Sunday, April 30, 2017

April Wrap Up

I tried to sneak in quite a few little books this month just to feel like I was reading haha #noshame ;)

5-star Reads: A Conjuring of Light
Other Notable Favorites: The Handmaid's Tale, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Hidden Figures, Black Panther

TV: Okay, this isn't really TV, but I (re)binge-watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and wow I think I loved it even more the second time. The first time, I had only watched Lizzie's videos, but this time I watched all the videos (Lydia's, Maria's, Gigi's) and read the book alongside it and wowowow it added to much more to the experience.
Music: New Foster the People EP!!!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

North of Happy {by Adi Alsaid}

Title: North of Happy
Author: Adi Alsaid
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: YA Contemporary
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: ARC Hop

Carlos Portillo has always led a privileged and sheltered life. A dual citizen of Mexico and the US, he lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family where he attends an elite international school. His friends and peers-fellow rich kids-have plans to attend college somewhere in the US or Europe and someday take over their parents' businesses. Always a rule follower and a parent pleaser, Carlos is more than happy to tread the well-worn path in front of him. He has always loved food and cooking, but his parents see it as just a hobby.
When his older brother, Felix--who has dropped out of college to live a life of travel--is tragically killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother's voice, giving him advice and pushing him to rebel against his father's plan for him. Worrying about his mental health, but knowing the voice is right, Carlos runs away to the US and manages to secure a job with his favorite celebrity chef. As he works to improve his skills in the kitchen and pursue his dream, he begins to fall for his boss's daughter--a fact that could end his career before it begins. Finally living for himself, Carlos must decide what's most important to him and where his true path really lies.

I loved Alsaid's first book Let's Get Lost, but DNF'd his second, Never Always Sometimes, so I was interested to see where this third book fell. Fortunately, I loved it. It's a story about grief, family, and lots and lots of food. I always seem to enjoy food/restaurant based books, and this one did not disappoint. Warning: you will probably be very hungry during the reading of this book.


  • I loved that this was a YA with a non-American protag. It was so very interesting to see through the lens of privilege of someone not living in America, and how that looks to the rest of the world. 
  • Did I mention the food? I loved getting a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of a restaurant and how one actually starts from the bottom to work their way up. I also loved the chapter headings, and I'm pretty sure some of the descriptions made me actually drool.
  • Carlos is still grieving the death of his brother. Grief can be a very hard subject to tackle, and I think the author did a good job. Grief will look different for everyone, and I appreciate the author showcasing that.
  • Our love interest was very one-dimensional. She seemed very much like your manic-pixie-dream-girl and I wish we could have gotten some more depth and character out of her.
  • I didn't feel as if the parental relationships were fleshed out well enough, both for Carlos and Emma. We know that Carlos and his dad have issues, but not getting to see much of his relationship with his parents made it hard to empathize/understand. Same for Emma; we know she and her parents don't get along the best, but the relationships were never as fleshed out as they could be.
  • The plot itself fell a little flat, for me. 
This book was still very fun and cute. I'm not sure if felt as deep to me as maybe the author meant it, but it was still a very enjoyable read.

Other books by this author:

Adi Alsaid:

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

If We Were Villians {by M.L. Rio}

Title: If We Were Villians
Author: M.L. Rio
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Genre: Adult Fiction
Purchase: Amazon
source: NetGalley

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.
Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingĂ©nue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.
Part coming-of-age story, part confession, If We Were Villains explores the magical and dangerous boundary between art and life. In this tale of loyalty and betrayal, madness and ecstasy, the players must choose what roles to play before the curtain falls.

Wow, did I love this one. I didn't realize it was considered a thriller when I first picked it up because that's not usually my genre, but it felt...different. (It actually reminded me a lot of Vicious by V.E. Schwab just in tone and overall mood and feeling).

One thing I loved most about this book is that I just never knew where it was going. I hadn't read the description because I wanted to go in blind (although the synopsis is pretty vague anyway), but this book had me entranced the whole time. I just quite honestly never knew where the book was going to go next. The thing I thought was going to be the climax happens pretty early on, leaving me wondering what else was going to happen??? Now, I did guess the whodunit pretty early on, but even pretty close to the end, I had no idea how everything was going to wrap up.

I loved the author's writing style. It was flowy and entrancing and sucked me right in. Also, this book is full of Shakespeare, so bonus points. I think theater kids especially will love this one.

This story is told in flashback from our MC, Oliver, about their senior year of school. Oliver and his 6 classmates are trying to finish their fourth year, when their very own tragedy occurs, causing them to fall apart. I thought our 7 MC's were fleshed out quite well. They each had their own personality, at least as seen by Oliver. There are quite a few relational dynamics, and I was glad to see all of them explored.

Again, I loved this book immensely, from the insider view on theater life to the character dynamics to the suspense and intrigue on what is happening. I can't wait to read more from this author.

M.L. Rio

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Duels and Deception {by Cindy Anstey}

Title: Duels and Deception
Author: Cindy Anstey
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: YA Historical
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: NetGalley

Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father's choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.
Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won't hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert's help, Lydia strives to keep her family's good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants… 

This book was, in a word, adorable. I don't read regency romance a lot, but this one was so cute and fun and I absolutely enjoyed it.

I loved our main characters. Lydia was an interesting character. On one side, she is very much the model daughter, putting away her wants and wishes for the good of the estate and her family. One the other hand, she is outspoken and independent. She has decided to marry the man of her father's choosing to protect the estate and honor his wishes, but she also has to stand up to her uncle, whose greed is close to ruining her estate and wealth. She was such a fun and enjoyable character to read about, even if sometimes she was a bit too hard-headed.

Robert was so sweet and adorable. He realizes pretty quickly that he's fallen for Lydia, even though he knows he can't do anything about it. Still, he was kind and gentlemanly, and I love that we also got to see his perspective. I feel that the secondary characters were not fleshed out well, they existed for their purpose in the story, but in this case, it worked to not distract from our MC's. I wouldn't mind a spin-off story about Cassidy, though.

Although the summary makes it seem like such a huge part, the kidnapping was not actually the bulk of the story. That part in itself was over pretty quickly, and the rest of the story was spent dealing with the aftermath. I do think the story lagged for a bit in the middle, but by this point, I was so invested in our characters that I didn't mind. While it was pretty easy to guess who was behind it all, there was still a sense of intrigue and mystery.

I loved the romance between Lydia and Robert, as it blossomed slowly and sweetly. These two were just a lot of fun to read about. They kept me laughing, and the whole story was a fast read. I loved it and I will definitely be checking out more of this author's work.

Other books by this author: 

Cindy Anstey:

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