Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills [Review]

Famous in a Small TownSophie’s marching band has been invited to march at the Rose Parade. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they’re going to be able to raise enough money to actually get there. That’s when Sophie comes up with a genius idea–if she can get hometown celebrity Megan Pleasant to come to a local festival, they might just be able to raise enough funds to make the trip. Sophie enlists her friends and newcomer August in this mission to get Megan Pleasant to come home at last.

TL;DR – Characters feel like characters rather than real people and the main character’s kind of taken for granted, but still a really enjoyable read.

Order: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

I absolutely tear through these books. Emma Mills is really good at writing characters that are enjoyable to read. Even though her characters are a little¬†too witty almost all of the time, I still find myself enjoying the banter. You kind of just have to accept that these are obviously characters–not real people. One thing I liked about this book is that Sophie already has an established group of friends. I’ve noticed a trend in YA Contemporary where the main character is kind of this misfit and/or a really introverted girl who gets absorbed into this quirky friend group and is handed a love interest. I thought Sophie’s group of friends was interesting and I felt that their shared history gave the group depth.

On the other hand, there were a lot of times when I felt like Sophie was being completely taken advantage of and the rest of the group was acting really selfishly. Sophie cares so much for other people–ESPECIALLY HER FRIENDS–and I felt like she was repeatedly getting trampled on (figuratively speaking). I mean, how hard is it for her friends to care about the Megan Pleasant thing for TWO SECONDS just because it’s important to Sophie?!? TWO SECONDS. I just wish they’d been more supportive of Sophie.

The plot takes some interesting turns, but I don’t want to spoil anything. I’ll just say that one of the twists had me bawling and the other seemed…a little bit of a stretch. How everything played out just seemed a bit questionable and maybe a tad too convenient?

Overall, I liked this book as much as Mills’ other ones and will definitely continue to pick up her stuff. I had some minor issues with it, but nothing that really prevented me from enjoying it.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Heavy

Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

 

Twins, mountains that are castles, and evil princes | Crown of Coral & Pearl by Mara Rutherford [ARC]

Crown of Coral and PearlOnce a generation, the Varenians send their most beautiful girl to Ilara to marry the prince. It is a great honor and twins¬†Nor and Zadie have been groomed their whole lives to become a princess. However, because of a childhood accident involving some blood coral, Nor’s cheek is scarred and she knows she could never be chosen. Nobody is surprised when Zadie is selected, but she’s in love with a boy from home and begs Nor to help her get out of it. In the end, Nor takes Zadie’s place, but she is unprepared for what she will find on the mainland and what she will need to do to save her home.

TL;DR – Nor says many unwise things and makes many unwise decisions, but is still a likable character. Some things don’t make a¬†ton of sense, but can be ignored.

Preorder: Hardcover | eBook

This book was a little different than I thought it would be but at the same time is also exactly what I thought it would be. Does that make sense? Plotwise, there were many things that the reader knows is going to happen (because of course) but the author takes her sweet time getting there. For example, it took FOREVER for Nor to come to the conclusion that she needs to take Zadie’s place. I understand in the context of the story that it wasn’t that simple, but we probably could have saved at least 50 pages. It’s when Nor gets to Ilara that things take some interesting turns that I didn’t really anticipate.

I thought the relationship between Nor and Zadie was a really interesting one. The author herself is a twin (as I found out in the Acknowledgements section) and that gives authenticity to the sister relationship. Never having been a twin myself, I felt like I understood better what it would be like to go through life with someone always at your side. I appreciated that there was no jealousy between the girls. They were legitimately the best of friends and sisters.

There were some minor plot points that didn’t quite make sense to me. Some of them were explained (kind of), but some weren’t. There were times when Nor’s plans didn’t make sense and I can’t tell if that was purposeful to show her naivety or…what. I also felt like she didn’t act or speak with the appropriate amount of caution, especially when Talin was involved. Ceren is this seriously dangerous dude and she’s just randomly mouthing off to him or snubbing him in favor of Talin whenever possible. HE COULD END YOU, NOR.

As far as the other characters, I felt like the author was maybe trying to create some moral grey-ness with Ceren? But then she also wanted to make sure we knew he was a BAD GUY. It just made his character seem inconsistent and I didn’t feel like that worked with the story. Also, his and Talin’s relationship made approximately 5% of sense to me.

Overall, I actually liked this book quite a bit and will definitely be reading the second. Though, I’m not really sure where the plot can go from here? I have some suspicions, but if my suspicions are correct, I don’t like it. I guess we’ll see!

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

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

Probably the darkest 12 Dancing Princesses retelling you’ll ever read | House of Salt & Sorrows by Erin A. Craig [ARC]

House of Salt and SorrowsAnnaleigh just wants her sisters to stop dying. There used to be twelve of them but now that Ava, Octavia, Elizabeth, and Eulalie are all dead, there are only eight of them left. As she struggles to mourn the latest death, Eulalie’s, Annaleigh must also find a way to comfort her younger sisters when the town starts theorizing about a family curse. Frustrated that all of the young men are too afraid of “the curse” to court them, the sisters realize they must try to find young men that have never heard of them or their dead sisters. They think they might have found a way, but what will it cost them?

TL;DR – The story of the 12 Dancing Princesses darker than you’ve ever heard it. Part mystery and part fairytale retelling, it comes together better than expected even if a little confusing at times.

Order: Hardcover | eBook

Sometimes I request books on NetGalley and then when it’s finally time to read and review, I’ve forgotten what the book was supposed to be about. I went into this book pretty blind–I didn’t realize at first that it was a retelling until they were buying their “fairy shoes”. With that being said, I love a good retelling and I’ve actually read quite a few retellings of the 12 Dancing Princesses. This one was different. A lot of the ones I’ve read stick to the “secret door in their room that leads to another place” outline. I’ve even read one or two where the princesses are forced to dance against their will. Craig’s take on the story felt a lot more insidious. I think part of it was Camille’s desperation and refusal to let go of this outlet she’d found and part of it was the spooky stuff that was going on with Verity.

Annaleigh was a likable character from the beginning. Her sisters varied in likability depending on what was going on, but they were all enjoyable. The only thing I wished was that we got to see the softer, kinder side of Camille. Annaleigh states that they grew up as best friends, but we never really see that side to their relationship. Camille is mostly just bratty and grumpy the whole book. Craig did a good job of making a lot of the secondary characters feel kind of grey. I wasn’t sure who was supposed to be good and who was supposed to be bad until almost the very end. It seemed like maybe we were getting set up for a love triangle, but the author managed to turn that on its head as well. I wasn’t super into Cassius as the love interest. I mean, he seemed perfect, but (as is often the case) we’re not really given any concrete reasons as to why he likes Annaleigh. He seems like this perfect guy (too perfect) so what exactly does he want with or flawed main character? Authors! We need an explanation for this!

The plot was twisty and suspenseful. I genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen next or what the conclusion was going to be until it was upon us. Without giving anything away, I will say that I’m a little disappointed by some character resolutions…I’ll just leave it at that. I thought the religious system could have used a little more explanation. Maybe the author could have started each chapter with a myth or legend about the gods that these people believed in. It’s just that almost nothing is said about their gods in the first 2/3 of the book, and then all of the sudden they start playing this huge role.

Overall, I would recommend this book for people who are looking for darker fairytale retellings. While it has a happy(ish) ending, I wouldn’t say that it’s feel good at all. It was definitely darker and creepier than I had anticipated–I was surprised by the touch of horror! I would definitely say this could be a good book to read in late September or in October to get ready for Halloween.

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

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

14 Best Book Deals for 1/26/19 – TWO FREE BOOKS, Notorious RBG, The Belles, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, and more

There are some great deals this week!

Free

Queen of Someday by Sherry D. Ficklin

Slave, Warrior, Queen by Morgan Rice

How can you turn down free books? Both of these are ones I’ve downloaded and I’m excited to get to them!

Less than $1

Truth or Dare by Madeleine Labitan – This is actually a novella and it sounds like a great love to hate story!

A Tale of Beauty and Beast by Melanie Cellier РI absolutely adore retellings (especially Beauty and the Beast). This one looks great!

Less than $2

Stealing Snow¬†by Danielle Paige – Again, with the retellings! I seriously can’t get enough.

Loving vs. Virginia¬†by Patricia Hruby Powell – I loved this book so much! I don’t read many books written in verse, but as part of an interracial couple, this was a must-read for me. It tells this true story in such a delicate and beautiful way. I was literally moved to tears multiple times. (my review)

A Year with C.S. Lewis¬†edited by Patricia S. Klein – This seems like it would be a great way to start every day–with a little bit of C.S. Lewis.

Winterfolk by Janel Kolby – I just heard about this book and it sounds really interesting! I haven’t read a book with contemporary homeless representation before and I grew up near Seattle so it especially hits close to home for me.

Less than $3

A Date with Darcy¬†by Tiffany Schmidt – This is the first book in the Bookish Boyfriends series and it sounds so cute! Who hasn’t fantasized about their bookish crush coming to life?

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee – I have heard so many good things about this book! And I love a strong Asian American protag. Represent!

Less than $4

Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon РWith the RBG movie coming out, this could be a good book to familiarize yourself with her story.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton – This book was hyped SO MUCH last year. If you haven’t read it yet, then where have you been?

About $5

The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner РThis sounds like a great book with serious fairy tale vibes and (hopefully) a strong sister relationship.

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer РI really loved this book which features two characters falling in love via letters (swoon). Highly recommend! (my review)

 

Let’s just say it’s been a while since I’ve read some of these books [Mini-Reviews]

There are so many books that I read last year that I still haven’t gotten around to reviewing. Hopefully, this post can make a (small) dent in that list.

mini-reviews

The Conspiracy of Us and Map of Fates by Maggie Hall

map of fates

conspiracy of us

I really thought I was going to like these books because it seemed like it was going to be one massive treasure hunt. Instead, we’re gifted with insta-love and a completely unnecessary love triangle. I also don’t really understand why there’s this slight magical element? I mean, one of the characters is literally fireproof and I don’t know how that can be explained without magic. The main character is so naive and very annoying. I never understand why protagonists have such a hard time being left behind on “missions” when they have no training and would clearly only get in the way. I, personally, would be happy to sit on my behind in the hotel room and let people with ACTUAL TRAINING take care of the dangerous stuff. I honestly don’t know why I even bothered with the second book, but I am definitely NOT going to be reading the third one. 3/5

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Orphan Monster SpyI wasn’t super impressed by this book. I thought it actually started off pretty strong, but it didn’t maintain that excitement through to the end. While I felt like it had a different tone from most books, that didn’t really make things any more interesting. The plot was fine, but not super engaging and I had a hard time figuring out what the end goal was supposed to be. Our main character is going through a bunch of stuff, but for what? I also didn’t find myself connecting to any of the characters. The main character was…fine. Kind of bland–you really don’t get to know her that well.¬†The author also chose to include some pretty messed up characters, but I didn’t really feel like they added to the story. 3/5

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The ArchivedThis book had been on my TBR forever because I really liked the Monsters of Verity duology. Also, I love any kind of twist on the “library” so if you know any good alternate library books, let me know in the comments! To get into my review, I felt like the world was pretty complex and didn’t really get explained very well at the beginning, which just left me feeling confused. I was also very confused for the first three chapters because I didn’t realize that Da and Dad were not both Mackenzie’s father. I liked Mackenzie as a main character, but she made some really questionable decisions. I never really understood her resistance for sharing information with the librarians, but especially Roland. He seemed to obviously be on her side and some things could have been prevented if she had been more transparent. I thought Wesley was a bit much as a character, but I did like watching his relationship with Mackenzie develop. Owen, on the other hand…that relationship seemed to come out of nowhere. In the end, there was a twist that I did NOT see coming and I’m just left with so many questions. Like, what is up with Ms. Angelli? Such a mystery. 4/5

ebook | Paperback

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

The ChristmasaurusThis is such a fun middle grade Christmas book. The language was pretty silly throughout, so I would definitely recommend for younger middle grade readers, but I think that age will find the silly language really enjoyable. This book has wheelchair representation which I don’t think I’ve seen in any other books–let alone middle grade. I’m no expert, but it felt like it was portrayed accurately and definitely felt super respectful. I also thought that the characters developed in a realistic way. Even though Brenda is horrible, I felt like I understood her and that’s not always the case with antagonists. I loved all of the illustrations throughout and the Christmas feels were SO STRONG. There’s a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming (am I just oblivious???) which was such a fun surprise. I recommend getting the version of the book that comes with the soundtrack–not necessary, but a really fun and festive bonus.¬†4/5

ebook | Hardcover | Musical Edition

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Two Dark ReignsOkay, I’m hoping to get through this review without any spoilers, but it’s book three in the series, so I’m really sorry if I reveal anything from the first two books–unintentional. After the second book I wasn’t sure how invested I would be in the rest of the story–I didn’t really see where Blake could take it from there. However, the third book got me reinvested real quick. I found myself liking this book much more than the second one and the different POVs continued to be a nice change of pace. I enjoyed each POV equally. There continue to be many, many questions and I need the next book asap. The ending took me by surprise and I’m still not sure exactly what’s going on or what’s going to happen. There’s some interesting things going on on the island and I guess we’ll just have to see what happens next. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, & Brodi Ashton

my plain janeI love this series! The tone is fun and light and easy to enjoy. Once again, I thought the rotating perspective worked well, but Jane’s sections were probably my least favorite. I do wish that I’d read Jane Eyre first, though, because there are certain plot points that were so strange and I don’t know if they were extra or if they’re part of the original text. This is partly why one of my 2019 reading goals is to read Jane Eyre. I also liked that this is somewhat of a “Jane Eyre origin story”. The plot itself was good, but not completely thought out or explained. Why do the talismans work on ghosts? What really determines if a ghost moves on or not? Is a special “moving on” room really necessary? I also felt like red rooms were mentioned several times and I don’t really know why. Despite all that, the tone of the book is so enjoyable that I happily overlooked the times when things weren’t fully explained and I’m excited to continue on with this series. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover


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Sibling rivalry is brought to a whole new level | Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark CrownsThree queens are born, but only one can survive. Every generation, triplet queens are forced to fight to the death. Whoever survives reigns as the new queen. Arsinoe, Mirabella, and Katherine have known this their whole lives. Unfortunately, both Arsinoe and Katherine are still working to master the gifts that the goddess has given them. Everybody knows that Mirabella is going to end up queen, but Arsinoe, Katherine, and the families that fostered them aren’t willing to go down without a fight.

TL;DR – Great main characters and plot, but the world building could use a little work/additional explanation. Also, get ready to be overloaded by secondary characters.

This book had been sitting on my shelf forever it seems. I finally got around to reading it, and immediately after I finished I made my husband go to Barnes & Noble to pick up the second book. I didn’t really think that I’d like it as much as I did–I think I might have heard a couple of negative reviews about it.

The first thing I noticed is that Blake did a really good job making all three queens likable. I didn’t necessarily have a favorite and I was really torn about which queen I wanted to end up winning. I think it could have been really easy to paint one queen as the hero and the other two as villains, but the whole premise of the book means their relationships and decisions are so complicated. I love how each sister has her own conflicting desires. It really makes you wonder how previous queens felt and reacted.

The overall plot was great and I really liked how politics played so strongly into the story line. I’m really intrigued to see how this series ends and I appreciate that the author is taking her time. I wouldn’t have been surprised if this book had ended with one of the sisters killing another, but it seems like that kind of thing won’t happen until later books. I will say, though, that the ending was very unexpected for me and was part of why I was so eager to get my hands on the second book.

The world building is the only part that I find a little weak. This is a very complicated world and it’s not fully explained. We’re not really given any history or background for how this place came to be or who/why the goddess is, etc. Why triplets? Why don’t queens reign longer? Who reigns while the triplets are growing up? How does the queen know what gifts the babies have? Why do people live in groups based on ability? Is it possible for a poisoner to be born to elementals? What would happen to them? Just so many questions.

My last little issue is that there were SO MANY secondary characters. Seriously. I only started to figure out who everyone was after about 2/3 or 3/4 of the book. Other than that, though, I really enjoyed this book and am also enjoying the second book so far. I would definitely recommend.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate (a couple of scenes, no explicit descriptions)

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.