Journey with me into London Below | Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I absolutely LOVE the way he writes. I’d been meaning to read this book for a while and only got around to it when it was picked for my book club. I’m so happy I finally read it!

Our main character, Richard Mayhew, is so unspectacularly normal and all of these unbelievable things happen to him. I thought he was such a well-written character. Even though he’s super basic, he has a hidden depth to him and in the end, the reader really wants things to work out for him. Something about him being such a beige person made the colorful world of London Below that much more brilliant.

I loved the relationship between Richard, Door, Hunter, and the Marquis. When Richard, Door, and Hunter got to the Friars and found out that Richard had to do the third task, I literally laughed out loud and Door and Hunter’s reactions. While the Marquis was a pretty sketchy character, he was also delightful and was a wonderful Puck-ish contrast to Door. The Marquis is the embodiment of what London Below is. If you haven’t read the short story How the Marquis Got His Coat Back, I highly recommend it as it gives another perspective on who the Marquis is.

Another fun aspect of this book is that our protagonist is not the story’s “hero”. Door is clearly the hero in this story as she tries to avenge her family and Richard is a mildly doofy sidekick whose most important job proves to be getting Door curry at the market.

Circling back to Gaiman’s writing, I love how his humor is scattered throughout the book as it only serves to enhance the reading experience. I love the different locations that our group visits and how Gaiman takes each name literally. Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar are seriously creepy individuals, but with Gaiman’s writing, they almost seem harmless. It’s an interesting contrast because on paper, the reader knows how terrifying they are, but the humorous way in which they’re written waters them down a bit–but not in a bad way.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who already loves Neil Gaiman or anyone who wants a fantasy escape.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate

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Cartoon Strips and Wedding Disasters | Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Save the Date

The Grant siblings are all about to be in the same place for the first time in what feels like forever and Charlie can’t wait. She loves her siblings and they’ll all be together for her older sister’s wedding. What could go wrong?

TL;DR – Wedding planning/shenanigans/disasters, comic strip characters come to life, and a random dog. If these things sound good to you, you will like this book.

I am a big fan of Morgan Matson in general and this was another solid showing. I loved the premise of the main character’s mom being a cartoonist with a strip based on the family. I grew up reading Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, Foxtrot, etc. and Grant Central Station felt really nostalgic to me. Another small thing I liked was the premise of the cartoon characters aging with the actual family members–I always did wonder how that was supposed to work with Foxtrot.

Charlie is a typical Matson main character. She’s a little quiet and wants to be helpful to other members of her family. I loved her devotion to her family, though. While I thought the drama this caused between her and her best friend was a bit unnecessary, I loved the FAMILY theme of this book.

There is a bit of a mystery hanging over the reader throughout the book. What exactly happened between Charlie’s brother and her mom? For the record, I do believe that Charlie’s mom was in the wrong here but…that’s just my opinion. There are so many fun little things throughout the book. I love the cameos of course, I love seeing the strips scattered throughout, I love the relationship between siblings, I love the little quirks that the characters have like the way JJ says “Scoff”. It feels like a real family.

The ending is…sad, but realistic and hopeful at the same time. I feel like the ending is much more realistic than a lot of other contemporary YA novels and I appreciated that. While this isn’t my favorite Matson novel, I would definitely still recommend it.

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

BLOG TOUR: Perfect Harmony by Emily Albright [GIVEAWAY]

Perfect HarmonyPerfect Harmony
by Emily Albright
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Genres: Young Adult – Contemporary, Romance

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N|Book Depository

SYNOPSIS: Pippa Wyndham is a top cellist―she’d never settle for anything less. Determined to get into the nation’s most prestigious music college, nothing’s going to stand in her way… Until her senior year of high school when a new guy from a fancy New York conservatory transfers to her school.

Declan Brogan’s cocky, and he knows how amazing he is at the cello. He has every intention of knocking Pippa out of first chair and showing her who really belongs on top. Forced together when assigned a duet, their personal competition and mutual dislike transform into a teasing friendship.

Torn between her childhood crush and the boy who threatens her dreams, Pippa finds herself at risk of losing her best friend, her future, and the boy who makes her heart melt. Struggling to make things right, Pippa discovers that sometimes the thing you want the most doesn’t always end up being the thing you need.

REVIEW: I’ve really enjoyed Emily Albright’s books in the past, so I was really excited for this one. Pippa is younger than Albright’s other protagonists and I think that made the whole book feel a little more immature than I would have liked. She has like…no self control around Declan. Which is weird because it seems like someone at such a high level of musical talent would have to have at least a modicum of self control, but hormones I guess.

Pippa and Declan were both fine as characters and I liked Phillip and Jenna, but Quinn and Noah were both just awful characters in my opinion. Quinn is not a good friend and I wish Jenna had gotten more screen time because she seemed awesome.

The plot wasn’t anything revolutionary, but it was enjoyable nonetheless in the same way that rom coms are enjoyable. You know what’s going to happen but not exactly how it’s going to get there and when it does, it’s still satisfying. Even though I knew how the book was going to end, I feel like Albright still created some tension and there was a little niggling bit of doubt as to how it might end.

Overall, this book was good but not great. I appreciated learning about the cello and some of the different music schools across the country–I honestly only knew about Julliard. One thing that stood out to me that I didn’t really like was some unnecessary descriptions that the author included. I think I read different paragraphs about Pippa unlocking her car and loading her cello into the back about 50 times. Other than that, the book is enjoyable and doesn’t take too much brain power. If you’re looking for something light and musical to read, this is your book!

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Mild


Perfect Harmony Blog Tour

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Emily AlbrightABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Emily Albright is the author of EVERYDAY MAGIC and THE HEIR AND THE SPARE, both available now from Simon Pulse. Her next novel PERFECT HARMONY will release 9.18.2018.

She’s a writer, a major bookworm, a lover of romantic movies, a wife, a mother, an owner of one adorable (yet slightly insane) cockapoo, and uses way too many :).

Website|Goodreads|Twitter|Instagram


Fantastic Flying Book Club 2

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

What is the opposite of wanderlust? | Almost Impossible by Nicole Williams [ARC]

Almost ImpossibleFor as long as Jade can remember, she’s been on the road. That’s what happens when your mom’s in one of the most popular bands in the world. For once, Jade wants to experience a normal, teenage, American summer. That’s how she ended up staying with her super uptight Aunt Julie, her frequently absent Uncle Paul, and their overly scheduled 8-year-old twin daughters. As Jade tries to get used to life in Suburbia, she meets Quentin Ford, her hot (and he knows it) lifeguard coworker who also happens to live just down the street. She soon realizes that there are two sides to him, the outrageous flirt and the strangely responsible older brother. But as Jade starts to fall for him, she can’t help but feel like there’s something he’s not telling her–something big.

TL;DR – Cute summer romance, but the love interest seems overly mature and there’s some things that don’t really make sense regarding the secondary characters. Still a fun read though.

Right off the bat I really liked Jade. There’s just something about her that’s inherently likable. I thought it was refreshing how she recognized that she had a lot of freedom with her mom but that her Aunt Julie would operate by a different set of rules. Jade really seems to have her head on straight and I felt like she was very sensitive and patient with her aunt. Quentin is also a likable character–I don’t know how the author managed to make him so dang charming, but he really is. My only issue with him (and with a plethora of other love interests throughout YA) is that he seems too mature. After finishing the book it makes a little more sense why he’s so mature, but I still have a hard time finding that level of maturity believable in a teenage boy regardless of the circumstances–but maybe that’s just me. I also wonder if, all things considered, he would really be as flirtatious as he is? It just seems questionable to me that he would even be open to being in a relationship at this point.

The plot was fine. It’s your typical summer romance so there isn’t so much of a plot per se, but there are a couple of events that the reader knows is coming later in the book. Quentin has one big secret and the reader can anticipate that coming out and how Jade might react. I’m not sure if the reader is supposed to guess the secret so early in the book though? I was able to tell what it was after about a third of the way through. How Jade didn’t see it coming is beyond me.

Secondary characters were fine. Aunt Julie seems a little bit over-exaggerated, but hey, I’ve never been in her situation so maybe she’s pretty normal all things considered. Zoey was a pretty cool character and I wish that we had gotten more time with her and Jade. Something that Sarah Dessen does great is she gives her protagonists these great female friendships and then spends almost as much time developing that relationship as she does with the romantic relationship. I wish there had been more of that in this book.

One thing that really bothered me about the book though, was with the girls from Quentin’s old school. First of all, Quentin said he used to live a couple hours away, so how is Zoey friends with them? Why would they be at a bonfire by where Quentin lives now? And why do they go to the pool where Quentin works? There must be a closer pool that they could go to. So yeah, none of that really made sense. And then, if Zoey’s friends with them, how does she not know Quentin’s secret? And lastly, why the heck is Ashlyn so mean to Jade? It seemed like she was mean for no reason, to be honest. I think the author tries to make it seem like Ashlyn likes Quentin and so she’s jealous of Jade but at the same time it doesn’t really make sense that she would like him for multiple reasons.

Overall, I liked this book quite a bit. I feel like Williams always surprises me with how much I like her books. She’s not quite at Sarah Dessen or Morgan Matson’s level yet, but I could see her getting there. I’m a fan.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild. Some innuendo.

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

Probably the weirdest scavenger hunt ever | In the Hope of Memories by Olivia Rivers [ARC]

In the Hope of MemoriesHope knows that she’s dying, but before she does, she wants to make sure her friends receive one last gift: a scavenger hunt. Erik, Aiden, Kali, and Sam are all thrown together on this crazy adventure and they’re not sure exactly what Hope is trying to do. As they make their way through the scavenger hunt’s various tasks, they’ll learn something about themselves, their relationship with each other, and even some things about Hope.

TL;DR – Unlikable characters and an unbelievable plot make this book hard to read despite its great premise.

What a gorgeous cover, amiright? Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my expectations. I thought the premise was so promising! I love scavenger hunts and so I was excited to read this book, but at the end of the day, I was let down. My issue with this book mainly centers around the characters and the plot. First, I felt the plot was completely unbelievable. These four teenagers pretty much just take off to New York for a few days and then face almost no repercussions when they get back. And also, the scavenger hunt was EXTREMELY HARD. I literally have no idea how they were able to solve any clue.

The characters themselves were super flat and felt inconsistent. We get narrations from all four of the main characters, but I still didn’t feel myself connecting with or really liking any of them. When it was their turn to narrate, they were okay, but then from everyone else’s perspectives they were complete butts. It’s hard for me to figure out which perspective is the real character and they were all annoying anyway.

I thought the writing was pretty good, though, and I did enjoy wandering around New York City. I definitely would like to visit a few of those places. This book also includes a lot of diversity–each character kind of has their own thing going.

Overall, I just thought this book was too unbelievable. Hope is portrayed as being this perfect person with literally no faults (except for her penchant for graffiti, but even that isn’t so bad). I think the book would have been better if just one aspect of it had been more believable: 1) The characters weren’t so flat, 2) An easier scavenger hunt, 3) Hope was less perfect. Any of those things, I think, would have made the book more enjoyable for me.

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

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

It’s cheesy, but like in a good way | Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Alex, ApproximatelyBailey has just moved across the country to live with her dad. The fact that her online penpal lives in the same city had nothing to do with the decision. Well, almost nothing. She doesn’t even know for sure if Alex likes her and what if he ends up being a total creep anyway? That’s why she’s not telling him that she moved. She’ll scope out the situation, see if she can find him, and then if he’s normal it’ll be a big “surprise!” and they’ll ride off into the sunset. If only this annoying guy from work would leave her alone, she could really concentrate on finding Alex. But Porter seems intent on getting a rise from her every time they’re together and it’s becoming quite distracting.

TL;DR – This is a fun beach romance that has a surprising amount of depth. The predictability of the plot does not make the book any less enjoyable.

First off all, I had my doubts about this book. I mean, I kept hearing everyone else saying that they loved it, etc., but to me it sounded extremely predictable. Now, there’s a time and a place for predictability, especially in romance, but for some reason this just sounded like it might be really boring to me. Well, I was proved wrong. Yes, the book is extremely predictable. We know from the beginning that Porter is actually Alex. While that fact didn’t necessarily create tension within the book, I think it did make it so the reader had this really interesting view and opinion of Porter that Bailey did not initially share.

The plot, again, was super predictable, but I thought the overall tone was nice. It had a really good balance of lighter moments and also really heavy stuff. There were so many parts throughout the books that I just don’t think would have worked or be enjoyable in another story (especially a beachy YA romance), but somehow it all just really works in this book. I did wonder if Bailey was a little too “damaged” as a main character, though. Obviously authors want their characters to be flawed and have baggage, but there are times when I think too much has been added to a character. I feel like Bailey is right there on the edge of being too much.

The romance was nice but I felt that it progressed a little too quickly. I thought there’d be just a little more back and forth before they actually got together. I felt that Porter as a love interest was a little too mature and the overall relationship was a little too serious, but I still cared about both Porter and Bailey and their relationship. One thing I really liked is that after Bailey’s dad and Sergeant Mendoza warn her away from Porter, Bailey actually tells Porter about the conversation instead of just continuing to hurt his feelings. That never happens in YA books! I feel like characters are always keeping things and conversations to themselves when they don’t need to and it creates all of this unnecessary angst. Transparency is key!

Overall, I can’t quite put my finger on why this book was so enjoyable, just that it was. It’s a perfect read for the summer or any time that you wish it were summer, really. It also had a ton of old film references. I don’t have a ton of knowledge in that area myself, so a lot of the references went over my head, but if you are into that I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Weekend trip turned nightmare | S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett [ARC]

S.T.A.G.S. STAGSGreer just started at her new boarding school, a posh place called St. Aidan the Great School. As a scholarship student, she doesn’t fit in among the elite upper class–the ones who look born to be wearing the black Tudor coats that is their school uniform. So when she gets invited to spend the long weekend with the “it” group on campus, the Medievals, she leaps at the chance. The invitation says they’re in for a fun weekend of “Huntin’, Shootin’, and Fishin'” and Greer can’t wait to prove to these popular upper classmen that she deserves to be friends with them (and maybe even more in the case of Henry de Warlencourt). What she doesn’t expect is to have the picturesque weekend marred by creepy servants and terrible “accidents”.

TL;DR – There was way too much clumsy foreshadowing. The plot wasn’t as exciting as it initially sounded. Characters were just…meh. Pass.

I had pretty high hopes for this book. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I have a strangely specific passion for books about unique boarding schools. This book also sounded like it had some Hunger Games elements to it so I was all in. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the writing was up to par the entire time and the plot was a little weak.

The way the book is written, Greer is essentially narrating the events to the reader. She drops a lot of “hints” throughout the book as to what is actually happening. But instead of creating suspense, as maybe the author hoped, it destroys it and becomes more than a little annoying. There is a time and a place to use foreshadowing effectively, but it was just too heavy-handed in this book–not at all subtle and definitely overkill. Greer keeps referencing how the weekend ends and she makes it seem like a really big deal. By the time we actually get to that point, I was a little let down. It almost didn’t seem like as big a deal as Greer had made it out to be throughout the book.

Like I said earlier, the plot was intriguing to me going in, but once I was actually in the book, it started to make less sense. I understand how the entire plot comes together in the end, but it still seems a little bit of a stretch–just not very believable. I’m not saying that every plot has to be super believable, but in this case, a believable plot would have made the book seem a lot more interesting. I don’t want to get too much into it because of spoilers, but I feel like this same plot could have been done in a much more intriguing and clever way.

The characters themselves were just okay. I don’t really feel like any of them were fully fleshed-out, not even Greer. That made it hard to really care for any of them. It didn’t really matter to me if they made it out alive or not. I think it would have been a lot more interesting if Greer hadn’t been the object of a certain character’s affections. The author made it seem like he might like someone else at the beginning and I think following through with that would have been a lot more unexpected and interesting. And wouldn’t have had a huge impact on the story line.

Overall, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book. There were so many parts of it that just dragged. I was really hoping this book would be so much better than it was.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: None

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