July Pick: Book of the Month

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Just like the past two months, I only went with one pick. BUT. I had already received one book as an ARC and I had preordered another, so I’m not sure if that’s cheating or not… More on that later. The book I actually got through Book of the Month was:

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Goodreads Synopsis:

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

Why I Picked It:

Like I said, I had received Ghosted as an ARC previously (you can see my review here), and I had already preordered Spinning Silver. The other options were The Summer Wives, which is historical fiction. I am NOT a historical fiction person for the most part, so I knew I didn’t want to order this one.

I had it narrowed down to two, and at that point the synopsis got me. I have a guilty pleasure: crappy teenage girl tv. That includes Pretty Little Liars. I’ve you’ve watched PLL, you can see the obvious similarities between the show and the description of this book. I was instantly hooked and I cannot wait to pick it up!

What book did you pick this month? If you haven’t tried Book of the Month yet, you’re missing out! Feel free to use my referral link below to give it a shot!

https://www.mybotm.com/mahhtnum098gp66r

xoxo

Jen

Beacon Book Box: July Unboxing

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Hooray! My July box from Beacon Book Box arrived a little late this month, so my unboxing post is squeaking in right under the wire of the month. The theme this month was BEHIND THE MASK. I love the Marvel movies, but have not really ever gotten into comic books or any of the superhero books (I know, I know, I’m behind the curve). So I was very pleasantly surprised by the selections this month! Then again, the team at BBB have never let me down so maybe not so surprised! Here’s what came in this month’s box:

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Shatter Me Inspired Warner & Juliette Tea by Wick and Fable. This is going to be a common theme for the following items, but I haven’t read this book so I didn’t get the reference. BUT I LOVE TEA. And I love when BBB includes drinkable items, so I’m super excited to try this. The tea has a blend of berries, lemon, and peppermint – yum!

Warcross inspired Woodmark by Bookmark My Heart. Again, I haven’t read Warcross. But who doesn’t love a woodwork?! And this double-sided bookmark is especially gorgeous! And I am immediately putting Warcross on my TBR list.

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Renegades inspired Rice Bag Eye Mask by Bookish Star Designs. Last time: I haven’t read Renegades yet. But this mask is AWESOME. You can heat it up in the microwave OR put it in the freezer for a cold eye mask. This was such a unique and cool way to incorporate the theme, and I’ve never seen one of these in a book box before! I cannot wait to try this out.

The Supervillain and Me by Danielle Banas, including a letter from the author and signed bookplate. This book sounds so cute, and I can’t wait to dive in! Not to mention I LOVE when there’s a letter from the author and a signature. The team at Beacon always makes a special effort to provide these touches!

August’s box still has a couple boxes left, and my code JEN10 is good through the end of the month, so be sure to check them out at beaconbookbox.com! I have loved repping for this company, and before that I’ve loved each and every box I’ve purchased. You will not regret giving this team a shot.

xoxo

Jen

 

ARC Review: The Forest Queen

The Forest Queen

Title: The Forest Queen

Author: Betsy Cornwell

Release Date: August 7, 2018

Publisher: HMH

Pages: 320

My Rating: ★★★.5

Goodreads Synopsis:

When sixteen-year-old Sylvie’s brother takes over management of their family’s vast estates, Sylvie feels powerless to stop his abuse of the local commoners. Her dearest friend asks her to run away to the woods with him, and soon a host of other villagers join them. Together, they form their own community and fight to right the wrongs perpetrated by the king and his noblemen.

Review:

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

3.5/5 for The Forest Queen! Like I’ve mentioned before, retellings can always be a little hit or miss for me, and while I did have some issues with this book, it was definitely a hit! A gender-bent Robin Hood? Sign me up! I was not disappointed.

WHAT I LOVED:

  • This retelling was so well done! And with a gender twist to boot. Every major character in Robin Hood was cast as a female character, and in my opinion it only made the story that much better.
  • Silvie in the second half of the book (I’ll address this more later). Second-half Silvie was strong, courageous, caring, and badass. She was also willing to admit where she was wrong, and eager to learn new things. Speaking of Silvie: her character arc was INCREDIBLE. The growth of this MC was so well done, and I applaud Ms. Cornwell. You took a main character that I truly did not like and turned her into someone I wanted to emulate. This was not an instant change, but happened slowly over the course of the book until the reader reached the end and finally realized what happened. I loved it.
  • Little Jane. Another strong woman pushing boundaries, kicking ass and taking names. This character arc was also incredible. The first time we meet Little Jane is pretty disturbing and dark. By the end of the book, Little Jane is a completely different person, full of hope and purpose. She completely owns her life and herself, and never wavers from what she believes is right, despite it being opposite of what all of her family and friends think. We could all benefit from being more like Little Jane.
  • I’m actually not that familiar with the original Robin Hood story, but this book is SO. DARK. And I loved every second of it. No punches were pulled – the villain was truly evil in every aspect of the word, and frankly in some really disturbing ways. I loved how dark this book was, and how unapologetic it was about that.

WHAT I DIDN’T:

  • I’m going to start with my big problem with this book, and honestly the main reason it didn’t get 4 stars. Silvie in the first half of the book. This girl was a piece of WORK. Spoiled, selfish, naive, and so undeserving of Bird and everything he did for her. I did appreciate how she owned up to her shortcomings, but for the first portion of the book I couldn’t stand Silvie. Speaking of Bird, I also was very irritated with how he and Silvie danced each other. If he had any sense he would have left her in the dust, and if SHE had any sense she would have stopped treating him like a doormat. Ah well, young love.
  • These complaints are more minor, but still kept creeping into my brain. There were some significant plot holes. (examples: Why did no one ever look for Bird or Nellie when they disappeared? Speaking of Nellie, was that absence ever explained?). I also found myself skimming some of the paragraphs where not a lot was happening – I wanted more focus on the actual Robin Hood part! There were only a couple of scenes where Silvie and the band stole from the rich and gave to the poor, and I wanted MORE!

Despite these minor complaints, I really enjoyed this gender-bent retelling! The Forest Queen is definitely worth a read if you love retellings or Robin Hood!

The Forest Queen releases on August 7, 2018.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’ll Always Remember Reading for the First Time

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. Check out her blog for more info!

This week’s assigned topic was actually books with sensory reading memories, but I changed it a little bit to suit myself. This list is about books I’ll always remember reading for the first time! Some are recent, some are not, and they aren’t in any particular order. Enjoy!

TEN: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Ok, before all of you haters attack me, hear me out. I know this book is widely polarizing. And I am saying, as someone who has been diagnosed with depression, and someone who has watched loved ones battle – and sometimes lose- suicide tendencies, that I loved this book. Let me make this clear: I do NOT think more love and kindness is the cure for depression. It isn’t. But I DO think every high schooler should read this book. Hell, every adult should read this book. Here’s why: look beyond Hannah’s “reasons”. At it’s core, this book has one, glaring message: your actions and words to other people have consequences. What you do and say to them MATTERS. Your cruel comment does not live in the single moment you said it. You have no idea what is going on in someone else’s head – it could be grating on them for days, or weeks. To me, this book embodies the Golden Rule: treat others how you want to be treated, because you never know what they’re going through.

NINE: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

What a CREEP FEST. I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning trying to figure this book out, and I never succeeded until I reached the end. I had to get my hands on this book after reading Gone Girl, but I liked this one better. It is not for the faint of heart – I stayed up late reading it, and couldn’t sleep for days.

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EIGHT: All the Ever Afters by Danielle Teller

Again, not a book I absolutely adored. I enjoyed it well enough, but it was the wrong pick for me. This book is special to me for another reason – it was my first approved and reviewed ARC! I was so grateful for the opportunity to review this book, and I’ve been grateful for every opportunity since then.

SEVEN: No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

I actually really hated this book, and if I’m being honest I may have DNF’d it. I read it in a crime fiction class in college. HOWEVER. I met my future husband while reading this book – he was in the same class. For a future physical therapist and engineer to meet in a crime fiction class must have been some strange twist of fate. We debated about this book endlessly (and the movie, which we watched for class). This is also unusual, as my husband isn’t a huge reader. Despite the fact that I hated this book, it’ll always hold a special place for me.

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SIX: The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

This is a book that will stay with me for a long, long time. I recently read this as a buddy read with a lovely group of ladies (follow the link above for a full review). This read was hard, and graphic, and in your face. There are too many trigger warnings to name. But it was also real, and beautiful writing, and brutally honest. I cannot say enough about this book.

FIVE: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

I read this for a college class, and I became obsessed with it, despite it’s length. I watched the movie and read the book several times. I didn’t love the glamor of the old south, or the historical tones – I typically do not like historical fiction. No, I loved Scarlett. Scarlett O’Hara is a grade A total bitch. And it is awesome. In a time where women were seen as simple ornaments, just a part of the scenery, meant to wait for their men while they went off to war, Scarlett is strong, and independent, and goes after what she want – even if it is TOTALLY the wrong thing.

FOUR: Marley and Me by John Grogan

Ahh, we have arrived at the reason I never, ever, ever, read dog books or watch dog movies. I read this on a trip to Florida with my family, and can distinctly remember finishing it in the hotel room and trying not to sob loud enough to keep everyone else in the room awake. Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE dogs, and this book was just too much for me. It ripped out my heart and stomped on it and I don’t think I ever recovered.

THREE: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

This is one of my favorite books of all time, and I read it in 9th grade english class. I adored reading this book – I devoured it in a day. And then went back and reread it so I could actually do my english assignments.

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TWO: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor.

This was my first buddy read in the bookstagram community, AND my favorite read of the year so far. I loved talking with all my new bookish friends about this read as I experienced it for the first time, and I can’t wait to return to it when Muse of Nightmares comes out.

ONE: Harry Potter. All of them.

This is such an obvious one to me. These books came out every year in July, and my parents took me to all the midnight releases. It was my goal every single year to start reading it as soon as that book touched my hands, and to try and finish it before the sun came up the next morning. I succeeded – most of the time.

What book’s first reading has stuck with you through the years?

xoxo

Jen

ARC Review: Girl at the Grave

Girl at the Grave

Title: Girl at the Grave

Author: Terry Bailey Black

Release Date: August 7, 2018

Pages: 336

Publisher: Macmillan – Tor Teen

My Rating: ★★★.5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Valentine has spent years trying to outrun her mother’s legacy. But small towns have long memories, and when a new string of murders occurs, all signs point to the daughter of a murderer.

Only one person believes Valentine is innocent—Rowan Blackshaw, the son of the man her mother killed all those years ago. Valentine vows to find the real killer, but when she finally uncovers the horrifying truth, she must choose to face her own dark secrets, even if it means losing Rowan in the end.

My Review:

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

3.5/5 stars for Girl at the Grave. I know I read the synopsis when I requested this book, but when I started reading it I could not have told you what it was about. And I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. I really enjoyed this read! It was definitely action-packed, although I did feel a lull in the middle, and there was mystery and a dead body around every corner. I did have some issues with this book though, so let’s get down to it:

WHAT I LOVED:

  • GREY. So much grey. Pretty much every character in this book has a streak of grey in them. Pretty soon I didn’t even know who to trust, or who I wanted to be the good guy or the bad guy.
  • So many twists and turns, especially at the beginning and end of the book. The winner of the love triangle is pretty obvious in this story, but the rest of it wasn’t. I was trying to guess who killed who throughout this entire book, and I only gained an inkling of suspicion very shortly before the killer(s) were revealed. This plot definitely takes you on a wild ride.
  • Really good portrayal of outgrowing your childhood best friend for your first shot at young love. I discuss this a little bit more below, but every bit about this was believable, relatable, and real (even if it was pretty predictable).
  • Rowan – SWOON. I loved this character, and he’s totally who I would have gone for in high school. That is all.
  • Valentine’s kindness. I actually really liked Valentine’s character (with one exception, explained below). She was well written, and very believable. You were really rooting for her throughout, and her internal struggles of Sam vs. Rowan, instead of being annoying, came across as exactly how every teenage girl spends their high school years. At the heart of Valentine’s character is her kindness. Despite the hardships she has endured and the difficulties the rest of the town has put her through, she still has room in her heart to teach a simple homeless woman the alphabet. I loved this about her.

WHAT I DIDN’T:

  • This is nothing against the book, I am just not a huge historical fiction fan, and I kind of forgot about that part when I requested this. It’s not my thing, but despite that, I did really enjoy this book, which must mean it was good!
  • Valentine’s naive streak. I mean come on girl, how naive can you get? For someone who has had to be her own caretaker since she was 6 years old, she does not have a lot of common sense. She seems to trust all the wrong people at all the wrong times. Speaking of naive, let’s talk about Sam for a minute here. At first I kind of liked him – sweet, loyal, childhood best friend. But then he got super naive, and THEN when Valentine tried to be honest with him, he turned into a jealous jackass. I didn’t care for that. Grow a backbone Sam!
  • SO. MUCH. DRAMA. This book was kind of like a sandwich. The bread, at the beginning and end of the book, swirled with mystery and murder and everything I wanted from this book. The middle was literally just high school drama, which I did NOT want. So that was a little disappointing to me.

Despite these issues, and despite not being a huge lover of historical fiction, I did enjoy this read! I you love historical fiction and want a couple twists and turns along the way, this book is definitely for you. Be sure to check it out!

Girl at the Grave is released on August 7.

xoxo

Jen

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Ten Standalone Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. Check out her blog for more info!

This week’s topic was Top Ten Favorite Novellas or short stories, which I don’t read a ton of, so I decided to change it up: My Top Ten standalone books! I have been craving standalones this year but for some reason have found myself swamped in series. I cannot seem to escape them, and it is making my TBR grow out of control. So in honor of that, here are my top 10 standalones, from no particular genre:

TEN: Panic by Lauren Oliver

This book took me a little by surprise, and I read it a long time ago, but for some reason it’s stuck with me since then. I wasn’t a huge fan of Delirium by Oliver, but I loved Panic. It was unique, had several POVs, and kept my heart pounding from start to finish.

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NINE: Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

I actually just finished Empress a couple of days ago, and I really adored it. I was happy to discover it was a standalone (unlike when I thought Grace and Fury was a standalone and it WASN’T), and I really enjoyed my first exposure to Japanese myth. Empress of All Seasons releases on November 6th.

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EIGHT: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

If you are in the mood for a heartwarming, steamy romance novel with some great messages hidden inside, do not wait – pick up this book immediately. I haven’t written a review for this yet because I can’t gather my thoughts enough to write one coherently. Love, love, love this book.

SEVEN: Looking for Alaska by John Green

I know, I know, The Fault in Our Stars is the obvious choice for a favorite from John Green. And a lot of people didn’t like Looking for Alaska. I loved it. This book had me questioning my own beliefs and my own thoughts about death and the afterworld from page one. And while Alaska wasn’t a particularly likable character, I felt drawn to her. Any book that makes me ask the hard questions about myself will always make the top of my list.

SIX: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

A realistic, heartwarming, extremely insightful tale of adolescent first love. I was shocked at how relatable and convincing both gender POV’s were. The character development was incredible, and it tackled some challenging topics, including but not limited to bullying, teenage awkwardness, and the rumblings and heartbreaks of first love.

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FIVE: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Finally, a fantasy book makes the list! And also the first book I’ve listed that I honestly wished I had more. What a book. It had it all: a badass female lead, witty dialogue, a swoon-worthy pirate prince, and all the morally grey-ness you can handle. Ironically, I actually wish Christo would write a branch-off novel, focused solely on the crew.

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FOUR: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I’m not sure if this technically counts as a standalone because of Leah’s book that was just released, but I’m including it – and it’s my post, so I make the rules. Guys. If you haven’t read this book, stop reading this post and go read it right now. I wish I could go back and reread this book again for the first time. I cannot give this book enough praise, so I’m just going to stop so I don’t word vomit all over the screen.

THREE: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Again with the word vomit. While the insta-love in this book is STRONG, I still loved it, and I loved the ending. Like Eleanor and Park, this book asked some hard questions of both adolescents. Give this book a shot, you won’t regret it.

TWO: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Can you say CREEP FEST? Ms Flynn never ceases to disappoint. I love when I can’t guess the twist at the end – and this one had a BUNCH of twists. And I couldn’t guess any of them. Be warned, this book is disturbing and more than a little creepy. But so, so good.

ONE: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

How could I not include this? To Kill a Mockingbird is my all-time favorite book, and it happens to be a standalone. Although now that Go Set a Watchman has been released (after Lee’s death), does it still count? Ahhh, whatever. I’m including it. READ. THIS. BOOK.

I cannot BELIEVE how few fantasy books are standalones. It’s like authors don’t think they can sell a fantasy story in less than three books. But I assure you, authors, you can. And please, for the sake of my TBR shelf, give it a shot. Because when I finish an exceptional series, the hangover is REAL.

Do you prefer standalones or series? Let me know!

xoxo

Jen

ARC Review: Empress of All Seasons

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Title: Empress of All Seasons

Author: Emiko Jean

Release Date: November 6, 2018

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers

Pages: 382

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

In a palace of illusions, nothing is what it seems.

Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy.

Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren’t hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast.

Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku in this beautifully written, edge-of-your-seat YA fantasy.

Review:

ARC provided by the publisher, HMH, in exchange for an honest review.

What a fun buddy read this was! Even if I did fall desperately far behind, I still loved this book! I did have some minor issues with it, which I’ll get into, but overall 4/5 stars. I LOVED that this was a standalone – I’ve been lacking those this year. This book was also unlike I’ve ever read before, so it was nice and refreshing. Thank you so much to HMH for sending me a copy of this book, I’m always so grateful to generous publishers.

WHAT I LOVED:

  • This book was so full of Japanese myth and culture! I have had little to no exposure to this, so I was so intrigued and drawn in (but also means I have no idea how accurate a portrayal it was). It was all so colorful and weaved such a beautiful story. The world building was EPIC, and I loved the little snippets we got every five chapters or so into the gods and goddesses’ tales. I always love when books have mixed forms of delivery, either with letters or little glimpses into someone else’s consciousness, but this was such a cool way to tell this story.
  • THE REP. An Asian YA fantasy novel, plus a small girl/girl relationship makes an appearance. It’s awesome to start seeing so much more rep of different cultures and more LGBTQ characters in the YA world.
    -Mari. I LOVED THIS CHARACTER. Mari is such a badass, but really leads and makes decisions with her heart. She is brave, and strong, and smart, but her defining characteristic is her kindness, despite her upbringing and her status as an Animal Wife. Speaking of the Animal Wives, the yokai really made this book for me. I loved reading about all the different types of yokai, and all their different abilities. This book also carried some important messages regarding slavery, embracing your differences and yourself, and standing up for what you believe in.
  • The side characters. These guys were done so well! I loved Akira and Hanoka so much, and my one complaint about them is I didn’t get more.
  • The Season rooms! This was my favorite part of the story, and was such a unique and awesome idea. The language and writing was beautiful and descriptive, and there wasn’t a dull moment to be had.

WHAT I DIDN’T:

  • Instalove. I’m using this as a blanket term but I have a couple of bones to pick with the main relationship in this book. STOP HERE IF YOU DON’T WANT SOME MINOR SPOILERS. First off, there IS instalove in this book, and it wasn’t done in a way that I could tolerate it very well. There was no build-up, and their first kiss felt sudden and completely out of context. It was like they just suddenly loved each other, and for no reason. I felt no connection to this relationship, and honestly didn’t even care if it failed or not. Part of this was my issue with Taro himself – he’s cold, abrupt, spoiled, and doesn’t really have any positive defining characteristics. His character isn’t fleshed out well, and the author doesn’t really do a whole lot to sell him to the reader (although based on what happens later in the story, this may be intentional). Put that together with Mari’s character, and I just never really bought the entire thing.
  • Pacing. It took about 100 pages for me to really get into this story, but once I did, I couldn’t get enough. My bigger issue with the pacing is at the end – the last 50 pages or so felt really rushed, and I actually had to go back and reread them because I felt like I missed some things. I wish the ending, as well as the tournament, had taken more time. I did love how the author wrapped it up though, and the ending was super satisfying.

Despite these minor issues I had with the story, I still give 4/5 stars and enjoyed this read so much. Empress releases November 6, 2018 so be sure to pick up a copy!

Buddy read with: Amy, Jules, and Chelsea.

xoxo

Jen

 

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Ten Books of 2018 (So Far)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. Check out her blog for more info!

And once again, my TTT post is late. It’s technically TOP TEN THURSDAY. Whatever, the alliteration still works. This week’s post was “Throwback – pick a topic you missed or wanted to do again” but honestly I saw people posting their top ten books of the year so far and wanted to do the same! I’ll try to do this in order, but THESE are my top ten books of the year so far (out of the 50 I’ve read). Links are provided for my reviews!

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TEN: My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton

I received this as an ARC and had no idea what to expect, as I had not read My Lady Jane OR Jane Eyre, but honestly this is the funniest and most light-hearted book I’ve read all summer. I immediately went and bought My Lady Jane, which I haven’t read yet, but if you’re looking for a good laugh, this one’s for you. Rating:★★★★.5 [see review here]

NINE: Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

Another ARC makes the list! Again, I went into this as a buddy read and had no idea what to expect. I LOVED it. If strong feminist messages are your thing, preorder a copy of Grace and Fury. While some parts were a little predictable, there were a few things that I never saw coming, and the darkness in this book was on a whole new level. Rating: ★★★★.5 [see review here]

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EIGHT: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince blew my mind so much that I literally could not write a review. I’m not even confident in my rating. The minute I got done reading it I kind of sat there like an idiot, and then wiped I had time to read it all again. I’m definitely planning on a reread before The Wicked King, and hopefully I can put words into sentences at that point. Rating:★★★★.5?

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SEVEN: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

If you’re looking for a unique storyline with wow factor and lovable characters, go pick Scythe up. No, really, go pick it up right now. There is so much GREY in this book and I LOVE IT. Rating: ★★★★.5 [see review here]

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SIX: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

There are good books, and then there are books that will stick with you for the rest of your life. This is one of those books. It was violent, and hard, and graphic. This book is not for the faint of heart, and it has more trigger warnings than it knows what to do with. But if you can get past that, you need to pick this book up. Because it is a life changer. Rating: ★★★★.5 [see review here]

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FIVE: Furyborn by Claire Legrand

If you’re looking for a book that will leave you on the edge of your seat with cliffhangers EVERY. SINGLE. CHAPTER. This one’s for you. I preordered the finished copy before I was halfway done with my ARC. This book is original, full of girl power, and so vividly written. Rating: ★★★★.5 [see review here]

FOUR: Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

If you know me at all you know I have a terrible habit of accidentally requesting ARCs without realizing they are a sequel (or the third installment). This happened with Bruja Born, but I didn’t regret it one bit. 1, because Labyrinth Lost was awesome as well, and 2, because I loved Bruja Born. The writing in this series is SO vivid and descriptive, and I particularly liked the narrator in the sequel. Rating: ★★★★★[see review here]

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THREE: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG FOR ME TO READ THIS BOOK? WHY? I adored this book, and I wish I could read it (for the first time) over and over again. If you’ve been to high school, then I PROMISE you can find something to relate to in this book. Rating: ★★★★★ [see review here]

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TWO: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

I loved everything about this book. No, really, everything. I didn’t have a single complaint. The more shocking part is this is a debut novel. I cannot wait for the follow-up. This book is diverse, beautifully written, and holds your attention all the way through. I give this book all of my stars. Rating: ★★★★★ [see review here]

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ONE: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

This is my favorite book of 2018 so far. My review is total word vomit because I couldn’t form coherent thoughts after reading this book. This book is a slow burn, but man, does it burn bright. The writing is beautiful, the characters are brilliantly developed, there are so many messages, and the world building is so good that I want to move to Weep. I would literally sell a kidney for an ARC of Muse of Nightmares. No takers…? Rating: ★★★★★ [see review here]

This list was actually super hard – I read so many good books this year. Because of that, I’ve decided to include a couple that didn’t quite make the top ten list but definitely would make the top 15:

HONORARY MENTIONS: The Grishaverse Trilogy, To Kill a KingdomThunderheadThe Kiss Quotient

What was your favorite book of the year so far?

xoxo

Jen

ARC Review: Ghosted

Ghosted

Title: Ghosted

Author: Rosie Walsh

Release Date: July 24, 2018

Pages: 352

My Rating: ★★★★

 

Goodreads Summary:

“I absolutely loved this book and didn’t want it to end.” –Liane Moriarty, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Little Lies

Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart.

When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call.

Sarah’s friends tell her to forget about him, but she can’t. She knows something’s happened–there must be an explanation.

Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she’s right. There is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth.

Review:

ARC provided by the publisher, Pamela Dorman Books, via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

4/5 stars for Ghosted! I’ll be honest, when I first started this book, I wasn’t that into it – I’ll get into why below – but then about a third of the way through the tables turned. I honestly felt like I was reading 3 different books: in the first third, I wasn’t crazy about, is from Sarah’s POV, and she is describing her time with Eddie and how they came to meet. The second third got me hooked, and the reader is desperately (along with Sarah) wondering what happened to Eddie, and trying to track him down. The last third, which was in Eddie’s POV, completely threw me into a tailspin, and I could not believe what I was reading. This book was SO not what I was expecting and I’m so glad it wasn’t. It’s going to be so hard to review this without revealing any of the twists and turns, but I’ll do my best.

WHAT I LOVED:

  • The twists. WHAT? I feel like my jaw was hanging open on several occasions during this book. This is not just your typical insta-love, insta-leave story. Just when you think you know exactly what’s happening, Walsh turns the tables on you and you are left questioning every single little thing you’d read over the last 100 pages.
  • The side characters. I loved Jo and Tommy so much, and Jenni too. One of my minor complaints is I wish we had more of them, but even with the little amount of face-time we got, they were still fleshed out and developed so well.
  • The letters. I’m not going into too much detail here, but I loved getting insights on character emotions. This was my favorite part of this book, and was so well-done. After I finished and finally knew everything, I wanted to go back and reread all of the letters.
  • The sibling love. Again, I can’t go into too much detail here, but the sibling love is STRONG in this book and I loved every second of it.

WHAT I DIDN’T:

  • Insta-love. I am not a huge fan of insta-love, and since this whole book was based around a love story that took place over just 7 days, I knew it was going to be there going in. I still didn’t handle it well. It just didn’t seem realistic to me. After 7 days with one person, and this strong, educated, independent woman starts doing things that, in all honesty, borderline on illegal just to get in contact with a guy? I’m not buying it. To me, this would have been more realistic in a teenager.
  • There were some DEFINITE eye-roll worthy moments.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just another love story. It isn’t. Yes, there’s Eddie’s and Sarah’s love story. But it’s also Sarah’s love story for her sister, and Eddie’s love story for his mother. It’s a love story for how strong the bonds of friendship can be. Beyond all that, it’s also a mystery – several times over – and I promise it will have you hanging onto your seat until the very end.

If you chose Ghosted for your BOTM pick, lucky you! You get it early. If not, Ghosted is released in the US on July 24.

Special Note: This book was also published in the UK as “The Man Who Didn’t Call”.

xoxo

Jen

ARC Review: Grace and Fury

Grace and Fury

Title: Grace and Fury

Author: Tracy Banghart

Release Date: July 31, 2018

Pages: 320

My Rating: ★★★★.5

Goodreads Summary:

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.

Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace–someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir’s eye, it’s Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.

Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.

Review:

ARC provided by Little, Brown for Young Readers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

4.5 Stars for Grace and Fury!

I didn’t know much about this going in except that Amy told me to request it…so I did. As usual when she recommends me a book, I was not disappointed. I’d say the first 1/3 -1/2 of this book, I was at a 5 star read. I honestly couldn’t find anything I didn’t like about it. Towards the second half there were a few things I had issues with, but I still give it 4.5 stars. Thank you so much to Little, Brown for the opportunity to read and review this book! I loved it!

WHAT I LOVED:

  • The issues. This book was FULL of them. Feminism, women’s rights, equal rights, LGBTQ rights, etc. Picture this book as a modern-day The Handmaid’s Tale with a YA fantasy twist and a small dash of Sister Wives. This book depicts a world in which women have no rights at all, and while a little heavy-handed at times, Nomi (one of the sisters) is constantly spouting feminist quotes throughout the first half of the book.
  • The first twist. I NEVER saw this one coming, and it happened so early! I had a couple ideas of things that could happen, and literally none of them were right. Props to the author for such a sneaky twist.
  • The FEELINGS. This book made me feel so many feelings, and it didn’t stop throughout the entire book. And talk about a cliffhanger – I’m almost mad I read this book so early, because now I have to wait until the second book comes out.
  • The GREYNESS. You guys know I love grey area, and both sisters have this in spades. They both have their own strengths and weaknesses, and are both thrown into situations in which their strengths turn into faults. I loved watching them both evolve, and have to learn other strengths and tools to help them through. This brings me to my next point that I loved: Serina’s character arc and development. I did not appreciate her in the first 25% of this book, and I definitely loved Nomi’s sections more. But Serina managed to surprise and impress me. She grew a super strong backbone and definitely had my favorite portions of the books from there-on out.
  • Rep – like I’ve already mentioned, there’s a small LGBTQ rep. I wish this had been a little more fleshed out!

WHAT I DIDNT:

  • Predictability. This is probably my #1 issue with this book. I already mentioned that I did not guess the first twist, but the second twist was PAINFULLY obvious, and the build-up to it was way too long – I was in pain for the whole second half of the book. I wanted to bash one of the character’s heads against a wall, they were being such a bone head. To me, writing an ENTIRE BOOK about feminism and girl power, and then making one of those girls into a typical, naive, swooning plot device kind of defeats the purpose. And WHY was I able to guess this twist? Why did I have trust issues throughout this ENTIRE BOOK? Because I have read The Selection, and Red Queen, and every other YA book in the past year. Selection + Red Queen + a lot of feminism + a lot darker = this book. I’m not saying I didn’t love it. I did. But just be prepared for that.
  • This is partially my own fault: I truly thought this book was a standalone. I wanted it to be a standalone. And it’s not. And the cliffhanger is ENORMOUS and PAINFUL. And now I have to wait over a year for the sequel. I truly wish this book had been a standalone.

SOME TRIGGER WARNINGS: physical abuse, violence/murder/death, animal cruelty, imprisonment

I honestly loved this book. It was such a quick page-turner, and like I said, for the first half of the book I was sitting at 5 stars. This book sucked me in and I did not want to put it down. If you love a good feminist, girl power anthem, this is your book. Pick it up. I already preordered my copy. And don’t forget to check out the (US only) preorder campaign! Email proof of purchase to banghartpreorders@gmail.com.

❤ Buddy Read with: Lilly @ Lair of Books Blog, Amy @ A Court of Crowns and Quills, Jules, and Melanie @ meltotheany

Are you planning on reading Grace and Fury?

xoxo

Jen