Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thnks fr th Mmrs

I bet you can guess from the title what this post is going to be about?

I'm not even sure where to start. This is something that I've been thinking about for a really long time, and it's finally time. Honestly, I've been putting this off because I don't want to, but I know that, at least right now, it's needed.

I am quitting blogging.

I know, I know, I'm sad too. :(((((  I'm sure you've noticed that I haven't been around much, especially the last few months. And I just don't know how to explain it. Obviously, school has become super busy and stressful. I'm now an upperclassman, and so it's just going to get worse from here. But more than that, I have just been so meh lately. And it's been affecting a lot of areas of my personal life.

I want to find myself again in 2016. And I just really felt like that included taking a step back from blogging. I'm not sure how to explain everything, but just that it's mostly a mental issue. But I also know that I don't have a lot of time anymore, and it's hard to devote enough time to blogging that I should.

Okay, I'm not fully quitting. I do still have some review books, so those reviews will be on here soon. I also hope that I can get back into reading (something I haven't been able to truly do for so long) and of course I will want to discuss those books with someone. And, once a evaluate after a while, there's always the chance that I will come back.

I want to read more for pleasure this coming year. I also have plans to read more nonfiction, more classics, and more educational books. And I just don't feel like I have time to read all that while still reviewing books. But there will still be the sporadic review, and maybe discussion post.

BUT I am going to try to be a little more active on Twitter and Instagram, so you can always find me there :) Please, feel free to reach out and talk anytime.

Most of all, I just want to say THANK YOU. Some of you may never know what this community has done for me, but the fact that I had you guys through some of the hardest years of my life made things bearable. I know some people don't consider Internet friends "real" friends, but I definitely do. I am so glad that I have you guys to nerd out with when I don't have anyone else. I will forever be grateful for the friends I have made here.

Anyway. That's all I have to say. I hope you all have a wonderful 2016. Catch ya on the Twitter.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Lion Heart {by A.C. Gaughen}

Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughan
Title: Lion Heart
Author: A.C. Gaughen
Series: Scarlet #3
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: NetGalley

Scarlet has captured the hearts of readers as well as the heart of Robin Hood, and after ceaseless obstacles and countless threats, readers will finally find out the fate of the Lady Thief.
Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape from the Prince's clutches, she learns that King Richard’s life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine demands a service Scarlet can’t refuse: spy for her and help bring Richard home safe. But fate—and her heart—won’t allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long, and together, Scarlet and Rob must stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England. They can not rest until he’s stopped, but will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

Oh man. I love this series so much and am so sad that it has come to an end. I decided to binge the whole series together, since I wanted to reread the first two anyway so everything was fresh in my mind, and I am so glad I did. This was such a good ending to the series. I will try to not spoil things from the first two books, but I make no promises.

Oh Scarlet. How I love her. She has been through so much, but she stays strong. Most importantly, she doesn't lose her heart. It would be so easy for her to become jaded, but she still cares for her people. She wants to do what's right, no matter the consequence to herself. We also see how much she's changed, from being less rash and reckless, to learning how to wield her power as a noblewoman. Learning that being willing to die for someone isn't always the way to help them (insert Hamilton reference - "dying is easy, young man. Living is harder").

And Robin. I feel that we didn't see him as much. That is, he was definitely there a lot. But developmentally, I feel this book focused solely on Scarlet. However, Scarlet and Robin together grow and mature, but I feel that we also got to see more of all the secondary cast, as they also learn that they can help. Scarlet and Rob don't have to do this all by themselves, and it was so great to see their friends rally around them.

And like the other novels, it was fast-paced and suspenseful the whole way. it will definitely keep you on your toes until the end. In fact, when it did end, at first I didn't believe it. Surely there had to be more?!? But then I realized that it was, in fact, a great ending for the story. I love this series so much, and I would definitely recommend it if you haven't started it already (what are you waiting for??).

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

A.C. Gaughen

Website | Facebook | Twitter | tumblr | Goodreads

Thursday, November 12, 2015

{Blog Tour} Review: Sidekick by Natalie Whipple

 Sidekick Blog Tour

 Sidekick by Natalie Whipple
Title: Sidekick
Author: Natalie Whipple
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | TBD

Russ is tired of coming in second to his best friend, Garret. Whether it's in sports, in school, or with girls, he can never get ahead. Something has to change, and when a new girl comes to town he sees his chance. He has to win her over before Garret does, but proving he's not second best won't be easy when Garret is a pro.
Russ will do anything to beat Garret, including using his little sister to get closer to the new girl. He has to be careful, though, because if anyone at school finds out he attends anime night (and he might even enjoy it), it would ruin his reputation, just like his secret love for cooking and James Taylor.

But pretending to be something he isn't will catch up to him eventually, and Russ can only get away with living two lives for so long. As more than one friend reveals they aren't who they seem, Russ must figure out what and who he really wants in his life. And more than that, he needs to find the courage to make it happen.

Oh man, I loved this one. It was cute, it was fun, it was himarious, it was so real. I think this is one of those books that everyone can find something to relate to.

Russell is tired of being second-best to his best friend, Garrett. So when a new girl comes in to town, he thinks this is his chance. His in comes when he finds out she's also obsessed with anime, although no one can know that he actually watches the stuff with his sister and her friends. 

I think Russell might come off as too shallow to some people; he only seems to care what other people think, he only thinks of his reputation. But that isn't true. I found Russell to be a very complex character. He wants to make everyone else happy, even at the expense of himself. He's become a chameleon, to fit in with every group. But he also knows that this is high school, and it's brutal, and knows how lucky he is to be part of the popular crowd, and doesn't want to do anything to upset that balance. He just has to get through school, and then he can go off and be himself. But he's spent so long faking it that he's no longer sure who himself actually is. 

I think we can all relate to that feeling of having to hide who we are, of carefully picking and choosing what we show other people. Especially in high school, as it can be a brutal place. Russell is trying to figure out who he is (especially with college looming), what he wants from life, and we all know that feeling. 

Yes, the main plot is romantic relationships. But it's also about friendships, which I think is super important, and love books about that. When everything Russell seems to do just pushes his friends away further, he has to really figure out himself, and what he's going to do about it, because he can't rely on them anymore. And I loved that. I also loved how diverse this group of characters was, mainly personality wise, and seeing how they all grow and change. This is the coming-of-age novel I wish I had when I was still in high school, honestly. 

This was such a fun book. It was serious, and I think it had great themes, but it was also fun. Yes, this book has romance, but I think it centers more about friendships and personal growth. I loved seeing Russell and his friends grow and change and become themselves. It was an all-around great book (although it will make you hungry be warned).

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Natalie Whipple:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | tumblr | Goodreads

Natalie Whipple grew up in the Bay Area and relocated to Utah for high school, which was quite the culture shock for her anime-loving teen self. But the Rocky Mountains eventually won her over, and she stuck around to earn her degree in English linguistics at BYU, with a minor in editing. Natalie still lives in Utah with her husband and three kids, and keeps the local Asian market in business with all her attempts to cook.

She is the author of the TRANSPARENT series, HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW, the I'M A NINJA series, FISH OUT OF WATER, and MY LITTLE BRONY (under K.M. Hayes). In addition to that, she is on the writing team for the cRPG Torment: Tides of Numenera that should be out sometime in 2015.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Esther {by Rebecca Kanner}

 Esther by Rebecca Kanner
Title: Esther
Author: Rebecca Kanner
Genre: Biblical fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: publisher

A glittering Persian king has a vast empire that reaches farther than where the sun meets the horizon. He is bathed in riches and commands a frightening military force. He possesses power beyond any other mortal man and rules his kingdom as a god. Anything he desires, he has. Any woman he wants, he possesses. Thousands of them. Young virgins from all across his many lands.
A Jewish girl is ripped from her hut by the king’s brutish warriors and forced to march across blistering, scorched earth to the capitol city. Trapped for months in the splendid cage of the king’s palace, she must avoid the ire of the king’s concubines and eunuchs all while preparing for her one night with the king. Soon the fated night arrives, and she does everything in her power to captivate the king and become his queen.
But wearing the crown brings with it a new set of dangers. When a ruthless man plies the king’s ear with whispers of genocide, it is up to the young queen to prevent the extermination of the Jews. She must find the strength within to violate the king’s law, risk her life, and save her people.
This is a story of finding hidden depths of courage within one’s self. Of risking it all to stand up for what is right.
This is the story of Queen Esther.

I've read a lot of Esther stories. I would go as far as to say they're probably the most abundant Biblical retellings out there. There's just something about the story of Queen Esther. That said, they don't often surprise me or stray from the normal. There's a certain amount you expect, and they usually live up. However, I felt this one was totally different and unexpected.

I think what made this one completely different was how Esther was portrayed. And I will admit, at first it rubbed me the wrong way. We often see Esther portrayed as a meek, obedient little girl, who selflessly saved her people. But this story points out that meek and obedient would have never won her the title of queen in this time. At first, I didn't like Esther; she's power-hungry, arrogant, manipulative. But then I began to understand. It is more likely how she would have been, to attract the king, while keeping herself alive in a place that wanted her dead. She did act childish in some instances, but then you remember that she essentially was a child.

It is very important to me that stories like this are historically accurate, and this was impressively well-researched. I felt like it went more in depth with what happened between Esther arriving at the palace, and actually saving the Jews. In fact, that part was the very tail end, as the story focused more on her time in the palace. We got to see her interactions with the king, with the other women of the harem more in depth than I've seen before.

I do want to point out that there are a few sexual scenes in here, that go a bit farther than I think people expect from a Christian novel. Nothing explicit, obviously. Nothing that bothered me. But I did want to point it out in case you were the type to be bothered by it.

This also isn't the first retelling I've read that suggests Esther may have had a less favorable opinion or belief of God, and not the woman of super-strong faith that we assume she must have been. I think it's an interesting opinion, and makes room to explore faith and the Jewish religion and customs a little more.

All in all, I very much enjoyed this story. The reasons I disliked it in the beginning are the reasons that ended up making it one of my favorite Esther retellings. I think it was portrayed beautifully, both historically and Biblically. And I very much look forward to reading other stories by this author.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Rebecca Kanner:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Golden Braid {by Melanie Dickerson}

 The Golden Braid
Title: The Golden Braid
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Series: Hagenheim #6
Genre: YA Retelling, Christian Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: publisher

The one who needs rescuing isn’t always the one in the tower.
Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man around. And her skills as an artist rival those of any artist she’s met. But for a woman in medieval times, the one skill she most desires is the hardest one to obtain: the ability to read.
After yet another young man asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides they need to move once again, but this time to a larger city. Rapunzel’s heart soars—surely there she can fulfill her dream. But Mother won’t let her close to a man. She claims that no man can be trusted.
After being rescued by a knight on the road to the city, and in turn rescuing him farther down the road, Rapunzel’s opportunity arrives at last. This knight, Sir Gerek, agrees to educate Rapunzel in order to pay back his debt. She just has to put up with his arrogant nature and single-minded focus on riches and prestige.
But this Rapunzel story is unlike any other and the mystery that she uncovers will change everything—except her happily ever after.

I love Melanie Dickerson's fairytale retellings, so I was super excited when I saw that her newest one was one of my favorite fairytales ever, Rapunzel. Unfortunately, I didn't think this one lived up quite as much as her others, but I still enjoyed it.

Rapunzel lives with her mother, who has never let her get close to anyone else, especially a man. Rapunzel is old enough to be married, but if a man even shows her interest, her mother moves them to another city. But Rapunzel has had it. She's tired of moving, of not having friends. But most of all, she wants to learn to read. She finally gets her chance after saving the life of a knight, who agrees to teach her as a way to repay his debt.

While you don't have to read any of her others to read this one, it is very connected to the others. In fact, it's the other side of the story of what happened in The Princess Frog, after Margaretha and Colin left the castle. It as fun to see some of our favorite characters again.

While I did like both Rapunzel and Gerek, I still felt something lacking. They weren't quite as developed, even though they had the potential to be great characters. I thought the plot line was well done, with everything that happened with Gothel, and Rapunzel finding out the truth. I also didn't think this was as sappy insta-lovey as some of her stories. Rapunzel and Gerek had time to get to know each other, and in fact didn't even like each other in the beginning.

All in all, this was a cute, interesting take on the Rapunzel story. I enjoyed it, although I expected a little more. But I will still definitely be looking forward to more stories from Dickerson.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Melanie Dickerson:

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Every Girl Gets Confused {by Janice Thompson}

Every Girl Gets Confused
Title: Every Girl Gets Confused
Author: Janice Thompson
Series: Brides with Style #2
Genre: Christian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: publisher

Katie Fisher and Brady James may be a match made in heaven, but that doesn't seem to guarantee them a happily ever after accompanied by angelic choirs. In fact, the sounds being heard at the bridal shop where she works are on the contentious side lately, as a bride- and groom-to-be try to mediate the growing rivalry between their basketball-obsessed families in the middle of play-off season. On top of that, Katie's parents are nagging her to get out of Dallas and come home to tiny Fairfield where her former boyfriend Carson is waiting for her, ready to rekindle their relationship. Oy vey! What's a girl to do? And will she ever be able to wear that gorgeous wedding dress she won?
The breezy fun continues as Janice Thompson throws everyone's favorite small-town girl into big-city bridal chaos--and makes her choose between the love she thought she lost and the love she stumbled upon in the aftermath.

Another hit by Janice Thompson. I love her books, and I love this new series. We were introduced to Katie in the first book, where she won a wedding dress... despite not being engaged. And now we get to see her in this new season, as she leaves her small town to take work at the bridal shop in Dallas.

I love Katie. I think she's hilarious. She has that small-town charm without it being too overbearing and fake. She's gotten over being dumped by her long-town boyfriend, and settling into this new relationship with Brady. I love getting to see both sides--small town living, and big city living. And like any Janice Thompson novel, the secondary characters are what makes the novel. I love seeing the different dynamics of all the different people, from those working at the shop, to those in her hometown.

I think this one was a little more real than some of her others. Brady is really struggling with the realization that he might never play basketball again due to his knee. But more than being able to relate to Brady, Katie has to learn how to support and be there for him. It can be hard to know how to support someone when they're feeling that... depressed, you could say, and I like how this touched on that.

I don't read much romance, but Janice Thompson will always be a go-to favorite. Yes, there is a little too much "everything works out perfectly" but I think that's what makes them enjoyable. They're just a lot of fun, and I loved this one.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Janice Thompson:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Spinning Starlight {by R.C. Lewis}

Spinning Starlight
Title: Spinning Starlight
Author: R.C. Lewis
Genre: YA Fairytale Retelling
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: NetGalley

Sixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it's hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it's just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.
Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi's vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.
Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home-a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers' survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?
Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans strings the heart of the classic with a stunning, imaginative world as a star-crossed family fights for survival in this companion to Stitching Snow.

I really enjoyed Stitching Snow, so I was excited when I heard about Lewis's next story, also set in the same world. I also love how this one is based off a not quite as well-known fairytale, and I was intrigued.

Liddi is the youngest of way-too-many brothers. She's set to be the richest person in all the planets, once she inherits her parents' company. But Liddi feels inadequate, not as smart or techy as her siblings. But when they get trapped in between the planets, Liddi's the only one able to save them. She escapes to a planet she didn't even know existed, who turns out to maybe be the only one with the answers.

I think I probably liked this one more than Stitching Snow. Liddi is a paparazzi princess, but she isn't spoiled and entitled. Okay, maybe a little, but when it comes down to it, she is able to put that aside and sacrifice herself for her brothers. I loved seeing her get to grow and really come into herself, once she is thrust into this position where everything depends on, well, her. She was put into this crazy situation, when she doesn't even believe in herself, but she comes to realize that she can do it, and really learns a lot about herself on the way.

Like Stitching Snow, there is a lot of tech speak in this one. While I found it really interesting, sometimes it was too confusing and distracted from my enjoyment and the flow of the story. Another thing was the random flashbacks. While I liked how they added a different dimension to the story, helping us to get to know Liddi and her brothers even better, they were random, not fitting in with what was going on, and I feel that distracted from the story.

But all in all, I loved the story and the characters. Lewis has a way of making you care about even the smallest background characters. There was definitely more world-building in this one, and I did like that. It was a fun story, a pretty fast read, and I enjoyed it very much.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

R.C. Lewis

Website | Facebook | Twitter | tumblr | Goodreads

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

It's Not What You Think {by Jefferson Bethke}

It's Not What You Think
Title: It's Not What You Think: Why Christianity is About So Much More Than Going to Heaven When You Die
Author: Jefferson Bethke
Genre: Religious
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: publisher

New York Times best-selling author of Jesus > Religion challenges the accepted thinking of contemporary Christianity with the world-changing message Jesus actually brought.
Jesus was most upset at people for seeing but not seeing. For missing it. For succumbing to the danger and idolatry of forcing God into preconceived ideals. What if there were a better way? What if Jesus came not to help people escape the world but rather to restore it? Best-selling author and spoken word artist Jefferson Bethke says that Christians have the greatest story ever told but we aren t telling it. So in this new book, Bethke tells that story anew, presenting God s truths from the Old and the New Testaments as the challenging and compelling story that it is a grand narrative with God at the center. And in doing so, Bethke reminds readers of the life-changing message of Jesus that turned the world upside-down, a world that God is putting back together."

I loved this one. I loved his first book, so I was pretty stoked about this one. And it definitely lived up. I thought this was such an eye-opening and important book, more so than any other I've read in this category. Bethke delivers in such a way that is easy to understand but impactful.

So many things stood out to be in this book that I had to take notes, and I ended up with pages. Bethke breaks down Christianity in a way that shows us what God wants from us, which is to bring heaven to earth, not wait until we die. The chapters were broken up concisely in a way that really helped you absorb information. He reminds of us stories we may have heard all our life, but shows them in a new light. He goes through many subjects, including some we may not think about, such as the table being just as important as our worship. I also love this super important and powerful quote:

A person isn't valuable because she's someone's daughter or sister; she is valuable and has dignity and worth because she is an image-bearer. A human. (pg 170)
You can tell when a lot of heart and work when into a book, and this is definitely that. I think my favorite chapters was probably the one on Sabbath. I will definitely be implementing some of the suggestions in this book, and think that is the highest compliment. I think this is a very important book, and will definitely be recommending it to pretty much everyone I know.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Jefferson Bethke:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | Pinterest | YouTube | Goodreads

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Thousand Nights {by E.K. Johnston}

A Thousand Nights
Title: A Thousand Nights
Author: E.K. Johnston
Genre: YA Fantasy, Retelling
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: NetGalley

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.
And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time.But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.
Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.
Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of 
bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

I was expecting to like this book a lot more than I did. That cover is gorgeous, and I was so excited for a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights, but sadly I felt that it did not live up. (Most people have this issue because they've also read The Wrath and the Dawn, and either felt that it was too similar, or not as good. I haven't yet, if that means anything).

There are no names mentioned in this story, except for Lo-Melkhiin's. While I can understand the point and what the author was trying to do with that, it was a little confusing. However, it did not detract much from the story telling. It is time for Lo-Melkhiin to take a wife from their village, and everyone is sure he is going to take the narrator's sister. So, she takes her place. Our narrator is not as beautiful or graceful or talented as her sister, but she can do one thing: weave stories.

I'm not exactly sure what my problem was with this story. There was nothing specifically big, but just little things that added up. The characters fell flat. If they don't have names, they need to be very distinguished, and I did not feel that. The magical aspect of this story was confusing. I realize our narrator herself doesn't understand what's going on for most of it, but I felt lost and wasn't able to fully enjoy the story.

I did enjoy the parts from our other narrator. Won't say who because spoilers, but I felt that added an interesting dimension to the story. However, for the rest of the story, I felt that it was just flat and anticlimactic. While I did read to know what happened to Lo-Melkhiin, I wasn't excited about any of the other characters. I'm also not sure how I feel about the ending.

A lot of stuff happens in this novel, and although it did keep my attention, and the writing was vivid, I couldn't fully immerse myself in this novel. I think it had a lot of potential, but I don't think it fully lived up to it.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

E.K. Johnston

Website | Twitter | tumblr | Goodreads

Friday, September 25, 2015

Six Impossible Things {by Fiona Wood}

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood
Title: Six Impossible Things
Author: Fiona Wood
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: the NOVL

1. Kiss Estelle.
2. Get a job.
3. Cheer my mother up.
4. Try not to be a complete nerd/loser.
5. Talk to my father when he calls.
6. Figure out how to be good.
Nerd-boy Dan Cereill is not quite coping with a reversal of family fortune, moving, new-school hell, a mother with a failing wedding cake business, a just-out gay dad, and an impossible crush on Estelle, the girl next door. His life is a mess, but for now he's narrowed it down to six impossible things…
In this charming story of one guy’s efforts to get it together when his life is falling apart, award-winning author Fiona Wood introduces an irresistible voice and a delightfully awkward character who is impossible to forget.

This was a cute book. It is a little bit of a younger YA than I usually read, as Dan is only 14. And it did show, in the way he talks and acts. But it was still a fun and cute story.

Dan's life has been turned upside down. First his father announces they're broke, then that he's gay, and Dan and his mother have to move and start over. Dan is not happy about this. He doesn't like the house, he doesn't want to start at public school, he doesn't want to talk to his dad. But then he meets the girl next door, Estelle, and becomes fixated on her.

I know people had issues with the romance in here. Dan becomes pretty much obsessed with Estelle, in an almost creepy way. It could also be said that the things he did were unforgivable. But he's fourteen, he makes mistakes, and we do see him grow and actively try to be a better person. He does have his moments of unhappiness, and wanting to throw a tantrum, but he's learning to mature and how to be there for his mom, and I loved seeing that.

I do like how he and Estelle started getting to know each other, and she does get to know him and be his friend, instead of him just pining after someone he didn't know at all. Dan did let himself be used way too often, because she knew he liked her and used it against him, which always bugs me.

The story was fun, sure, but it also had its serious moments, what with everything Dan is going through. He has an absentee father that he doesn't know how to feel about, they have no money, his mom is falling apart. I think the story did a good job of balancing family themes, and more serious themes, but still being fun. It was a cute story, and I did enjoy it.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Fiona Wood:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Never Never {by Brianna Shrum}

Never Never by Brianna Shum
Title: Never Never
Author: Brianna Shrum
Genre: YA Fairytale Retelling/Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: NetGalley

James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up.
When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child—at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children’s dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up.
But grow up he does.      
And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate.
This story isn’t about Peter Pan; it’s about the boy whose life he stole. It’s about a man in a world that hates men. It’s about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan.
Except one.

I loved this story. Peter Pan retellings are one of my favorite kinds of fairytale retellings (yes, says the person who hadn't even seen a version, not even the Disney one, of it until she was 19). But there is something so magical and haunting and curious about the story of Peter Pan. And I'm not talking about the cutesy little boy from Disney. I'm talking the true nitty gritty stories. Which is exactly what we get here.

James Hook is a boy who only wants to grow up. The only childish fantasy he allows himself is his dreams of pirates. Then, he meets Peter Pan, who tells him tales of a land with fairies and where boys never grow up. James agrees to go with him on holiday, only when he gets there, Peter refuses to take him back. And thus begins his descent into the Hook that we know from the stories.

I loved that this was from Hook's perspective. The most interesting ones often are. And yes, this was a story about Hook and his time in Neverland, but it was so much more than that. It was a book about black and white and gray areas, and about morality and what that really means. We saw a different side of Peter, one I think often gets forgotten: that he can be really, well, evil. I think it explores some great thoughts on being children. And even, the descent into madness.

And the story was just beautifully written. It caught my attention from the beginning. For me, it did lag a little in the middle, around 30%, but then picked up again around 50% and hooked (no pun intended) me the rest of the time. I thought this was a gorgeous story, and I loved it. 

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Brianna Shrum:

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Mini Reviews: Love Takes the Cake, The Perfect Arrangement, Love in the Details

Love Takes the Cake
Title: Love Takes the Cake
Author: Betsy St. Amant
Series: A Year of Weddings Novella #10
Genre: Christian Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: publisher

She’s known for her delicious cakes, but there’s no recipe for dealing with the new man in her life.
Charlotte owns the best bakery in Louisiana, and clients come from near and far for her renowned wedding cakes. And while the wedding scene is Charlotte’s place to shine, her own love life is more dull than ever. After a string of failed relationships—and men who actually were too good to be true—she has decided to throw herself into her craft and leave love and marriage to her clients.
Will is a successful entrepreneur but devotes much of his spare time to caring for his ill mother. He knows he doesn't have much time left with her, so he has done everything he can to guard his heart from relationships. And what girl would understand that he needs to spend all his time with his mother? But when his best friend calls in his help for his September wedding, Will can’t refuse. He's always been there for those closest to him. And when he finds out they don’t have a wedding cake yet, he knows exactly where to go—the bakery owned by the beautiful, mysterious young woman he buys treats from.
Charlotte assumes Will is just another party boy who flirts with all the bridesmaids. But is Will hiding something that explains his behavior? And despite their reservations, will they be able to deny the chemistry between them?

I loved this story. I'm a sucker for stories that take place in bakeries to begin with, and this one was the cutest.

Charlotte is a single mother, just trying to keep her business afloat. She already made a mistake involving a man, and isn't about to repeat that. But she can't help her attraction to the customer who comes in every Tuesday at 5:40. Will, too, gave up the dating scene to take care of his sister (the GR description is wrong), but something about Charlotte is making him rethink that.

I think this story was going for a Mr. Darcy vibe with Will. Although I could kind of see that, I didn't really think it fit. Although the misunderstandings did abound, P&P style. But I loved seeing them get to know each other, and work through their reasons, and learn to trust each other.

All in all, this was a super cute and fun story. I think it's one of my favorites from this series.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Betsy St. Amant:

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The Perfect Arrangement
Title: The Perfect Arrangement
Author: Katie Ganshert
Series: A Year of Weddings Novella #11
Genre: Christian Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: publisher

Meeting Nick was truly an accident—but Amelia finds that he’s one of the few people she can count on.
Amelia Woods is a small-town wallflower who inherited her grandmother’s flower shop. Despite her success in business, her love life has ground to a halt. And then her temptation to spy on her ex-boyfriend’s wedding leads her to a horrifying fender-bender—with Nick, the groomsman who happens to be her ex’s new brother-in-law.
Meanwhile, William, Amelia’s younger brother, has proposed to his girlfriend. Amelia would be excited except she has evidence that the fiancée is not who she says she is. How can she be supportive and yet be the protective big sister too? It seems Nick is the only one available for any advice-giving, and he’s pretty good at it—and pretty fun to talk to. Amelia and Nick continue online conversations about everything, but always lingering in Amelia’s mind is the fear that he’ll realize who she is and what she was doing at the church that day of the accident.
As Amelia works to craft the perfect flower arrangements for other people—including a ninety-year-old “fairy godmother” named George—she begins to wonder if real love is better than the dream. And if it is, will Nick still be interested when he learns who she is?

I loved this one. It was fun and cute. I am more than ready for fall to come, and this one perfectly sets the tone for fall. I love stories set in flower shops (almost as much as bakeries) and so this was just perfect.

Amelia owns a flower shop in a quaint little town. She's quite happy with her life, until she rear-ends a guy... while spying on her ex's wedding. She quickly flees the scene, but this starts up an email exchange with the guy, who is cute and fun and just great to talk to. But she hasn't told him who she is or what she was doing that day.

I loved Amelia. She was fun and spunky and totally honest about the fact that she was a young cat lady, more than content to spend her days with her flowers and her nights with her cat and Netflix. I loved the email exchanges. They were fun and cute and I loved their interactions.

I will say, I feel like a big deal was made out of the brother's fiancée thing, and then it was dropped with no resolution. I mean, there was kinda, but not really. I also felt like the whole ex's wedding thing was drawn out too much. But other than this was a super fun and cute story and I loved every minute of it.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Katie Ganshert:

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Love in the Details
Title: Love in the Details
Author: Becky Wade
Series: A Year of Wedding Novellas, #12
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: NetGalley

When Josh returns to his hometown of Martinsburg, Texas, to help his best friend get married, he didn’t intend to run into church wedding coordinator—and ex-girlfriend—Holly. He can’t help but pine after the girl he never got over.
Holly broke up with Josh years ago in an attempt to ensure his future success. But she loved him then and still loves him now. As she helps him plan his best friend’s wedding, she can’t help but feel horrible for the pain she caused him. And even though she longs to be with Josh, she doesn’t feel worthy of his big-time lifestyle when she is more comfortable in her small town world. Will Josh and Holly be able to keep things as they are when their true feelings threaten to surface at every turn?

I loved this one. I thought it was such an interesting premise, different than anything else in this "series". I thought it was such a good story.

Holly and Josh were high school sweethearts, but Holly broke it off when Josh went to MIT to secure his future. Now, Josh is back in town for a friend's wedding, but Holly never stopped loving him. I liked that we get both point-of-views, as I think that added another depth to the story. We get to see how both characters feel, which really helps us get to know them better.

I was rooting for Josh and Holly the whole time. They both have gone through much hurt in the years since they've been apart, but they both realize they still have feelings for each other. Understandably, they aren't sure what to do with those feelings since it caused so much hurt the last time.

Even though this is only a novella, I thought this was a pretty fleshed out story. I loved getting to know both of these characters and walk through their feelings with them. All in all, I loved this story.

 This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Becky Wade:

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