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:Ā May 16th, 2017
Genres: YA, Paranormal, Fantasy

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SYNOPSIS:Ā 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 theĀ 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 onĀ 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:Ā 4
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild


The Best Kind of Magic Blog Tour

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

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

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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tourĀ 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)Ā 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 reviewĀ 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 toĀ 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 sheĀ 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. TheĀ 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, theirĀ worlds are about to collide for the first time.

Okay, so I know that Brashares has written more things thanĀ JUSTĀ 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 forĀ 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 theĀ 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, IĀ 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)Ā 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.

Cyberbullying in a strange, future New York | The Takedown by Corrie Wang [ARC]

The TakedownKyle is a queen bee. She and her three best friends are the most popular girls in school. On top of that, she’s also on track to be school valedictorian and is working to get into all of her top choices for college. But all of that comes crashing down when a video is leaked of her having sex with her English teacher. Except…it’s not her. As the video goes viral, Kyle watches everything she’s built come crashing down. Nobody believes that it’s not her in the video, so it’s up to Kyle to prove that somebody’s out to get her.

This book first came to my attention because one of my favorite authors (Ryan Graudin) has been raving about it. Unfortunately, I found it to be pretty disappointing. First off, the setting is this really strange, future New York but it’s not really apparent that we’re in the future until a few chapters in. Was it necessary for the book to be set in the future? I don’t really think so. It just made it confusing because I had to learn about a completely new set of technology, social media, etc. And the way they talk was also really strange. It’s like…they would swear, but without the vowels? It was just super weird–I don’t actually think the English language is going to evolve like that.

Kyle, the main character, is not likable. I didn’t feel sympathy towards her or bad for her in any way. She just wasn’t likable and she didn’t really experience any growth. So if that was the goal, then the author definitely accomplished that. But if it wasn’t, then I think she needs to rethink how sheĀ writes her characters in the future. Kyle was just really entitled and selfish the whole book. She’s so focused on “me me me me me me” that she doesn’t notice anything that the people around her are doing. Her life is crashing down and she feels like everyone around her needs to be worrying about that as much, if not MORE, than she is.

The secondary characters were just okay. I didn’t really like any of them more than I liked Kyle. I also didn’t like that her brother was also named Kyle. The author gave a reason for that and I understand why it was “necessary” for the plot, but…just no. Figure out another way to accomplish that plot point because having a brother and a sister both named Kyle is just too weird and confusing.

The plot was also just okay. I’ve read a lot of books that are supposed to be a type of mystery, but there’s no way for the reader to solve it on their own. I’d like to read a book where the reader can take an active role in solving the mystery along with the characters. As it is, most books that involve a mystery just expect readers to sit back and enjoy the ride. This book was no different. Sure, there were clues. But in the end, there was really no way for the reader to decide who the “bad guy” was with any certainty. We just don’t get all of the facts until the very end. We’re left trailing the main character instead of working alongside them.

Overall, I was disappointed by this book. There were too many elements that just weren’t working for me. That being said, this book does have a rating of 4.03 on Goodreads, so take my review with a grain of salt I guess. I didn’t like it very much, but you might still enjoy it.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Heavy. Nothing very explicit, but this book is all about a sex tape so it’s talked about a lot.

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

A book that proves fans of YouTubers are the worst | At First Blush by Beth Ellyn Summer [ARC]

25613996Lacey (known on YouTube as LaceyBlushes) is passionate about two things: makeup and her subscribers. When she lands a coveted summer internship at a top fashion magazine, she welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with fellow YouTubers and expand her audience. There’s also the added bonus of working closely with the subject of the magazine’s August cover story–ex-boy band member Tyler Lance. Unfortunately, working at the magazine isn’t all that she expected and Lacey will have to decide who she really is: Lacey or LaceyBlushes?

I was not expecting much from this book but it totally blew me away! I am a full-blown convert to the YA Celeb Romance genre and this book totally delivered on that front. I liked the main characters quite a bit right from the start. Lacey seems like a really sweet girl and I love how she’s always thinking about her fans and subscribers. Tyler is a good character as well though we don’t really get to know him on as deep a level as we get to know Lacey since the book is in her POV. Their relationship was mostly good, but I didn’t feel that it was developed from Tyler’s side at all. He likes her almost right away but it’s never really explained why. Lacey’s a sweet girl and all, but how did she grab his attention? What drew him to her? He can have literally any girl he wants, so why did he choose Lacey? That’s not a knock on her, I just felt like I needed that additional information to fully believe their relationship.

The secondary characters were fine but were definitely secondary. Lacey’s fellow YouTubers helped to flesh out the story and made her time at the magazine more interesting. I really liked the make-up girl that Lacey ended up working with sometimes…I feel like her name was maybe Reagan? But I don’t remember. Sorry. Anyway, she was cool. Most of the secondary characters including the ones listed plus Lacey’s parents, Cynth, and Tyler’s bandmates all seemed pretty one-note, but that wasn’t too big of a deal since Tyler and Lacey really were the main focus of the book.

Plotwise, I saw some things coming and the main story line wasn’t anything mind-blowingly original. I thought that it was awesome how supportive Lacey’s parents were with her YouTubing, but the part of the plot that involved them at the end was a little much. It just didn’t feel all the way thought out or incorporated with the rest of the story. Then there was all the drama with Cynth too–I didn’t really like that. I didn’t feel that Cynth and Lacey’s relationship was that well developed in the first place, so then the drama just felt like too much when it happened.

Overall, I thought this book was really cute and fun! It made me a lot more interested in watching makeup tutorials on YouTube. On another note, I also had the realization that viewers, followers, subscribers, etc. are the worst. When Lacey starts doing things that her subscribers don’t like, they turn on her SO FAST. Even though this is just a story, that kind of thing definitely happens in real life all the time. I mean, just because a YouTuber chooses to put some of their life on the internet for our viewing pleasure does not give us the right to try to dictate how they choose to actually live. Do people realize that? Anyway…rant over. I just felt really sick about some of the people on the internet these days after reading this book. With that being said, this book is awesome and I definitely recommend it if you need something cute and light to read.

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

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

BLOG TOUR: Everyday Magic by Emily Albright [GIVEAWAY]

Everyday Magic Everyday Magic
by Emily Albright
Release Date: December 2nd 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

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Note: This book is technically the second in a series, but can be read as a standalone. The first book in the series is The Heir and the Spare.

SYNOPSIS:Ā For once, Maggie McKendrick just wants to control her own life. Her overbearing Hollywood director father has it all planned out for her: UCLA, law school, then working as an entertainment lawyer, preferably for him. But Maggie has other, more creative-spirit friendly, plans. Namely, Thrippletons School of Fashion and Design in England, and then onto becoming a designer, preferably a wildly successful one. The big snag in her plan? Getting it past her dad.

A movie shoot takes the family to the Scottish Highlands for the summer, and closer to Maggieā€™s dream school. While there, she runs into the charming Preston Browne. Maggie is intrigued and decides to bend her no guys ruleā€”instituted after her ex used her to get close to her dad. Forced to keep secrets from Preston in order to protect the future plans sheā€™s made, Maggie finds herself falling for the tall Brit. And for once in her life she knows that heā€™s interested in her, not her Hollywood connections. When Maggie’s father blackmails her into dating his lead actor, she isnā€™t left with a choice. The biggest problem isnā€™t having to date hunky, mega-hottie, Ben Chambers. No, itā€™s praying she doesnā€™t lose Preston in the process.

Excelling at her dream school, Maggieā€™s personal life is a tangled mess. She needs to decide if living a lie is worth losing Preston or chance going against her father and facing his wrath. When the tabloids expose the truth of her fake relationship with Ben, Maggie’s world is thrown into a tailspin. Ultimately, Maggie must find the courage to take risks and forge ahead on her own path.

REVIEW: While I liked the first book in this series fine, I definitely liked this one better. I really liked Preston from the first book, so I was excited to learn a little more about him in this one. Maggie as a main character was fun and interesting. I really liked that she had such a clear vision for herself and she had the passion and drive to make it happen. I also really liked her relationships with her mom and brother. Her dad on the other hand…maybe I’m a bit naive, but I just don’t even want to believe that there are people out there who are that evil. But, you know, definitely a very hateable character. That’s all I’ll say about him.

Like the first book, nothing was really groundbreaking as far as the plot went, but it was still enjoyable nevertheless. While I enjoyed some of the added subplots, there were a couple of times that I felt like the author was trying to cram in too many different ideas into one book. Instead of taking the time to really develop different plotlines, everything was kind of crammed together and happening at the same time. It just made the book feel kind of busy, but again, I still enjoyed it.

Overall, I thought the book was a great follow-up to The Heir and the Spare. I did enjoy seeing some of the original characters and catching up with them. I have a feeling that there will be a third book in the series but I’m not sure who it’s going to feature…Maggie’s brother? Suze? Someone else entirely? I’ll definitely be on the lookout though.

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


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Emily AlbrightABOUT THE AUTHOR:Ā 
Emily Albright’s debut novel, THE HEIR AND THE SPARE, was released on January 18, 2016 from Merit Press.

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 :).

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