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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLOG TOUR: The Captain’s Daughter by Jennifer Delamere

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

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Website|Goodreads|Twitter|Facebook|Pinterest


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

BLOG TOUR: The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cestari [GIVEAWAY]

the best kind of magicThe Best Kind of Magic
by Crystal Cestari
Release Date: May 16th, 2017
Genres: YA, Paranormal, Fantasy

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SYNOPSIS:¬†Amber Sand is not a witch. The Sand family Wicca gene somehow leapfrogged over her. But she did get one highly specific magical talent: she can see true love. As a matchmaker, Amber’s pretty far down the sorcery food chain (even birthday party magicians rank higher), but after five seconds of eye contact, she can envision anyone’s soul mate.

Amber works at her mother’s magic shop–Windy City Magic–in downtown Chicago, and she’s confident she’s seen every kind of happy ending there is: except for one–her own. (The Fates are tricky jerks that way.) So when Charlie Blitzman, the mayor’s son and most-desired boy in school, comes to her for help finding his father’s missing girlfriend, she’s distressed to find herself falling for him. Because while she can’t see her own match, she can see his–and it’s not Amber. How can she, an honest peddler of true love, pursue a boy she knows full well isn’t her match?

The Best Kind of Magic is set in urban Chicago and will appeal to readers who long for magic in the real world. With a sharp-witted and sassy heroine, a quirky cast of mystical beings, and a heady dose of adventure, this novel will have you laughing out loud and questioning your belief in happy endings.

REVIEW: My expectations weren’t super high going into this book. I thought I’d like it, but maybe around a 3. I ended up liking it much more than I thought I would and I think that’s because the main character (Amber) is super likable. Her narration was enjoyable to read and she had this great sense of humor that made everything a lot more fun.

The setting of this book is fantastic. I’m already 100% in love with Chicago, but this book just made the city feel that much more magical. Sometimes books are set in a specific “destination” but actually, it could have been set anywhere because the book doesn’t really include any specifics–just super vague language to describe the city. That is NOT the case with this book. The author throws in all kinds of fun details like descriptions of Navy Pier and the Magnificent Mile. The author also mentions both Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s which are both well-known Chicagoan deep dish pizza joints. It just made me fall in love with the city all over again. It really felt like Chicago without the¬†character having to visit every single touristy thing (like the Cloud Gate or something). Also, this book made me want to eat all of the baked goods. I’m seriously craving Amber’s homemade blueberry muffins right now.

Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sold on¬†the magic aspect of this book. I mean…does everyone just accept that magic exists? Because all of Amber’s classmates are approaching her about their soulmates. Do they actually believe that Amber can tell them who their soulmate is? Or do they see her as just another psychic of sorts? And shouldn’t Amber be trying to keep a low profile and not let her classmates know about her power? How secretive is the magical society trying to be? Because it honestly doesn’t really seem like they’re trying to be that secret. Anyway. I just had a ton of questions about the magical community, etc. (Vampire attacks? Goblins? How is the public not noticing any of this???)

There were some other things I didn’t love as much from the book. The plot was just okay. It was more used as a device to get Amber and Charlie together which I’m not necessarily super mad at, but it made the plot not very exciting. Speaking of Charlie, he seemed a little too mature for who he was supposed to be. I feel that a lot of teenage boys from YA are written a lot more mature than they actually should be. I mean…I know the guys I went to high school with…and they’re nothing like these YA love interests. Amber’s mom was another kind of weird character that I wasn’t sure about. I just don’t feel like we ever got a clear picture of her motivations at all.

Overall, I thought this book was pretty great. It’s a light fantasy with some romance and I guess it’s going to be a series? I’m not really sure where it’s going to go from here, but I’ll definitely be reading!

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


The Best Kind of Magic Blog Tour

Click on the banner above to be taken to the giveaway! Please note that while you can enter multiple giveaways from the blog tour, you are only allowed to win once. If you win more than one giveaway, please alert one of the bloggers so that we can pick another winner. We just want everyone to get a chance!



Crystal CestariABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
With rainbows in my hair and stories in my head, I am a writer drawn to magic in the everyday world.

My debut novel, The Best Kind of Magic, arrives May 16, 2017 from Hyperion. Follow Amber Sand, a magical matchmaker who can actually see true love, as she takes off on a fun and romantic adventure toward happily ever after.

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Fantastic Flying Book Club

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

Daybreak is Not Your Normal Summer Camp | The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord [ARC]

The Names They Gave UsLucy is ready for her summer to go exactly according to plan. She’ll be spending the summer at the Christian summer camp that her parents own just like she does every summer. When she gets back, she’ll spend time with her perfect boyfriend Lukas until her senior year starts. Unfortunately, her mom’s cancer is back with a vengeance. Before she knows it, Lukas has paused their relationship and Lucy is headed to be a counselor at Camp Daybreak for the summer at her mother’s request. Lucy is baffled as to why her mom would send her away to a “hippie camp” instead of wanting to spend an entire summer together at their Christian camp. The summer has a lot in store for Lucy and she’ll question her faith while finding that her family’s history isn’t as cut and dry as she once thought.

I keep trying Emery Lord’s books because I hope that something will compare to The Start of Me and You (which I LOVED)¬†but I’m starting to think that it’s never going to happen. Stephanie @Stephanie’s Book Reviews really hit the nail on the head in her review¬†where she talks about feeling like Lord is just trying too hard. For me, I just felt like she was trying to cram in SO MANY ISSUES. First, we have Lucy who’s trying to reconcile her faith with all of the things that are going on in her life. Then we have her mom who has cancer. Then there’s also a transgender character and all of the stuff that comes out about Lucy’s family history…it’s just a little much. I wish that the author had maybe edited some of that stuff out. It was just a little overwhelming as a reader.

Lucy was okay as a protagonist but I had a really hard time with some elements of her character. For example, as I started this book I was super excited because I have been WAITING for an author to give us a portrayal of a normal Christian character outside of Christian Fiction. I really thought Lucy was going to be that character for me, but almost immediately she starts having this crisis of faith which is completely understandable for her situation, but wasn’t what I was hoping for. In addition, I felt like she was just kind of unrealistic? I feel that Christians get a bad rap a lot of the time for being “sheltered” or “naive”. Like, Lucy gets uncomfortable when people around her use Christ’s name in vain, but then she doesn’t blink an eye when a character comes out as transgender. That’s just not consistent! First of all, I don’t think that a normal Christian teenager is going to blink at somebody else saying “Jesus Christ” about something–I know I didn’t. It was just stuff like that…I don’t know. One positive about her, is that in the end I really did like her relationship with her parents.

The secondary characters were pretty good and mostly well developed. Everybody at Daybreak has a past and we get into that a little bit with Jones and Annabelle and others. The one thing I will say is that Jones seemed too good for Lucy and honestly kind of unrealistic. I know he had some stuff in his life that made him more mature than his age, but is any teenage boy really going to act like him? It honestly felt like he was closer to 25 than 17 or 18.

Overall, I thought this book was just okay. I didn’t dislike it as much as When We Collided but it’s nothing compared to¬†The Start of Me and You. Some people have had an issue with the ending, but I’ll go on the record as saying that I didn’t hate it. It was definitely bittersweet, but that’s life, right? Some trigger warnings real quick: this book contains some mention of suicide, physical abuse, and bullying. Probably others too, but sorry those are the ones I can come up with right now.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate. Some underage drinking.
Sexual Content: Moderate

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

A promising premise ultimately falls short of expectations | Aversion by Kenechi Udogu

AversionGemma Green is an Averter. It’s her job to keep those assigned to her from doing things that will throw the rest of their lives off track. Unfortunately, her first aversion doesn’t go quite as planned. The boy she was assigned to avert, Russ Tanner, seems to remember her the next day at school and that’s definitely NOT supposed to happen. As Gemma tries to keep her distance from Russ, she’ll uncover secrets she didn’t even know were being kept from her and she’ll try to figure out just what it means to be a female Averter.

As you can tell from my title, I felt this book had a promising premise, but ultimately it didn’t quite do it for me. I liked the main character, Gemma, but I didn’t always understand why she made the decisions she did. More often than not, she convinced herself to make certain decisions that I thought were pretty obviously unwise. Perhaps this is just my age showing, but there were many times when she would consider following her dad’s instructions, but then she¬†would cave to Russ. At the time, this felt extremely unwarranted since, aside from Gemma’s intuition, the reader wasn’t given much cause to trust Russ. Russ himself was a likable guy, but we don’t really get to know who he is throughout the story. I believe Russ is a POC, though, so props for the diversity and I love that this book features an interracial romance.

The writing in this book was pretty good, but I felt the narration style made the story drag. The beginning of the book was extremely info-dumpy. There’s obviously a lot that the reader needs to learn about Averters and aversions, but the way it was presented was hard to digest. Gemma is our narrator and it feels like she addresses the reader directly to explain all of this background. I just felt like this section seemed a bit unnatural. Why is she addressing the reader? Are we part of the story? Is she actually speaking to another character through us? As the narration continues, we get a lot of Gemma’s inner monologue and that also kept the pace from picking up. There’s a fine balance between helping the reader to understand the character and her emotions while also keeping the plot moving. There were certain action sequences that I think could have been more exciting if Gemma wasn’t thinking so much. A lot of her thoughts were pretty repetitive as well which just contributed to the feeling of the story not moving forward.

Overall, I thought the premise was strong and unique, but the details could have used a little more work. I was kind of disturbed by the whole Averters having to mate with specifically chosen/groomed women… In the end, it’s clear to me that the ideas are there, I just think they need a little fine tuning. For those interested, this is the first book in a four book series (a trilogy and a prequel) all of which are published.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Mild
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Mild. The mating thing is mentioned quite a few times, but nothing is ever explicit.

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

No traveling pants, but still a good read | The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares [ARC]

The Whole Thing TogetherRay and Sasha are more or less part of the same family. They grew up in the same house, with the same sisters, in the same bedroom…but they’ve never met. A long time ago, Ray’s mom used to be married to Sasha’s dad. A nasty divorce and two remarriages later, Ray and Sasha were born. 17 years later, their¬†worlds are about to collide for the first time.

Okay, so I know that Brashares has written more things than¬†JUST¬†The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but I honestly haven’t read anything else by her. I remembered really like that series though, so I decided to give this one a shot since it had a really intriguing premise to me. Right away, I really enjoyed the writing. The narration and dialogue all flowed together really well and the writing made the book very easy to read. The plot wasn’t super predictable, but there also wasn’t much that happened that was super surprising. This book is more about the characters anyway.

Family dynamics are very interesting. I’m going to say that it’s impossible for a family to be completely drama-free and the family in this book is definitely not an exception. The narration rotates between the five kids: the original three sisters (Emma, Quinn, and Mattie) and the new kids (Ray and Sasha). That, at times, got confusing for me. I was reading a digital ARC and sometimes there wasn’t a clear indicator that the book was changing narrators–I hope that’s something that is fixed or different in the physical book. That being said, if the narrators had very different tones or voices, this wouldn’t have been so confusing. Unfortunately, all of the narrators pretty much sound alike. It was very difficult to tell them apart just from the language. The only signals we get are from context.

The good thing about having so many narrators, though, is that I really felt like I got to know each of the siblings on a pretty deep level. If there had just been one or two narrators, we would have only gotten to know the other characters on a superficial level from our narrator’s perspective. I enjoyed getting to know how characters were perceived but then also having the internal viewpoint for each of them. I expected to not like at least one of the siblings, but I honestly really came to care for each of them in separate ways. Obviously they each had some less desirable traits, but I was willing to overlook them because I felt like I knew each of them on a deeper level so those things didn’t matter.

The only kind of negative thing that really stood out to me was that Jaime’s family seemed a little random. They had a ton of drama as well, but then they’re not really explored at all. I would have either liked more exploration there, or less description of it.

After reading (and pretty much loving) this book, I was surprised to see that there were many negative reviews for this book on Goodreads. One reviewer in particular (who admits to being a straight, white, female) thought that this book displayed “blatant sexism, body-shaming of all sorts, stereotyping, and some racism”. While I could see her points, I just wanted to give my two cents on some of those things. I’m also straight and female, but I’m only a quarter white so I might have a slightly different perspective.

“Blatant Sexism”. The reviewer points out a section of the book where one of our main characters, Ray, is looking at another character’s body–specifically her chest. The reviewer’s response: “This is a direct example of the ‘boys will be boys’ attitude that results in the normalization of rape and sexual assault. What could Ray do? Well I’ll tell you–he could have not looked down at Sasha’s dress, and kept his eyes to himself…” I see her point and I’m not at all trivializing the normalization of rape and sexual assault that is happening. However, I was listening to an interesting podcast the other day. It was a rerun for¬†This American Life (great podcast if you’re not already a subscriber). It was an episode completely about testosterone (listen here). In one of the sections the reporter was interviewing a transgender man about his transition. As part of the¬†transition, he had to be injected with a very high dosage of testosterone. It was really interesting to hear him talk about how he thought about women pre-transition (and testosterone) versus post. There was a stark difference. Obviously, we all have agency and can make our own choices, right? However, as a woman, I felt that my eyes were opened to this chemical thing that happens in boys that doesn’t happen in girls that I really had no idea about. It seems apparent to me that it’s not just a moral or ethical thing, but that natural chemicals and hormones are coming into play as well. I guess what my point is, is that even though I agree that Ray shouldn’t have been looking at Sasha’s chest, I¬†don’t feel that this interaction was necessarily out of place. I was uncomfortable when I read it too, but I’m not necessarily angry at Brashares for including it–I feel like I get it.

“Some Racism”. The reviewer describes her frustration that an Indian American man (actually he was raised in Canada)¬†is stereotypically a “tech genius”. Just as an aside here, I thought he was in finance, but I could have gotten that wrong. Another reviewer criticized the fact that this same character, Robert, was really trying to downplay the fact that he was Indian and wanted nothing more than to be just like all the white men out there. I can see why that’s bothersome, but I feel like we need to look at the overall context here. He was adopted by white parents and it sounded like he was raised in a white community. So from that perspective, it makes sense that he might not identify as being Indian–he wasn’t raised that way. In addition, it can be frustrating for people to make assumptions about you based on your physical appearance (I speak from personal experience here). I can understand why Robert would want to be “as white as possible” (for lack of a better term) since that’s more or less what he identifies as.

Those are just some of my thoughts about the negative comments that have been made about this book. I think a lot of the problems that people have with this book just need to be viewed in the appropriate context instead of being taken out and examined under a microscope. I, personally, was not offended by the book as a woman or as a person of color–in fact, I actually really enjoyed it! I’ll allow you to judge for yourself, but I don’t think these negative reviews should be enough to keep you from reading it if you would have picked it up otherwise.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Heavy
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate (some drinking and some underage smoking)
Sexual Content: Moderate (nothing explicit).

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