought I’d like it, but maybe around a 3. I ended up liking it much more than I thought I would and I think that’s because the main character (Amber) is super likable. Her narration was enjoyable to read and she had this great sense of humor that made everything a lot more fun.

The setting of this book is fantastic. I’m already 100% in love with Chicago, but this book just made the city feel that much more magical. Sometimes books are set in a specific “destination” but actually, it could have been set anywhere because the book doesn’t really include any specifics–just super vague language to describe the city. That is NOT the case with this book. The author throws in all kinds of fun details like descriptions of Navy Pier and the Magnificent Mile. The author also mentions both Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s which are both well-known Chicagoan deep dish pizza joints. It just made me fall in love with the city all over again. It really felt like Chicago without the¬†character having to visit every single touristy thing (like the Cloud Gate or something). Also, this book made me want to eat all of the baked goods. I’m seriously craving Amber’s homemade blueberry muffins right now.

Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sold on¬†the magic aspect of this book. I mean…does everyone just accept that magic exists? Because all of Amber’s classmates are approaching her about their soulmates. Do they actually believe that Amber can tell them who their soulmate is? Or do they see her as just another psychic of sorts? And shouldn’t Amber be trying to keep a low profile and not let her classmates know about her power? How secretive is the magical society trying to be? Because it honestly doesn’t really seem like they’re trying to be that secret. Anyway. I just had a ton of questions about the magical community, etc. (Vampire attacks? Goblins? How is the public not noticing any of this???)

There were some other things I didn’t love as much from the book. The plot was just okay. It was more used as a device to get Amber and Charlie together which I’m not necessarily super mad at, but it made the plot not very exciting. Speaking of Charlie, he seemed a little too mature for who he was supposed to be. I feel that a lot of teenage boys from YA are written a lot more mature than they actually should be. I mean…I know the guys I went to high school with…and they’re nothing like these YA love interests. Amber’s mom was another kind of weird character that I wasn’t sure about. I just don’t feel like we ever got a clear picture of her motivations at all.

Overall, I thought this book was pretty great. It’s a light fantasy with some romance and I guess it’s going to be a series? I’m not really sure where it’s going to go from here, but I’ll definitely be reading!

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild


The Best Kind of Magic Blog Tour

Click on the banner above to be taken to the giveaway! Please note that while you can enter multiple giveaways from the blog tour, you are only allowed to win once. If you win more than one giveaway, please alert one of the bloggers so that we can pick another winner. We just want everyone to get a chance!



Crystal CestariABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
With rainbows in my hair and stories in my head, I am a writer drawn to magic in the everyday world.

My debut novel, The Best Kind of Magic, arrives May 16, 2017 from Hyperion. Follow Amber Sand, a magical matchmaker who can actually see true love, as she takes off on a fun and romantic adventure toward happily ever after.

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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich [GIVEAWAY]

The Love InterestThe Love Interest
by Cale Dietrich
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Genres: YA, Contemporary, LGBTQ

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SYNOPSIS: There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be ‚Äď whoever the girl doesn‚Äôt choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

REVIEW:¬†This book was a little different from what I was expecting. I knew that both of our main characters were spies, but I still kind of expected this book to be a cute contemporary-ish romance where (basically) everyone finds love in the end. That is not this book. There’s a much bigger conspiracy/fighting the bad corporation aspect that was surprising to me. The plot was pretty slow at the beginning, but then moved a lot quicker after about two-thirds of the way through. However, I felt that there were some plot holes/really unrealistic things (even given the world that they were in). Like, a¬†bunch of celebrities are supposedly in relationships with Love Interests, but celebrities always date other celebrities? And their relationships don’t usually last forever so…what gives? I just don’t understand how Love Interests could realistically be infiltrating our world, that’s all.

I thought the characters were just alright. Caden wasn’t super likable and I didn’t find Dylan super likable either. It was honestly just hard to really get to know the two main characters as they were basically putting on an act¬†the whole time. I thought the fact that they had trainers in their heads the whole time was pretty weird as well. And Caden’s trainer was always like, “Sorry I’m late/missed that, I was on a date”. Cut to me scratching my head and wondering why the heck that detail was necessary. Caden’s relationship with his “parents” also seemed unnecessary. I didn’t see how that added anything to the story or to Caden’s development. I don’t even think they really helped us to learn more about the big bad company. They were just kind of…there.

I will say, that I thought this book did a great job poking some fun at the “bad boy vs guy next door competing for a below-the-radar girl’s heart” trope. There were some classic scenes especially when it came to Dylan: broody bad boy reads poetry, sexy bad boy at the school dance, hardcore bad boy rides a motorcycle, etc. It really reminded me of certain other books and made those things kind of laughable–in a good way. It’s so hard for me to say anything else without spoilers, but without giving anything away, I thought that the way sexuality was represented in this book was a little…manipulative? It seemed like it came into play when it was convenient. Perhaps I just didn’t get it, though?

Overall, I thought this book was pretty good. It was a refreshing take on some common tropes and I really enjoyed that part of it. Other aspects of the book fell flat, but they weren’t necessarily deal-breakers. I think this author has a bright future in YA ahead of him.

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


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Click on the picture above to be taken to the giveaway!



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cale Dietrich

Cale Dietrich is a YA devotee, lifelong gamer, and tragic pop punk enthusiast. He was born in Perth, grew up on the Gold Coast, and now lives in Brisbane, Australia. The Love Interest is his first novel.

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Fantastic Flying Book Club

Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

May Reading Update

ARCs
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord РRead and reviewed
180 Seconds by Jessica Park – Read, review coming
The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cestari – Currently Reading
Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger
Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell
Why I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid Paulson
The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich (blog tour 5/16) – Read, review coming

Other
Understanding the Stars by X. Culletto (blog tour 5/19) –¬†Read, blog tour coming
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan – Currently Reading
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – Currently Reading

I can’t believe it’s MAY!!! Didn’t we just have Christmas like…a month ago? This year is seriously flying by so fast and I’m just trying to keep up. So far this month I have finished 4 books.

How is your reading going this month? What has been your favorite read so far?

Daybreak is Not Your Normal Summer Camp | The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord [ARC]

The Names They Gave UsLucy is ready for her summer to go exactly according to plan. She’ll be spending the summer at the Christian summer camp that her parents own just like she does every summer. When she gets back, she’ll spend time with her perfect boyfriend Lukas until her senior year starts. Unfortunately, her mom’s cancer is back with a vengeance. Before she knows it, Lukas has paused their relationship and Lucy is headed to be a counselor at Camp Daybreak for the summer at her mother’s request. Lucy is baffled as to why her mom would send her away to a “hippie camp” instead of wanting to spend an entire summer together at their Christian camp. The summer has a lot in store for Lucy and she’ll question her faith while finding that her family’s history isn’t as cut and dry as she once thought.

I keep trying Emery Lord’s books because I hope that something will compare to The Start of Me and You (which I LOVED)¬†but I’m starting to think that it’s never going to happen. Stephanie @Stephanie’s Book Reviews really hit the nail on the head in her review¬†where she talks about feeling like Lord is just trying too hard. For me, I just felt like she was trying to cram in SO MANY ISSUES. First, we have Lucy who’s trying to reconcile her faith with all of the things that are going on in her life. Then we have her mom who has cancer. Then there’s also a transgender character and all of the stuff that comes out about Lucy’s family history…it’s just a little much. I wish that the author had maybe edited some of that stuff out. It was just a little overwhelming as a reader.

Lucy was okay as a protagonist but I had a really hard time with some elements of her character. For example, as I started this book I was super excited because I have been WAITING for an author to give us a portrayal of a normal Christian character outside of Christian Fiction. I really thought Lucy was going to be that character for me, but almost immediately she starts having this crisis of faith which is completely understandable for her situation, but wasn’t what I was hoping for. In addition, I felt like she was just kind of unrealistic? I feel that Christians get a bad rap a lot of the time for being “sheltered” or “naive”. Like, Lucy gets uncomfortable when people around her use Christ’s name in vain, but then she doesn’t blink an eye when a character comes out as transgender. That’s just not consistent! First of all, I don’t think that a normal Christian teenager is going to blink at somebody else saying “Jesus Christ” about something–I know I didn’t. It was just stuff like that…I don’t know. One positive about her, is that in the end I really did like her relationship with her parents.

The secondary characters were pretty good and mostly well developed. Everybody at Daybreak has a past and we get into that a little bit with Jones and Annabelle and others. The one thing I will say is that Jones seemed too good for Lucy and honestly kind of unrealistic. I know he had some stuff in his life that made him more mature than his age, but is any teenage boy really going to act like him? It honestly felt like he was closer to 25 than 17 or 18.

Overall, I thought this book was just okay. I didn’t dislike it as much as When We Collided but it’s nothing compared to¬†The Start of Me and You. Some people have had an issue with the ending, but I’ll go on the record as saying that I didn’t hate it. It was definitely bittersweet, but that’s life, right? Some trigger warnings real quick: this book contains some mention of suicide, physical abuse, and bullying. Probably others too, but sorry those are the ones I can come up with right now.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate. Some underage drinking.
Sexual Content: Moderate

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

I am now extremely thankful for all my senses | The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy [ARC]

The DisappearancesAila and her brother have just moved to Sterling, the town their recently deceased mother grew up in. Right away, they notice some strange things–the flowers have no scent and there doesn’t appear to be any mirrors in the house. As they investigate, they’ll learn secrets about the town and about their own family. Is it a curse? Or is there another explanation? And what does their mother have to do with it?

This is a strong debut from this author and I’m very excited to see what she brings us next. I was decidedly NOT expecting much from this book. The premise intrigued me, but I didn’t really know what I was in for. As it turns out, I ended up LOVING this book. The writing was so beautiful and the entire atmosphere of the book was ethereal but grounded at the same time. This book seemed to have some magical realism elements woven throughout, but then there was also a sciencey aspect to it and I really enjoyed that contrast.

The main characters are all terrific. I love Aila. She’s fierce but kind at the same time. Her relationship with her brother Miles feels genuine and imperfect, but strong. My heart seriously broke for Miles so many times in this book. I thought that the relationships between Aila and Miles and the Cliftons felt realistic. It helps that every single character had depth–that makes their relationships feel like so much more. The only character I felt lacked a little bit was Will. His motivations could have been developed a little more, but at this point I’m just nitpicking. Even the mean kids at school had depth, which doesn’t usually happen in YA books.

I loved the time period. The book is set during World War II which is the perfect backdrop for the plot. The plot would not have worked in any other time period. We’re immersed into this town that has so much shared history. It’s really created this community that’s had to band together through these trials. Perfect setting.

The story itself is so interesting as well. As Aila starts to try to solve this mystery, the reader feels like they can follow along as well. I mean, Aila’s just reading Shakespeare–I can do that! This book made me want to read some Shakespeare to try to find clues as well. Ultimately, though, I wish that the Shakespeare clues played a bigger role in solving the mystery. It would have been really cool if the reader could solve the mystery by fitting those pieces together, but as the story is written, we can’t. I guess I wish there had been a little bit more of a treasure hunt-ish aspect, but I get why the book wasn’t more like that.

Overall, I thought this book was SO GOOD. Seriously, I think everyone should read it. At this point, it’s super underrated. I have literally heard nothing about this book. So when it comes out on July 4th, I expect everyone to go out and pick up a copy–I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

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

When will people realize that honor means nothing if you’re DEAD | Duels & Deceptions by Cindy Anstey [ARC]

Duels and DeceptionLydia Whitfield has a problem. She’s the heiress to a large fortune, but her drunkard of an uncle seems intent on squandering it all by attempting to grow pineapples on their property. Pineapples. Despite this, Lydia is determined to succeed and if that means marrying her neighbor as her late father planned, then so be it. Lydia has the rest of her life planned out, but she didn’t count on meeting her solicitor’s soon-to-be apprentice, Robert Newton. When Robert enters her life, some of Lydia’s plans start to go awry.

This is the second book I’ve read from this author and I’m a lot more impressed with this one than I was with the last one. I felt that this heroine was much stronger. She was intelligent and not afraid to show it by speaking her mind. She didn’t necessarily need the men in the story to rescue her which I felt was something specific that Anstey’s last heroine lacked. Lydia was an enjoyable heroine and I found myself on her side, rooting for her immediately. Robert was also an enjoyable character and I didn’t mind that the points of view switched between him and Lydia. Some of the secondary characters were pretty one note and silly, but there were others that had surprisingly hidden depth. I especially liked how Lydia’s relationship with her mother grew throughout the story. It was subtle, but I thought it added another layer to the story and helped with Lydia’s personal development.

If you enjoy Jane Austen era novels, I think you’ll like this one as well. It’s set in the same time period with the same customs and similar narration and dialogue. There were times when I felt the narration was a little…much. It almost tried too hard to be witty and clever at times, but overall I still enjoyed it.

The plot was a lot more involved than I was expecting. It was interesting to see it all come together and I can honestly say that I didn’t see the ending coming–I was completely blindsided. This book has the kind of plot that begins almost right away and small clues are dropped throughout the book that an astute reader might be able to pick up on and predict the ending. I was not one of those astute readers, but perhaps you will be.

Overall, I thought this book was a fun read and I’ll definitely be reading more from this author to get my Austen fix. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Austen or regency era romantic thrillers.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

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

No traveling pants, but still a good read | The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares [ARC]

The Whole Thing TogetherRay and Sasha are more or less part of the same family. They grew up in the same house, with the same sisters, in the same bedroom…but they’ve never met. A long time ago, Ray’s mom used to be married to Sasha’s dad. A nasty divorce and two remarriages later, Ray and Sasha were born. 17 years later, their¬†worlds are about to collide for the first time.

Okay, so I know that Brashares has written more things than¬†JUST¬†The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but I honestly haven’t read anything else by her. I remembered really like that series though, so I decided to give this one a shot since it had a really intriguing premise to me. Right away, I really enjoyed the writing. The narration and dialogue all flowed together really well and the writing made the book very easy to read. The plot wasn’t super predictable, but there also wasn’t much that happened that was super surprising. This book is more about the characters anyway.

Family dynamics are very interesting. I’m going to say that it’s impossible for a family to be completely drama-free and the family in this book is definitely not an exception. The narration rotates between the five kids: the original three sisters (Emma, Quinn, and Mattie) and the new kids (Ray and Sasha). That, at times, got confusing for me. I was reading a digital ARC and sometimes there wasn’t a clear indicator that the book was changing narrators–I hope that’s something that is fixed or different in the physical book. That being said, if the narrators had very different tones or voices, this wouldn’t have been so confusing. Unfortunately, all of the narrators pretty much sound alike. It was very difficult to tell them apart just from the language. The only signals we get are from context.

The good thing about having so many narrators, though, is that I really felt like I got to know each of the siblings on a pretty deep level. If there had just been one or two narrators, we would have only gotten to know the other characters on a superficial level from our narrator’s perspective. I enjoyed getting to know how characters were perceived but then also having the internal viewpoint for each of them. I expected to not like at least one of the siblings, but I honestly really came to care for each of them in separate ways. Obviously they each had some less desirable traits, but I was willing to overlook them because I felt like I knew each of them on a deeper level so those things didn’t matter.

The only kind of negative thing that really stood out to me was that Jaime’s family seemed a little random. They had a ton of drama as well, but then they’re not really explored at all. I would have either liked more exploration there, or less description of it.

After reading (and pretty much loving) this book, I was surprised to see that there were many negative reviews for this book on Goodreads. One reviewer in particular (who admits to being a straight, white, female) thought that this book displayed “blatant sexism, body-shaming of all sorts, stereotyping, and some racism”. While I could see her points, I just wanted to give my two cents on some of those things. I’m also straight and female, but I’m only a quarter white so I might have a slightly different perspective.

“Blatant Sexism”. The reviewer points out a section of the book where one of our main characters, Ray, is looking at another character’s body–specifically her chest. The reviewer’s response: “This is a direct example of the ‘boys will be boys’ attitude that results in the normalization of rape and sexual assault. What could Ray do? Well I’ll tell you–he could have not looked down at Sasha’s dress, and kept his eyes to himself…” I see her point and I’m not at all trivializing the normalization of rape and sexual assault that is happening. However, I was listening to an interesting podcast the other day. It was a rerun for¬†This American Life (great podcast if you’re not already a subscriber). It was an episode completely about testosterone (listen here). In one of the sections the reporter was interviewing a transgender man about his transition. As part of the¬†transition, he had to be injected with a very high dosage of testosterone. It was really interesting to hear him talk about how he thought about women pre-transition (and testosterone) versus post. There was a stark difference. Obviously, we all have agency and can make our own choices, right? However, as a woman, I felt that my eyes were opened to this chemical thing that happens in boys that doesn’t happen in girls that I really had no idea about. It seems apparent to me that it’s not just a moral or ethical thing, but that natural chemicals and hormones are coming into play as well. I guess what my point is, is that even though I agree that Ray shouldn’t have been looking at Sasha’s chest, I¬†don’t feel that this interaction was necessarily out of place. I was uncomfortable when I read it too, but I’m not necessarily angry at Brashares for including it–I feel like I get it.

“Some Racism”. The reviewer describes her frustration that an Indian American man (actually he was raised in Canada)¬†is stereotypically a “tech genius”. Just as an aside here, I thought he was in finance, but I could have gotten that wrong. Another reviewer criticized the fact that this same character, Robert, was really trying to downplay the fact that he was Indian and wanted nothing more than to be just like all the white men out there. I can see why that’s bothersome, but I feel like we need to look at the overall context here. He was adopted by white parents and it sounded like he was raised in a white community. So from that perspective, it makes sense that he might not identify as being Indian–he wasn’t raised that way. In addition, it can be frustrating for people to make assumptions about you based on your physical appearance (I speak from personal experience here). I can understand why Robert would want to be “as white as possible” (for lack of a better term) since that’s more or less what he identifies as.

Those are just some of my thoughts about the negative comments that have been made about this book. I think a lot of the problems that people have with this book just need to be viewed in the appropriate context instead of being taken out and examined under a microscope. I, personally, was not offended by the book as a woman or as a person of color–in fact, I actually really enjoyed it! I’ll allow you to judge for yourself, but I don’t think these negative reviews should be enough to keep you from reading it if you would have picked it up otherwise.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Heavy
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate (some drinking and some underage smoking)
Sexual Content: Moderate (nothing explicit).

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