Book Review

Book Review: If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Contemporary + Romance + Retellings
Length: 362 pages
Author: Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Expected Release Date: April 23rd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

High school senior Cameron Bright’s reputation can be summed up in one word: bitch. It’s no surprise she’s queen bee at her private L.A. high school—she’s beautiful, talented, and notorious for her cutting and brutal honesty. So when she puts her foot in her mouth in front of her crush, Andrew, she fears she may have lost him for good.

In an attempt to win him over, Cameron resolves to “tame” herself, much like Katherine in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. First, she’ll have to make amends with those she’s wronged, which leads her to Brendan, the guy she labelled with an unfortunate nickname back in the sixth grade. At first, Brendan isn’t all that receptive to Cameron’s ploy. But slowly, he warms up to her when they connect over the computer game he’s developing. Now if only Andrew would notice…

But the closer Cameron gets to Brendan, the more she sees he appreciates her personality—honesty and all—and wonders if she’s compromising who she is for the guy she doesn’t even want.

READ IN ONE SITTING. YES IT’S THAT GOOD.

Ahhhhh, I absolutely loved this y’all.

First though, I know nothing about The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare. I know as much as the novel told me about and so I can’t really comment on how well this retellings went. I loved it though, so hopefully others thought it was great from the retellings perspective.

Cameron. Oh, bless her heart. Boy did she make me want to shake her sometimes. As she started off being completely terrible, I knew we were in for a great character arc. I was not let done. This was more than just a romance book. Watching Cameron learn about herself and what it means to be a true friend and being kind to others was almost more than my heart could take. She learned so much over this book and I felt I could really relate to these kind of struggles from high school. Working through who your true friends are, being with the guy you deserve to be with, dealing with iffy parents, the whole thing. I connected with novel y’all.

The romance though, was ABSOLUTELY JUST YAAAAAS. Oh it was SO CUTE. And the BANTER and the MOMENTS. ALL THE CAPS BECAUSE I AM OBSESSED. Cameron and Brendan forever. High school sweethearts PLEASE. Their romance was filled with forgiveness and tenderness that made it impossible to put this down because I needed to watch it unfold. I love the way it was done and seriously can’t stop gushing about it. This is the way a young adult contemporary romance should be written and I can easily say it’s one of (if not THE) top YA Contemporary I’ve read in 2019. I also adore that Brendan was a nerdy gamer and YOUNGER than Cameron because I feel like I haven’t seen that much in contemporaries and I was HERE FOR IT. All the heart eyes.

There is a much deeper message in this book. That it’s about second chances and how it’s not too late to decide the type of person you want to be. This bumpy road that Cameron went on was filled with hard choices that ultimately brought her to a state of peace.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary retelling + romance
  • Language: some throughout (occasionally strong)
  • Romance: a few kisses (it’s clean y’all, YAY!)
  • Violence/Trigger warnings: emotional and verbally abusive parenting, talks of cheating on someone

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Book Review

Book Review: The Art of Falling in Love by Haleigh Wenger

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Contemporary Romance
Length: 262 pages
Author: Haleigh Wenger
Publisher: Literary Crush Publishing
Expected Release Date: August 13th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Seventeen-year-old Claire Haynes always spends summer vacation at her family’s beach house in Florida, sketching and dreaming of art school with her biggest fan–her Opa. But when Opa dies right before summer break, all Claire has left besides her memories is a sand-sculpting contest application with her name on it and the lingering question of why Opa filled it out in the first place. Claire has never even made a decent sandcastle, but she reluctantly turns in the entry forms, hoping the contest will help her navigate the grieving process by honoring one of Opa’s last wishes.

When she meets Foster, a teenage boy with a talent for turning recyclables into abstract sculptures, the two join forces to win the contest and salvage the Summer of Art. They spend the humid summer days shoveling sand, devouring ice cream, and exploring Florida’s art scene. Just like Opa, Foster understands Claire and her overwhelming need to create, but he has a secret that threatens to ruin everything: he’s homeless and hiding from an abusive brother who would have him believe family trumps all.

When Claire’s parents find out about Foster’s homelessness, they offer him a home along with their hearts. But even picture-perfect families like Claire’s can harbor an ugly side, especially in the aftermath of Opa’s death. When someone close to Claire spills Foster’s secret, they’re both forced to choose between love and familial obligation. If Claire can’t break through long-held beliefs and prove family is more than shared DNA, she could permanently lose Foster and a chance at the sand contest to honor Opa.

A CUTE BEACH READ WITH DEEPER CONTEXT.

I saw a friend talking about this book and when she mentioned it was free on Kindle that day, I thought, WHY NOT? Why not indeed. This was a hidden gem from a debut author (and it’s only $2.99 on Kindle now so hey! That’s cheap too).

I loved the way the relationship between Claire and Foster developed. They had a nice meet cute and then things slowly built with actual conversation and interactions with each other. Even as a summer romance nothing ever felt insta-love and I was totally wrapped up in how things were going with them. The only thing that bothered me at times was watching Claire keep trying and seeking out Foster and when he should have done the same…he didn’t. Foster eventually did take matters into his own hands, but it took him a very long time to actually do something for their relationship.

Claire had a summer of growth and learning about herself. After the loss of her grandfather she coped with it while also having to look forward to decisions about art school and what type of medium she was interested in. I felt she really came into herself and her increased confidence and decision making by the end made her a heroine to remember.

The only character that truly upset me was Claire’s sister, Livvy. I still don’t think she actually redeemed herself from the crappy choices she made out of spite. Livvy acted very immature and completely irrational more than half the time. It felt like she was only there to add some more drama, but I could have done without her.

I loved the beach setting and it made me wish I could have read this during the summer because it is the epitome of a beach read. Lots of sun, sand, love and road trips. What more could you ask for?

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary + romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: physical
  • Trigger warnings: child abuse, homelessness

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Book Review

Book Review: LIFEL1K3 (Lifelike #1) by Jay Kristoff

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Young adult Science fiction/Dystopian
Length: 402 pages
Author: Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 29th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.

Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.

But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past.

Even if those secrets were better off staying buried.

A SCI-FI/DYSTOPIAN WIN.

I was wary of picking this up because Kristoff has vastly different types of books and wasn’t sure what I would find with this one. Y’all, it was really good!

It started off with a lot of action and rarely slowed up. I absolutely loved all of these characters. Eve was brave and a bit reckless. Lemon Fresh was sassy and kind. Ezekiel was strong and heartfelt. Cricket was quirky and loyal. This was a great group of friends that I caught myself even laughing at some of their interactions.

The setting and world was trippy. A dystopia world filled with robots. Robots totally freak me out and this was no different. I thought it was well done and enjoyed learning about how all of the different types came about and what their strengths and weaknesses were.

Plot twists though. A few I figured were going to happen, then we hit the last 50 pages where my jaw dropped at the reallllll twist of the book. I MEAN WHOA. Those left me shook and demanding that my library get book two ASAP. I think it’s crazy cool and if it’s going the way I think it is, I would be completely obsessed with this series. I love the nod to the Romanov’s. The names and situations made me think that’s what Kristoff was alluding to. It was a little Easter Egg that was a fun find.

I’m all over the place on maybe relationships, maybe their a villain, and maybe they die. I love that this book kept me guessing and wanting to read more. I’m generally picky about sci-fi reads and am grateful I decided to pick this up!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult sci-fi + dystopia
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: a mention of a potential night together, but very vague; some kisses
  • Violence: some crude jokes, blasts, explosions, poison, radiation, guns, animal attacks, plane crashes, physical
  • Trigger warnings: mention of a suicide (Chapter 10)

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Book Review

Book Review: The Vine Witch (The Vine Witch #1) by Luanne G. Smith

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Fantasy + Paranormal: witches
Length: 263 pages
Author: Luanne G. Smith
Publisher: 47North
Release Date: October 1st, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A young witch emerges from a curse to find her world upended in this gripping fantasy of betrayal, vengeance, and self-discovery set in turn-of-the-century France.

For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger.

Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover, she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley.

THE IDEA WAS UNIQUE.

The execution was less so.

I was really into this book at first, that beginning chapter where our MC is a frog? That’s interesting. I want to know more. As things went on, it started to drag and then I was truly confused at the point of some of the characters.

Elena, as a vine witch, works on a vineyard to produce the most extraordinary wine. Back from a curse she seeks to figure out who did it to her. This aspect of her personality I liked. She was headstrong in solving this case and was firm in choosing what she wanted to do. At other times I felt she let others do the work for her, or was too “weak” from her curse to do anything. It made her a bit wishy-washy.

I really liked Jean-Paul! He felt like a smooooth character (if that even begins to make sense). I immediately saw the potential connection between him and Elena. This never really worked out…even though they were together by the end? They spent very little time together and had little conversation throughout the book. I could see the author was pushing for their relationship, but I was no longer interested *shrugs*. I wanted a deeper connection with all of the characters.

Especially the villain. What was the point of her? She was a crone that had no story, no reason to be after Elena, and I don’t even know how to end this sentence. It was so lackluster that I am flabbergasted as to how I want to explain it. Frankly, she was superfluous and only there to fuel a plot that didn’t have a guiding light.

I liked the concept. The story with the witches who help a vineyard? That’s really interesting! I haven’t read any paranormal books like that. I just thought everything else could have been worked out a little better. The French influence was a perfect tidbit too.

Overall audience notes:

  • Paranormal fantasy (witches)
  • Language: a little (sometimes strong)
  • Romance: a little detailed fade to black scene, some kisses
  • Violence: poison, ritual murdering of animals, murder; fairly detailed

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Book Review

Book Review: A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1) by Deanna Raybourn

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Mystery + historical fiction + romance
Length: 339 pages
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

London, 1887.

After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal what he knows of the plot against her, he is found murdered—leaving Veronica and Stoker on the run from an elusive assailant as wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

THIS SLOW-BURN PARTNERSHIP IS AMAZING.

I read this based off a recommendation on Bookstagram and I was HOOKED.

I love Veronica. She is sassy and snarky and my kinda woman. I love that she chooses her own path and pursues the things she is passionate about. Veronica took her situation into her own hands (accepted some needed help) and figured out what plan would work best for her.

Stoker though? YES. Oh my goodness. Rugged, wild, gruff, yaaaaaas. But among those qualities is also the fact he never tried to control Veronica. They disagreed and argued, and then he would know she was going to make her own choices, AND HE WAS OKAY WITH THAT. They’re not even in a relationship, yet this slow-burn is going to ruin me. I can’t wait to see how they develop over the series. I hope they’re end game.

The mystery was great too. It actually kept me on my toes. The release of information was a slow trickle that was interesting and really added to each scene. It was crazy how everything actually unfolded. I did not see the entire picture at all. It loosely reminds of a better version of Stalking Jack the RIpper (which was fine, and I haven’t read the other books yet, but that’s kind of a vibe I got). So if you like those books, I would definitely recommend these!

There’s a big historical aspect to this as well since it’s set in London, 1887. That plus a mystery and some romance-esque things made for a solid read. I love a good historical aspect when it fits the plot well.

Overall audience notes:

  • Mystery + historical fiction + romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some witty/flirty banter; discussion of having relations, but no actual scenes
  • Violence: murder, fire, physical. guns; somewhat bloody/gory

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Book Review

Book Review: Well Met by Jen DeLuca

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Contemporary romance
Length: 336 pages
Author: Jen DeLuca
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

I FEEL LIKE I NEED TO GO TO A REN FEST NOW.

No? Just me? I’ve never been to one, but now I feel like it’s a need (and hopefully by the time this posts I found a way to go to one!).

Now, back to your regularly scheduled review:

This was cute! I wouldn’t say it’s on par with a handful of contemporary romances I’ve read this year though. I enjoyed it, brought me out of a tiny reading slump I was in, just wasn’t WHOA STELLAR.

I thought that the enemies to lovers trope felt forced at times and wasn’t really all that necessary. Emily and Simon could have easily bantered there way to a relationship without throwing in how much Emily did not like him. There was never anything to truly base her disinterest on.

Emily as a character was pretty great. I loved watching her grow and adapt to her life situation. She was in a crappy break-up that left her stranded and by moving in to help with her sister it allowed Emily to take a step back and figure out what direction her like needed to take next. She was open to a new town, a new job and I need to work on flowing with the change rather than struggling against the current. I loved the example Emily set.

Enter Simon. Put him in a pirate costume, YAAS GIRL. Otherwise, he took a bit to grow on me. Once again, this was that forced aspect I’ve been referring to. His personality seemed to strong and some of his choices weren’t fantastic so I had hard time loving him. The further into the book really had me singing a different tune. I thought he was a bit cheesy at times, but hot dang. Okay. I get it, I like Simon. He and Emily really did have a connection I was shipping all day.

The setting was totally amazing. I haven’t read any books with a Ren Fest as the main plot and YES. Costumes, Medieval Times, The Renaissance? Please and thank you all day. It was fun and inventive and allowed the plot to flow. Not going to lie, was also into it because a character had the same name as me (AND SPELLED THE SAME) which is clearly a sign I was meant to enjoy this book. A quick light-hearted (though there are some tough moments) read, that will give you warm fuzzies and a happy ending.

Also, epilogue? PRECIOUS.

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary Romance
  • Language: strong language
  • Romance: kisses make-outs, a chapter love scene (detailed, did not need to be a chapter long at all)
  • Trigger warnings: loss of a loved one

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Book Review

Book Review: Shadows of Self (Mistborn: The Alloy Era #5) by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Fantasy
Length: 383 pages
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: October 6th, 2015
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Shadows of Self shows Mistborn’s society evolving as technology and magic mix, the economy grows, democracy contends with corruption, and religion becomes a growing cultural force, with four faiths competing for converts.

This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial’s progress in its tracks.

Shadows of Self will give fans of The Alloy of Law everything they’ve been hoping for and, this being a Brandon Sanderson book, more, much more.

TALK ABOUT HOLY PLOT TWIST.

I’m still shook. Story: my husband and I have been listening to this together-ish (both when we can but not actually at the same time). He finished the day before I did when I had ONE hour left. Well, the biggest drop in the entire came during that hour and I literally ran out of my bedroom shouting WHAT?!?!? **and more spoiler-ish content I will not say here**. Sanderson is trying to break my heart, I can feel it.

Any who, this was another great installment of his shorter books. I loved listening to it. Michael Kramer is such a great narrator and does all of the voices SO FLIPPIN’ WELL. He’s read all 6 Sanderson audiobooks I’ve listened to so far and it’s been fantastic.

The dynamics between Wax, Wayne, and Marasi are THE BEST. They are a great team with different strengths that pick each other up when their weaknesses show. I love the banter, the love they have for one another and just everything. This is a team I want to be on.

There’s still a Western vibe to this with the gun-slinging vibes. And I’m still into it. I thought I might waver, but the way Sanderson crafts a story has continually left me breathless. I’m seriously trying to work my way through all of his books. WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO DO THIS.

These books are much shorter and easier to follow. The amount of twists and story lines that play in from the original trilogy amazes me though. Even if this is a spin-off that I know some people aren’t a fan of, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I love seeing old characters, hearing about the original crew, and learning how their choices have shaped this newer world.

SOMEONE GIVE ME A HAPPY ENDING PLEASE?!

Overall audience notes:

  • Fantasy / Sci-Fi
  • Language: none
  • Romance: none
  • Violence: guns, murder, knives, swords, dueling canes; occasionally a bit bloody

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