Accidentally reading Christian Fiction | Mini-Reviews

First off, let me just say that I have nothing against Christian Fiction. I’ve read, reviewed, and enjoyed multiple Christian Fiction titles. However, when you’re not expecting a book to have a religious slant and then it does, it’s a little jarring. Am I the only one who thinks that?

11948994First Date by Krista McGee

I thought this book was going to have a really fun teen Bachelor-esque vibe to it. Instead, it mostly focused on our main character and her internal debate about whether or not to tell the people around her that she’s Christian. Which…to be honest, I don’t really understand the dilemma especially when she’s reading her Bible out where everyone can see. She also has an internal struggle about not being able to date someone who’s not Christian. Here’s the thing, I grew up in a very religious household and our church definitely has a culture of encouraging people to marry within the same church. However, it’s definitely not expected that someone would not go to Prom with someone else because their beliefs weren’t the same. So I just thought that whole subplot was weird and unnecessary. To be honest, I didn’t really like much about this book. The characters were dull, the plot and backstory too contrived, and mean girls/antagonists were mean for no reason. 2/5

An Uncertain ChoiceAn Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

This was an easy, clean romance and I actually found myself enjoying it quite a bit. Again, I didn’t know it was going to be Christian Fiction going into it, but this one I didn’t mind as much as the other two. It wasn’t so in your face. The main character seemed like a genuinely lovely person, though I do wish she had asserted herself a little bit more (of course, if she had, then there wouldn’t have been a story). There were a few times when the POV changed suddenly and without warning so I was left scrambling, trying to figure out who the narrator was. The author is obviously trying to keep it a mystery who a certain character is, but it’s so obvious from literally the very beginning of the book. I either wanted it to be an actual mystery, or I wanted it to not be a mystery at all. 4/5

The Healer's ApprenticeThe Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

Okay, so again, let me just emphasize that I am a VERY religious person, but there are still times when I feel that the religious aspect of a book is too much. This was one of those times. I think part of it was an attempt to be historically accurate (they were super religious back then, right?) but it just detracted from and bogged down the rest of the plot in my opinion. The book felt like it was moving so slow. It was agonizing because I spotted the plot twist from a mile away. I was pretty much just waiting for the characters to catch up with me for 2/3 of the book. 3/5

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Aliens! The End of the World! | Zero Repeat Forever by G.S. Prendergast [ARC]

28945665Raven, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s identical twin brother got in some trouble. Instead of being sent to Juvie, they were given permission to work at a summer camp as camp counselors instead. That’s where they were when the Nahx arrived. The Nahx use their high-tech dart guns to kill any humans they encounter sparing no one. That is, until Raven. Not only did the Nahx she meet leave her alive, but he carried her to a place where her friends could safely find her. A Nahx has never showed a human mercy before, so why her?

First of all, I find the overall premise of this book kind of weird. I don’t know why I keep requesting sci-fi alien books, because I don’t actually like them very much. But anyway, I did like some things about this book. The emotions that I felt at times really took me by surprise. I was going along reading and then all of the sudden one of the scenes really hit me and I really began to empathize with Eighth. Like seriously, my heart just broke for him. Raven, on the other hand, I never really liked. I just didn’t really find her authentic as a character. She had all these mood swings. I mean, I understand that she’s currently witnessing the end of the world and that her boyfriend was killed and all that, but the context in which she has mood swings just didn’t really fit. So with that being said, her and Eighth’s relationship wasn’t my favorite. Eighth deserved better.

The writing in this book was kind of weird at times. It was very slow-moving to begin with, but then the flow wasn’t great or consistent. I mean, the book is almost 500 pages so it’ll take a little while to get through. It also deals with some HEAVY topics like abusive relationships, racism, grief, hope, identity. Just to name a few.

Overall, I thought this book was just okay. It didn’t blow me away, but I didn’t hate it either. Like I said earlier, I was surprised by the depth of the emotions I was feeling in the middle of the book, but I still didn’t particularly care for almost all of the characters. If you’re already into sci-fi, though, you might like this one.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
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

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

Paper Hearts

Paper Hearts by Ali Novak [ARC]

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

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

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

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

BLOG TOUR: League of American Traitors by Matthew Landis [GIVEAWAY]

League of American TraitorsLeague of American Traitors
by Matthew Landis
Release Date: August 8th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Historical

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N|Book Depository

SYNOPSIS: Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. . . . 

When seventeen year-old Jasper is approached at the funeral of his deadbeat father by a man claiming to be an associate of his deceased parents, he’s thrust into a world of secrets tied to America’s history—and he’s right at the heart of it.

First, Jasper finds out he is the sole surviving descendant of Benedict Arnold, the most notorious traitor in American history. Then he learns that his father’s death was no accident. Jasper is at the center of a war that has been going on for centuries, in which the descendants of the heroes and traitors of the American Revolution still duel to the death for the sake of their honor.

His only hope to escape his dangerous fate on his eighteenth birthday? Take up the research his father was pursuing at the time of his death, to clear Arnold’s name.

Whisked off to a boarding school populated by other descendants of notorious American traitors, it’s a race to discover the truth. But if Jasper doesn’t find a way to uncover the evidence his father was hunting for, he may end up paying for the sins of his forefathers with his own life.

Like a mash-up of National Treasure and Hamilton, Matthew Landis’s debut spins the what-ifs of American history into a heart-pounding thriller steeped in conspiracy, clue hunting, and danger.

REVIEW: I absolutely loved the premise of this book. Just the idea of the descendants of America’s most hated traitors coming together has so much potential. This book actually made me wonder where the real descendants are and what they’re doing. Beyond that, however, I felt the story needed a little bit of development. On a technical level, the transitions between sections weren’t always very smooth and it made things a little confusing at times. Like, things would be happening, but I wasn’t actually sure WHAT was happening. The book is less than 300 pages long and I really think it could’ve benefited from being longer to fill in some of the gaps.

The characters were likable, but didn’t really develop. I liked Jasper quite a bit as a main character, but I felt like his relationship with Nora came out of nowhere. I didn’t actually think they made sense as a couple and we didn’t really get to see the feelings develop on either side. Jasper thought about her a few times, but I honestly couldn’t tell if his feelings were platonic or romantic until he actually talked about kissing her.

I thought the plot was fine. Maybe some of it would have made a little more sense if I was a big history buff, but I’m not. Pacing was a little bit of an issue because some scenes would go really slow, but then it felt like the story would fast forward all of the sudden. I kind of saw the ending coming…but then didn’t at the same time. It was definitely a plus that I was kept guessing and I liked that it wasn’t some random character that hadn’t been introduced. But why did Jasper’s hair get mentioned so many times? I didn’t really get that.

Overall, I thought this book was pretty good. If you’re into American history, you might really like this book. I thought the premise was AMAZING but didn’t necessarily live up to its potential.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild


League of American Traitors Giveaway

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



Matthew LandisABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
I love history, but not in the old, awful, kill-me-now-please kind of way. My passion is convincing my students that the past is actually hilarious, shocking, tragic, disturbing, and altogether UN-boring. While getting my graduate degree in History at Villanova, I realized that there was yet one more way to do this: write contemporary young adult books laced with history to convince my students that past isn’t as awful as they think. That’s a huge reason why I wrote The Judas Society.

Some other stuff: I love poetry but don’t understand it; I want Gordon Ramsay to give me a fatherly hug at some point; I tend toward the unapologetically dramatic; and (to my great shame) I didn’t read the Harry Potter series until last year. I’m also really good at covering up patent insecurities with self-deprecating humor (like this joke).

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

QUEEN DESSEN DOES IT AGAIN | Once & For All by Sarah Dessen

Once and For AllLouna met Ethan at a wedding. That fact on its own isn’t necessarily notable (her mother IS a wedding planner after all). But then she and Ethan shared the most perfect night together, wandering the streets of Colby. For one night, everything in Louna’s life was perfect. Until it wasn’t. Ethan was her ONE and what is a girl supposed to do when that one is gone? So Louna’s given up on love. She isn’t bitter–just realistic. She already had her chance at true love and what are the odds that she’ll get another one?

My expectations are always so high whenever a new Dessen book is coming out…it’s honestly not very fair to her. Except, she always delivers! Louna is such a great main character and gives off so many Remy vibes (which I LOVE). Honestly, they almost could have been the same character except I think Remy comes off as slightly more cynical. This only means that Louna is a fun combination of mild cynicism and general impatience. The secondary characters were awesome as well. I loved Louna’s mom and William–they had such a fun dynamic and often served as comic relief. Also serving as comic relief (in my opinion) is coffee shop guy, so quick shout out to him. I liked Jilly quite a bit as well, though I felt like I was missing that super strong female friendship that is often in Dessen’s books. Jilly and Louna were definitely great friends, but Jilly just wasn’t as present as other best friends have been. That being said, Jilly’s siblings were hilarious and I hope we see more of her little brother in another book.

Ambrose and Ethan…I thought they were great characters in different ways. I liked how we got to meet Ethan piece by piece in flashbacks and that his relationship with Louna didn’t feel forced or fake. I think that’s hard to do since they spent such a short amount of time together, but I was buying the whole thing. Also, thank Dessen for featuring my favorite location that she has ever created–the Pie Laundromat. So happy to see that place again. Ambrose was a completely different character from Ethan for sure and it was interesting to see Louna falling for both guys. I’ve seen some reviewers say they really didn’t care for Ambrose’s personality. I can honestly see why some readers may dislike him, but he’s so different from all of Dessen’s other romantic leads that I found him really interesting. And also the fact that he was so different from Ethan gave Louna more depth as a character, in my opinion.

As is common in Dessen’s books, there wasn’t really a plot since the book is more focused on the characters. That being said, I loved all of the different weddings that we got to see. I live just a couple of blocks from a really popular, local wedding spot and seeing so many brides and weddings day after day really just made me start to think how un-special weddings are. Like, they literally happen every day in the summer! I just found myself pondering the interesting paradox of this being one of the most important days of the bride’s life while for me it’s “just another wedding by my house”. Anyway, that’s a long explanation to say that I’m sure Natalie and William feel the same way to some extent and it’s interesting to view weddings from that perspective.

Overall, I loved this book just as much as all the others. As long as Sarah Dessen writes, I will continue to read and purchase her books. Honestly, she’s the only author I’ll pre-order for. The ONLY issue I have is that there’s a bonus chapter that exists, but it’s only available in the special B&N edition. For an Amazon addict like me, that’s no good. I’d already pre-ordered the book on Amazon when I found out bonus material even existed! Whatever. I confess to going to B&N just to sit on their floor and read the bonus chapter. I don’t even feel bad about it. But anyway, if you like Dessen, READ THIS BOOK. And if you don’t like Dessen or have never read anything she’s written, READ THIS BOOK.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

July Wrap-Up/August TBR

July

ARCs
Waste of Space by Gina Damico – DNF 99 pgs (24%)
Zero Repeat Forever by G. S. Prendergast – Read, review coming
Hello, Sunshine by Leila Howland – Read, review coming
But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure – Read and reviewed
League of American Traitors by Matthew Landis (Blog Tour 8/3) – Read, blog tour coming

Other
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – Read, review coming
The Gold by Krista Wagner – Read
Stars Above by Marissa Meyer – Currently Reading
Refine by Nichole Van – Read
The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis – Currently Reading
First Date by Krista McGee – Read
An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund – Read
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows – Read, review coming
You Are Here by Jennifer E Smith – Read
P.S. I Like You by Kasie West – Read, review coming
Jane and Austen by Stephanie Fower – Read
The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson – Currently Reading

This month I finished 13 books with 1 DNF. I’m trying so hard, you guys, to step up my reviewing game.

August

ARCs
Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn & Allison Raskin
Odd & True by Cat Winters
When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Other
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

What was your favorite read from July? What’s on your list for August?