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.

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Mini-reviews to prove that I’m still alive

I think I’ve been watching too much TV lately instead of reading and blogging. Actually, to be honest, I usually get posts written during down time at work and work has been SUPER busy recently. So there’s that. But anyway…on to these mini-reviews.

RefineRefine by Nichole Van
I just like all of these books. They’re nice, clean romances with a combination of both modern and regency storylines. I like how we keep catching up with old characters and learning more about secondary characters. This is the fourth book in the series and I would actually recommend reading them in order. I know there’s at least one more after this one as well. Our main character in this one was just as delightful as all the other main characters have been. I was really glad to get more insight into Linwood’s character because he really had been portrayed in a pretty poor light in the previous books. I honestly think I could read hundreds of these books without getting tired. Van does a good job of not being too formulaic. 4/5

My Lady JaneMy Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
This book is so fun! It’s told from three alternating perspectives, but I honestly loved them all. I’m not sure if each author took one perspective to write or if they all worked on all three, but the whole thing was just so good. It was a really funny and fun take on an alternate history and it actually made me want to look some stuff up afterwards. This isn’t a part of history that I’m super familiar with, so it was definitely interesting to actually learn some things. I thought the chemistry between characters was really well done as well. My only issue was that I wished the shape-shifting had a little more logic to it. Why do people turn into the animals that they do? And why is there a flash of light? I just wish that aspect of the book had been a little more fleshed out. But overall, I REALLY enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to more from this series! 5/5

You Are HereYou Are Here by Jennifer E Smith
For some reason it’s taken me a really long time to read this book. I started it a while back, but just never finished it. It’s not my FAVORITE Jen E Smith book, but it’s also not my least favorite. I think the main character was a little aloof and hard to connect with at times. It was interesting getting the two perspectives because I felt like our main character was one way in her head, but then came off completely different when Peter is just observing her. I obviously liked the road trip aspect of the book (always a good time) and I liked their dog as well. Though…let’s be honest, the three-legged dog was a LITTLE random and didn’t really add much to the story. 4/5

P.S. I Like YouP.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Lately, I hadn’t been super impressed by Kasie West’s books. I really enjoyed her first one and moderately enjoyed the next one, but she’s had a few that I just really didn’t connect with. This one was different. A lot of times I find the enemies to lovers trope a little tiresome, unrealistic, or cliche.  Luckily, this one broke the mold a little for me. I thought both characters were pretty fun and I really liked Lily’s family. Her interactions with them seemed so genuine and her parents really just seemed like some of the coolest people. I definitely recommend picking this one up. 4/5

So there you guys go. Proof that I’m still alive and reading stuff.

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

This is me trying to remember what these books were about… | Mini-Reviews

Paper Hearts

Paper Hearts by Ali Novak [ARC]

First of all, I just read the summary for the book on Goodreads and got very confused just now. That summary is definitely NOT the book I read. Sure, Felicity and Alec are both in it but…who’s Lucy? And I don’t remember them going to Prom…? Anyway, the book that I read had a little more depth than that, I think. There was an interesting family dynamic since Felicity’s sister is gone, but I really disliked their mom. In fact, none of the characters were SUPER likable in my opinion. The romance was fine, but again, nothing that blew me away. With those things being said, I thought the book was good and I enjoyed that we got to see some of Stella and Oliver. I also look forward to reading the books featuring the other two bandmates. This series is what the Backstage Pass series wishes it was. 4/5

Hello, Sunshine by Leila Howland [ARC]Hello, Sunshine

I loved the movie La La Land. LOVED IT. And so I really thought that this book might be similar since it has the same theme of a young actress trying to make it in Hollywood. No. This is not the book I wanted it to be. The main character, Becca, is SO NAIVE. I don’t even WANT to be an actress and I know that you have to have nice headshots! Also, I didn’t like how her relationship with Raj developed. First she was like, “Oh, sorry Raj, I’m still not over my ex-boyfriend” and then she literally hops into bed with her hot co-star and imagines the rest of their lives together. Like…what? You can’t be with Raj right now, but you could TOTALLY see yourself with this other hot guy? Please. Speaking of Raj, this is the kind of diversity that I HATE. We can tell from Raj’s name that he’s Indian, right? And I think the color of his skin is mentioned a couple of times (in a very complimentary, non-racist way). However, beyond that there is literally nothing that makes him Indian. It doesn’t seem to effect his life at all which is COMPLETELY unbelievable to me. I mean, he wants to be a film-maker. At the very LEAST he should mention how few Asian Americans there are in the film industry and how he wants to break stereotypes and show the white people what it’s like to be an Indian American. Nope. None of that. Anyway…the last thing I’ll say is what was up with Becca’s Scientologist neighbor? Literally had nothing to do with anything and didn’t progress the story or characters in any way. TL;DR This book was not what I wanted it to be and was “diverse” in such a white person way. 2/5

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

I find it weird that these books never mention Dylan Thomas once | This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back [ARC] by Estelle Laure

Lucille and Eden have been friends forever. But the summer before their senior year, Lucille’s mom decides to take off on a solo vacation. She promises to come back before school starts, but Lucille and her little sister Wren are left waiting long after that deadline has passed. Meanwhile, Eden is struggling to come to terms with her future in ballet and the new feelings that have arisen between Lucille and her twin brother, Digby.

Just to start off, I really liked This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back was also enjoyable, but I didn’t like it AS MUCH. I just really had so many feelings about Lucille and Wren. Lucille has to be so tough and is put in this impossible situation. I noticed that some reviewers haven’t liked how mean she is to Eden and Digby after a little while, but I feel like I can understand it completely. She has to be so stressed out and she can’t REALLY talk to anyone about her situation. But one thing this book does do is make me believe in the kindness of strangers. So…there’s that.

The relationship between Lucille and Digby is…a little weird. It feels completely one-sided at the beginning of the book and it’s not completely clear what makes Digby have a change of heart. He’s got a girlfriend at the beginning of the book and he cheats on her with Lucille which is NOT OKAY. That being said, I did end up liking their relationship in the end. Mostly, though, the relationship that I really liked was between Lucille and Wren. I LOVE a good sister relationship and I felt that this book definitely delivered in that area. There’s a sizable age difference between the two girls, but they love each other and are there for each other through everything. My heart was seriously just breaking for these girls throughout the whole book.

There wasn’t too much of a plot beyond trying to survive while Lucille’s mom is gone, but I was okay with that. Again, there have been some reviewers that disliked how the first book ends because they felt like there wasn’t a resolution. I can definitely see that, but I finished the first book and immediately went into the second which picks up right where the first one left off so…I didn’t really mind the lack of a resolution.

The title is something that really drew me to this book initially. The poem it’s quoting is great (who doesn’t love it?) and the girls discuss it a little in the book. But then they never mention Dylan Thomas to my recollection. There’s no real reason why the NEED to talk about him, but perhaps it could have added an interesting layer or dimension to the book.

This is the point where I’m going to transition into my review of the second book, so if you don’t want some things spoiled from the first book, do not continue reading.

I didn’t like Eden as a narrator as much as I liked Lucille. There’s just something a little…chippy about her? I felt like she had this undercurrent of anger throughout a lot of her interactions with people. Then because Eden’s just woken up from a coma, there are some weird things that she sees that almost gives this book a magical realism feel to it where that was NOT present in the first book. It almost feels like a different genre.

The new characters that were introduced in the second book are interesting. I was a little confused, though, because apparently Eden has these two really good guy friends who are over all the time but who are never mentioned in the first book. I didn’t like the way that her new guy friends or even her parents and brother reacted to Eden at times. They got really angry with her when she didn’t want to do something–the girl just got out of a coma! I would think she’s allowed to not want to go to a club or party.

This book was interesting because we really get Eden’s point of view in the whole fallout between her and Lucille. Lucille really isn’t painted in the BEST light in this book, which was hard for me since I liked her so much in the first book. At the same time, I thought it was a great way of showing that there are two sides to every story, you know? I understood why Eden felt the way she did and ultimately why she reacted to Lucille how she did in the first book.

Overall, I thought these books were pretty great. I think it would make more sense to read them in order, but you could definitely read them separately and I think the second book would still make sense…mostly.

Overall Rating: 5 (TRL), 4 (BTICB)
Language: Moderate for both
Violence: Moderate (TRL), Mild (BTICB)
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate for both
Sexual Content: Moderate (TRL), Mild (BTICB)

Note: I received But Then I Came Back free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This series is neverending, but I don’t care | Ash & Quill by Rachel Caine [ARC]

Note: This is the third book in The Great Library series and may contain spoilers for those who haven’t read the first two books.

Ash and QuillJess Brightwell and his friends have been captured by Burners and taken to Philadelphia in America. Not only does he still need to figure out how they’re going to defeat the Library, but now he has to figure out how to escape the Burners without getting killed by either group. Jess thinks he may be able to get some help from his family, but the Brightwell’s don’t provide their aid for free–even for family.

THESE BOOKS ARE SO GOOD. And the covers are AMAZING (just look at it!). For some reason I thought this series was just going to be a trilogy (perhaps that was the original plan) but come to find out, there are actually going to be at least two more books. This is both frustrating and extremely exciting news. I love the world that Caine has created so I don’t want to let go of it too soon, but I also need to know how Jess and everybody else gets out of this mess. What I can say is that it definitely feels like Caine has this series planned out from start to finish. Some things from the first two books tie in to things in this book and I’m sure that’ll extend into books four and five as well. I love when it feels like an author has done a lot of work in developing not only the world, but the overall plot as well.

The characters were great as always. Even though the plot is a little slow moving, I don’t find that I mind because it just helps the characters to develop and enables me to make connections with all of them (literally, all of them). They’ve definitely developed over the three books in a way that’s genuine to the characters that we were originally introduced to. I love that Caine includes a good level of diversity (race, gender, sexuality, etc.) without hitting the reader over the head with it. It’s present and it effects who the characters are without seeming like a stereotype or an excuse to not develop the character further.

Something that’s so hard with ongoing series’ for me is that I often forget who characters are and what happened in previous books. From that perspective, the fact that the plot is so slow moving actually works in the books’ favor because I have a much easier time remember what has already happened since there isn’t too much for me to remember. That part aside, though, I also find it very easy to remember the different characters and their personalities which is impressive with a cast of eight main characters plus secondaries.

Overall, I heartily recommend this series. There’s part of me that might recommend waiting until all the books are written because each book ends with a cliffhanger, but another part feels like these books are too good so everyone should just read them now. I just want to point out real quick that as of today, the book has 113 ratings with only one two-star and no one-stars (of course, this is the day after its release, but still). THESE BOOKS ARE GOOD and I think they’d appeal to both girls and boys. There’s action and romance and a male narrator with some kick-a female characters as well. JUST EVERYONE READ THEM.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

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

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