Back at it again with the Mini-Reviews

I love mini-reviews. They’re a way for me to get a bunch of reviews off my plate at once and from the poll I had you guys take a few months ago, you seem to like them, right?

One Dark ThroneOne Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

To see my review for the first book, please go here. I really loved the first book and as soon as it was done, I wanted to get my hands on the second. However, this book was not as engaging or attention-catching as the first one. I still have questions about the world and how some things are supposed to work–there never really seems to be explanations for anything. Some of the plot points towards the end were surprising to me and I’m still a little confused…but I don’t want to give spoilers. Overall, this book doesn’t make me feel like I need the third book like I needed the second, but I’ll still read it. 4/5

Bone GapBone Gap by Laura Ruby

This book had been on my TBR for a few years before I finally got around to reading it and by the time I did, I had completely forgotten what the book was supposed to be about–and I think that was a good thing. It takes a while for the book to get going, but once it does, I felt really invested in the characters. I really liked Finn and felt bad for both him and Sean. I thought this book was especially interesting because I felt like it combined a lot of elements that might not necessarily go together, but did. Such as: magical realism, farm/small town life, an immigrant story (Polish culture), rare disease/disability, sexual harassment/rape, broken families. That sounds like a lot, right? But I thought it all worked really well together and I ended up really liking the book. 5/5

Genuine FraudGenuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

I really enjoyed We Were Liars, so I was moderately excited to read E. Lockhart’s more recent release as well. The premise sounded a little confusing to me, but it was recommended at my local library’s “Best of 2017” event, so I thought I’d give it a try. I thought the book was confusing, but intriguing at the same time. The main character seemed very complicated. I started out feeling like I knew her pretty well, but as the book progressed I started to realize that actually, I know nothing about her. She’s a complete stranger. So I finished the book, and I liked it quite a bit (I thought the format was especially interesting). But then I found out that it’s pretty much exactly the plot for The Talented Mr. Ripley. At the end of the book, Lockhart does state that she was inspired by Ripley, but honestly, the plot is almost exactly the same, just with a teenage girl instead of a 20-something man. Overall, I still enjoyed it though. 4/5

When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

For some reason, this book did not appeal to me at all even though I’d heard really good things about it. But then it was one of the free reads on Riveted by Simon Teen, I was bored at work, and I thought “what the heck?” so I started reading it. I liked both Dimple and Rishi–they just both seem like GOOD KIDS. And I appreciate that Dimple is a smart girl who (for the most part) isn’t a spaz or incredibly socially awkward or overly uptight. I will say that Rishi did feel a little unreal to me. Do teenage boys like that actually exist? Claudia on the other hand is a complete mess. She’s the worst friend. Literally the worst. I thought the plot was pretty good, there were some things I liked towards the end but (mini-spoiler) I almost wish that Rishi and Dimple had ended up with other people. Did anyone else feel that way? I don’t have anyone specific in mind, but the whole point was that Dimple was mad at her parents for setting them up, but then she ends up with him anyway (end mini-spoiler). Maybe that’s just me though. 4/5

Rich People ProblemsRich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

This is the third book in the series. For my review of Crazy Rich Asians go here and it looks like I never reviewed China Rich Girlfriend so…oops. This book takes place maybe a couple of years after the second book? It’s definitely in the same vein as far as tone and writing goes (and so many food descriptions *drools*). The plot didn’t go exactly how I thought it would and I think that’s definitely a good thing. It’s so interesting because this is a world that is so far removed from anything I’ve ever experienced, but it also doesn’t seem that hard to understand. I grew up with a big family on both sides, so I feel like I do kind of get that part of it–I really loved the family politics aspect of the book. Even though the characters and lifestyles portrayed in this book are completely outrageous, the author has still managed to make everything believable. 4/5

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How do you read so much? | 5 ways to read more books

Over the last few years, I’ve been able to read over 100 books a year even while going to school and/or working full-time and/or making time for my husband. I don’t say this to brag, but just to say that I’m pretty good at finding the time to read. I just wanted to share a few tips that I’ve found help me to find the time and motivation to read despite my busy schedule.

1) Always have a book with you

book splits gif

This one seems kind of obvious–right? If you don’t have a book with you, then you can’t read. This is one of the main reasons why I love my Kindle Paperwhite. It’s slim and light and easily fits in my purse. I’ve almost always got a book that I’m reading on my Kindle whether it’s one I’ve purchased, an ARC, or a library book. If you don’t have a Kindle, though, I would highly recommend the Kindle Reading app for your phone. I don’t like it quite as much since the screen is so small, but it’s better than nothing! Whenever I’m waiting in line for my lunch or for a meeting/presentation/class to start, I pull out my Kindle and read for a few minutes. If you’re doing this a few times a day, that easily adds up!

2) Prioritize reading over other activities

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Since my husband’s family lives close by, we spend a lot of time with them. We often have family dinners followed by hanging out/playing games/watching sports. When I was first getting to know the family, I felt like I needed to participate in everything and show that I was a team player, etc. However, now, I think we all know each other well enough that I don’t feel that need to “impress” so much anymore. Obviously, I don’t seclude myself in another room all night, but if I don’t feel like playing a game, I’ll sit it out and read instead. Or if the boys are all watching a basketball/football/baseball/insert sport game, then I’ll sit back and crack open my book. It’s okay to choose reading over other activities! Don’t let other people make you feel bad for enjoying reading more than other things.

3) But don’t force it

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I have been known to add reading a certain number of pages to my weekend “To Do” list (especially if I’ve got an ARC or blog tour book that I need to finish). But sometimes…I just don’t feel like reading! I feel like watching Netflix or working on one of my other hobbies, and that’s okay! I think that if you force yourself to read, it will just take you longer to get out of your reading slump. So calm down, take a minute, allow yourself to do other things, and then maybe you’ll feel like reading again in a few days–but don’t stress about it.

4) It’s okay to DNF/mood read/reread

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I think sometimes DNFing or mood reading or rereading books are considered “bad etiquette” in the blogging world, but I don’t think they should be! If I’m not enjoying a book, I’ve learned to DNF because I don’t want to waste my time anymore. Even if it’s a book I’ve been asked to review, I’ll just say at what point I DNF’ed, explain why, and then move on. For mood reading, I find that I read books a lot faster if I’m in the mood to read them. If I’m forcing a mood on myself, it will take FOREVER to finish a book. Lastly, I think rereads are great–especially for getting myself out of a reading slump. Some of my favorite rereads have just become comfort items to me and are so easy to sink into.

5) Read more than one book at a time

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I’ve usually got a couple of books going at a time. Usually I’m reading one on my Kindle and at least one hard cover or paperback. It’s just easier to read physical books when I’m at home and my Kindle everywhere else. But I think reading more than one book at a time is a great idea because if you get tired of one, you can just switch to the other. Of course, if you’re just plain tired of reading that doesn’t help…but if you’re just tired of the story, then pick something else up for a bit!

Have you tried any of these? What are some reading techniques that you use? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!

Probably the weirdest scavenger hunt ever | In the Hope of Memories by Olivia Rivers [ARC]

In the Hope of MemoriesHope knows that she’s dying, but before she does, she wants to make sure her friends receive one last gift: a scavenger hunt. Erik, Aiden, Kali, and Sam are all thrown together on this crazy adventure and they’re not sure exactly what Hope is trying to do. As they make their way through the scavenger hunt’s various tasks, they’ll learn something about themselves, their relationship with each other, and even some things about Hope.

TL;DR – Unlikable characters and an unbelievable plot make this book hard to read despite its great premise.

What a gorgeous cover, amiright? Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my expectations. I thought the premise was so promising! I love scavenger hunts and so I was excited to read this book, but at the end of the day, I was let down. My issue with this book mainly centers around the characters and the plot. First, I felt the plot was completely unbelievable. These four teenagers pretty much just take off to New York for a few days and then face almost no repercussions when they get back. And also, the scavenger hunt was EXTREMELY HARD. I literally have no idea how they were able to solve any clue.

The characters themselves were super flat and felt inconsistent. We get narrations from all four of the main characters, but I still didn’t feel myself connecting with or really liking any of them. When it was their turn to narrate, they were okay, but then from everyone else’s perspectives they were complete butts. It’s hard for me to figure out which perspective is the real character and they were all annoying anyway.

I thought the writing was pretty good, though, and I did enjoy wandering around New York City. I definitely would like to visit a few of those places. This book also includes a lot of diversity–each character kind of has their own thing going.

Overall, I just thought this book was too unbelievable. Hope is portrayed as being this perfect person with literally no faults (except for her penchant for graffiti, but even that isn’t so bad). I think the book would have been better if just one aspect of it had been more believable: 1) The characters weren’t so flat, 2) An easier scavenger hunt, 3) Hope was less perfect. Any of those things, I think, would have made the book more enjoyable for me.

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

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

It’s cheesy, but like in a good way | Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Alex, ApproximatelyBailey has just moved across the country to live with her dad. The fact that her online penpal lives in the same city had nothing to do with the decision. Well, almost nothing. She doesn’t even know for sure if Alex likes her and what if he ends up being a total creep anyway? That’s why she’s not telling him that she moved. She’ll scope out the situation, see if she can find him, and then if he’s normal it’ll be a big “surprise!” and they’ll ride off into the sunset. If only this annoying guy from work would leave her alone, she could really concentrate on finding Alex. But Porter seems intent on getting a rise from her every time they’re together and it’s becoming quite distracting.

TL;DR – This is a fun beach romance that has a surprising amount of depth. The predictability of the plot does not make the book any less enjoyable.

First off all, I had my doubts about this book. I mean, I kept hearing everyone else saying that they loved it, etc., but to me it sounded extremely predictable. Now, there’s a time and a place for predictability, especially in romance, but for some reason this just sounded like it might be really boring to me. Well, I was proved wrong. Yes, the book is extremely predictable. We know from the beginning that Porter is actually Alex. While that fact didn’t necessarily create tension within the book, I think it did make it so the reader had this really interesting view and opinion of Porter that Bailey did not initially share.

The plot, again, was super predictable, but I thought the overall tone was nice. It had a really good balance of lighter moments and also really heavy stuff. There were so many parts throughout the books that I just don’t think would have worked or be enjoyable in another story (especially a beachy YA romance), but somehow it all just really works in this book. I did wonder if Bailey was a little too “damaged” as a main character, though. Obviously authors want their characters to be flawed and have baggage, but there are times when I think too much has been added to a character. I feel like Bailey is right there on the edge of being too much.

The romance was nice but I felt that it progressed a little too quickly. I thought there’d be just a little more back and forth before they actually got together. I felt that Porter as a love interest was a little too mature and the overall relationship was a little too serious, but I still cared about both Porter and Bailey and their relationship. One thing I really liked is that after Bailey’s dad and Sergeant Mendoza warn her away from Porter, Bailey actually tells Porter about the conversation instead of just continuing to hurt his feelings. That never happens in YA books! I feel like characters are always keeping things and conversations to themselves when they don’t need to and it creates all of this unnecessary angst. Transparency is key!

Overall, I can’t quite put my finger on why this book was so enjoyable, just that it was. It’s a perfect read for the summer or any time that you wish it were summer, really. It also had a ton of old film references. I don’t have a ton of knowledge in that area myself, so a lot of the references went over my head, but if you are into that I think you’ll enjoy this book.

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

Best YA Books of 2017 | Provo Library Event

Every year the Provo Library puts on a “Best of…” event where they go over the best YA, Adult, and Children’s books from the previous year. Most years I just go for the YA session and I’ve usually already heard of most of the books that they mention. But every once in a while they talk about a book that I haven’t heard of and I’m intrigued. So I thought I’d mention a few of the books that caught my eye here.

Bull by David Elliott – This is a book written in verse that also has some visual elements. It’s a retelling of the myth of the Minotaur. I have always loved mythology in general and I’m intrigued by this premise.

Damsels by Leah Moore – More retellings! This one is a graphic novel and brings together many of our favorite fairy tale heroines. This is not your typical “damsel in distress” book.

Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman I think somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that Vincent Van Gogh had a brother, but I wouldn’t have been able to come up with his name. This book sounds really interesting in exploring their relationship and how it may have influenced Vincent’s art. Also, this is from the same author who gave us Charles and Emma.

The Hidden Memory of Objects by Danielle Mages Amato – This book was very intriguing to me. It’s set in D.C. and I think has an American History element to it with maybe some magical realism?

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld – I have loved Scott Westerfeld ever since I read the “Uglies” series back when they were coming out when I was in junior high. This is a graphic novel and was described as being horror-ish. I’d like to read more graphic novels so I’m definitely interested in this one.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds – Okay, so I think this is another book that’s written in verse. It’s about a boy whose brother got shot and so now he’s trying to take out the guy who he thinks was the shooter. He’s on this elevator and on each floor a ghost gets on to talk to him? It sounds kind of trippy but also just really fascinating.

Have you guys heard of these books? What were some of your favorite reads from 2017? Let me know in the comments!

Sense and Sensibility and Tea | Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge [ARC]

 

Okay, so I know I’ve been a little MIA for a couple of weeks, but we’ve had a lot going on lately. The main thing is that we moved! Just seven blocks away, but still. It was far enough. With the baby coming, we just needed a bigger apartment. So that’s what’s been taking my time lately–the packing, moving, and unpacking…it’s never-ending. But we’re just about done, so hopefully I’ll be back with more wonderful content soon! In the meantime, here’s a review for a book that I read (and enjoyed) last month.


Jane of Austin

Jane Woodward and her sisters had been doing pretty good for themselves after their father’s business scandal. They had found a nice location on Valencia Street with an attached apartment to open their dream tea shop. But when their landlord dies, his son (well, really his son’s wife) forces them out. After trying all of their contacts, the sisters are left with no choice but to move into their cousin’s guest house in Austin, Texas. As they struggle to find a new location for their tea shop, the sisters also have to adjust to a different pace of life.

TL;DR – Overall, a good Jane Austen retelling. I liked all the characters, but found Celia hard to read at times. This book also heavily features food which is a definite plus in my opinion.

First off, I have always loved the idea of books that come with recipes. Have I ever tried any of those recipes? No. But that’s beside the point. Books that center around food are wildly attractive to me. I love food and I love reading about good food even if it makes me jealous and hungry. That’s why having books with recipes is so genius. Not only can you read about the food, but you could (hypothetically) actually make it afterwards.

With three sisters, you might think that it would be hard to connect with all of them or to make them distinguishable. However, I thought the author did a great job of helping us to understand each of the sisters as individuals even though Jane was clearly the main character. I still felt like I connected with both Celia and Margot. I also thought Callum was a good character and I enjoyed his narrations as well as Jane’s.

Sometimes I like multiple POV books and sometimes I don’t. This time I think it worked, but wasn’t necessary–or at least, wasn’t necessary from Callum’s point of view. I didn’t mind it, but I thought that having Celia as a narrator might have made more sense? Of course, that may have made it so the book was more about the sister relationship than the romance, but would that have been so bad? There were just times when I felt like Celia was hard to figure out, so I wished that she got a chance to narrate.

Overall, the plot was pretty similar to the original Sense and Sensibility. I always love retellings and this one was as good as any. I will say that I thought the ending was a little abrupt and fairy tale-ish (especially the epilogue portion). Despite that, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants a fun, clean romance or anyone who enjoys Jane Austen retellings.

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 posts to share | February 2018

YABookers discussed standalones vs series – Series are definitely a double-edged sword, in my opinion. I agree with pretty much everything they mention in their post here.

Kristin @ Kristin Kraves Books talked about books she picked up on a whim and loved – I really liked this post because it encourages me to pick up random books too. You never know what hidden gems you might be missing out on!

Flavia @ Flavia the Bibliophile raved about The Greatest Showman (using lots of gifs) – Hi, yes, I agree that this is the best movie ever. I absolutely LOVED it and the soundtrack is AMAZING and interracial relationship representation is A+.

Courtney @ Buried in a Bookshelf gave some great recommendations for finding books for cheap – I’m always on the hunt for great book deals. The only thing I’ll add is that if you don’t mind eBooks, Amazon is a great place to find those and will often mark down popular eBooks to $1.99 or $2.99 for a limited time. Library book sales are really where it’s at though.

Analee @ Book Snacks discussed different family types in YA books and lists recommendations – This was a great post because sometimes I do feel like YA books have “invisible families”. It’s nice to know that there are books out there that feature both good and bad family dynamics.

Marty @ The Cursed Books listed 8 things that she wished non-readers would stop doing – The struggle is real you guys! Some people legitimately don’t understand the love of reading. While that’s okay, sometimes they still do things that get on every reader’s nerves. Let’s just take a collective deep breath.

Jamieson @ jamishelves gave some tips on how to get into audiobooks – I’ve read a few posts like this and always appreciate them because I do think that audiobooks are slightly underrated (especially in the YA community). But This was such a comprehensive overview to starting audiobooks with some recommendations at the end. A lot of posts like these don’t really talk in depth about how important the narrator/narration is, so I really appreciate that Jamieson really discussed that.

Krysta @ Pages Unbound discussed whether YA books are maturing too fast This post was so interesting to me because I grew up with YA books like The Giver, Hatchet, Ella Enchanted, My Side of the Mountain, etc. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve continued to read YA but haven’t really noticed that the YA books I’ve been reading have also aged with me. I think it’s really something to think about. YA today is definitely not the same content-wise as it was when I first started reading it.