Book Reviews

ARC Review: Only a Breath Apart by Katie McGarry

39863269Summary: Jesse Lachlin is cursed.

So the town folklore says, but while Jesse’s had his fair share of tragedy, the only curse he believes is in his grandmother’s will: in order to inherit his family farm he must win the approval of his childhood best friend, the girl he froze out his freshman year, Scarlett Copeland.

Scarlett Copeland is psychic.

Glory Gardner tells Scarlett she has hidden psychic abilities, but Scarlett thinks Glory is delusional. What is real is Scarlett’s father’s irrational fears, controlling attitude, and the dark secrets at home. Scarlett may have a way to escape, but there’s a hitch: she’ll have to rely on the one person she used to trust, the same boy who broke her heart, Jesse Lachlin.

Each midnight meeting pushes Jesse and Scarlett to confront their secrets and their feelings for each other. But as love blooms, the curse rears its ugly head…

*I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge! Thank you for the opportunity!*

Release Date: January 22nd, 2019

My Thoughts:  This book was a great way to start off my reading year! I loved it. Scarlett and Jesse have a broken friendship, and each have secret darknesses of their own. When circumstances bring these two estranged friends together, their connection becomes deeper and more meaningful than it ever was, and they find the solace and help in each other that only true love can bring. This book deals with some pretty dark subject matter- abuse, loss, grief- but I thought all of it was handled extremely well.  To me it seemed very realistic and showed how complicated these types of relationships can be.  The writing was descriptive and emotional, and it really connected me to the characters.  The perspective switches between Jesse and Scarlett were effective, but I wish they would have had more distinctive voices for each character.  Even so, I was completely invested in both of their stories and the way they wove together.  While their relationship did seem to escalate pretty quickly, their backstory of being best friends made that connection seem real and not insta-lovey, and it allowed me to feel all the flutters that their sweet romance induced.  There was a slight mystical element with Jesse’s psychic cousin, Glory, but it wasn’t overwhelming, and added the perfect amount of magic, which felt an awful lot like hope, to a very real story.  This book was different than I expected it to be, but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  Definitely recommend.

Untitled design (4)

Book Reviews · Reading Challenges · The Classics Club

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann Review

581811Summary: Dolls: red or black; capsules or tablets; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight-for Anne, Neely, and Jennifer, it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three women become best friends when they are young and struggling in New York City and then climb to the top of the entertainment industry-only to find that there is no place left to go but down-into the Valley of the Dolls.

My Thoughts: Y’all. THIS. BOOK. I can’t get over it.  It was completely and utterly addicting.  As a musical theatre actress, I can’t get enough of Old Hollywood and this book was everything I wanted.  I loved this view into the entertainment industry of the 1940’s-1960’s, and what I loved most was that it didn’t shy away from the darker side of the industry.  This book caused a huge stir when it was published in 1966, and I can see why.  It was still pretty explicit today, so I can’t imagine the scandal it would have caused upon its release.  The thing that I found so revolutionary about it, was the way it explored the female psyche and sexuality.  Looking back on it from today’s perspective, it really highlights the misogyny and what women were brainwashed to accept as reality, especially in terms of relationships.  This gave us a very interesting perspective into the three distinct and vibrant main characters, who all handle these situations very differently.  I loved all of three of them for so many reasons.  Their journeys were thorough and developed, and I understood each of them completely.  The plot was as addicting as the pills the girls consumed, and I could not put the book down.  This has easily become one of my favorite reads of all time, and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Untitled design (5)

Book Hangover

Book Reviews

Review: Happier Thinking by Lana Grace Riva

37926277Summary: Changing how you think is possible. I wasn’t always so sure that was true until I experienced it myself, but I know now we don’t have to just accept unhappiness. Not always anyway. This book is my collection of tips and suggestions that have helped me achieve happier thinking. It’s sort of a gym for my mind. I’d love to tell you it was easier than the real gym but well… it’s not really. It takes time, effort, and practice but it’s absolutely well worth the rewards.

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review! Thanks to Lana Grace Riva for the opportunity!*

My Thoughts: I love a good self-help book.  I am a generally happy person, and love using books like this one to help re-inspire me.  Happier Thinking is a super easy and fast read (it’s only about 40 pages), and was a perfect little pick me up amid the stresses of every day life.  Riva clearly states that she is not a psychology expert, but a normal person who has dealt with negativity and unhappiness and discovered some tricks that worked for her.  The book focuses on training your mind to dwell on the positive instead of the negative thoughts that can take over our minds, and she gives several ideas for how you can start that work (some of which I found that I already try to practice myself).  She has some really great ideas and insightful thoughts, all in a hilarious and relatable voice.  She makes the information fun and accessible, while bringing awareness to our thoughts and the control we actually have over our own mindsets.  This booklet is, by no means, an in depth study or discussion on the how and why of mindfulness, but it is a great starting point for anyone looking to brighten their thoughts.

Untitled design (4)

Book Reviews

Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

7728889Summary:  Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

My Thoughts:  Wow.  I’m still reeling from this book.  It is completely engrossing.  It has a dark and creepy vibe, a scary villain, and unique, vibrant, and diverse characters.  I really connected with Evie (I’d also love to play her as an actress), but all of the characters were really interesting and had very distinctive personalities.  The pacing is spectacular and I could not put it down.  Not only does this book have a heart-racing plot, but it established the over-arcing mystery for the rest of the series which really impressed me, and made me so excited to find out more.  There were small mentions that seemed insignificant at first, that really helped to develop and establish the world of the series.  I loved the 1920’s Manhattan setting (which was well researched and very clearly painted) and the mystical elements were so unique and fascinating.  Sometimes the dialogue seemed a little much with the exaggerated 1920’s slang, but I found it entertaining, and it was a great juxtaposition to the dark aura of the rest of the book.  I don’t know what took me so long to pick this up, especially since I was madly in love with Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy, but I’m SO glad that I finally did.  It was really fantastic and I cannot wait to see what is in store in the next book.  Definitely one of my top reads of the year.

Untitled design (5)

Book Reviews

Netgalley Review: The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

34219880Summary: In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled — taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army. 

Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.

Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations. But fate has bound the heir and the mage.

War looms on the horizon. A single spark could turn their city into a pyre.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book.  The writing is elegant and beautiful, and it had a fascinating concept which was very strongly developed.  Those with powers, or the “mage-marked,” are taken in at a young age when their powers are discovered, and trained to be “falcons” in the country’s army.  They are linked to a “falconer” who binds their powers, trains with them, and protects them.  Our main character and narrator, Amalia, is the heir to the throne and mistakenly gets bound to a rogue falcon, Zaira and drama ensues.  Learning all about the organization of the falcons was super intriguing and was a great vehicle for these relationships.  I really liked all of the characters in this story.  They were complex, strong, and unique.  Amalia was especially interesting, and I loved the growth she had throughout the story.  Marcello Verdi, a leader for the falcon army, was super likable, but I wish there would have been a bit more chemistry between him and Amalia.  I liked their romance development, but there was some spark missing for me.  Zaira was super feisty, with some great one-liners, and I can’t wait to see what becomes of her in the rest of the series.  The plot is super political, and there was a lot going on.  At first it seemed a bit disjointed, but the more I read the more it all began to click together and make sense.  All of the separate points set up the mystery really well, and led to a huge plot twist that I did not see coming.  The last quarter of the book was nearly impossible to put down, and I immediately put the second book on my TBR.  I really was pleasantly surprised with this book, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who loves a story full of political intrigue and magic.

Untitled design (4)

Book Reviews

It Really is That Good! A Review of Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

17453983Can Anna find love in the City of Light?

Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she’s less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year.

But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he’s taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she’s waiting for?

My Thoughts: After only seeing glowing reviews for this book, I finally read it and understand why people love it so much.  It is a really well written YA romance.  First of all, the characters are real and incredibly likable.  Anna is a great narrator and her arc throughout the story is slow moving, but full.  Her inner dialogue is hilarious and ridiculously entertaining.  St. Clair is totally swoon-worthy, even when he’s acting like an ass.  I loved their relationship, and while it was a slow burn the fire was always there and it was steamy and butterfly inducing.  The roller coaster of their emotions felt super realistic given the situations they were in, and I was totally invested.  Their friend group was full of diverse, interesting, and individual characters, with a couple cliché teenage villains thrown in as well.  It is a quick read, but it’s because the pacing is so great and the plot so well developed that it goes by in the blink of an eye.  I got so sucked in that I stayed in the bath tub reading until the water turned cold, and then continued to read way past my bedtime.  I really loved this book, and I’m happy I stopped putting it off.  You can believe the hype, it really is that good.

Untitled design (5)

Book Reviews

Review: When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen

36501779Summary: It’s 1871 and Emmeline Carter is poised to take Chicago’s high society by storm. Between her father’s sudden rise to wealth, and her recent engagement to Chicago’s most eligible bachelor, Emmeline has it all. But she can’t stop thinking about the life she left behind, including her childhood sweetheart, Anders Magnuson. Fiona Byrne, Emmeline’s childhood best friend, is delighted by her friend’s sudden rise to prominence, especially since it means Fiona is free to pursue Anders herself. But when Emmeline risks everything for one final fling with Anders, Fiona feels completely betrayed.

As the summer turns to fall, the city is at a tipping point: friendships are tested, hearts are broken, and the tiniest spark might set everything ablaze. Sweeping, soapy, and romantic, this is a story about an epic love triangle—one that will literally set the city ablaze, and change the lives of three childhood friends forever.

My Thoughts: Anna Godbersen’s The Luxe series is one of my favorite book series of all time.  I was over the moon when I saw that she was coming out with another YA Historical Fiction book set in the 1800’s, since her writing is what originally made me fall in love with that time period.  When We Caught Fire was a super fast and engrossing read.  I love Godbersen’s style and I live for the drama she creates with her characters.  This one did not disappoint with its love triangle and dealings with the societal hierarchy.  Since it was a standalone and not the beginning of a series, I felt that the characters were not as strongly developed as in The Luxe, but it didn’t bother me too much.  I liked the two girls, Emmeline and Fiona, and thought they were an interesting pair.  I wasn’t crazy about Anders, which I think hindered my connection to the love triangle, as I did not see what the fuss was about him.  He seemed shady and it was unclear what his actual feelings were, but my favorite thing about Godbersen’s characters is that they are all flawed, and not always great people.  I loved the back drop of The Great Fire in Chicago, and thought it was a perfect parallel to the plot line.  It was also a historical event that I didn’t have much knowledge of, and I was fascinated with it.  I really enjoyed this fictionalized interpretation of what could have happened, in an event where no one actually knows.  In the end, I was very happy with this book and I couldn’t put it down until I knew what was going to happen with these characters.  It didn’t quite live up to The Luxe for me, but it was still a satisfying read.

Untitled design (4)

Book Reviews

Review: The Iron Flower (The Black Witch Chronicles #2) by Laurie Forest

35750305Summary: Elloren Gardner and her friends were only seeking to right a few wrongs, but their actions have propelled them straight into the ranks of the realm-wide Resistance against Gardnerian encroachment. As the Resistance struggles against the harsh rulings of High Priest Marcus Vogel and the Mage Council, Elloren begins to realize that none of the people she cares about will be safe if Gardneria seizes control of the Western Realm.

With tensions heating up in Verpacia, more and more Gardnerian soldiers continue to descend upon the university…led by none other than Lukas Grey, now commander of the newly rebuilt Fourth Division base. Though Elloren tries to keep him at arm’s length, Lukas is determined to wandfast to her, convinced that she has inherited her grandmother’s magic—the prophesied power of the Black Witch. As his very nearness seems to awaken a darkness inside her, Elloren finds it more and more difficult to believe that she’s truly powerless, as her uncle always claimed.

Caught between her growing feelings for the rebellious Yvan Guriel and the seductive power offered by Lukas Grey, Elloren must find a way to stay true to what she knows is right and protect everyone she loves…even if that means protecting them from herself.

My Thoughts: I was so excited to get back to the world of The Black Witch Chronicles with The Iron Flower.  It was one of my most anticipated releases of this year, and it definitely delivered.  We pick up right where we left off at the end of The Black Witch, and I immediately became reabsorbed into the story of Elloren.  While she can sometimes be a bit whiny and victim-y, I can’t help but feel for her and root for her to succeed.  She recognizes and is disgusted by the privilege that she comes from, and wants to do everything in her power to fix the horrible things that her people are doing.  All of the characters in this series are very well developed and interesting, and we only add more layers in this book.  The love triangle between Elloren, Yvan, and Lukas is great and continues to grow. The sexual tension between Elloren and Yvan almost killed me with anticipation and I wanted to scream at them to BE TOGETHER ALREADY.  Their relationship has grown so much and is the ultimate slow burn.  This world that Forest has created is incredibly vast and detailed, and we got to experience so much more of it this time.  We deal a lot with the politics happening in and around Verpacia, and it’s all super dark and I can’t wait to see how things will end up.  SO much happens in this book and I never knew where it was going to go.  The ending was very satisfying and had a great build leading up to a huge cliff hanger.  I am along for the ride, and I can’t wait to see what is going to happen next.

Untitled design (4)

Book Reviews

Review: Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

30079439Summary: If you’re not careful, you can spend your whole life looking for what you’ve lost.

One stormy summer in a small Irish town, things begin to disappear. It starts with trivial stuff—hair clips, house keys, socks—but soon it escalates to bigger things: a memory, a heart, a classmate.

Olive can tell that her best friend, Rose, is different all of a sudden. Rose isn’t talking, and Olive starts to worry she’s losing her. Then diary pages written by someone named Laurel begin to appear all over town. And Olive meets three mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel, and her twin brother, Rowan, secretly squatting in an abandoned housing development. The trio are wild and alluring, but they seem lost too—and like Rose, they’re holding tightly to painful secrets.

When a tattered handwritten spellbook falls into the lives of these six teenagers, it changes everything. The spellbook is full of charms to conjure back that which has been lost, and it lists a part for each of them to play in the calling. It might be their best chance to set everything back to rights, but only if they’re willing to pay the price.

My Thoughts: I was totally absorbed in this book.  The writing style was beautiful and mysterious, just like the story itself, and the unique voices of the characters helped the mystery of the plot unfold in a stunning and completely engaging way.  The characters were super diverse and all of them had their own quirks and strong personalities.  I loved that there were LGBT characters, but that it wasn’t the focus of the story.  It was just who they were, which I felt was refreshing in a YA novel.  The weaving of all the different perspectives was very effective in telling and unraveling the story.  I thought the pacing was fantastic and the twist was satisfying, even though I kind of called part of what was happening.  The only thing keeping me from giving this book a full five stars, was that at times I felt that the actual spell and how it worked was a tad bit confusing, but I still really loved the concept of it.  I wish we could have gotten a better explanation about Jude and who he was, but I guess that is just part of the mystery of the spell.  The whole vibe of the book was spooky and yet seductive at the same time.  A perfect fall read.

Untitled design (4)

Book Reviews

Review: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

34499221Summary: Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

My Thoughts: This book has been on my radar for so long, and I finally got my hands on it.  There was a lot of hype surrounding this one, and I’m happy to say that it lived up to it.  I was drawn into the story immediately, as Christo built the world in such an immersive way.  Each kingdom was painted in a beautiful and detailed picture, regardless of how much time we spent there.  Learning the politics of the world was interesting, and I would love to have more time in each setting.  Her use of sirens was something that I have little experience with, so I was completely open to the concept and to how their abilities worked.  There were definitely hints of The Little Mermaid, while still holding its own as a completely new story.  Lira was a very interesting and unconventional heroine.  I had no idea what to expect, and couldn’t wait to see what her journey was going to be.  I loved how dark these sirens were, and Lira’s internal conflict made for an intriguing plot and built up a complicated main character.  I absolutely loved Prince Elian and his pirate crew.  Each member of the crew was well developed and their banter was always entertaining.  Elian was definitely swoon-worthy, and I really enjoyed seeing his relationship Lira develop; however, I wanted a little more chemistry between them.  There was definitely an undercurrent of it, but I could have used a bit more sexual tension.  Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  It was exciting, had a strong world, some great characters, and was a super unique story with elements of a beloved classic.  What more could you ask for?

Untitled design (4)