Based off of Clue, but somehow not as fun | In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund [ARC]

A few students are left behind at Blackbrook Academy tying up a few loose ends. This wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem, but when a harsh winter storm hits, they’re left stranded in one of the school’s dorm houses and have no choice but to bunk down for the night. When they wake up the next morning, they find that Headmaster Boddy has been stabbed! Was it suicide? A looter? Or someone in the house?

TL;DR – The mystery itself wasn’t super compelling and in the end it came out feeling half-baked.

I requested this book for two reasons: 1) I like Clue and 2) I’ve really enjoyed some of Diana Peterfreund’s other books (the Jane Austen retellings). Unfortunately, this book fell extremely flat for me. First of all, I couldn’t figure out what this collection of students was doing on campus? Why wasn’t anyone else there? This may have been explained and I just missed it, but that question was hanging over the entire book for me.

Another problem was that I didn’t feel a connection to any of the characters. They all had these backstories, but none of them got enough screen time to get fleshed out. Instead, tragedies were hinted at (repeatedly) but never explained. This just ended up making me annoyed with all of the characters for not explaining themselves. There were also two random characters that were completely unnecessary? I guess this is supposed to be the first book in a series, so maybe they’ll come into play in later books. But honestly, this book does not make me want to pick up the rest of the series. If I had to pick a favorite character I guess I would say Orchid? She was the least annoying.

And then we come to the “mystery”. It felt extremely light. A murder occurred IN THE HOUSE that all of these students were sleeping in and I felt like there should’ve been a more…horrific tone to the book perhaps? But that just wasn’t there. I didn’t find the mystery compelling at all and wasn’t super invested in figuring out who the killer was. Too many of the characters were like, “Well, I know it’s not ME”. With the actual game of Clue it very well COULD be you, so that may have been something interesting to play with (sleepwalking? bad reaction to sleeping pills?). Unfortunately, what we actually get is an unsatisfying, half-baked solution tacked on at the end.

Overall, I felt like this just wasn’t a great book. I didn’t feel like it was written very clearly. I thought it did fairly well as a Clue tribute, but it even had some room to lean into that a little more too. In the end, I think they should have more firmly chosen what direction to take this book in (Clue tribute or murder mystery) without trying to do both. That may seem contradictory…but that’s how I feel.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: None

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

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BLOG TOUR: Who I Am with You by Robin Lee Hatcher [GIVEAWAY]

who i am with youWho I Am with You
by Robin Lee Hatcher
Release Date: December 11, 2018
Genres: Christian fiction, Romance

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N

SYNOPSIS: For these two broken hearts, the first step toward love will be a huge leap of faith.

Jessica Mason isn’t looking for love when she meets Ridley Chesterfield. Instead she is still reeling from the tragic, unexpected loss of her husband and daughter—and awaiting the arrival of her unborn child. Harboring the secret of her husband’s betrayal, her pain is deeper than anyone knows.

Ridley Chesterfield is hiding out in Hope Springs, Idaho, avoiding a political scandal and the barrage of false media headlines that have tarnished his good name. The last thing Ridley wants is a relationship—but when fate leads Ridley to form a friendship with his reclusive and pregnant neighbor, he wonders if this small-town hideout might be more of a long-term destination.

When Jessica begins to read her great-grandfather’s Bible, she finds a connection with a man she never knew. Somehow the verses he marked and the words he wrote in the margins open her heart to healing. And as Ridley and Jessica help each other forgive the people who have broken their hearts, they must decide if the past will define them or if they will choose to love again.

Who I Am with You weaves together a modern-day romance with Jessica’s great-grandfather’s story from the 1930s, reminding us that some truths can cross generations and that faith has the power to transform families forever.

Who I Am with You is the first book in Robin’s new “A Legacy of Faith” series.

REVIEW: I’m always a little wary of Christian fiction because I think sometimes the religion aspect is too heavy handed. That being said, I thought Hatcher struck a great balance with this book. Obviously their faith is present, but the characters aren’t talking to God or reflecting on Christ every other paragraph.

Both Jessica and Ridley were enjoyable, sympathetic characters. They both start off the book a little angry because of things that had happened to them in their past and it was interesting to see the different ways that they dealt with that anger. Ridley chose to escape and turn to God, while Jessica chose to become more closed off and independent. The reader gets a chance to see both characters develop as they work towards forgiving those that have wronged them.

The plot is nothing crazy, but it helps us to get to know the characters and by the end, the reader really wants both Jessica and Ridley to be happy. Andrew’s sections were not quite as compelling to me, so I was glad that they were significantly shorter than the present day narrative. One thing I wished was that more of a connection was struck between Jessica and Andrew. I think it mentions her reading through his Bible once? They were going through some similar things I would have liked to have seen Jessica find more comfort and kinship in her great-grandfather.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. It’s the first book in the series and it looks like the next book starts with Jessica handing off Andrew’s Bible to another relative. It will be interesting to see how Andrew’s story continues with this new family member.

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


Who I Am with You blog tour

Click on the banner above to be taken to the giveaway!



robin lee hatcherABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of over 75 novels and novellas with over five million copies of her books in print. She is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. Robin is an ACFW Carol Award winner and an eight-time finalist and has won two RITA Awards and been a finalist eleven times. Her numerous other awards include the Christy Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Reader’s Choice Award, and the Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award. She is also the recipient of prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards from both American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.

When not writing, she enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, Bible art journaling, reading books that make her cry, watching romantic movies, and decorative planning. A mother and grandmother, Robin and her husband make their home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with a demanding Papillon dog and a persnickety tuxedo cat.

For more information, visit www.robinleehatcher.com, Facebook: robinleehatcher, Twitter: @robinleehatcher and Instagram @robinleehatcher.


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

Another book about kids with special powers | The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

I found this book to be SUPER underwhelming. I read it because the movie was coming out and Mandy Moore is in it and it has such a high star rating on Goodreads. Honestly, I just feel like I read the book too late. If I had read it about five years ago not long after it came out, I think I would have loved it. As it is, I felt like the book really dragged and the characters weren’t super interesting to me. The author didn’t really explain anything either, but maybe that comes in the later books?

I found the romance to be cringey at best and eye-rolly at worst. It verges on insta-love and the love interest is this perfect specimen of a teenage boy. Literally, his only flaw is that he cares too much about the little guy. The main character’s motivations seemed extremely fluid and didn’t make for a very concrete character. I will say that the secondary characters of Zume and Chubs were a nice addition, but they weren’t enough to save this book.

While there were a few plot points that genuinely took me by surprise, overall this book was predictable and much, much longer than it needed to be. It took me almost an entire month to read simply because there was nothing drawing me back to it.

While the cliffhanger was surprising and, honestly, completely wrecked me, I do not plan on reading the rest of this series. Or watching the movie tbh.

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

BLOG TOUR: Perfect Harmony by Emily Albright [GIVEAWAY]

Perfect HarmonyPerfect Harmony
by Emily Albright
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Genres: Young Adult – Contemporary, Romance

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N|Book Depository

SYNOPSIS: Pippa Wyndham is a top cellist―she’d never settle for anything less. Determined to get into the nation’s most prestigious music college, nothing’s going to stand in her way… Until her senior year of high school when a new guy from a fancy New York conservatory transfers to her school.

Declan Brogan’s cocky, and he knows how amazing he is at the cello. He has every intention of knocking Pippa out of first chair and showing her who really belongs on top. Forced together when assigned a duet, their personal competition and mutual dislike transform into a teasing friendship.

Torn between her childhood crush and the boy who threatens her dreams, Pippa finds herself at risk of losing her best friend, her future, and the boy who makes her heart melt. Struggling to make things right, Pippa discovers that sometimes the thing you want the most doesn’t always end up being the thing you need.

REVIEW: I’ve really enjoyed Emily Albright’s books in the past, so I was really excited for this one. Pippa is younger than Albright’s other protagonists and I think that made the whole book feel a little more immature than I would have liked. She has like…no self control around Declan. Which is weird because it seems like someone at such a high level of musical talent would have to have at least a modicum of self control, but hormones I guess.

Pippa and Declan were both fine as characters and I liked Phillip and Jenna, but Quinn and Noah were both just awful characters in my opinion. Quinn is not a good friend and I wish Jenna had gotten more screen time because she seemed awesome.

The plot wasn’t anything revolutionary, but it was enjoyable nonetheless in the same way that rom coms are enjoyable. You know what’s going to happen but not exactly how it’s going to get there and when it does, it’s still satisfying. Even though I knew how the book was going to end, I feel like Albright still created some tension and there was a little niggling bit of doubt as to how it might end.

Overall, this book was good but not great. I appreciated learning about the cello and some of the different music schools across the country–I honestly only knew about Julliard. One thing that stood out to me that I didn’t really like was some unnecessary descriptions that the author included. I think I read different paragraphs about Pippa unlocking her car and loading her cello into the back about 50 times. Other than that, the book is enjoyable and doesn’t take too much brain power. If you’re looking for something light and musical to read, this is your book!

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


Perfect Harmony Blog Tour

Click on the banner above to be taken to the giveaway!



Emily AlbrightABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Emily Albright is the author of EVERYDAY MAGIC and THE HEIR AND THE SPARE, both available now from Simon Pulse. Her next novel PERFECT HARMONY will release 9.18.2018.

She’s a writer, a major bookworm, a lover of romantic movies, a wife, a mother, an owner of one adorable (yet slightly insane) cockapoo, and uses way too many :).

Website|Goodreads|Twitter|Instagram


Fantastic Flying Book Club 2

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

Celeb romance with a psychological twist | Tell Me No Lies by A.V. Geiger [ARC]

Note: This is the second book in a duology and may contain spoilers for the first book. For my review on the first book, Follow Me Back, please click here.

Tell Me No LiesTessa is obsessed with Eric Thorn and now her wildest fangirl dreams are coming true–they’re officially dating. It’s not quite the fairytale she imagined, however, as she just had to frame herself for Eric’s murder. Now she and Eric are in hiding, but when another celebrity outs Eric’s death as #fakenews, he’s forced to go back to work for his label and they’re working him harder than ever. Tessa barely gets to see him and she starts to wonder if Eric really still cares for her.

TL;DR – Not as good as the first book in the duology. The author spreads herself over too many minor plot points and the main plot suffers.

I don’t remember really having an issue with the main characters in the last book, but man, in this book both Tessa and Eric are kind of annoying. All of the sudden they both just seemed really young to me. I mean, I think they’re both supposed to be like 17? And they’ve run off together? Um, no. Just no. Their interactions with each other as well as with other characters just seemed kind of immature.

Something I did like is that this book kind of takes a look at social media and some of the potentially damaging effects of it. However, I didn’t feel like it was always seamlessly integrated. I also liked the mental health representation. I liked the fact that it was there, but I did find myself wondering every once in a while about the authenticity of it. I just felt like a lot of Tessa’s actions and reactions didn’t make much sense to me, but that’s coming from someone without an anxiety disorder. So if anyone has any input on how authentic they felt Tessa’s anxiety disorder was portrayed, please let me know.

The plot in this book was just not as good as the last book was. I felt like the author spread herself a little thin with her other minor plot points like Tessa’s relationship with her mom and the other thing that happens that I don’t want to mention because of spoilers. These other plot points, while potentially interesting, just seemed kind of random and unnecessary. I wish the author had spent more time developing the main plot. While the book still had me guessing who was behind everything, I don’t feel like it was as twisty-turny as the first book and that’s something that I really loved.

Overall, this book isn’t awful, but I also didn’t think it was that good. I just remember feeling really amazed and confused at the end of the first book and this one did not leave me with that same feeling.

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

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

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

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