Am I missing something here? | An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American MarriageRoy and Celestial had only been married for 18 months when Roy is falsely accused of rape. Despite Celestial’s testimony that he had been with her all night, Roy is convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison. 12 years is a long time and Celestial and Roy both have to come to terms with what this sentence means for their relationship and for them as individuals.

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TL;DR – In a book where the characters are super important, I found Celestial and Roy both to be mildly unlikable.

I really feel like I’m missing something here, guys. I’ve only heard good things about this book! Now don’t get me wrong, I thought the writing was good (probably even great) but I just found Roy and Celestial both unlikable and was not a fan of their relationship. Even from the beginning.

Roy is a confident man–maybe too confident for my liking. To me, he just seemed immature, manipulative, and entitled. And he doesn’t seem to have any qualms about flirting with other women–even going so far as to get their phone and room numbers (even if he doesn’t actually go their room). It’s just…disgusting to me. How can he claim to actually love Celestial if he’s pulling crap like this? The entire book he’s setting himself up as this victim–and to an extent he is–but sometimes I just wanted him to own up to the other stuff.

When I really think about it, what happened to Roy is clearly awful–I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. I also recognize that going to prison would change anybody, but I had such a hard time pitying him because of his attitude. He’s going around like everyone in his life (especially Celestial) owes him something and I don’t feel like they do? Am I just a horrible and callous person?

Celestial, while more sympathetic, is no more likable to me. Both Roy and Andre describe her as being this super strong and admirable woman, but I feel like the reader doesn’t get to see any of that. She doesn’t ever really stand up for herself and she let’s both Roy and Andre tell her what to do. In the end, she chooses the path of least resistance and it’s just so frustrating to me! There were so many times when I wanted Celestial to show a little backbone, but she always ended up disappointing me.

In the end, I just couldn’t get over my dislike for the characters. Secondary characters were pretty good–I liked Andre and both Roy and Celestial’s parents. I liked how Roy’s time in prison was told through letters, but I wish that there had been dates maybe? Sometimes it would skip a few years and you wouldn’t find that out until halfway through the letter. I thought the ending happened suddenly and it felt too tidy and convenient to me. I feel like there was no win-win situation here, but somehow the author created one. I don’t know…I just feel like I’m missing something.

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

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A book in which I anticipate a love triangle forming pretty much the whole time | Windwitch by Susan Dennard

Note: This is the second book in the Witchlands series and may contain spoilers for the first book. Click here for my Truthwitch review.

WindwitchSafi and Iseult are now separated. Safi has given herself up to the Empress of Marstok and Iseult is left waiting for word from Mathew and Habim. When word doesn’t come, she finds herself making a tentative truce with Aeduan, the Bloodwitch. If he can help her find Safi, she will tell him where his silver talers ended up. Can the bond between Safi and Iseult withstand the miles and trials between them?

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TL;DR – A solid follow-up to the first book. Characters are diverse in a natural way and the author does a great job making all of our narrators sympathetic.

This book started off a little bit slow for my taste, but it picks up momentum rather quickly. I think it would have been fine for readers who are reading the series one book at a time, but not so much for those of us who are bingeing the first three books in the series. These books feel really thoughtfully written to me. I really liked how Dennard is able to use things like a storm or an earthquake to help the reader to know when things are happening. Since virtually all of our characters are separated, it helps to know that these two events are happening at the same time and so on. In addition, without giving any kind of spoilers, I knew that Chiseled Cheater was going to play a more prominent role. I waited for him to show up the entire first book and I was thrilled at his appearance.

The dynamic between Merik and Vivia is really interesting throughout. I really enjoyed getting Vivia’s perspective on things because, in the first book, Merik portrays her as this evil, power-hungry person. She’s actually extremely likable, in my opinion, and it’s crazy to me how neither of them can see how manipulative Serafin is. I think Merik said at one point that Serafin wouldn’t waste his time or energy pitting his children against each other, but he very clearly has wasted a LOT of time and energy doing just that. Speaking of Merik… I know this kind of gets explained later in the book, but he’s always talking about how weak his witchery is, but he’s never seemed particularly weak to me. I mean, he can still use his powers to fly so…just how weak can he be?

Another thing that I’ve enjoyed in this book and series is that Dennard has done a great job including diversity without hitting the reader over the head with it. I feel like when diversity is so “present”, it kind of defeats the purpose. I think what we diverse readers are looking for is for diversity to be included in an authentic and organic way. Undue attention does not need to be drawn to it. I feel like Vivia’s sexuality is handled really well, in that regard. She obviously thinks about her relationship with Stix from time to time, but it’s not something that gets brought up in every single paragraph. I also appreciated the vitiligo rep with Cam. I don’t think I’ve EVER read a book that included a character with vitiligo.

The plot got a little more confusing in this book. It clearly feels like this book is being used to set up events in future books. That’s not necessarily bad, but there are some things that just feel like they don’t quite make sense yet.

While I really enjoyed this book overall, there were a few things that I didn’t quite care for. Fairly early on in the book, Iseult calls the Puppeteer by name, Esme. I didn’t remember her learning Esme’s name in the first book, so I did a quick Kindle search. The name “Esme” doesn’t appear ANYWHERE in the first book. So…yeah. All of the sudden Iseult knows her name and just casually drops it in there? The second thing is that I feel like Aeduan’s bloodwitchery should work on blood stains. I mean, he can seize blood, right? Stop it circulating in someone’s body? So why can’t he seize dried blood and lift it out of clothes?

The last thing, to address the title of this post, is that pretty much the whole book I anticipate feelings developing between Safi and one of the characters that she’s with. It kind of seemed like things were heading that way. Nothing comes of it in this book (luckily) but we’ll see what happens in future books. All I’m saying is that if Safi is part of a love triangle, that will completely cheapen the ENTIRE series.

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

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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

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

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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 :).

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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.