Thursday, June 30, 2016

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

Summary from Goodreads:
Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, You Know Me Well is a story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.
There’s nothing quite like reading a book that takes place during Pride month, in San Francisco, with two LGBT main characters, during Pride month for real. I loved this book. There were a so many things I loved about this book.
For starters, I loved that at its core, this is a friendship story. Yes there’s love and heartache, but the main focus is friendship. And the dual point of views are between two friends (and not future romantic interests). That alone makes this stand out in a good way. I love that it starts at a club during Pride week. The two characters become besties after Mark wins a dance contest at the club (a dancing in your underwear contest). Kate just sort of announces to Mark that they need to be friends and then they are.
I love this! This is actually how I became friends with one of my best friends from college (minus the whole half naked dancing thing). Though, their friendship reminds me more of a different friendship I once had with a girl going through a very similar situation to me with an on again/off again boyfriend that was no good for her. But whatever, I love that these two became friends this way. I have found friends this way.
I also love the setting. These are kids who escape for Pride parties and parades. They accept people, all people for who they are. And never (besides maybe in a poem written by a side character) is this a book about hardship. It’s a book about acceptance and love and figuring out what you want and what you don’t want. Yes, I know hardship is a real thing, and I read a lot of books that cover it, but it’s just so refreshing to see a book that puts the LGBT community in such a peaceful, happy light.
That being said, I couldn’t help comparing this work of fiction to the very real stories of those killed in Orlando. I kept thinking what if this happened to them? What if this one true, magical safe haven of a place was destroyed for these teens who so very much needed it?  And I think these are the best kinds of books, the ones you can connect to the real world, and the ones that make you think. On the surface, this is a fluffy LGBT romantic comedy of a book; yet, there’s something so real about it that it’s hard not to make some connections to the much sadder world we live in.
I loved the characters. Though, I liked Mark more than Kate. Kate was so afraid of things. She reminded me of Lena from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. She’s believable. I can see someone being like her. I just don’t connect with her and understand her like I did Mark. Poor Mark. The side characters were great too. There were some seriously good poems put in during a scene where they all go to an open mic. There’s parties, clubs, parades, art shows, new friends, old friends, crushes, broken hearts, and so much more.
The one thing I don’t like relates to the ending for Kate. She makes a decision for what appears to be all the wrong reasons, for me. And everyone accepts this as her finally coming into herself and going for what she wants. To me, it came off as running afraid, again…but whatever. Other than that, I ate this book up. I read it in under 24 hours. And I must find more books by Nina LaCour. I think I’ve already read everything by Levithan. I give this a 9/10.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (193)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich (9/6/16):

Description on Goodreads:
A stunning, terrifying novel about a house the color of blood and the two sisters who are trapped there, by The Dead House author Dawn Kurtagich

When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt's home, it's immediately clear that the "blood manor" is cursed. The creaking of the house and the stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too--the questions that Silla can't ignore: Who is the beautiful boy that's appeared from the woods? Who is the man that her little sister sees, but no one else? And why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer?

Filled with just as many twists and turns as The Dead House, and with achingly beautiful, chilling language that delivers haunting scenes, AND THE TREES CREPT IN is the perfect follow-up novel for master horror writer Dawn Kurtagich.
Why I’m Waiting:
I’m not going to lie: I love my name. My lovely friend, Christina (from A Reader of Fictions), brought this book to my attention a few weeks ago. Why? Because I’m a main character! My name is finally in a YA book, something I’ve been hoping and dreaming for…Yes! Doesn’t Nori sounds like a great character’s name? This book also sounds super creepy and perfect for a dark fall evening, which is when it comes out. I love a good YA horror every now and then and I have a feeling this one won’t disappoint.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Summary from Goodreads:
Three weeks. Two sisters. One car. A True Story

Raina can't wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren't quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she's also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn't improve much over the years. But when a baby brother enters the picture, and later, when something doesn't seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all.
I love Raina Telgemeier. Seriously, her graphic novels are always so light, fun, colorful, and easy to read. I am a big fan of Smile, and I was happy to learn of this sequel. While all the best elements of the first book were still here, this one was very different.
Smile was all about Raina and her inner turmoil. This one is all about her relationship with her sister, her very outward relationship. I love all the flashbacks woven in among the current car ride. I completely relate to Raina initially wishing for a sister. I have two brothers and I always wanted a sister as a kid, someone to play dolls and stuffed animals with, some one to share clothes with and be best friends with. And I love how real this all felt to me. Again, it was autobiographical so I guess it makes sense that it would feel so real.
I also connected to Raina’s reunion with her cousins. People grow up and change in different directions when you’re not paying attention. Her cousin moved on from skating and into makeup and fashion. And Raina just didn’t feel like she fit in with her any more. And the cool thing about this is it’s timeless –this feeling of not belonging anywhere. It doesn’t matter that this story takes place when Raina listened to a walkman. Just swap it with iPhone ear buds.
The plot is a simple one. It’s basically a road trip story. All of the author’s skill with illustrating the details and the flashbacks are what made this stand out as being so special. She truly turned this simple story into something a little bit different. I still don’t like it as much as I liked the first book. However, it was a lot of fun. I give it an 8/10.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Summary from Goodreads:
The enchantment continues....

The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories—and secrets—that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier Wolf transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realize their destinies?

With nine stories—five of which have never before been published—and an exclusive never-before-seen excerpt from Marissa Meyer’s upcoming novel, Heartless, about the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, Stars Above is essential for fans of the bestselling and beloved Lunar Chronicles.
The Little Android: A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles.
Glitches: In this prequel to Cinder, we see the results of the plague play out, and the emotional toll it takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch….
The Queen’s Army: In this prequel to Scarlet, we’re introduced to the army Queen Levana is building, and one soldier in particular who will do anything to keep from becoming the monster they want him to be.
Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky: Thirteen-year-old Carswell Thorne has big plans involving a Rampion spaceship and a no-return trip out of Los Angeles.
The Keeper: A prequel to the Lunar Chronicles, showing a young Scarlet and how Princess Selene came into the care of Michelle Benoit.
After Sunshine Passes By: In this prequel to Cress, we see how a nine-year-old Cress ended up alone on a satellite, spying on Earth for Luna.
The Princess and the Guard: In this prequel to Winter, we see a game called The Princess
The Mechanic: In this prequel to Cinder, we see Kai and Cinder’s first meeting from Kai’s perspective.
Something Old, Something New: In this epilogue to Winter, friends gather for the wedding of the century...
I’m not a big novella/short story within the story reader (aka: the “.5” or “3.5” books). I guess a weird part of me feels like it’s cheating. Like if it was meant to be in the book, I’d have already ready it. All else is too late. I do occasionally read them, particularly when they come out in book format, as compared to eBook format. That being said, I had a lot of fun with this book, more fun than I was expecting.
I did not like all the stories. There were a few that truly felt unnecessary. They did not help me better understand a character, plot device, or point in the story –and this again felt like cheating. Why are your writing this now? Also, enough time has passed for me to have a good perspective about what is key for certain characters. Also, these were the stories that bored me. The one about Winter just felt like all the dragged out pieces of Winter that I didn’t like reading the first time. She is still my least favorite of the characters, I guess.
I loved getting to know more about Wolf. His story made me feel even more bad for what happens to him in the series. I also found the whole history of Cinder getting to earth and the help she received from Scarlet’s grandmother rather interesting too. It was fun getting snip bits of the childhood version of Scarlet. I also loved the story about Cress. I felt so bad for her when she realized where she was truly going. These stories all helped me to better get the characters I know and love. As a fan of the whole series, I loved this.
I found “The Little Android” to be such a unique story. I loved it. I could tell the author had a lot of fun with that one. And I guess that’s my favorite thing about this book: the amount of fun the author had in creating it. Because when they have fun, I have fun. The humor, the character development, and the fairytale type plot arcs were all still there. And I guess, really, most of these stories felt like little gifts for the fans. The wedding story at the very end felt like what I expect Jane Austen fans would feel if Austen were to give a few chapters more to each of her endings. It was purely for the fans, and I loved every corny moment of it. I give this a 9/10.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk and read by Emily Rankin

Summary from Goodreads:
Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.
This book was such a pleasant surprise. The good reviews for this one have been piling up. The book came highly recommended by a coworker who knows the author. The author lives on Cape Cod. The local papers have been singing its praises, but so have the New York Times and various other bigger fish. I knew it would be good, but I wasn’t expecting to love it so much.
I’m not generally a big historical fiction fan, particularly with middle grade. So, despite the high praise, I wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did.  Thankfully, it was hard not to love this. The writing was beautiful, the characters were spot-on, the setting was fantastic, and I can understand why reviewers are comparing this to To Kill a Mockingbird.
The plot is actually rather simple. It’s about bullies and standing up to them. It’s about doing what you know is to be right, despite how easy it is to do the wrong thing. Annabelle is strong, intelligent, and the best kind of main character. She’s willing to suffer bullying, so her brothers won’t have to. She defends people who everyone else is so willing to judge without knowing. She stands up for the little guy.
I also love Anabelle’s family. It’s so nice to read a middle grade story where the family is not only present, but good people. I loved how tough her mom was, and how honest her father was. I even loved her snobby aunt. Seriously, each character felt like a real person. And the setting was gorgeous. I can close my eyes now, days after finishing this book, and still picture Wolf Hollow.
To top this all off, this book also just felt so relevant in today’s news. This book covers it all: hate, mental illness, war vets, PTSD, gun violence, xenophobia, and even a bit of police brutality. The book covers these things in a light, in the background, type of way where no lesson is necessarily jammed down your throat and you don’t even realize these topics are all addressed until you’re thinking about the story days later. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
A lot of these tougher topics aren’t thoroughly addressed in an outright way, and I liked this. The author lets the reader decide, think about, and address these topics on their own terms. Yet, at the same time, things aren’t sugar coated either. The story was sad enough to cause a few tears from me. And while the main characters learned a very important lesson at the end, there was no super charming, Disney happily ever after. The outcome for many plotlines was sad. This felt plausible and true too. And this in itself was another lesson: the things you do and say are important and not everything can be fixed and solved with no loss or injury.
All in all, I found this to be a remarkably strong story. It was well written, well thought out, and well put together. The setting and characters were particularly strong. The plot was a simple one, handled eloquently. Some tough topics are covered and it does get rather sad at points. This being said, I think most middle grade readers can handle it. I definitely recommend it to fans of To Kill a Mockingbird. I see this one winning awards. I give it a 10/10.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (192)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (8/30/16):

Summary on Goodreads:
Magic can save you.
Magic can kill you.

Students at the Magisterium are supposed to be safe. Under the watchful eyes of the mages, they are taught to use magic to bring order to a chaotic world.

But now the chaos is fighting back. Call, Tamara, and Aaron should be worrying about things like pop quizzes and magic contests. Instead, after the shocking death of one of their classmates, they must track down a sinister killer… and risk their own lives in the process.

As Call, Tamara, and Aaron discover, magic can only be as good as the person who wields it. In evil hands, it has the capacity to do immeasurable harm, unless it is stopped in time.

In this striking third book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare present us with a school where anything, good or evil, can happen, and the only way to unlock the truth is to risk everything to find it.
Why I’m Waiting:
I loved the first two books in this series. I know not everyone loves these books, but I do. They are full of magic, good characters, plenty of awesome twists, and frankly, I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m surprised I haven’t heard more about this book because it comes out in a couple of months. The cover looks great and fits in with the rest of the books and, I’m super excited to get my hands on this next installment.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Good Week in Books (137)

I had a fun book week. I realized that Barnes and Noble was doing a teen book weekend. I had plans to stay over at a friends house, go into Boston, celebrate my college roommates 30th birthday, and then attend a barbecue (aka: not be home at all last weekend), so attending a teen book event was going to be hard…My friends are great though and agreed to go with me to teen book trivia night, despite serious hunger. We got yummy Japanese food later though.
Of course, I aced the trivia. Yes, it was amazing to have an actual outlet for all my teen book knowledge. And I’m so glad my friends were with me for moral support. Also, one of my friends (thanks, Chris!) was way better at celebrity/movie questions than I was and he helped me out. I had pretty much read all but one of the many books asked about. And I won! I won two ARC’s, some killer swag, a 20 dollar Barnes and Noble gift card, and a voucher to hook me up with more ARC’s throughout the year (starting with my choice of one of four anticipated coming out books)! I picked Gemina! And I’m flipping out about it.
The swag: (including sampler chapters, 2 tote bags, A Fierce Reads Coloring Book, stickers and more, gift card and more:

The super awesome voucher:

The books:

The Sun is Also a Star
by Nicola Yoon (!!!!)
Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

Thanks for all this, Barnes and Noble! How was your week in books?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (191)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas (9/616):
Description on Goodreads:
The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don't.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin's journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?
Why I’m Waiting:
So, I know I’m a little late to the party on focusing on this book. But, I have to focus on it. Oh man, September is not that far away, yet it is at the same time!  I love the cover and that it matches nicely with the rest in the series. I kind of hate the description because it gives absolutely nothing away. It could almost be a description for book 1…I want more information. Regardless, I know I’ll love it. I have been nothing but completely impressed by this whole series, and I cannot wait for September to roll around.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs and read by Kirby Heyborne

Summary from Goodreads:
A boy with extraordinary powers. An army of deadly monsters. An epic battle for the future of peculiardom.

The adventure that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and continued in Hollow City comes to a thrilling conclusion with Library of Souls. As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience.
Sadly, this was my least favorite book in the series. I did go about reading/listening to this one in a weird way. It’s a big book (12 discs), and I kind of wanted to see if I’d like the story as much without the spooky photographs, and I’d been on an audiobook kick, so why not? Unfortunately, I missed the photographs (though, there’s a bonus disc that includes them all). Also, so much time had gone by since I read the sequel, that it took me a while to get into things and remember who was who. Maybe I should have re-read the books first. Then add the fact that I went on vacation, half way through my reading/listening and it was weird coming back into the story when I returned, and well…that’s my weird way of saying I didn’t have the normal book experience here.
That being said, I did enjoy this book. The idea for this story is so good. I also love the characters to pieces. I love Jacob and Emma. I love the talking dog. I love Miss Peregrine. I even love the new characters. I did have trouble remembering the other peculiars that Jacob kept missing. But, it had been a long time since I read about them. If I’d re-read the beginning of the series, I’m sure I’d like them too.
Why was this one not as good as I remember the others? For starters, so much of the story felt like filler. I honestly believe this book could have been cut in half and I would have enjoyed it so much more. Too much time was spent deciding on plans, getting to their kidnapped friends, and figuring out what to do at the end. It’s sort of the rare case where I was wishing for more action, and less foresight, if that makes sense. It took me weeks to get through, granted I was away on vacation for one of those weeks, but still. It took me way to long to read.
Also, the villain was an all-time terrible cliché of a cartoon villain. I was used to interesting, dark, and uniquely fun characters. Why couldn’t the bad guy be this too? Every time he complained about no one letting him make speeches or every time he whined about his other siblings getting all the attention, I literally felt like smashing my head against a table. I mean he was one cliché away from petting a cat, doing an evil cackle, and twisting a stereotypical mustache. I was so disappointed in him. Also it didn’t make sense for someone smart enough to do all that he accomplished and planned for years to be so generically stupid.
I liked the very end. I like that things went back to the real world and Jacob had to address the fact the world with his parents in it would never accept the friend he made in the peculiar world. It felt reminiscent of an early Harry Potter novel. I was so afraid it would end before this could happen. Thankfully, this had a great final chapter that had me smiling the whole time, well after the terrifying bits at least.
All in all, I love the story and the characters. I think there was way too much unnecessary filler in the story and it got in the way of the good action sequences for me. Also, it was hard for me to picture the setting because of a lack of world-building. It took me way too long to get through this story. The evil villain was a joke. The final ending though was fantastic. I was hoping to like it more, but I am glad I read it, if anything just for that end. I give it a 7/10.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna Breslaw

Summary from Goodreads:
Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her weed-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.

When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. And if they ever find out what Scarlett truly thinks about them, she’ll be thrust into a situation far more dramatic than anything she’s ever seen on TV…
I ate this up. I only heard of this book because I saw a blog tour post on another blog (thank you, The Midnight Garden). I loved the review. But more than that, I loved the mini article posted by the author at the end of the review. She wrote about social networking in a way I have not really seen it written about before. She wrote about it being good.
Basically, she said that the online universe did not create bullying. Kids were bullies way before now. The internet just gives cruel kids a newer platform to do what they already were doing. But, really social networking provides so much more good. It allows kids like Scarlett (from her book) to find friends she can’t find at school. It connects people who all like to write fan fic, or who all like to talk about YA books, or it gives kids whole communities of people to talk to when they might not have access to anyone otherwise.
Any way, this inspired me to request her book at my library. I was expecting to enjoy it. How could I not after such statements were made? The author put words to things I’ve thought about for some time, but never wrote down or really vocalized. I knew I had to like her book. I didn’t know I’d love it. I read it so quickly. I even spent some boyfriend time, reading. Thankfully, he likes to read too and didn’t mind having some quality book time with me.
Mostly, I just loved Scarlett. Her voice is so strong and sarcastic. I connected to her immediately. I’m not in the fan fiction world any more. But, I understood her. I 100% relate to her fandom and how she felt when her show was cancelled. I loved getting to read a book that touches on this. The only other one that I know of is Fangirl, which I also loved. Why isn’t there more out there?
I loved that Scarlet is independent and opinionated. I love that she holds true to her convictions. Yet, at the same time, she’s capable of learning that she can be wrong.  She knows when she makes a mistake in her writing. She knows when she needs to quit a certain moment with a certain boy. She knows she’s quick to judge other people, but wants to work on it. She’s flawed, but she wants to learn and be her best.
I love that she wasn’t afraid to talk about sexism in fiction. She legit brings to light two famous authors that everyone loves, and talks about how sexist they are. I have to admit that one of the things I love most about YA, is the lack of sexism. Yeah, it’s not perfect, but I really feel like it’s a whole genre for people who are sick of the authors mentioned in this book, sick of women getting the short end of the stick.
I also have to mention the fun fan fiction. I loved the pieces we got of Scarlett’s story. I know a lot of it was meant to be a lesson in not writing the people you know into your very public stories, but it was also super fun to read. I love how far she took things.
I also adored all the side characters. Her neighbor, Ruth, was just wonderful. I wish I had a neighbor like her growing up. I love that she taught Scarlett about feminism, and got Scarlett to be braver that I think she ordinarily would be. I also loved Scarlett’s complex relationships with her parents.
I ended up liking this one even more than I thought I would. I’m so glad I came across that blog tour post. I give it a 10/10.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (190)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills (10/4/16):

Description on Goodreads:
Sloane isn't expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that's exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera's twin brother and the most serious person Sloane's ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins' late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins' lives.

Filled with intense and important friendships, a wonderful warts-and-all family, shiveringly good romantic developments, and sharp, witty dialogue, this story is about finding the people you never knew you needed.
Why I’m Waiting:
To star with, this cover is pure gorgeousness. Second, I loved the debut novel by this author, First and Then. I was so excited to learn she was coming out with another book. And then I read the summary. It sounds so good. It sounds like what I want YA contemporaries to all be.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Love, Lies, and Spies by Cindy Anstey

Summary (from Goodreads):

Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she’s determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research.

Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana’s traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.
This is the perfect book to take outside and read at the lake. My mom and I had a very tiresome day of getting our nails done and buying flowers. Taking this book out to the lake, while my mom read her newspaper was just pure happiness at the end of a purely relaxing vacation day. It was also a good book to finish on my plane back to reality.
This author pays serious homage to Jane Austen. It was reminiscent of Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Emma.  Yet, it was also kind of silly and not too plausible. It’s kind of like this super sweet combination of Jane Austen and Meg Cabot. And ahh, can you think of a better summer read combination?
It was fun getting the guy’s perspective too. You don’t normally get the guy’s point of view in a regency romance.  Double bonus points for the guy being a spy and also being interested in women who are unique, intelligent, and independent. There’s so much witty banter and back and forth dialog, that I was practically smiling during my whole reading.
The one thing I didn’t like about this book was how lightly it seemed to take seriously dangerous situations. It wasn’t just about going for carriage rides and making societal blunders. Those carriage rides were with someone who kept trying to get Juliana alone to molest her (or worse). And Juliana kept ignoring this detail…
Everything else about this book was light, British, romantic, and rather innocent. There was just this one creeper in the background. Well of course, there was the spying stuff too. That was about a certain family giving information it shouldn’t to France. This was also super interesting. It did mostly take the sidelines to the teas, balls, and entering into society plotlines. Everything magically seemed to flow well together too.
I loved the main character. I loved the guy. I never fully loved any of the side characters. Her uncle was pretty great. But his greatness kind of just shows up out of nowhere at the end, in his helping to make everything end okay. The two romantic leads more than make up for the less interesting side characters though.
All in all, this had a few flaws, but was really just pure joy to read. It’s the perfect beach book, especially for Austen fans. I give it a 9/10.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Crown by Kiera Cass

Summary from Goodreads:
When Eadlyn became the first princess of Illéa to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined.
I have to admit: I was more than a little disappointed with this last installment. I kind of devoured The Selection series. I also rather enjoyed The Heir. You don’t really read these books because the dytopian/fantasy elements are awesome. You read them because the romance is spot-on and the idea for the Bachelor-type setting for it all is just so addicting. I own up to this fact. That being said, I used to like the side elements of the dystopian world. And I liked that there was some serious stuff happening in the background.
This book was lacking in all things serious. But, also, it just kind of felt like the author took every moment she could to fill in space with cheesy lessons or morals learned. There were cheesy moments with the king and queen acting like a retired couple. There were cheesy moments with side characters who were misunderstood. There were cheesy moments where Eadlyn had to realize so many things. And I guess these books were always a little cheesy, but this one seemed a little overkill for me. Or maybe it’s only now bothering me? Or maybe there were just too many morals for my liking. Moral overload.
I did still enjoyed the romance. I like who Eadlyn ended up with, though it felt a tad bit forced (aka: there were no hints of this earlier in the series). It felt a little bit like the author didn’t know who she was going to pick until she wrote it. And that isn’t terrible. I just like things to be backed up in fact/emotional moments and I was lacking that a little. I do like the guy. And I can see things ending successfully for them.
I also love how the stories end for some of the other guys. There’s another moment that surprised me in regards to two of the selection’s sexuality. And I loved that for the most part, the guys all left amicably. How can there be sore feelings in a book made up of morals and lessons learned?
I clearly didn’t love this book, but I also didn’t hate it. It made for good airplane reading on my way to visit my mom in Chicago. But did this side series need to happen? Probably not. Will I still read books by this author? Absolutely. I give this one a 6/10.