Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Beach Reads, or in other words, Books that won't make you cry

This is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. They feature a different top ten list every week. This week's topic is top beach reads.

Personally, I don't spend much time at the beach. But I do spend a lot of time traveling (just one of the many perks that comes with living in Italy). I love my heartbreaking books as much as anyone, but I have lost count of the number of times I have cried on a plane or a train because I insisted on reading one of those sad books. No one wants that, right?

This is a list of great books that you can take to the beach or the pool or the mountains or a plane or wherever and your heart will not be ripped into a million pieces. Save those for when you are home alone in bed. These books will make you laugh or make you swoon. They will not make you cry and they will not break your heart and they don't even require a lot of thought because the plots aren't super complicated. 
1. Denton Little's Death Date by Lance Rubin - I didn't think a book about a boy who knows the exact date he is going to die would be funny, but it really was! 

2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - I love this story. It's super cute and no heartbreak is involved. 

3. Only in Naples: Lessons in food and famiglia from my Italian mother-in-law by Katherine Wilson - I may be slightly biased since I live in Naples, but I loved this book! All the talk of food made me hungry and I could relate to the author's attempts to adapt to Italian culture so much. I laughed many times while reading this book. Plus, the author includes authentic Italian recipes from her mother-in-law. Bonus!

4. Don't Get Caught by Kurt Dinan - This was a very cute and funny story about a group of outcasts trying to out-prank a legendary group of pranksters. 

5. The Chocolate Thief (Amour et Chocolat #1) by Laura Florand - Chocolate + Paris = love. This one is part of a series and you can read each one of them as a stand-alone. This first one is my absolute favorite though. 

6. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper - Another book that made me laugh out loud! This family is so crazy dysfunctional and yet, they totally have each other's backs.

7. Forever and One Week (Spirits of Saoradh #2) by Caroline Cairn - I just discovered this author and I am so glad. I received a copy from the author in exchange for feedback and I was totally amazed at how good this story was. This book is a combination of fantasy and romance. You could almost say it's a retelling of Aladdin. Even though this is a series, you can totally read this one as a stand alone.

8. The Virgin Romance Novelist by Meghan Quinn - I bought this one on a total whim. It was recommended to me by a family member. A woman struggling to write her romance novel realizes she should lose her virginity for, you know, "the book." Ha. This is a hilarious book. I loved all the honesty her friends gave her about sex.

9. Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson - Very cute book about friendship. Love this one!

10. The Princess Bride by William Goldman - I couldn't possibly leave this one off the list. It made me smile the entire time I was reading it.

I will be going back to the States next month, so I will be on a long international flight. Does anyone have any good recommendations of books that won't make me cry during the flight?

Monday, May 30, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Lucky Few by Kathryn Ormsbee

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is June 7, 2016.

The life of homeschooler Stevie Hart gets all shook up when she meets a strange boy, Max, who survived a freak near-fatal accident and is now obsessed with death. He enlists her and her best friend, Sanger, to help him complete his absurd “23 Ways to Fake My Death Without Dying” checklist. What starts off as fun begins spiraling downward when Stevie’s diabetes sabotages her fumbling romance with Max, Sanger announces she’s moving out of state, and then death—real death—cuts close to home.

This book was a little different from what I was expecting, but still good. Stevie is a homeschooled student who doesn't like to be judged for not going to public school and Sanger is her amazing best friend who has two moms and is also a homeschool student. Max is their new neighbor and he is so weird and funny. Due to a near fatal accident that cost him three fingers, he is scared of death and is now trying to get over his fear by faking his own death in weird and often hilarious ways. Stevie is hesitant to help Max with his weird list, but Sanger is all for it. Eventually, Stevie decides to help.

Not many books actually made me laugh out loud but this one did. I loved the friendship between Sanger and Stevie and Max. Of course, Max and Stevie start dating. They had nice chemistry and I loved how they became friends first. One of the best things about this book was that the friendship between Stevie and Sanger remained just as strong, even with the addition of a romance between Stevie and Max. Stevie didn't forget about her friend because of a guy and they all hung out together just the same.

The premise made it sound like the ending would be a bit more tragic than it was, but it was really just predictable. When a book has a main character who is terrified of death, I become very, very afraid for all of the characters in the book. I felt like I spent more time than I should have waiting for a tragedy that never happened. Maybe that's part of the reason I didn't love this book. I wasn't exactly rooting for death, but I hated that the premise over dramatized things.

In some ways, Stevie was a great character. I loved her immediately because of her love of Gilmore Girls. She loved to read, she was funny and quick-witted and she was super loyal to her friends. However, one of the things that I really hated about this book was that Stevie was so incredibly judgmental. And since she hated to be judged herself, she was a bit of a hypocrite. She went into this whole big spiel at the beginning of the book about there being four types of homeschool students. She generously places herself into the "normal types" category. Meanwhile, the ones who are super religious get classified as "Blue Jean Jumpers." I am not religious at all, but I hate it when anyone is stereotyped or made fun of and that's exactly what Stevie did. I despised the way she talked about the religious ones. At one point, she asked one of them if they even had Internet. Come on, really?? Don't even get me started on this huge judgmental tirade where she went postal on this poor girl who hadn't done anything. And yeah, there was some homophobia towards Sanger's moms from the leaders of the homeschool co-op they were a part of, but Jess had nothing to do with that. Regardless of whether Jess felt gay people shouldn't have kids or not, she didn't deserve to be yelled at for it. I don't agree with that belief at all, but are you ever going to change any one's mind by screaming at them or judging them? I guess there was some character development and growth regarding that, but it felt like that happened way too fast and conveniently for me. I probably would have given this book a higher rating, but that part really bugged me.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Borrow this one.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: You Know Me Well by David Levithan

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is June 7, 2016.

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed. That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way. When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other -- and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.
The story bounces between the POV of Mark and the POV of Kate. I will talk about Mark first because I loved his story more. Mark has been in love with his best friend Ryan for YEARS. They have fooled around a bit, but Ryan has not come out yet and he always insists that him and Mark are just friends. That doesn't stop Mark from hoping though. Mark was a very relatable character with his yearning for someone he couldn't have and I even felt bad for Ryan because Ryan genuinely thought of Mark as one of his best friends. 
I was not a huge fan of Kate or Violet. Kate falls in love with her best friend's cousin, Violet, despite the fact that they have never spoken or met each other. When they do meet each other, they are instantly smitten. They don't really use the term "love" yet, so I guess that's a blessing but they still moved way too fast. And Kate irked me the way she was ALWAYS running away. I completely understand the low self esteem thing and the fact that she never felt good enough. I can relate to that. But I thought Kate was ridiculous when she kept running and hiding from stuff. Her best friend, Lehna, was a bit annoying but I got why Lehna was annoyed with Kate too. It's hard not to be mad at someone who keeps flaking out. 
The best part of the story, in my opinion, was the friendship between Mark and Kate. They were so cute together and I love that she just asked him to be her friend when she met him. It was adorable. They were both going through tough, but similar situations, and I love how supportive they were of each other. What I really loved was that for the most part, there were gay kids with normal problems that NOTHING to do with coming out, mainly because they are normal. No one had issues with the sexuality of Kate, Violet, Mark or Lehna. Kate and Violet even had a kiss in the middle of the street and I thought that it was awesome to have them do that and NOT experience any harassment or bullying. That was so refreshing. 
The only other quibble I had was that it was sometimes hard to tell who was speaking. The story was written in first person and the POV's were not broken up in any way. So there were times when it took a paragraph or two to figure out who was speaking. Other than that, this was a very moving novel that is worth the read.
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I received this ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is June 7, 2016.

In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure. On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness. That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancee, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

"I don’t think true love means your only love. I thing true love means loving truly."

Taylor Jenkins Reid, I LOVE YOU. I knew I was in trouble when I was already crying at the 25% mark. But that's how her books are: they make you cry, they make you laugh and they make you think. This is the second book of hers that I read, despite the fact that the premise made me nervous. Seriously, if this had been ANY other author, I would have skipped it. I hate love triangles and this one was intense. Emma marries her high school sweetheart (Jesse), he is in a helicopter crash on their one year anniversary, she moves on (eventually) and is engaged to someone else (Sam). Naturally, this is the point when her life comes crashing down because Jesse is discovered . . . . alive. Sounds like a soap opera, right?

This is the kind of love triangle where no one is the bad guy and I felt bad for every single person involved. The author shows Emma's relationship with Jesse and grieving over his death and then trying to move on. Moving on wasn't easy. She thought Jesse was her one true love and her soul mate. She didn't even start dating Sam until two and a half years after she thought he was "dead," not that I think that matters. I don't think there is a right and a wrong answer to the question of when someone should start dating again after they lose someone they love. That really does depend on the person so every answer will be different.

I loved Emma and I loved both of the men in her life. Yes, there was one particular guy I was rooting for (not going to say who) but I still empathized with both of them. Jesse is angry and he has every right to be. He was stranded on a deserted island for years. It was annoying that he kind of expected Emma to drop everything (including Sam) the second he got back, but why wouldn't he think that. For Jesse, everything stopped. He spent the entire time he was gone thinking of Emma and trying to get back to her. She was the only reason he fought so hard so I understand that it was hard for him to come back and realize that everyone had moved on without him. Emma was in her twenties when Jessie died. Three years may not seem like a long time, but people can change a LOT in three years. Emma definitely did. And poor Sam . . . he has to deal with the fact that his fiancee is in love with two men.

The whole story is heartbreaking and it really makes you think about true love and what that means. Does everyone get JUST one true love? Even though I had a preference for who she would choose, I still felt just as torn as Emma and I was so sad about the fact that someone in this triangle would leave heartbroken. I was extremely satisfied with the ending though. Another phenomenal book by Taylor Jenkins Reid!

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one!

Monday, May 23, 2016

DISCUSSION: New YA Version of The DaVinci Code

Has anyone else heard about this?

Someone mentioned it on Twitter and I googled the article. You can check it out here. I do believe smoke was coming out of my ears.

Please excuse my language but WHAT THE HELL IS THE POINT?

Dan Brown, the author of The DaVinci Code. said the new version will be "abridged" in length and it will be more "appropriate for readers in their early teens."
I don't even know where to begin. First of all, teenagers can handle longer books. The original edition of The DaVinci Code was 592 pages. Please. Do you know how many pages Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has? 768.

Teenagers can handle longer books. Dan Brown also talks about wanting to inspire younger readers. Here's a thought: DON'T CONDESCEND TO THEM.

If the book is good, people can (and will) handle the length. 

Let's think about the other part: apparently Dan Brown (despite the fact that both of his parents are educators) is under a couple of mistaken impressions:

1) He believes that people who read YA aren't intelligent enough to read Adult Fiction
2) He believes that the only people who read YA are teenagers.


Teenagers are smart enough to read long books.
Teenagers are smart enough to handle "inappropriate" material (whatever that means)
Teenagers are NOT the only ones who read YA. I read YA all the time, but I have also read The DaVinci Code
Here's a newsflash to Dan Brown: We do not need an "abridged" version of The DaVinci Code. What we need is people who understand that The DaVinci Code is "appropriate" for readers of all ages. 

What do you think of this news?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

DISCUSSION: Things Book Snobs Say

Gah, book snobs. Why is that even a thing? Surely, book lovers everywhere can unite and support each other over their mutual love of reading?
In a perfect world, that's what would happen. But alas, this is not a perfect world.

Here are just a few of the things I have heard book snobs say:

1. "I only read real books. They smell so much better." 
Look, I'll give you this: physical books smell great. But when I am reading, I don't spend the entire time smelling my book. I spent my time reading. I do like physical books too, but I hate it when someone uses the phrase "real books." The ONLY book that is not real is one that doesn't actually exist. And yes, ebooks exist. Get over it.

2. "I don't understand why adults read YA. Those books are for children."

This is probably the statement I hate the most. The only reason young adults books are classified as such is because of the age of the main character. The fact that a main character is a teenager doesn't mean the writing isn't beautiful or that the story isn't as deep as all of the other "serious" books you read.
3. "I don't buy books from Amazon. They are putting smaller bookstores out of business."

I like small Mom and Pop bookstores. I do. And I try to visit them when I can. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with shopping at a giant retailer like Amazon. And hello? Amazon is hella cheaper. Also, I live in Italy. The only small and independently owned bookstores near me sell books in Italian.
4. "I have never read Twilight/Gone Girl/50 Shades of Gray/insert name of overly hyped book here and I am glad that I haven't. I only read books that no one has ever heard about.

Good for you for not stooping to my level and reading books that others have read. I love discovering obscure books. But you are not cooler than me because I read books that everyone is talking about.
5. "I hated Twilight/Gone Girl/50 Shades of Gray/insert name of overly hyped book here. The writing was atrocious and people who liked those books are idiots."

Sigh. Do we really have to criticize readers who like books that we hated? I kind of hated the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy too, but do I think readers who liked it are stupid? Umm, no. People have different tastes. I don't like Pride and Prejudice, but there are tons of people who do. I certainly don't think badly of people who liked it . . . although, I did once get a very loud gasp from someone when I told them about my dislike for that book.
You would think I would have said that I hurt puppies or something.

6. "I only read books where you can learn something."

You can learn something from every book, whether it's fiction or nonfiction, fantasy or romance. You aren't smarter than me because you only read nonfiction.
I am probably snobby myself about one statement: "I don't read." 

Yeah, I don't get it. So if you make that statement to me, I will probably make a face that is reserved for people who hurt puppies.
But I promise that if you do read, I will never say one of these statements to you.

Have you heard any of these statements? What are some other things that book snobs say?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mini ARC Reviews: I Let You Go, The Leaving, Frayed

Title and Author: I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads Synopsis: In a split second, Jenna Gray's world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever. Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating.
Review: I wasn't sure what to expect from this one because I hadn't really heard much about it. The story starts with a six year old boy dying after being hit by a car. The mom is just crossing the street with her son and after the car hits the boy, the car just drives away without stopping. Part one is very different from part two. It's hard to say exactly why without giving it away. A few reviews did hint about a twist and I was completely floored. The twist happens at the end pf part one, which was about halfway through the book. When I read the twist, I was so shocked that I had to reread that paragraph a couple of times just to make sure I was reading it correctly. Then it made me want to rethink everything I had read up until that point. I almost wanted to reread all of part one in its entirety. Anyway, there is so much with the investigation into the driver and what's going on with the mother and meanwhile, there is a little boy who lost his life. During part one, the female narration is told in first person, while the POV of the detectives is told in third person. It was a sharp contrast that helped add to the shock value when the twist was revealed. I will say that the second part of the book is much more suspenseful and much darker. After the twist, there are a few bits and pieces that become predictable. One thing I didn't care for was all the personal life stuff of the two detectives investigating. I didn't feel much connection with them and felt like the stuff about Patrick's (the lead detective) failing marriage was just a distraction. I think it was because of that and the ending that was a bit too neat that made me only give this one three stars. It is worth the read though.
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Borrow this one. 

Title and Author: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando
Source: NetGalley
Scheduled Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Goodreads Synopsis: Eleven years ago, six kindergartners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to. Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they're entirely unable to recall where they've been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max--the only one who hasn't come back. Which leaves Max's sister, Avery, wanting answers. She wants to find her brother--dead or alive--and isn't buying this whole memory-loss story. But as details of the disappearance begin to unfold, no one is prepared for the truth.
Review: This book was such a page turner! This book has three POVs: two of the missing kids (Lucas and Scarlett) and Avery (the sister of the one kid who didn't come back). I loved the writing style of the author and I am so glad she didn't try to write from the POV of all the missing kids. Both Lucas and Scarlett are determined to find out what happened to them and who is responsible. I could relate to both of them, especially their confusion over who they were now and how they were expected to move on. Avery was the most annoying character. She got so easily upset by everything. She got annoyed when her boyfriend asked her how she was and when her best friend texted instead of called. She even got annoyed when her boyfriend took her out for ice cream and then purchased a flavor for himself that she had no interest in trying. Avery also decided that her and Lucas had a special bond, even though they hadn't seen each other since they were children. I did feel for her the most though. She was the only one who really didn't have much of a family unit, at least not one that looked after her. Her mom was clinically depressed and thought her life was over since Max was gone, despite the fact that she had another daughter. Her dad spent all his time working so he didn't have to do anything. The romance that was part of this book didn't do anything for me. I didn't really feel chemistry between any of the people involved and the love triangle came out of nowhere. At least, I think it was a love triangle. It was hard to tell who felt what for who. There was some foreshadowing about why the kids were taken, but it was still really interesting when it was revealed. There were a few plot twists that I definitely did not see coming. Both the writing style and the plot made this book a hard one to put down.
Buy/Borrow/Skip: If you enjoy mysteries, I think this one is worth buying.

Title and Author: Frayed by Kara Terzis
Source: NetGalley
Scheduled Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Goodreads Synopsis: Ava Hale will do anything to find her sister's killer...although she'll wish she hadn't. Because the harder Ava looks, the more secrets she uncovers about Kesley, and the more she begins to think that the girl she called sister was a liar. A sneak. A stranger. And Kesley's murderer could be much closer than she thought..
Review: Even though I was kind of interested in who killed Ava's sister, Kelsey, this book was kind of a mess. I didn't like any of the characters and didn't feel any emotion at all about Kelsey's death. Ava was just a bland character. There was all this backstory hinted at regarding her and her sister's past. I guess it was foreshadowing, but since I didn't learn the whole story until the end of the book, I was frustrated at all the secret hints. I also was annoyed at how the author kept referring to Ava and Kelsey's mom as her foster mom. First of all, she had been taking care of the kids for more than six years I think so it seems like she was more of an adoptive mom. Second of all, sometimes Ava would refer to her as a mom and sometimes as a foster mom. And since she didn't even have memories of her biological mom, I found it really hard to understand why she had a hard time calling the woman "Mom." And sometimes she would call her "Mom" and sometimes she would call her by her name. It was super inconsistent. Her boyfriend Jackson seems like a perfect guy, but he's a jerk. I didn't feel any chemistry between the two of them and I don't understand why she kept just taking him back after the stuff he did. Her best friend Lia was awful and totally uncaring. I hated both Jackson and Lia. The actual mystery of what happened to Kelsey is what kept me reading, but the resolution was so weird. It was totally bizarre and I will give the author one thing: it was completely unexpected. I also thought it was unrealistic and then after that, I felt the ending was rushed a bit. It was like the author thought, "Okay, the murder has been solved so let's end this book as quickly as possible." I still had questions, but whatever. 
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite Impulse Reads

This is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. They feature a different top ten list every week. This week's topic is top books I picked up on a whim without hearing too much about them.

I don't typically buy books completely on impulse. I didn't really have ten books that this applied to, so I split this list into two categories. The first category is books I really did buy on impulse, based on the title alone. The second category is books that I bought based solely on recommendations of a few fellow bloggers.

Books I bought based on title alone

1. The V-Word: True Stories About First-Time Sex by Amber J. Keyser - This book was just as funny and just as moving as I had hoped. This book is geared towards teenage girls who are struggling with the issue of when to have sex for the first time.

2. Famous Last Words: Fond Farewells, Deathbed Diatribes, and Exclamations Upon Expiration by Ray Robinson - This was an impulse buy at a London bookstore. These last words were both funny and moving.

3. More weird things customers say in bookstores by Jen Campbell - Where did I find this? A bookstore of course. These are pretty hilarious.

4. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan - I had no clue what this book was about and I don't even remember where I learned about it. I do know that it sat on my Kindle for months before I read it and when I did, I kicked myself for waiting so long. This was book was so incredibly moving and one of my favorites. 

5. We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - I saw the title of this one and immediately bought it on Amazon. This was a short, but very powerful, read.

Books I bought based solely on recommendations by bloggers
6. Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid - Grace @ Rebel Mommy Book Blog recommended this gem. I read this one earlier this year and it is still one of my favorite books of the year.

7. Bright Side by Kim Holden - This was another gem recommended by Grace. To be honest, I barely knew the premise. I saw she raved about it, went to Amazon and it happened to be on sale so I impulsively bought it. This was such a moving book. I loved it!

8. Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh - I bought this one based on a review by Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight. Shannon and I are practically book twins. We have the same feelings about 99% of the books we read. There are so many books on my TBR because of her. When she does a review of a book that I vaguely know about or even one I have never heard of, I just scroll down to see what her rating was. If it's a high one, it goes on my TBR list, no question. I absolutely loved this story of time travel. 

9. After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid - I had zero interest in reading this one until I saw a review posted by Nereyda @ Nick and Nereyda's Infinite Book List. Yes, I loved Maybe In Another Life, but there was something about the premise that just turned me off. Then I read Nereyda's glowing review and I knew I had to have it. I am so glad I did because it was just as good as Maybe In Another Life.

10. Alice and The Fly by James Rice - This was recommended by Cait @ Paper Fury. I had really not heard of it before her review so it wasn't on my radar at all. I was even on a book buying ban. Then I read her review and purchased it immediately. Worth it.

What have been some of your favorite impulse reads? Do you ever buy books without knowing anything about them?

Monday, May 16, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Progeny (Descendants of the Blood Countess #1) by Tosca Lee

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is May 24, 2016.

Emily Jacobs is the descendant of a serial killer. Now, she’s become the hunted. She’s on a quest that will take her to the secret underground of Europe and the inner circles of three ancient orders—one determined to kill her, one devoted to keeping her alive, and one she must ultimately save.

Here's my main issue with this book: I spent 85% of the book shouting (in my head), "WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL? WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE TRYING TO KILL EVERYONE?!" 

Seriously, I didn't get it. The premise didn't really explain the craziness of the plot. The premise just says that Emily is the descendant of a serial killer and she has become hunted. Sounds exciting enough, right? Here's what the premise didn't say: Emily is hunted FOR NO OTHER REASON than the fact that she is the descendant of a serial killer from HUNDREDS of years ago. Seriously. THAT'S IT. Apparently there are these hunters who have spent hundreds of years tracking down every single descendant of this serial killer because the victims never got justice or their land was taken from them or something. I never really got it. And okay, I can understand why THOSE PEOPLE would be upset. But this is the year 2016. There is no one alive who was affected by this woman. Oh, and this woman had some kind of power that she was able to persuade people to do whatever she wanted and all of her descendants inherited that power, but the girls had stronger powers so the hunters focused more on female descendants than male ones. Does that sound confusing and convoluted? That's because it is.

Now that I've gotten my rant about the absurdness of the plot out of the way, I will talk about the characters. Emily actually had her memory erased in some surgery (this is not a spoiler because it happens in the first chapter) because the hunters also are in search of some diary and they can get the memory of people they kill. Really, I couldn't even keep this stuff straight. I didn't really have a chance to get to know the character because she didn't really know who she was. She kept reminding the reader every chapter that she had no memory, but people were still after her. There was some insta love that I wasn't feeling and some friendships with people I didn't even care about. The good thing about this book is that it was full of action and didn't drag at all. The bad part was that I still missed some of the action because my mind was reeling too much with all the craziness and I was trying so hard to understand what was happening. There was a surprise at the ending, but I really don't know if that surprise is enough to make me want to read the sequel. Then again, I have a compulsive need to finish most of the series that I start so we will see.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Please just skip this one. Trust me.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: How it Ends by Catherine Lo

I received this ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is June 7, 2016. 

How it Ends is an honest, heart-wrenching tale of a friendship from first meeting to breakup. Told through alternating points of view, it is about two best friends’ tumultuous sophomore year of bullying, boys and backstabbing and what can happen when friends choose assumptions and fear over each other. 

I received this ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

Finally, a realistic book about a friendship between teenage girls. This book was so realistic that I swear the author wrote the book about me. Mainly I related to Jessie. Jessie has panic attacks and low self esteem and crippling anxiety. She even sees a therapist and takes medication for depression and for her panic attacks. While my anxiety has never quite been that bad, I can relate to Jessie's feelings of insecurity and her feelings that she wasn't good enough to be Annie's friend. Jessie used to be bets friends with Larissa and Courtney, two of the most popular girls in school. In time, they not only froze her out, but they started teasing and mocking her relentlessly. When Annie moves to town, Jessie is surprised when Annie talks to her and actually enjoys hanging out with her. But in time, Annie also becomes friends with Courtney and Jessie becomes very jealous and her anxiety causes her to become very clingy. That was part of her problem: in her quest to keep her friendship with Annie alive, she ended up pushing her away.

Annie is the new girl in town who is dealing with her dad's marriage to a woman that she does not like. Her mom died six years before and her dad and stepmom decided to move for a "fresh start." Annie feels lonely and is immediately drawn to Jessie and her family. But like most teenage girls. she craves popularity and friends and people who she can connect with. Annie had the best of intentions and she genuinely wanted Jessie and Courtney to bury the hatchet so they could all be friends. Even though I could relate to Jessie, I understood where Annie was coming from. All of Jessie's anxiety and her insecurities were so frustrating, mainly because Annie hated that Jessie constantly needed reassurance from Annie.

I am so glad that we were able to see both POVs so that we could get a glimpse into each girl's head. There were so many misunderstandings and miscommunications and mistakes on BOTH sides and I hated to see that friendship start to unravel. I could see the mistakes from both girls coming a mile away, but the beauty of this book is that I completely understood WHY both girls were acting the way they were. I don't even know if that makes sense. When I was in high school, I made some of the same mistakes in trying to fit in with the "cool girls."

There were a few twists and I am still not sure how to feel about them. I don't really want to give too much away. If you want to read my Goodreads review, there are some spoilers in there and a little rant about one thing I wasn't too happy about regarding the plot. Other than one part of the plot that happens towards the end, I really, really enjoyed this story. There were so many realistic aspects of the teenage experience: everything from sex to bullying to drinking and friendship. I loved the character development in this one and I loved that everything was so well done. I also love how it ended. Great read!

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes. Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?

This was yet another thought provoking and emotional read from Taylor Jenkins Reid. I'll be honest: when I first heard about this book last year, I had zero interest in it. I am married and I did not understand why a married couple would choose to work on their problems while living apart and not speaking to each other. Honestly, I thought it would be more annoying than anything. But then I read Maybe in Another Life by this author and I had a sudden urge to read everything she has ever written. Boy am I glad I did!!

Lauren and Ryan have been married for seven years and I think they've been together about ten years. They married soon after college and through a few well placed flashbacks, we are able to see that their relationship goes from lovey dovey happiness to nothing but arguments and distance. Even after reading this book, I still have a hard time with the decision to see other people and not talk to each other for a year. Marriage is hard and it takes a lot of work. Loving someone is a choice. You wake up every day and you make the choice to love the person you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with. Granted, it doesn't feel like a choice when everything is new and fresh and you are starting out, but it is definitely a choice. Some days the choice to love my husband is ridiculously easy and some days the choice is really hard. I think that's the case for a lot of people. I don't really understand why people decide to separate in order to work on their problems. That being said, the author somehow made me understand Lauren and Ryan's choice. 

"Ryan and I are two people who used to be in love. What a beautiful thing to have been. What a sad thing to be."

And man, this book made me think of my own marriage and how easy it can be to just get complacent and stop talking. This is what happened with Lauren and Ryan and it sucked. I can't even get clearer than that: it sucked. I hated to see them go from loving each other to basically not caring about each other. The opposite of love is NOT hate. The opposite of love is actually apathy. It just hurt my heart to watch both of these people get to that point. During the year apart, Lauren tries to examine her feelings for Ryan and whether she had anything in her to fight for her marriage. The whole journey to rediscover herself and figure out what she wants was so emotional and touching. 

"Maybe it doesn't matter if you need someone during the everyday moments of your life. Maybe what matters, is that when you need someone, they are the one you need. Maybe needing someone isn't about not being able to do it without them. Maybe needing someone is about it being easier if they are by your side."

I cried several times throughout this book. I don't want to give away the ending, but I will say that the turmoil of their separation and all the feelings of depression and loneliness and doubt exhausted me as much as it did them. There is so much going on and it is impossible to take sides here. There are two sides to every story and I loved that the author refused to put the blame on just one person in the relationship. Both Lauren and Ryan did and said things that contributed to the downfall of their marriage.

I freaking adored this book. I loved it so much that I wanted to read it all over again as soon as I finished it. I couldn't stop highlighting the amazing and beautiful quotes in this book. It will stay with you long after you finish it.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one!! 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Bout of Books 16 Updates!

I am so excited for Bout of Books! I am trying to clear some of the many books off my TBR list. These are a few of the books on my list for this week. The list may change depending on my mood.

  • read at least 5 books 
  • read for at least three hours every day (180 minutes) 
  • participate in at least one Twitter chat
  • participate in at least two mini challenges
  • ENJOY everything I am reading!! No forcing myself to read something I am not excited about

Books Read: 2
Pages Read: 720
Minutes Read: 370 (a little over six hours)
Notes: I woke up way too early and couldn't get back to sleep, so of course I got lots of reading done today. I started and finished How It Ends by Catherine Lo and I really enjoyed it. I also started and finished Break Me Like A Promise by Tiffany Schmidt. 

Books Read: 1/2 a book
Total Books Read: 2
Pages Read: 269
Minutes Read: 205 (almost 3 1/2 hours) 
Notes: Started A Court of Mist and Fury. This is a really long book so I didn't expect to finish it today. I am loving it so far.

Books Read: 1/2 
Total Books Read: 3
Pages Read: 500
Minutes Read: 300 (approx. 5 hours)
Notes: I finished reading A Court of Mist and Fury (LOVED IT!!) and started Gus (Bright Side #2). I also did a mini challenge over at the Bout of Books page. The topic was top five and I picked the top five books that made me cry (this was HARD to narrow down!): The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling, The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Books Read: 1
Total Books Read: 4
Pages Read: 384
Minutes Read: 245 (a little over 4 hours)
Notes: Yep, I am a reading machine! I finished Gus and started The Girl who fell from the sky. Gus  was really good and The Girl Who Fell From The Sky is just okay so far.

Books Read: 1
Total Books Read: 5
Pages Read: 276
Minutes Read: 180 (approx. 3 hours)
 I have now officially met my Bout of Books goal for number of books read! Yay! Everything now is a bonus. I finished The Girl Who Fell From The Sky. It was an okay book. The second half was better than the first. I started Running Barefoot by Amy Harmon. I would have read more than three hours today, but my husband and I were out and about and I was exhausted after waking up at 4:00am AGAIN. I had to struggle to meet my three hour goal, but I am happy I did it.

Books Read: 2
Total Books Read: 7
Pages Read: 
Minutes Read: 230 (almost 4 hours)
Notes: Finished Running Barefoot, started and finished Extraordinary Means and started Wolf by Wolf. Today was a great reading day!

Books Read: 2
Total Books Read: 9
Pages Read: 639
Minutes Read: 330 (5 1/2 hours)
Notes: Today was a great reading day! A combination of insomnia and lots of alone time because my husband left for a business trip meant lots of reading. I finished Wolf by Wolf (this was a hella good book!!). I also started and finished an ARC, Frayed. That one was kind of meh. 

Final Update:

I got a lot of books marked off my TBR this week! My goal was to read five books. I ended up reading nine. Yay! I also managed to read at least three hours every day. Most days, I read more. I am happy with my progress this week.

Books I have read during Bout of Books:

How It Ends by Catherine Lo
Break Me Like A Promise (Once Upon a Crime Family #2) by Tiffany Schmidt 
A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorn and Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas
Gus (Bright Side #2) by Kim Holden
The Girl Who Fell From The Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
Running Barefoot by Amy Harmon
Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider 
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Frayed by Kara Terzis

How are you guys doing with Bout of Books?