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

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What would YOU do with a million dollars? | Windfall by Jennifer E Smith

WindfallTeddy just turned 18, so as a joke Alice buys him a lottery ticket. The joke doesn’t last long, though, because the next morning they found out that Teddy has a winning lottery ticket worth $140 million. At first everything is great, but soon the money seems to be getting to Teddy’s head. Alice is also stuck watching helplessly as her peers slowly start to take advantage of him. Not only is Teddy one of her best friends, but she’s also been in love with him for years. Now, she’s not even sure if she recognizes him.

I always love Jennifer E Smith’s books, but this one was just pretty good for me instead of great. I obviously loved the setting (I LOVE CHICAGO), but I only felt lukewarm about the characters. Alice has this really sad backstory, but I don’t know that I felt super connected to her. The fact that her parents had both died was mentioned many times throughout the book, but it almost felt like that was an event that had happened to someone else. I don’t know if I really¬†felt it about Alice if that even makes sense. I liked Leo a lot as a supporting character and her aunt and uncle pretty much rocked, but I didn’t really like Teddy. Even from the beginning, I just didn’t really like him. I think he was supposed to come across as a guy who is endearingly childlike, but he just came across as super selfish and immature to me.

I thought the way that the effect of money was portrayed seemed really accurate. Given who Teddy was, I definitely believe how he was spending the money. I do wonder, though, doesn’t his mom have anything to do with it? I mean, I know he’s 18 and it’s his money, but she just sits back and lets him buy all this dumb stuff.

Overall, I was disappointed by this book. I expected a lot more from it but didn’t really have the connection to the characters that I wanted. I also didn’t like Alice and Teddy’s relationship–it seemed forced and completely not genuine.

Overall Rating: 3.5 (reluctantly rounding up to 4)
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Mild

BLOG TOUR: The Captain’s Daughter by Jennifer Delamere

The Captain's DaughterThe Captain’s Daughter (London Beginnings #1)
by Jennifer Delamere
Release Date: June 6th, 2017
Genres: Romance, Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N

SYNOPSIS: Warm-hearted Victorian romance brings 1880s London to life.

When a series of circumstances beyond her control leave Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater that is presenting the most popular show in London. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage.

A hand injury during a skirmish in India has forced Nate Moran out of the army until he recovers. Filling his time at a stable of horses for hire in London, he has also spent the past two months working nights as a stagehand, filling in for his injured brother. Although he’s glad he can help his family through a tough time, he is counting the days until he can rejoin his regiment. London holds bitter memories for him that he is anxious to escape. But then he meets the beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate can’t wait to leave behind.

REVIEW: Rosalyn was a really fun main character. She was determined and optimistic the whole time, if a little naive at times as well. There were definitely moments when I wanted to take her by the hand and explain what was going on because she seemed a little confused. Nate was also a great character. He obviously had his own flaws, but it was great to see both characters grow throughout the story.

Secondary characters were also fun and I felt like we really got to know some of them well for how background they were. I thought it was a little weird that Rosalyn’s youngest sister never came into play, but perhaps she’s in a future book.

I enjoyed the setting quite a bit. We didn’t really get to see a lot of London, but I appreciated that the author gave us a behind the scenes look at what performances back then would have been like and the creative process behind¬†The Pirates of Penzance.

Overall, I thought this book was great. The romance was a classic slow burn that ended up feeling really right in the end. I didn’t think the Christian aspect of the book was too overwhelming. It was definitely present, but never preachy. I would definitely recommend this book to people who enjoy historical fiction and those who are interested in theater.

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



Jennifer DelamereABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Jennifer Delamere’s debut Victorian romance, “An Heiress at Heart,” was a 2013 RITA award finalist in the inspirational category. Her follow-up novel, “A Lady Most Lovely,” received a starred review from “Publishers Weekly” and the Maggie Award for Excellence from Georgia Romance Writers. Jennifer earned a BA in English from McGill University in Montreal, where she became fluent in French and developed an abiding passion for winter sports. She’s been an editor of nonfiction and educational materials for nearly two decades, and lives in North Carolina with her husband.

Website|Goodreads|Twitter|Facebook|Pinterest


Litfuse Publicity

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

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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Fantastic Flying Book Club

Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour 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.

Perfect Series Ending to a Great Series | Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger

Manners & MutinyIn the final book of Gail Carriger’s Finishing School¬†series, Sophronia, Dimity, and Agatha gear up for one final adventure before officially finishing. There will be impossible romances, invading Picklemen, and the most wonderful dinner party that, unfortunately, may or may not end in an explosion.

I love this series so much. I’m a fan of Carriger’s in general, but of the three series’ set in this universe, this one is by far my favorite. Sophronia is just such a likable main character! She’s smart and manipulative, but also kind and loyal. She develops wonderfully as a character over the four books and grows up to be someone who I desperately want to be friends with. Carriger has also done a good job developing secondary characters like Dimity, Pillover, and Agatha. My problem with some of Carriger’s other characters is that they seem a little…exaggerated. Luckily, Sophronia just seems like a really normal girl given the circumstances.

This book probably had more action than the first three (or it at least felt like it) and that’s not a bad thing. I really liked getting into Sophronia’s head and seeing all of the skills that she’d been learning at school come into play. It’s kind of hard to explain without spoiling anything,¬†but it was really enjoyable to watch Sophronia strategize. The plot included a couple of twists involving certain characters that I did NOT see coming and they were pleasant surprises. In the end, there wasn’t much else that I was looking for from the plot. There were a few things that were left unresolved, but I feel almost certain that those things will (or have been) addressed in the other series’. I thought this series wrapped up really nicely and (of course) there were a few cameos of characters from Carriger’s other series¬†The Parasol Protectorate.

Overall, this was a very fun book and series altogether. While some of Carriger’s other series’ stray into more “adult” territory, this series is firmly YA and I would recommend it to any pre-teen/teenage girl (or boy for that matter–plenty of action). Sophronia may go down as one of my favorite protagonists of all time.

Overall Rating: 5 (rounded up from 4.5)
Language: None
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild