Personal Thoughts: I have yet to read a Kasie West book that I don’t fall utterly in love with so reading By Your Side was a complete no-brainer. I’ve heard people talking about it and saying that it didn’t quite capture the magic of the rest of her backlist but I completely disagree. I actually would rank By Your Side as my second or third favorite book of hers. I loved that in addition to all of the swoons, she touched upon a much more sensitive topic that I relate to greatly. That being anxiety. That and the premise of a girl getting locked in a library with a cute guy was more than enough to push it to the top of my TBR upon it’s debut.
Plot Summary: By a string of unlucky (or lucky?) circumstances, Autumn finds herself locked in a library over a three day weekend while the rest of her friend group has fled to the mountains for one long party. At first, Autumn thinks she’s alone but she quickly realizes that there’s someone else “trapped” in there with her. His name is Dax and he’s a cute loner boy who everyone knows of for having gone to juvie. On top of being stuck with Dax, Autumn also has to keep her anxiety under control so she can survive until the librarians come in on Tuesday morning and free them from this nightmare.
Critique: As I stated above, I really loved this one! I thought Autumn was such a great character and I really loved the way she handled herself. I found her to be extremely relatable in regard to her anxiety disorder (having an attack, not being able to stop it from happening even when she recognizes it coming, and needing to leave wherever she is to get fresh air and deal with it). Autumn seems perfect on the outside, she hasn’t even told any of her friends about what she struggles with and she’s constantly worried about letting them down so she agrees to events that she knows will trigger her. Then there’s handsome misunderstood Dax. After their time together locked in the library, they forge a special bond but they both have other things going on in their lives that need to get sorted out before they can see if being together is even an option. I’ve heard others say that the locked in a library scenario was underused which I suppose I can see but I think it was done well (because really, if Autumn and Dax had just read for three days straight that wouldn’t make much of an interesting story for the reader). I found myself rooting for Autumn in every area of her life (romantically, friend-wise and with family) and I just feel like I really bonded with her among the pages. I would honestly be disappointed every time my train ride would come to an end because I didn’t want to put down this book!
Do I Recommend?: I think that’s a pretty obvious yes! Kasie West is one of my favorite contemporary authors and so far she can do no wrong as far as I can see!
I’m so excited to be hosting such an enormous giveaway thanks to Disney Books! One lucky person is going to win TWENTY BOOKS!! It’s a library worthy of Belle herself :-D This giveaway comes in conjunction with a video that I’ve been dying to share since the moment I decided to film it. It’s my full Beauty and the Beast collection! I decided to share it in anticipation of the live action film which comes out this week! The book that sparked this giveaway, Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly which is one of several new Beauty and the Beast books (you’ll see some more of them in the video)! Disney was kind enough to send me my own copy of Lost in a Book and Belle’s Library. You can read a synopsis of Lost in a Book and Belle’s Library below my video!
Smart, bookish Belle, a captive in the Beast’s castle, has become accustomed to her new home and has befriended its inhabitants. When she comes upon Nevermore, an enchanted book unlike anything else she has seen in the castle, Belle finds herself pulled into its pages and transported to a world of glamour and intrigue. The adventures Belle has always imagined, the dreams she was forced to give up when she became a prisoner, seem within reach again.
The charming and mysterious characters Belle meets within the pages of Nevermore offer her glamorous conversation, a life of dazzling Parisian luxury, and even a reunion she never thought possible. Here Belle can have everything she ever wished for. But what about her friends in the Beast’s castle? Can Belle trust her new companions inside the pages of Nevermore? Is Nevermore’s world even real? Belle must uncover the truth about the book, before she loses herself in it forever.
Disney’s Belle is one of the best fictional bookworms around. But what exactly is on her reading list? In this unique literary journal, enjoy inspiring quotes from some of Belle’s favorite books, as well as her insightful notes and colorful drawings. Includes a forward by noted Disney screenwriter Linda Woolverton.
CREATE YOUR OWN LIBRARY!
One (1) winner receives a spectacular collection of 20 Disney page-turners! To start your own library worthy of Belle! The full list includes:
- Lost in a Book
- Belle’s Library
- Art of Coloring: Beauty and the Beast
- Tale as Old as Time
- A Twisted Tale: As Old As Time
- The Beast Within
- The Isle of the Lost and Return to the Isle of the Lost
- Kingdom Keepers: The Return (3-book series)
- Star Wars trilogy (3-book series)
- Percy Jackson & The Olympians (5-book series)
- Tales from the Haunted Mansion: Volume 1
Giveaway open to US addresses only.
Prizing and samples provided by Disney Press.
Visit the Official Site
Follow @DisneyHyperion on Twitter
Follow @DisneyBooks on Instagram
Personal Thoughts: At the beginning of 2017 I set a goal for myself to read more adult literature (particularly more adult science fiction and fantasy) and while I didn’t meet that goal in January, I could not be more pleased with my February pick! I felt like I was suddenly living a world where Dark Matter by Blake Crouch was mentioned EVERYWHERE. I’d been aware of the book since it’s release last July but seemingly out of nowhere, it was being mentioned on multiple podcasts that I listen to, by several BookTubers I watch and it’s pretty cover was just calling to me from my bookshelf. I became obsessed with making it my next read and I’m so very glad that I did!
Plot Summary: Everyone should go into Dark Matter knowing as little as possible about the story because this is truly a tale that is way more fun to see unfold on the pages. The little I will tell you is that it follows a professor named Jason who teaches physics at a college in Chicago. He’s happily married to his wife Daniela and he loves their son teenage Charlie very much. One night before his family is sitting down for dinner, Daniela encourages Jason to go to a bar in Logan Square to congratulate his former college roommate on his success in the scientific field. On his way home from the bar, Jason is attacked by a person in a Geisha mask who asks him if he’s happy with his life. The next thing he knows, he wakes up in a world that is completely foreign to him and that’s really where the story begins.
Critique: I loved this book so much! I was completely addicted to the story from the very first chapter. It’s rare for me to become as engaged in a story as I was in Dark Matter when I’m so few pages in but Dark Matter just completely gripped me. Blake Crouch did a fantastic job of creating dimensional characters who the reader feels fully invested in from the very beginning. Despite Dark Matter being a sci-fi book focusing on quantum mechanics, the books language is extremely accessible and the reader does not need any prior scientific knowledge to follow the story. One thing I will say is that it was quite easy for me to figure out a certain aspect of the story. I’m not sure if it was due to the fact that I read a lot or because I’m familiar with a lot of stories in the genre but I am pleased to say that while my initial suspicions were confirmed, there ended up being a lot more to the story than I was expecting.
Do I Recommend?: Yes!! I’m currently pushing this book on my husband at the moment who is slowly reading it on the train next to me while I continue to devour books at a much quicker speed. I had been so hesitant going in because the author also wrote Wayward Pines which I loved until the middle episode when everything changed but thankfully, this book was for me the whole way through. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what he comes out with next!
Personal Thoughts: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake was hands down one of my most anticipated reads of 2016. I had listened to Kendare talking about her inspiration for the book in a podcast I listened to at the end of 2015 (which attracted my interest because I loved Anna Dressed in Blood so much) and I was immediately like YES I NEED THIS. She said that she came up with the premise for Three Dark Crowns when she heard about the way that bees choose their Queen- they give birth to potential Queen’s who fight to the death until the last one left standing takes over the hive as a ruler. She thought about how that would be an interesting story, especially if applied to humans. Yep, you probably want to read this book now too.
Plot Summary: Triplet sisters who were separated at the age of six must battle it out and be the last girl alive to take over the island of Fennbirn as Queen. There’s Katharine- the poisoner, Mirabella- the elemental and Arsinoe- the naturalist. The battle occurs once the girl turn sixteen and that’s pretty much all you need to know!
Critique: Three Dark Crowns is a much more politically driven novel than I had previously been expecting. I ended up loving the story despite having heard some negative reviews early on which is why it took me so long to start reading it. I did not want to be disappointed and thankfully, I wasn’t! Blake spent a good portion of the novel setting up the world and the three sub-worlds for the reader. I found the differences between the different areas of the island fascinating and I was immediately invested in Katharine, the poisoner’s, story. I also enjoyed Mirabella who is the strongest of the triplets as well as the only girl to have had memories of her sisters and reservations about what they must do to take over the Queendom. The only queen I wasn’t completely on board with was Arsinoe until the ending when everything got a whole lot more interesting. I had heard complaints that there are too many characters to keep track of but I would have to respectfully disagree. I liked that each girl has her own very fleshed out world and it’s going to make the conclusion, One Dark Throne, that much harder to read because I’m partial to more than one of them! The only element that seemed to be lacking for me was the romance which I was totally okay with because this female dominated society was more than enough to hold my interest.
Do I Recommend?: I do! The reviews are very polarizing on this one so you should read it for yourself to see where you fall. If you struggle with slower burn fantasy, I might not suggest reading it but I’m betting there will be a ton of payoff in One Dark Throne.
Personal Thoughts: When I heard there was going to be a YA retelling of You’ve Got Mail my interest was immediately piqued. What a fun concept! And it’s a much more current work to be adapted than those we typically see. I rarely request books from publishers for review unless I feel 100% confident that I’ll love them and I plan on reading them the moment they come in the mail. Otherwise, reviewing tends to feel more like work than enjoyment and that’s just not what I’m here for. Alex, Approximately met both of my requesting guidelines so I took a chance and I was lucky enough to get an early ARC copy and I’m thankful that I completely loved it! I also just want to mention the beautiful cover. I love the laid back California vibe and the gorgeous hanging lights that grace the background!
Plot Summary: Bailey Rydell has been talking to a mysterious fellow film lover named Alex on an app for quite some time now. He just so happens to live in the same town as her father in California and he’s been begging Bailey to come visit but after a traumatic experience earlier in her life, Bailey is extremely guarded and skeptical of getting too close to anyone over the internet. She ends up moving in her father in California but neglects to tell Alex this important bit of information because she’s worried he might be a creep so she decides to scope out the town and try to find him on her own terms. Bailey gets a summer job at a local museum where she meets who she believes to be, one of the most obnoxious jerks ever, son-of-a-famous-surfer- Porter Roth. Little does Bailey know that the hypothetical man of her dreams Alex, is none other than the person she cannot stand, Porter.
Critique: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett is everything I hope for out of a YA romance! The book covered a wide range of topics, not focusing solely on the romance aspect. There were familial relationships, friendships and Bailey’s own relationship with herself that were all tackled and everything was handled so well. Alex, Approximately is definitely on the longer side of YA contemporary, clocking it at nearly 400 pages but it’s completely worth the time it takes to conclude Bailey’s story in a satisfying manner. I loved Bailey sense of style- she always modeled her hair after Lana Turner and tended to dress like a retro film star on most days. She struggles with trust issues after a prior experience has left her reasonably guarded and reading about her journey to letting her walls come down a bit is completely gripping. I really loved Bailey’s dad and his addiction to Settlers of Catan (a board game that I too share an addiction for). He’s a really good example of a single parent doing the best job they can raising a teenage girl. Then there’s Porter who is one of the most swoonworthy book boyfriends. Porter is half white and half Polynesian and his sun-kissed curls, golden skin, and surfer’s body are often mentioned. He’s such a sweetheart and his in-person interactions with Bailey are so precious! Alex, Approximately is a hate to love romance at its finest. I will say that I didn’t totally get why Bailey was so hung up on Alex because their online interactions read much more like a friendship than a romance to me but I was living for their in real life scenes. Even the way that Alex handles things once Bailey and Porter meet will make your heart swell. I love that we get a big glimpse into Porter’s life and his situation and he’s not only there to serve as a love interest. Each protagonist has a very specific set of challenges they’re facing and watching Bailey and Porter learn to trust each other and work through them together is just swoon after swoon after swoon!
Do I Recommend?: YES! I really loved this contemporary romance, even more than I was expecting to. I already preordered my finished copy!
Personal Thoughts: So, Katie Cotugno is officially an auto-buy author for me. The funny thing is, I fell in love with her writing style before ever reading either of her currently published books. I used to so look forward to Katie’s Friday blog posts about 5 good things and I’m sad she hasn’t been keeping up with them (although she is posting much more on twitter which is a plus!). I read her sophomore novel, 99 Days in the latter half of 2016 and it was everything I wanted it to be and more. I had been putting off reading How to Love because I’m not usually interested in pregnancy stories but boy am I glad that I trusted my gut and in my love of Katie’s ability to make me love anything.
Plot Summary: How to Love is the story of Reena and Sawyer since he skipped town and she had his baby. Reena adjusts to her new life with baby Hannah and the fact that she’ll never go to college and she’ll be stuck in her small Florida hometown forever while Sawyer travels around doing whatever he pleases. Everything has become routine for Reena until one day, Sawyer resurfaces and declares that he’s there to stay. Now she has to sort through her feelings both past and present to determine her future.
Critique: All I can say upon finishing is that my emotions are shredded to pieces. Katie Cotugno crafted one of the messiest, most complicated contemporary love stories I’ve ever read and I have such strong feelings about these characters! Reena is a very relatable teen. She’s intelligent, she always does “the right thing” and she has a bright future ahead of her. I really love the way in which the story was told. Each chapter shifted from present day to the past during the time of she and Sawyer’s initial story. I loved the juxtaposition of the narratives and the way each scene was relevant to one another. I found Reena’s anger to be justified and as the story unfolded, I slowly found myself falling more and more in love with Sawyer from the way he treats Reena in the present to how good he is with their child. Both parties have made major mistakes in their time together and this is by no means a cute and fluffy story. It’s complicated with a capital C. I also loved the presence of family and the way religion affected Reena’s dynamic with her father. Overall, I just love love loved this book. As I neared the end I even tried to slow down my reading because I wasn’t ready for it to be over yet.
Personal Thoughts: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard was one of my favorite books of 2015 (I was lucky enough to read it early thanks to sprinting to the Tor booth on the first day of BEA) so obviously, I was feeling super hyped about reading Windwitch which is the second book in the Witchlands series. It was one of my most anticipated releases for 2017 (I feel like I might say this a lot but I swear it’s true! I just get really excited about new books, OKAY) and I love the autumnal cover and the prospect of getting Prince Merik’s perspective. The stars seemed to be aligned until I started reading and everything I loved about Truthwitch was just… missing. Talk about a major disappointment. I’m still interested in finding out where the story is going so I will most definitely be picking up Bloodwitch but this was just not the second installment I was looking for.
Plot Summary: The events in Windwitch are a continuation of the story we got in Truthwitch. I’ll be totally honest, it’s really difficult to come up with a coherent plot summary for this book because the story completely changed from the first book. We’ve got Prince Merik who is on a crusade against his sister Princess Vivia. He’s determined to prove that she has bad intentions and he’s traveling around under a false identity as everyone believes he died when his ship exploded. Then we’ve got Safi, traveling around with Empress Vaness after also surviving a shipwreck. Lastly, we’ve got Iseult and Aeduan (the Threadwitch and the Bloodwitch) on a mission to find Safi but getting into antics of their own.
Critique: Where to start? As an overall critique, I have to say that Windwitch was missing just about everything that I loved about Truthwitch. One of the reasons I was so drawn to the series and why I became so invested to begin with is because of the friendship between Safi and Iseult. In Truthwitch, we get to see all of these amazing best friend moments between two powerful ladies and then they’re separated for the entirety of book two. Next, the story is completely sidelined in Windwitch. There was so much set up for this epic tale in Truthwitch and not a single story line was continued or explored enough in book two. This is my main issue. Book two, it really felt like Book one, take two. There was so much groundwork laid in Truthwitch that I was expecting a lot more action this time around. While it wasn’t completely unenjoyable to learn about these new situations, the pacing was much slower than in it’s predecessor and I found myself getting bored. There are also A LOT of narratives to follow. Windwitch increases to five separate POVs so if there was a particular story line you aren’t as interested in, it feels like it takes forever to get back to the one where your heart is (cough *Iseult and Aeduan* cough). There were some important strides made during the course of the story and there was a ton of character growth with the exception of Safi. I also really wish the relationship between Threadbrothers and Threadsisters would’ve been explored further but I’m expecting that’ll be coming in future installments. So overall, I liked Windwitch (despite all of the complaining I just did), but I just was expecting so much more out of it. There’s now a TON of buildup between books one and two and I’m just hoping the payoff in the final two books will live up to my expectations.
Do I Recommend?: If you enjoyed Truthwitch as much I did, I would definitely recommend continuing on with the series but I would warn you that the entire feel of the story changes and to not go into it with high expectations. Hopefully this will have been a necessary addition to what will be an epic fantasy story.
Personal Thoughts: I had been wanting to read Girl Against the Universe since it’s debut, largely due to the gorgeous cover. I’m not really a fan of the color orange but this beautifully illustrated tennis court just works for me. And I love that Maguire is strewn across the corner, looking like she’s given up on everyone and everything. I knew going into it that Maguire believes she’s bad luck, but I was never expecting to find a character that I personally relate to as much as I do to her. Maguire suffers from anxiety (with a slightly different thought process than mine manifests in) and “listening” in on her therapy sessions with Dr. Leed was an added bonus for my own personal mental health.
Plot Summary: In Girl Against the Universe, our main character Maguire believes she’s bad luck. She would rather just stay home and far away from other people because she doesn’t want anything bad to happen to them on her account. She is the survivor of several accidents which is where her fear stems from and after her most recent mishap, she moves with her mom, stepdad and step-siblings to a new town in California for a fresh start. Her mom pays for a preset amount of therapy sessions with Dr. Leed and it’s there that Maguire meets Jordy, another one of Dr. Leed’s patients with his own set of issues.
Critique: I can’t even pick a favorite thing about this book because I loved the entire thing so deeply so I’ll just start explaining why. Girl Against the Universe is not a girl with mental illness meets boy and then suddenly everything is better story. Maguire and Jordy are each dealing with their own set of very unique issues and the book shows the two of them working through things on their own and with each other. Maguire never lets Jordy push her into anything she’s not ready for. With Dr. Leed’s help, she comes up with a list of challenges to try to push herself into being more social and experiencing the world instead of sitting home while life happens around her. As it turns out, Jordy is something of a niche celebrity. He’s by no means super famous but he’s well known enough that he’s used to girls using him for his notoriety and access to fancy parties. His parents have a one track mind when it comes to his future and until now, Jordy has been on board even though it’s not necessarily what he really wants out of life. The friendship that he and Maguire form is incredibly adorable and I like that they’re able to find strength within themselves as a result of their relationship. Also notable are the amazing and unlikely friends Maguire makes along the way. They’re supportive and helpful and I just want to give them a big hug. I also loved the family aspect of the story. Maguire has a complicated relationship with her stepfather and she hasn’t told her mother all the details of her mental illness. As the story progresses, there are some pretty heartwarming family moments and your heart is sure to melt.
Do I Recommend?: Yes! Girl Against the Universe is a new favorite for me, particularly for the relatability factor when it comes to anxiety. This book means so much to me. To see something that I’ve experienced portrayed so accurately and without any negative connotations, is more than I ever could’ve wished for. I’m so happy there is a substantial backlist of Paula Stokes books that I have to look forward to reading!
Personal Thoughts: I read Catching Jordan, the first book in the Hundred Oaks series last year but I had been hesitant going into it because in my own personal life, I could not care less about sports. As it turns out, I love sports anime and contemporary romances where sports play a part. I think what I’ve learned here is that if real life sports games had more monologues and less play time, I would probably enjoy those as well. I was excited to start Stealing Parker because one of my reading goals for the year is to catch up on the Hundred Oaks series and because this book focuses on softball. I played softball from third grade through my junior year of high school (when I wanted to spend more time with my friends so I purposely threw the tryouts since my parents forced me into them despite my disinterest). There ended up being a lot more baseball than softball but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I even loved it more than Catching Jordan!
Plot Summary: Stealing Parker is about a girl name Parker who has a very complicated life. Her mother came out and left her family and she hasn’t been handling the fallout well ever since. Parker is shunned by her best friend, the people at her church turn on her and in order to dispel rumors that she’s like her mother, she ends up kissing a few more boys than she cares to. Things get even more complicated when she becomes the manager for the boys baseball team and starts taking an interest in her very adult coach.
Critique: I really enjoyed this one! Stealing Parker was not at all what I had been expecting, I’ve never read a YA contemporary romance where religion plays such a huge role. I love that Parker begins to question everything she’s been taught once the people at her church turn their back on her and her family over the “scandal” involving her mom. It’s not just a coming of age novel in the general sense but it also focuses on finding yourself spiritually. Each person in Parker’s family is handling everything differently so this is in no way, a cute fluffy contemporary. It covers everything from underage relationships to slut shaming to drug abuse to eating disorders to best friend break ups and more. Parker ends up making a slew of bad decisions while going through her depression and as I’m sure you can imagine, things continue to spiral downward into even more of a mess before a resolution is reached. I absolutely adored the romance in this book (and no, not the sleazy teacher / student relationship). My only complaint is about Parker’s best friend Drew. His piece of the puzzle was a little ridiculous to me because of certain circumstances but overall, that didn’t hinder my opinion at all.
Do I Recommend?: Yes! Stealing Parker is the second book in the Hundred Oaks series but it’s not at all necessary to read these books in order. There are cameos of characters from the first book, but they wouldn’t be noticeable if you aren’t familiar with their story and you don’t need any background information on them to enjoy what’s currently going on.
Personal Thoughts: Boom! It only took an entire year but I finally read A Gathering of Shadows right in time to catch up with V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series before it’s final installment, A Conjuring of Light debuts at the end of February. I have no idea how I waited this long to dive back in but I do know that I never would’ve been able to wait another 12 months for the rest of this story after the unreal cliffhanger at the end of book two. V.E. Schwab has NEVER done that to us readers before so it was completely unexpected (and I loved every minute of it!)! I ended up loving A Gathering of Shadows even more than it’s predecessor, A Darker Shade of Magic but I’ll get more into the why of things below!
Plot Summary: A Gathering of Shadows is the second book in the Shades of Magic trilogy so if you haven’t read A Darker Shade of Magic, proceed with caution because there will be spoilers ahead. The second book picks up four months after the events in A Darker Shade of Magic. Having purged the obsidian stone through a rift into Black London along with Holland’s dead body, you would think things in Red London would begin to improve. Think again! Kell and Rhy are dealing with the consequences of their actions but only Kell is being punished for them. For someone who craves freedom, Kell seems to be less in control of his own life than ever before. Meanwhile, Lila Bard is off gallivanting with pirates aboard a ship called the Night Spire. As fate would have it, our two heroes become involved in the Essen Tach, or game of elements where folks compete using their magic to battle each other.
Critique: I’m a huge fan of elaborate competitions so A Gathering of Shadows was destined to secure a place in my heart. But it had me even earlier because following Lila’s adventures was my favorite element of this second book (okay, one of them but it’s just so hard to choose because I loved so much about this book!). The imagery that Schwab conveys about life aboard a pirate ship is the ultimate in appealing alternative lifestyles. Normally, life for a woman aboard a pirate ship might be a bit of a challenge but as you’ll remember from A Darker Shade of Magic, Lila Bard will give any man a run for his money using her plethora of weapons and a bit of her charm. Early on, I was living for those Lila scenes. Then we have Kell and Rhy, irrevocably bound to one another after the events of the first book. I am so glad that we got to see more of Rhy in this book because while he was charming and funny in book one, his added perspective uncovered an extra layer of depth that we weren’t privy to until now. I’m pretty sure everyone saw one specific thing involving Black London coming but I’m not going to say anything about it here just in case. Except to say THAT ENDING THOUGH. While we spent most of the story in Red London, we did find out some important information about the state of things in Grey, White and Black London so I’m really excited for the final book. So overall, the world VE Schwab built continues to be intriguing, the allure of the games kept everything exciting, the character relationships became stronger and the unexpected cliffhanger had me shaking my fist and screaming NOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Do I Recommend?: YES YES YES. There a bunch of people who have said that this series isn’t their favorite of VE’s works but I would still recommend continuing even if you didn’t love the first book. A Gathering of Shadows is a game changer and the antics of Kell, Lila and Rhy are sure to keep you hooked until the very end.