BLOG TOUR: The Sweetest Kind of Fate by Crystal Cestari [GIVEAWAY]

The Sweetest Kind of FateThe Sweetest Kind of Fate
by Crystal Cestari
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy

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SYNOPSIS: GREAT. I’ve somehow found myself tangled up with a siren, a mermaid, and a homicidal wicked witch who once tried to strangle me to death. Way to go, Amber!

Amber Sand, legendary matchmaker, couldn’t be more surprised when her arch nemesis, Ivy, comes asking for her help. Ivy’s sister, Iris, is getting married, and Ivy wants to prove her sister is making a huge mistake. But as Amber looks into Iris’s eyes, there doesn’t seem to be a problem—Iris has clearly found her match.

It seems happily ever after is in the cards, but when Iris seeks out a dangerous, life-altering spell, it’s up to Amber and Ivy to set aside their rivalry and save the day.

While Iris is willing to put everything on the line for love, Amber continues to wrestle with her own romantic future. Her boyfriend, Charlie, is still destined for another, and no matter how hard she clings to him, fear over their inevitable breakup shakes her belief system to the core.

Because the Fates are never wrong—right?

REVIEW: I really enjoyed the first book in this series. I thought Amber was such a delightful character. Unfortunately, I felt like she wasn’t quite as delightful this time around. I think some of that centers around her jealousy of another character. It was just kind of annoying and immature. I mean, what did she expect to happen? I just feel like she should have had more foresight and done something about it.

Amani and Kim were great secondary characters even if we didn’t get to see too much of Kim. Charlie seemed a lot less present in this book than in the last one. His relationship with Amber is kind of weird for me though. Because she knows that he’s not her match, so I don’t really understand how she can justify feeling jealous or why she thinks that their relationship will last.

The plot itself was interesting, but I felt like it got pushed to the side at times to deal with Amber’s drama. There seemed to be an overarching theme of “love” throughout the book and the author hit it pretty hard a few times–I’m just not exactly sure why. It almost felt like this book had some kind of deeper meaning, but if it did, it went over my head.

Overall, this book was still pretty good, but not as good as the first in my opinion. I still love the descriptions of Chicago and all the baked goods, but there were just some other things that weren’t quite as enjoyable.

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


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Crystal Cestari 2ABOUT 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.

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The quickest of takes and the mini-est of reviews

I read a bunch of books while I was out on my hiatus and since I was on hiatus, I wasn’t taking notes as usual. Let’s just say that I remember some of these books better than others. But it’s the lasting impressions that really count, right?

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab – I LOVED the first book in this series! And this one honestly did live up to my expectations. If you liked the first book, you’ll like this one too. Everything that I liked about the characters from the first book were in this one as well plus more. The book was just…deeper. I cried. 5/5

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – My first experience with E. Lockhart and I absolutely loved it. I loved the writing, I loved the characters, I loved the setting. The plot was masterful and I think I started to suspect what the twist was exactly when the author wanted me to. I will definitely be reading more by her. 5/5

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee – I don’t really know what I expected this book to be… It was just a little too artificial for me. The characters were all fake with each other (as they were supposed to be, but still) and the setting of the tower also seemed a bit contrived. I don’t think there were any characters that I really just liked. I won’t be reading the second one. 3/5

Imprudence by Gail Carriger – I keep reading this series because I keep hoping it’ll get better. I adore the Finishing School series and I just want this series to be a little more like that. Something about Prudence repeatedly rubs me the wrong way. She’s just so…arrogant? Bossy? Entitled? I’m not exactly sure what it is. Nevertheless, I will probably read the next one. 3/5

Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer – This book was just so…weird. The girls were in the past, but they could remember everything about the future. There was no real reason why they should need to recreate a photo in order to get back to the future. And then the ending with one of the characters seemed a little dramatic and unnecessary. I also didn’t really like any of the characters. 2/5

The Siren by Kiera Cass – The story was okay, but had some elements that left me scratching my head. The main character’s decisions didn’t always make sense to me. I didn’t feel like she always acted rationally or like…thought through her decisions. Secondary characters were all just okay. 3/5

The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh – This was a great follow-up to the first book. I enjoyed the strategy involved at various points throughout the story–it just kind of mixed things up a little bit. I also enjoyed getting to know the little sister better as a character. 4/5

The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne – I liked this book more than I thought I would! The main character was relatable and likable. I loved her interactions with her half-siblings and her dad’s wife (especially that last relationship). Her struggles seemed genuine and the conflict that she has to face was really well done. I would definitely recommend this book! 4/5

Fireworks by Katie Cotugno – This book…I liked that it was set in the 90s. The girl band/boy band thing seemed genuine because of the time period. But then there’s just a lot of girl/girl fighting and backstabbing and not being good friends-ing. I did like where the main character ended up though. 3/5

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han – To be completely honest, I haven’t been on the Peter train since the second book (John Ambrose all the way–don’t @ me). So this book was a little bit ugh for me. But also, I know that we all want happy endings, etc, but why do YA authors want us to believe that all high school relationships will work out in the long run? I know that some do, but the vast majority of high school relationships are just that–high school relationships. NOT “always and forever” love. I would not have wanted to end up with any of the boys I went to high school with. Just saying. 3/5

The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian – The main character was a pill and I didn’t like her 85% of the time. She was a butt to the love interest for the first 95% of the book but then he still likes her in the end? I just don’t even know. Also, is this plot something that could really happen? If so, local government can be scary. 3/5

Lucky in Love by Kasie West – I was excited that this book portrayed an interracial relationship (I’m all about that rep) but then the love interest might as well have been white. I don’t remember any defining characteristic that made him Asian except for his last name. Kasie West has been super hit or miss for me. Some books I love, but others are just flat. I did like the zoo setting though. 3/5

Let me know which of these books you’ve read in the comments! Do you agree or disagree with my quick takes?

Taxonomies & Tourette Syndrome | A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen [ARC]

A Taxonomy of LoveSpencer has Tourette Syndrome. You know, that thing where people start swearing randomly? Except it’s a lot more than that. He’s learned pretty well how to manage his tics and he also knows which neighborhood boys to avoid (read: all of his older brother Dean’s friends). Then Hope Birdsong moves in next door. They soon become best friends, but when Hope starts dating Dean, it puts a strain on their friendship. But things are still fine until Hope and Dean breakup and Spencer tries to kiss her (whoops). As they progress through high school, Spencer loses himself in wrestling and his new girlfriend Jayla. But he can never quite forget about Hope.

Recommended if you liked: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
TL;DR – I learned about Tourettes. The characters were moderately deep and had a good developmental arc, but I wasn’t a huge fan of how the author chose to pace the book.

First off, I’ve never read a book with a character who has Tourette Syndrome. To be honest, I knew very little about it before reading this book, but I feel like it does a really good job of treating it in a very frank and honest way while also being extremely respectful. I feel like I’m more prepared now if I were to ever interact with someone who has Tourettes.

I thought that the characters had a pretty good developmental arc throughout the book, but the pacing was a little weird sometimes. I was reading from a digital galley and I think some formatting things were lost in translation because all of the sudden the next chapter had skipped to the next summer and I felt like I had to catch up. I’m sure this is resolved in the final physical copy, but it made it hard for me to enjoy the book at first (I think my copy was just missing some headings or something). The book spans from when Spencer and Hope are around 13 to 19 so there are huge sections of these characters lives that are “left out”. At the same time, it gives a pretty good picture of how people change throughout high school and in response to life events, etc.

This book is less plot-centric than character driven so there isn’t too much to comment on in that area. I will say, it felt a little lazy to me that the author had Spencer and Hope’s friendship rebuilt “off-screen”. We leave them at a tentative truce and then in the next chapter it’s a year later and they’re friends again? I would have liked to have seen more of that develop than just having it be handed to me as a reader.

Overall, I thought this book was pretty good, but not necessarily mind-blowing. I did come out of it feeling more educated than I had been going in, but I had a really hard time adjusting to the pacing and time skips, etc. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn a little more about Tourettes in a casual setting or to anyone who wants a break from the YA female narrator.

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

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

Not back from my hiatus mini-reviews

As the title suggests, I’m not back from my hiatus yet, but I do have a ton of NetGalley reviews to get off my plate, so here are some mini-reviews for you! And for those of you that care, I’ll have a life update at the end.

Gray Wolf IslandGray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott

This book was not anything that I thought it would be really. I guess I just kind of thought it would be a treasure hunt? It definitely did have those elements to it, but it also a magical realism element to it that made it really fun. I can’t say whether or not I would have enjoyed the book more without the magical realism…I think it just would have been a completely different story. With that being said, the five main characters are each unique and interesting. They all have secrets and I really did feel like we got to know them quite well in a short time. 4/5

BerserkerBerserker by Emmy Laybourne

I have no idea why I requested this book. In fact, I feel like I distinctly remember reading the synopsis and deciding NOT to request it. All the same, the approval landed in my inbox so I must read it. It was better than I thought it was going to be for sure. I liked some of the sibling relationships, but I thought the youngest sister was just SO ANNOYING. I mean…she really seemed to have no awareness of their situation and she just seemed so spoiled. Main characters were pretty bland to me. Plot was okay but didn’t make sense at times. I was also a little confused because the characters made it sound like there were two additional gifts, but they never explained what they were. 3/5

A Messy, Beautiful LifeA Messy, Beautiful Life by Sara Jade Alan

This book is about a girl who finds out she had cancer. Because of that, I think I expected the tone of the book to be a little more serious or something, but it wasn’t. So the tone of the whole book just felt a little off to me which kept me from really getting into it. I thought the characters were mostly alright, but Jason is unreal. Like, seriously unreal. He’s way too mature for how old he’s supposed to be. The plot of the book was mostly alright, but I thought the ending was too clean–too fairytale. Also, there was like this weird spiritual element to the last 1/4 of the book that wasn’t there for the first 3/4. I have nothing against that kind of thing, but it wasn’t a consistent theme throughout the whole book. 3/5

A Dangerous YearA Dangerous Year by Kes Trester

I like teen spy books and I especially like teen spy books set at boarding schools that may or may not have some of its own secrets. I thought the main character, Riley, was pretty fun. She seemed way smart without being chippy or over-dramatic. And by chippy, I mean having a HUGE chip on her shoulder/needing to prove herself at every opportunity. The other characters were okay as well if a little flat–perhaps they’ll be developed more in later books. I really liked Riley’s relationship with her dad and the security guy. I wasn’t a big fan of the love triangle that developed, but what are you going to do? In the end, I would definitely be interested in reading more from this series. 4/5

Murder, Magic, and What We WoreMurder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones

Overall, I liked this book okay, but I’m not looking to read more in the series. I thought the main character was pretty annoying, honestly. I wish that there had been more about Millie because she seemed WAY more interesting. At least give us multiple POVs! I could see what this book was trying to do with the plot, but it’s just been done better in other books, honestly (check out the These Vicious Masks books). I thought the magic in this book was really interesting and had a lot of potential, but it was also a little confusing and may have benefited from a bit of an explanation. 3/5

Odd and TrueOdd & True by Cat Winters

I LOVE CAT WINTERS. I know I’ve mentioned that on this blog before, but every book I read by her is amazing! I love how she creates the perfect spooky atmosphere without being too scary. She creates these likable, strong, and independent female characters who are also flawed and vulnerable. Her stories always leave you guessing about what’s real and what’s simply in a character’s head. Also, she does an AMAZING job of putting you in the historical time that the book is set in. Every book of hers is another glimpse at an older America that I feel like we don’t get to see very often and this book is no exception. I really appreciated that this book is about SISTERS and even though there’s a little romance, it doesn’t really play into it. 4/5

Girls Made of Snow and GlassGirls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

I thought this book moved SOOOOOO SLOOOOOOW. It was honestly very hard for me to get into and then to get through. I didn’t really feel a connection to any of the characters. I didn’t really care what happened to them in the end. I did like how this book gave more depth to the original fairytale, though. The author did a good job at explaining actions by deep-rooted motivations that made sense even if I didn’t agree. Overall, I just don’t think this book was for me. I think I’ve read that some people really loved it, but I honestly can’t get over the pacing. SO SLOW. 3/5

InvictusInvictus by Ryan Graudin

But guys….THIS BOOK. Ryan Graudin has done it again. I am truly converted (not that I really needed converting) and will read LITERALLY ANYTHING that she writes. This is by far the most realistic take on time travel that I think I’ve ever seen. I love the future world that Graudin has created and I honestly want to live in it. I was super into the initial premise of Far’s team performing these historical heists and I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see any of those, but the actual plot was also very interesting. It was a lot deeper and more emotional than I expected. All the main characters were super likable so that made it all the more emotional for me. I care about these guys! I’ll admit to being a little confused by the ending…I fell like it went over my head a bit but overall, I would definitely recommend this book! 5/5

Life Update: Okay, as promised (for those of you who care)…one of the reasons that life has been so crazy lately is that I’m pregnant! I’m almost 14 weeks at this point with my due date being in May. Luckily, I haven’t really had bad morning sickness at all, but I have been super tired and (lately) hungry like ALL THE TIME. So anyway, I just have all that going in my head and haven’t felt motivated to blog. I’m not sure how the baby will change my blogging habits. I won’t be working full-time anymore, but on the other hand…baby? So we’ll just have to see 😉

Note: I received these books free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Accidentally reading Christian Fiction | Mini-Reviews

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

11948994First Date by Krista McGee

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

An Uncertain ChoiceAn Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLOG TOUR: League of American Traitors by Matthew Landis [GIVEAWAY]

League of American TraitorsLeague of American Traitors
by Matthew Landis
Release Date: August 8th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Historical

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SYNOPSIS: Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. . . . 

When seventeen year-old Jasper is approached at the funeral of his deadbeat father by a man claiming to be an associate of his deceased parents, he’s thrust into a world of secrets tied to America’s history—and he’s right at the heart of it.

First, Jasper finds out he is the sole surviving descendant of Benedict Arnold, the most notorious traitor in American history. Then he learns that his father’s death was no accident. Jasper is at the center of a war that has been going on for centuries, in which the descendants of the heroes and traitors of the American Revolution still duel to the death for the sake of their honor.

His only hope to escape his dangerous fate on his eighteenth birthday? Take up the research his father was pursuing at the time of his death, to clear Arnold’s name.

Whisked off to a boarding school populated by other descendants of notorious American traitors, it’s a race to discover the truth. But if Jasper doesn’t find a way to uncover the evidence his father was hunting for, he may end up paying for the sins of his forefathers with his own life.

Like a mash-up of National Treasure and Hamilton, Matthew Landis’s debut spins the what-ifs of American history into a heart-pounding thriller steeped in conspiracy, clue hunting, and danger.

REVIEW: I absolutely loved the premise of this book. Just the idea of the descendants of America’s most hated traitors coming together has so much potential. This book actually made me wonder where the real descendants are and what they’re doing. Beyond that, however, I felt the story needed a little bit of development. On a technical level, the transitions between sections weren’t always very smooth and it made things a little confusing at times. Like, things would be happening, but I wasn’t actually sure WHAT was happening. The book is less than 300 pages long and I really think it could’ve benefited from being longer to fill in some of the gaps.

The characters were likable, but didn’t really develop. I liked Jasper quite a bit as a main character, but I felt like his relationship with Nora came out of nowhere. I didn’t actually think they made sense as a couple and we didn’t really get to see the feelings develop on either side. Jasper thought about her a few times, but I honestly couldn’t tell if his feelings were platonic or romantic until he actually talked about kissing her.

I thought the plot was fine. Maybe some of it would have made a little more sense if I was a big history buff, but I’m not. Pacing was a little bit of an issue because some scenes would go really slow, but then it felt like the story would fast forward all of the sudden. I kind of saw the ending coming…but then didn’t at the same time. It was definitely a plus that I was kept guessing and I liked that it wasn’t some random character that hadn’t been introduced. But why did Jasper’s hair get mentioned so many times? I didn’t really get that.

Overall, I thought this book was pretty good. If you’re into American history, you might really like this book. I thought the premise was AMAZING but didn’t necessarily live up to its potential.

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


League of American Traitors Giveaway

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Matthew LandisABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
I love history, but not in the old, awful, kill-me-now-please kind of way. My passion is convincing my students that the past is actually hilarious, shocking, tragic, disturbing, and altogether UN-boring. While getting my graduate degree in History at Villanova, I realized that there was yet one more way to do this: write contemporary young adult books laced with history to convince my students that past isn’t as awful as they think. That’s a huge reason why I wrote The Judas Society.

Some other stuff: I love poetry but don’t understand it; I want Gordon Ramsay to give me a fatherly hug at some point; I tend toward the unapologetically dramatic; and (to my great shame) I didn’t read the Harry Potter series until last year. I’m also really good at covering up patent insecurities with self-deprecating humor (like this joke).

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