Summer Releases | NetGalley Mini-Reviews

Call It What You WantCall It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer

I really enjoyed Kemmerer’s other book Letters to the Lost¬†(only $2 for the eBook right now!) so I was really excited when I got approved for this one. It did not disappoint. I found the two main characters to both be likable (Rob a little more so for me than Maegan). I thought the book dealt with some tough topics like teen pregnancy, abortion, and race and crime in a really mature, sensitive, and realistic way. The plot wasn’t as cut and dry as it first seemed and I enjoyed the depth there as well. I didn’t feel like the characters’ choices always made a ton of sense, but in the end, the author really made me try to examine how I would react if I were in Rob’s shoes. 4/5

Hardcover | eBook

Wilder GirlsWilder Girls by Rory Power

This book was being marketed as a Lord of the Flies type story which so happens to be one of the only required reading books from High School that I actually enjoyed reading. So I was all in. Unfortuntely, I was to be disappointed. This book had so much hype around it and I found the premise to be really intriguing and I liked the eerie and unsettled tone that wove throughout the book, but I felt like there was too much that was just weird. The Tox itself doesn’t really make much sense. Why does it effect everyone differently? What causes the flare ups? And then in the end, the explanation for it is unsatisfying, comes out of nowhere, and doesn’t really fit the tone of the rest of the book. It actually would have been a more satisfying ending if there HADN’T been an explanation. Another issue for me was Byatt. I just 100% did not understand her as a character. Lastly, I had a hard time with Hetty and Reese’s “relationship”. I felt like so much of their currently existing relationship is backstory that we never get to see and we’re more told how they “feel” about each other rather than shown. They kind of just get slapped into this relationship and then just as quickly slapped out of it. 3/5

Advertisements

I ate so much toast while reading this book | The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

The Rest of the StoryEmma Saylor has never really spent time with her mom’s family (except for that one Summer when she was four, but she doesn’t really remember that). But when all other options fall through, Emma finds herself heading to Calvander’s–the motel on the lake that her mom’s family owns and operates. As she arrives and the Summer progresses, Emma (or Saylor as her mom’s family calls her) finds out things she never knew about her mother and herself.

TL;DR – Another great Summer read from Sarah Dessen. It doesn’t blow your socks off, but it’s comfortable and the new setting of the lake is fun and I can’t wait to see what else she does with it in the future.

Purchase: Kindle | Hardcover

While this book isn’t going to break into my top five Sarah Dessen books, I still found it enjoyable. Saylor (or Emma) is a likable character even if she’s quite similar to past Dessen protagonists. She battles with identity in the form of her name throughout the book (reminiscent of McLean in What Happened to Goodbye) but I’ll refer to her just as Saylor throughout the rest of the review. I liked the cast of secondary characters even if some felt mildly superfluous (Taylor, April, and Vincent). I might be wrong, but I think this is our first Dessen protagonist who has a large extended family? That we get to see anyway. And I liked that dynamic. I’m someone who comes from large extended families on both sides, so I enjoyed seeing the cousin interactions. I didn’t always love Bailey (she’s pretty self-centered) and we don’t see a ton of Jack, but I loved Trinity. I thought she was a really fun and dynamic character and I would have loved more interactions between her and Saylor. I also thought Gordon was extremely precious and I wanted more of her as well.

As for the characters on the Emma side of things, her friends Bridget and Ryan, again, seemed mildly superfluous. I love that Dessen’s characters usually have strong female friendships, but this time that was mostly shown through the cousins instead of Saylor’s school friends. Tracy was nice enough and I like that she didn’t try to insert herself into things. Nana rocked. I thought she was going to be stuffy and annoying, but she’s actually the best. Saylor’s dad however…I had such a hard time with him for 95% of the book. I never felt like I totally understood his perspective and some of his actions completely enraged me. That being said, I still felt like he was a good guy and I was glad that Saylor had a good father in her life.

I’m realizing now that this is like three paragraphs on characters when I usually just do one, but there were a ton of characters and this book was seriously character driven. Anyway, here we go: Roo. I liked Roo as a person–I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love how almost all of Dessen’s romantic leads are GOOD GUYS. Like seriously, just nice boys. So from that perspective, I really liked Roo and I liked that Roo and Saylor had history. However, I don’t feel like we got to see Roo and Saylor spend much time with each other. In contrast, in The Truth About Forever (my ultimate Sarah Dessen fave), Macy and Wes spend a TON of time together and the reader gets to see it. But because of how busy Roo always was among the other things that Saylor was dealing with, they didn’t spend that much time together. So while I still bought their relationship, I didn’t feel super invested in it.

Lastly, I’ll just go over a few minor things that bugged or didn’t make sense. There was a lot of reflecting and introspection in this book. Like, Saylor would be out on the porch reflecting on an experience she’d had earlier with Mimi or something. But like…why not just write the scene? Why have it be a flashback? With all of the reflecting and such, the timeline seemed really screwy. I would be reading and think that an entire week had passed only to find out that it had been like…two days. Another thing is that I don’t understand why Calvander’s is so short staffed? I mean, it’s the Summer so it seems like they’d have at least two seasonal hires (which they’ve had in the past). I think maybe that should have been explained. Even if Mimi was just like, “Oh, we couldn’t get anybody this year!” Something like that. Another random thing is that I felt really confused by the Sergeant. Like, why did he even “exist” as a character? We literally never see anything from him but that dang toaster! Anyway, I just found him to be very confusing. The last thing is that I was EXTREMELY disappointed in the number of cameos in this book. I know that none of our previous characters have visited the lake before, but that doesn’t mean they can’t visit it now!

In the end, I still really enjoyed this book even if it’s not quite a top five for me. It’s still a solid Dessen book and I really enjoyed the new setting that she’s created with the lake. I’m excited to see what she does with it in the future. Definitely would recommend!

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

Library book mini-reviews

So far this year I have read 49 books and 37 of them have been library books! 11 have been ARCs and only one has been a book that I actually own (oops…). Here are a few mini-reviews from some of my recent library reads!

mini-reviews

 

 

A Gathering of Shadows/A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

I absolutely adored this series. I’m partly kicking myself for waiting so long, but then at the same time I feel like I read it in a good time in my life when I could read all three books back-to-back and really feel like I understood what was going on. I really liked the competition aspect in the second book. With both Lila and Kell pretending to be other people, the suspense was HIGH. Then, in the third book, I continue to be astounded at the depth that Schwab has created for the character Holland. I completely understand why Rhy and Lila hate his guts, but I can’t bring myself to feel the same way. Despite everything, I LIKE him. One criticism that I have is that I want to know more about these worlds beyond London. It’s kind of a blank globe outside of the city. I highly recommend this series and could definitely see myself rereading them. Real quick, though, did anyone else ship Lila with Alucard? Or was that just me? 5/5

Shadows: eBook | Hardcover | Paperback
Light: eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

The Lady from the Black LagoonThe Lady From the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara

This book was featured on one of Book Riot’s podcasts and the author was also on What Should I Read Next?¬†In the end, I’m glad I picked this book. It was really different from the other non-fiction books that I’ve read since this author isn’t a non-fiction writer. Actually, she’s not really even an author (though, I guess she is now). Her tone was a lot more casual and I liked her snarky little footnotes. This book was definitely part history and part memoir and I thought the two combined rather well. I did have one issue with it, though. There was a brief section where O’Meara touched on something that is actually pretty personal to me and I don’t feel like she did it in a super respectful (or accurate) way. That cast a cloud on the rest of her book and gave me some doubt as a reader as to the accuracy of some of her other claims. Other than that, though, I really did enjoy learning about Milicent Patrick. 4/5

eBook | Hardcover

Always Never YoursAlways Never Yours by Emily Wibberly & Austin Siegmund-Broka

Blah. This book wasn’t what I hoped it would be. I think most of that centers around our main character, Megan. I think I was hoping for someone a little nicer and sweeter who handled her breakups more gracefully. Instead, Megan is really quite in your face while also being simultaneously oblivious. She just wasn’t the main character I was hoping for with this story line. I also hate when characters are all like, “OMG why am I obsessing over this guy’s hair? It’s not like I LIKE him or anything!” when they very obviously DO like him. Are people’s feelings really so mystifying to themselves? 3/5

The Enchanted HourThe Enchanted Hour by Meghan Cox Gurdon

This was another non-fiction book that I read and I read it for a book club. The premise doesn’t sound that compelling, but I’m actually super glad that I read it. As a new mom, they drill into you that “IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO READ TO YOUR BABY!!!!!!!” Like, literally, they’re shoving that down your throat. Which is fine, I’m not trying to dispute that or anything, but no one really explained to me why? I mean, I was going to do it, but how exactly does it help? I just want to know! This book answered most, if not all, of my questions about the benefits of reading aloud to my kid. Every time I would finish a chapter, I would feel so motivated to go read to him. A criticism I do have, though, is that the author isn’t super forgiving. Everything she says regarding technology came off as super harsh to me and it made me feel like a bad parent for ever defiling my baby’s eyes with a screen. But sometimes I need to take a shower, dang it, and he’ll sit quietly in his Pack n’ Play if I turn on Word Party! Overall, though, still a good read. 4/5

Loved this quote from C.S. Lewis that she included: “He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: The reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.”

eBook | Hardcover

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleThe 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

This book is super twisty. It was already on my TBR when my sister texted and was like, “YOU HAVE TO READ THIS.” So the next time I saw it on one of our library displays, I grabbed it. I absolutely LOVED the premise. Each of Aiden’s hosts contributes more pieces to the puzzle. Longtime followers may know that I hate mysteries where the reader doesn’t have all the information necessary to solve the mystery. With this book, I do feel like we were presented with all of the information necessary, but the author didn’t quite lead us to the final solution. In the end, I found the conclusion of the book to be a little…out of nowhere, but I still enjoyed. I could definitely see myself rereading this one and picking up on more clues. 4/5

eBook | Hardcover

CirceCirce by Madeleine Miller

When I was a Sophomore in high school, we read The Odyssey in English. I enjoyed it and ended up writing my essay on how the Greek Gods absolutely do NOT deserve their power. This book just brought back all of those feelings. Seriously. Disney’s Hercules gives you all of these warm, fuzzy feelings towards the Gods when in reality they’re THE WORST!!! Anyway, I wanted to like this book more than I did. I’ve always been a fan of Greek Mythology, so I liked it from that standpoint, but it wasn’t totally for me. The writing was a bit much at times and the pacing was a little strange. All of the sudden, a thousand years would pass without warning–but I guess that’s what it must be like when you’re immortal. I didn’t really care for Circe for a good 50-60% of the book, but in the end, I found myself happy when she found happiness. One thing I really did like about this book was the portrayal of motherhood with both Circe and Penelope. Being a mom is freaking HARD and so some of Circe’s struggles with Telegonus really resonated with me. 3.5/5

This book made me feel 100% Latina | Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno [ARC]

Don't Date Rosa SantosThe Santos women are cursed by the sea. Any man that they fall in love with will be claimed by the ocean. Rosa has grown up her entire life with this knowledge and has never really grappled with it until now. She’s about to pick which college she wants to go to when she meets Alex. He’s tall, has a beard, ocean tattoos, and…a boat. Rosa knows it’s a bad idea to fall for him, but how can she resist especially when she finds out that he bakes too?

TL;DR –¬†This book will make you wish you had an abuela. The Cuban culture is so authentic throughout that it makes my heart hurt.

eBook | Hardcover

My ethnicity is a mixed bag. I’m a quarter white, half Chinese, and a quarter Hispanic. The grandparent I grew up closest to is my mom’s mother who was born and raised in Panama. Rosa’s abuela, Mimi, reminded me so much of my own grandmother. I could see her doing and saying so many of the things that Mimi did. There are more similarities as well that I’ll address later on. Seriously though, this book made me feel so much more Hispanic than I actually am. During and after reading I found myself gesturing at things to my husband with my lip/chin. I never do that!

First, I just want to say that I absolutely adored this book. It was so close to being a five star read for me! I thought Rosa was a really enjoyable character right off the bat and I loved her dynamic with all of the other characters. She was so interesting and really felt alive for me. I also loved the dynamic and tensions between Rosa, Mimi, and Liliana (Rosa’s mom). All three women were incredibly strong in different ways. I enjoyed that the author was able to portray that differing strength in women. Women can be strong, even if they’re not all strong in the same way.

Secondary characters were amazing! They all felt like they had depth to them and I felt they contributed to the story in an important way. I especially enjoyed Rosa’s best friend and the viejos. Please, I would follow their Instagram in a heartbeat!

The atmosphere of the book also felt so real. The weather was almost another character and I loved how that played into the slight magical/mystical thread throughout the book. It was all very fun. The weather also contributed to the raw emotions that came out at times. There are a few scenes throughout this book where the emotion is just so heavy. Despite that, this isn’t a heavy book and I wholeheartedly recommend it as a Summer read.

***Slight Spoiler Ahead***

This book hit me especially hard because my grandmother just passed away last month in a way that was similar to Mimi. It was kind of sudden and like Liliana, my mom was the one there performing CPR on her own mother until the paramedics arrived. There were some other similarities as well that I won’t go into. It just felt eerily similar to me. When Rosa was dealing with Mimi’s death, I felt it so hard. I saw myself in Rosa and parts of my mom in Liliana. The emotions felt so real and it’s obvious that the author has lost someone close to her. I still forget some days that my grandma isn’t around anymore. I hope, like Rosa, that I can one day make that pilgrimage back to my grandmother’s homeland. The sacrifices that she made to come to America amaze me every day and I would literally not be here without her. I love you, Llaya.

***Spoiler End***

Anyway…I highly, highly recommend this book. I appreciate the call for diversity in YA, but a lot of times I think it’s done poorly or in a way that’s inauthentic. That is NOT the case with this book. If you want to read diversity in YA, then this is the kind of thing you should be reading.

Overall Rating: 4.5
Language: Mild
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

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

 

March Mini-Review Madness

Did anyone else do a bracket for March Madness this year? My husband’s family is super into sports so we do a family competition every year. This year, I really didn’t put much thought into it and ended up barely beating my nephew (who is 4). I know games are still being played, but at this point I don’t have any of the top 4 so…I’m out. But on to the reviews!

mini-reviews

A Darker Shade of MagicA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I’d been meaning to read this series for forever and I’m so glad that I finally picked it up! I love the covers and am looking forward to one day having the whole series on my shelf. I thought the initial world explanation all happened really smoothly. Schwab also did a great job of making Kell (and Lila) super likable right from the start. She’s obviously put a ton of thought into this world with the magic system and languages. I appreciate that she doesn’t shy away from hard decisions (i.e. killing characters, no spoilers). Where I was most amazed, though, was how she managed to create a sympathetic character out of Holland (at least, for me). I get the sense that he isn’t as evil as he portrays himself. Don’t get me wrong, he did some truly evil things in this book, but I still sympathize with him for some reason? And she doesn’t even tell us that much about him! That’s what’s truly amazing. 4.5/5

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

VoicesVoices by David Elliott [ARC]

I’ll premise this review by saying I know almost nothing about Joan of Arc. I wasn’t going to pick up this book, but then I read an excerpt and found it really compelling. I’ll also say real quick that I know pretty much nothing about poetry and what makes¬†good¬†poetry. So take my comments with a grain of salt, I guess. With that being said, I thought the poems were interesting and beautiful at times. I really liked the perspectives from the different objects and I found the fire to be especially impactful for some reason (though I do feel like the fire’s last poem was missing, but maybe that was just because I had an ARC?). I also really liked the short sections that were quotes from her actual trial. In the end, I used to know nothing about Joan of Arc, and now I feel like I know a little bit about her. 4/5

Note: An ARC of this book was provided to the library where I work.

eBook | Hardcover

The Girl Who Drank the MoonThe Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Trigger warning: Intended infanticide

Ever since having a baby myself, I’ve found mentions of babies dying to be¬†really hard. So the beginning of this book was difficult for me. But then we get into it and Xan is amazing and I love her for saving all the babies. I really enjoyed all of the (good) characters in this book and the found family aspect was really fun to see. Luna, in particular, was a great character though I wish we’d gotten to know her and her personality a little bit better. I thought the ending was fantastic and tender and so much more than I had even realized I wanted it to be. The only thing about this book is that I question its middle grade-ness. I feel like if I was middle grade age, so much of this book would just go straight over my head. Only as an adult do I feel like I can even scratch the surface of what this book is about. 5/5

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

The Other EinsteinThe Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

This book was not my cup of tea. First of all, it’s never clear throughout the whole book which parts are completely fictionalized and which parts are true or partially true. I think I needed an author’s note in the beginning or something because I felt pretty confused throughout most of the book. I didn’t like any of the characters and found most relationships between characters to be stifling. I felt like Mileva was an extremely weak character and I just wanted her to stand up for herself. I also came out of this book completely hating Einstein which is kind of a weird feeling… 2.5/5

A country music love story | You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn [ARC]

You'd Be MineAnnie Mathers is country royalty. Her parents were both popular country singers and songwriters, but due to their tragic deaths, Annie is wary of following them into the spotlight. Clay Coolidge is currently country music’s hottest up-and-coming bad boy and when he asks Annie to join him on tour, she reluctantly accepts. As the tour and the summer progresses, Annie will have to decide just how far she wants to follow in her parent’s footsteps and whether her journey might have the same ending.

TL;DR – Flawed main characters have a surprising amount of depth. The author did a great job of creating emotion when I wasn’t expecting it.

Preorder: eBook | Hardcover

First, I’m just going to say that I really don’t like this cover. When I saw it on my Netgalley list I was like, “Man, why did I request¬†this?” But then I read the synopsis and remembered. I’m always down for a good celebrity romance book, but I was actually really surprised by how into this book I was. I could not put it down! As a new mom, I don’t really have time to read for hours at a time and I don’t always feel like picking up a book when I’ve got a spare 15 minutes, but I just kept coming back to this book. I wanted to know what would happen, but I also just really liked the characters–especially Annie.

The overall plot is nothing special, but I thought Annie’s conflict was really compelling. She kept seeing herself and Clay as an echo of her parents and she (obviously) didn’t want to end up like them. I thought she was realistically hesitant about getting into a relationship with Clay.¬† Hahn also did a good job creating this tragic backstory for Clay without it being too much. Secondary characters were pretty good, but they didn’t have a ton of depth. They were mostly around to support the main characters, but they were still enjoyable.

I also liked that for once we’re given a Christian character in YA who isn’t holier than thou or super prude–Annie is just normal! She mentions her faith a few times, but it isn’t overdone and this isn’t a Christian fic book. I also loved how Annie told Fitz that she doesn’t drink and he was super respectful of that. He just said, “I won’t ask again”. I love that!

I did have a few issues with the book, but they were super minor compared to everything else. First, I couldn’t tell if the author is a fan of country music or not? It mostly reads like a love letter to country, but every once in a while I felt like there was a little dig at the genre. Second, books about/with music are always hard for me because inevitably we get some lyrics, but there’s no melody so it just feels like something’s missing–I’m not getting the full effect. And sometimes I just really want to hear these songs! Lastly, when Annie writes and sings her song “You’d be Mine”, I feel like the first half of it is obviously about her parents while the second half is about her and Clay. But the characters only ever focus on the Clay section–I wish that Annie and the other characters had discussed that this is the first song she’s writing about her parents. It just felt really significant but it’s literally never addressed.

Overall, I was very surprised by how deep this book was. I thought it would be a light, summery celebrity romance, but there was so much more emotion than that. Hahn does a fantastic job exploring grief and how different people choose to deal with it. There were several parts in the book where I legit cried and I just wasn’t expecting that from this book. It was very close to a five star book for me, but not quite.

Overall Rating: 4.5
Language: Heavy
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate

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

Monday Minis [Mini-Reviews]

This month has been great for me so far reading-wise. I’ve gotten super into the Lumberjanes comics lately (I’m planning on writing a full review on the series when I’m finished). I’ve also been reading some non-fiction and book club picks. Here are some mini-reviews for you on some books that I’ve finished the last couple of months.

mini-reviews

Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

Dividing EdenRight off the bat, I’m super aggravated by the way that Andreus’ curse is dangled in front of our faces. They literally never explain what his “curse” is and it sounds like he just as asthma maybe? Which doesn’t actually seem like a big deal…but maybe I’m wrong because, again, THEY NEVER EXPLAIN. Overall, Andreus was such an annoying character. He was just so stupid and I literally don’t think he made a single good choice. Carys was better, but both she and Andreus mentioned how Carys is really good at making deductions and seeing things that others wouldn’t, but we never really see that happen either. Lastly, I would think that the bond between twins is stronger than it’s made out to be in this book. Carys obviously still cares about her twin, but Andreus drops her as soon as humanly possible once the competition starts. Again, he is so stupid. 2/5

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

On a SunbeamThis is a book that I picked up on a whim at the end of my shift one day. I don’t have a ton to say about it, but I thought it was really interesting and the artwork was beautiful. It’s really amazing how graphic novels can convey so much in one panel when it would take pages in a novel. I liked how the beginning of the book really stuck to the different color schemes to help the reader tell the two timelines apart. As the stories came together, the color schemes did as well and I thought that was really cool. I also really liked the fish ships and the world building in general was just really interesting. From what I could tell, it seems like this world (galaxy? universe?) is only populated by women, so if you’re looking for queer romance, this book is saturated with it. Lastly, I really enjoyed how much depth the secondary and minor characters had. It was surprising, to be honest, I mean even the school bully had this depth that didn’t get totally explored, but was touched on.¬†4/5

ebook | Hardcover | Paperback

Bonnie & Clyde: The Making of a Legend by Karen Blumenthal

Bonnie and ClydeI didn’t know very much about Bonnie and Clyde before reading this book. The author does a really good job throughout helping the reader to see what parts of their story is known as fact, what is believed to be true, and what is complete myth. Newspapers at the time weren’t super concerned with reporting that absolute truth and were more interested in the drama that was inherent with Bonnie and Clyde. A lot of times if something went down and the cops couldn’t figure out who it was, the newspapers would blame Bonnie and Clyde. Another thing I found interesting was that the cops at the time seemed to be SUPER incompetent. There wasn’t really any training. A lot of people just joined the force because they needed a little extra money and their regular work wasn’t cutting it. That’s part of the reason why Bonnie and Clyde were able to evade capture for so long. The last thing I really liked about this book was that the author had panels on each person that Bonnie and Clyde killed. Over time, Bonnie and Clyde have become wildly glamorized, but it’s important to remember that they killed A LOT of people. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

CoralineI saw a few clips from the movie a while back when it came out, and that kind of turned me off to reading the book. It was just kind of…weird. And I think I remember the other Miss Spink and Miss Forcible were wearing some pretty scandalous outfits? Anyway, I wasn’t really planning on reading this book, but then I did and I’m glad I decided to! This book was creepy and weird in all the best ways. I loved the cat–he was probably my favorite character–and Coraline was not far behind. She was super spunky and also a believable child. I think she had some intelligence and seriousness that made her feel more mature, but it wasn’t unbelievable that a child would act like that. I would have liked a little bit more of a hunt with Coraline looking for the marbles, but the story also felt really tight as it was. I just think it would have made it a little more fun, but I guess it wasn’t really a fun situation to be in. I liked how the story ended too, with part of the other mother making it into Coraline’s world. I think there’s some symbolism there (and throughout the book) that I’m probably missing, but I enjoyed it. I just need to figure out how to get my husband to like the name Coraline now… 4/5

ebook | Hardcover | Paperback