REVIEW: Sugar Spells

REVIEW: Sugar Spells

Sugar Spells

by Lola Dodge

3.75/5 stars

The second book in a series, Sugar Spells follows up where Deadly Sweet left off. Anise, a baking witch, lives in a world not that unlike our own, except, well… the witch thing. Everyone knows they are there, but no one is thrilled to have the in their town. When she is forced out of her town and sent to work and apprentice for her Aunt Agatha, she finds that witches are more common in Taos, New Mexico. After a run in with a warlock in Deadly Sweet that held her at the brink of death, Anise is left with death magic she doesnt want, and certainly doesn’t know how to use. Trying her best to get rid of it, Anise strikes a deal with the town vampires and in doing so may lean closer into her new necromancy powers.

First I will say that I read both of these novels in a day. They are compulsively readable. These are the kind of books that are so fun and whimsical that it is easy to lose track of time. Though I will say that I enjoyed the first book much more than the second in terms of the overall plot as the characters remained in the same arc throughout both novels. I felt that Sugar Spells lost some of the charm of Deadly Sweet, deviating from the reasons why Anise was in Taos in the first place. The book seemed almost like a novella or a side-quest, taking the reader on a journey before actually moving on with Anise’s story and her original quest to learn baking magic.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between Anise and Wynn in this books, we definitely got to see more of their growing friendship in this book which was nice, though it would have been good to see more of her growing friendship with Gabi and Blair as well as they seemed glossed over in this. I enjoyed Anise as a character, she is someone you cant help but love and root for because she makes mistakes and holds herself accountable for them and it brave without being too brash. I find her to be a good example of a realistic heroine, understanding her own limits as a person and, though she gets herself into sticky situations, she uses her strengths to help when she can and knows when to let others help her as well.

Sugar Spells is another fun and exciting book by Lola Dodge and I am excited to pick up the third installation when it is released. Magic and baked goods, what’s not to love?

 

REVIEW: How (Not) to Marry a Duke

REVIEW: How (Not) to Marry a Duke

How (Not) to Marry a Duke

by Felicia Kingsley 

2.75/5 stars

“You have an incalculable number of flaws, you’re inadequate in almost every social situation, and you hardly ever engage your brain before speaking, but you’re smart, and it seems that your act of heroism saved the evening from disaster.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41032559-how-not-to-marry-a-duke?ac=1&from_search=true

How Not to Marry a Duke is a loose retelling of the Taming of the Shrew where makeup artist Jemma Pears must marry a person with a title to inherit her late grandmothers enormous fortune and Ashford, a Duke, must marry for money to save his title. Their arrangement takes them both on a journey that may drive them both mad and maybe that much closer to finding a happy beginning for them both.

I was very excited for this light read because I thought it might be reminiscent of another Taming of the Shrew retelling, 10 Things I Hate About You. However, there was so much about this book that I found intensely problematic. The book was definitely entertaining, which lent to me overall decision to give the book any positive points at all but the characters did not seem realistic and the writing was inconsistant throughout.

The characters of Jemma and Ashford start off hating each other which was one of my reasons for picking up.. who doesn’t love a good hate to love storyline? … but as they “grew closer together” I didn’t actually find many reasons they had to be together, their attraction and “love” seemed to come out of nowhere and completely ignore how awful they had been to one another the entire first half of the book. Ashford seemed to insult Jemma a great deal for being herself and after her transformation (another very quick and seemingly out of nowhere character change) he was all of a sudden ready to love her – not the greatest message to women.. “please change everything about yourself and then you will be attractive”. This thread from The Taming of the Shrew doesn’t transfer well to our society today.

 

Overall, the plot was alright, the story having enough amusing points and witty dialogue to keep me reading but the characters and overall writing needed improvement.

REVIEW: The Goodbye Girls

REVIEW: The Goodbye Girls

The Goodbye Girls

by Lisa Harrington 

4/5 stars

“It’s weird, knowing something about someone they don’t know themselves. He had no idea what’s coming”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36973951-the-goodbye-girls

Lizzie Turner wants nothing more than to travel on the class trip to New York. Of course, that sounds easy until she realizes how much money it will cost to go – money that Lizzie and her family certainly don’t have. When she notices a trend among the students at her school she turns it into a business to save money for the trip. The business? Breaking hearts. Lizzie and her best friend, Willa, deliver “break-up baskets” to students, hired anonymously to break up on behalf of a classmate. Everything becomes more complicated when someone tries to sabotage them and they end up as some of the most hated people in the school.

The Goodbye Girls is an entertaining read, displaying a dramatic and exciting twist to the regular high-school narrative. Harrington creates a dynamic situation with characters that are dealing with both typical problems like having a crush just out of reach and very un-typical circumstances like knowing someone is going to broken up with before they do. The combination of these things made for a very compelling and fun read.

The characters were well written, though I did not find any of them particularly likable. This was not a pitfall, as they were realistic due to their flaws but I found this to bring forward a lack of proper motivation for some of their actions.

Overall, I found the book to be a fun read with some thought-provoking moments. I found the ending to be abrupt, not nearly giving closure on all the storylines that were presented in the novel and left many of the climax points open-ended and wish there had been a bit more of a wrap-up. This is a great read for students in middle-school and high-school or anyone who wants to enjoy a fun read about getting through hard times, dealing with siblings, or growing up.

REVIEW: Unwritten

REVIEW: Unwritten

Unwritten 

by Tara Gilboy

4/5 stars

“we can be whoever we want”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36431261-unwritten?ac=1&from_search=true

Twelve-year-old Gracie Freeman knows that she is a storybook character, she sees flashes of that life in her dreams, of the fire and the gorgeous Queen Cassandra. When her mother found out that her daughter was destined to die in the story, she fled to a new world with one of the pages of the magical book. When the author comes to Gracie’s small town she is overwhelmed with curiosity for her world and her story. Little does Gracie know when the author disappears before her eyes, that she has alerted the Queen to their position and she will have to enter her story and face who she was suppose to be, questioning who she wants to be in the process.

This was a fun, very short read. I really enjoyed the fresh, unique concept of a fairy-tale character walking around our world and was not disappointed. What made this book for me was that Gracie struggled with how her past was going to affect her future and who she was as a person and in doing so she came to realize that our choices define us, nothing else. I think this is a great message for readers, all packaged up in a quick and fun read for middle-grade readers. The writing and setting made this an even more fun and interesting read, whimsy running through every page.

It was not a very long read and I think it could have used a little bit more detail as I was not entirely sure of the Queen’s motivations or much of the side-story that Gracie was from, but I think it was a great read with a great message.

 

REVIEW: Geekerella

REVIEW: Geekerella

Geekerella

by Ashley Poston

4/5 stars

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30724132-geekerella?ac=1&from_search=true

Geekerella is a fresh and dynamic approach to the classic Cinderella tale. Set in the twenty-first century, this version incorporates the struggles of Cinderella’s classic character arc – stepsisters, stepmother, loneliness, etc – and spins them with the use of modern technology and every-day life in a digital world. Danielle (Elle) is a huge fangirl for the Starfield series, a sci-fi franchise she shared a love for with her parents before their deaths. The series is set for a reboot and, much to Elle’s distaste, the lead is to be played by 18-year-old soap opera heartthrob, Darien Freeman. Mistaken connections lead Elle and Darien to become friends through text, sharing their love for Starfield. Elle’s ticket to freedom comes in the form of her Dad’s brainchild, ExcelciCon, where Darien will be in promotion for the movie. Elle and Darien have no idea that their dreamy texting connections are closer than they know.

We all know the story of Cinderella… I would think. There have been adaptions upon adaptions for this classic story and it is a very difficult thing to stand out among the pile of neverending Ellas. I thought that Poston did an excellent job making her characters current and the story as unique as possible. The thread of Starflight was an exciting piece of the story, giving the story more depth than a simple contemporary YA.

I was surprised that I enjoyed Darien’s character the most, as many of Cinderella’s princes have very little story-line beyond being the love-interest. Elle seemed like a less dynamic character than Darien, and throughout the novel, I didn’t get a lot of her personality of personal preferences as I would have liked. That being said, I thought that that for the amount of story – it was not a very long book – this glazing over the characterization didn’t affect my reading experience (mainly because I was so engrossed by the sci-fi aspect).

My overall thoughts on this novel were that it makes for a fantastic read when you might desire something a bit lighter and yet unlike the cleanse that so many contemporaries also provide, this one is spun through with an intriguing sci-fi thread. If you never get sick of the Cinderella story, then you’ll absolutely love this one as well.

ps. Ashley Poston’s new sci-fi novel makes a lot more sense now. I was confused at her complete 180 in genre but am now very excited and more likely to read her new work, Heart of Iron.

 

REVIEW: (S)mothered

REVIEW: (S)mothered

Smothered

by Autumn Chiklis

3.75/5 stars

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36104544-smothered

“Why’s my body tingling? Is that normal? It’s like I’m carbonated. Can humans be carbonated?? Whoa”

Eloise (Lou) Hansen has graduated college summa cum laude and is ready to begin her awesome life. The only problem is that, of course, she doesn’t know where to start. Moving back in with her parents seems the only option, and that means dealing with her mother, who is thrilled to have her daughter back home to go shopping with her and watch the Bachelor with her and her ‘Red Hots’ crew every week. As the days and months continue farther from her graduation Lou still hasn’t found a job and STILL hasn’t told her parents about her secret boyfriend. Told with wit and hilarity, Smothered is an excellent portrayal of life postgrad and the struggle of launching ones self into the world.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick and fun read, told through diary-entry style segments and footnotes to add further thought. Smothered brings up the excellent point of current day post graduate life, the “what now?” moment that graduation brings along. Lou’s list of post-grad goals was a great representation of the things that one might want to get out of life, everything from “lose 5-7 pounds” to “have kids: one boy, one girl”. Lou was an excellent character to follow and a very realistic point of view on a new grad trying to find their place, especially when moving in with your parents seems like back-tracking.

Mama Shell was a whirlwind of a character and so fun to read about. She may not be someone I would ever want to meet in person but she was certainly a complex character. Her love for her daughter was evident, if a little misplaced, and her attitude was frivolous toward most situations. I found her character to be frustrating, but not in the way it was written, but due to her personality, which was excellent as it reflected the frustration of the main character, Lou.

Overall the novel was a fun and entertaining read that posed some great reflection on post-grad life; the anxiety of finding a job you want to be in forever, the thought of never leaving the nest, and bettering yourself in the little things along the way. I would definitely recommend this book to someone who may be dealing with post-grad life or anyone who wants a giggle.

 

REVIEW: Save the Date

REVIEW: Save the Date

Save the Date 

by Morgan Matson

3/5 stars

“‘Nothing else,” I promised, “is going to go wrong.” Just as I said this, there was a faint pop and then the room was thrown into darkness.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32333338-save-the-date

Charlie is very excited that finally all her family members will be together again as they congregate for her older sister, Linnie’s, wedding. Her family, famous from her mother’s successful 25 year running comic strip, is set to celebrate the wedding on Saturday and interview with Good Morning America on Sunday. The picture perfect family that is portrayed in the comic, and the one cemented into Charlie’s head is put through the ringer when several horrific wedding disasters happen, forcing Charlie, along with the wedding planning assistant Bill, to fix everything at the last minute. Trying to fix everything into being perfect causes Charlie to face how imperfect her family may be after all.

Morgan Matson’s contemporaries are always filled with feel-good themes and young romances, perfect for a summer beach read. Save the Date was no different in that it had the same feeling of summer antics, yet for me, fell flat in many of the ways her other books did not. Due to the setting and circumstances of the book (a wedding), there was a parade of characters all thrown in at once, adding anxiety to the reading experience as I tried to catch up with the unique personalities of each character. Something I think she did quite well with this, however, was the dynamic feeling of many of the characters. They did not feel like plot devices for the main character but characters that all had their own set of talents and struggles. The immense amount of personalities that were introduced felt like much of the first half of the book and suffered on the plot.

The main character, Charlie, did not feel like a strong character but more of a reflection of the people and events happening around her. I thought that she had some important qualities that I enjoyed Matson commenting on at the end, learning some lessons that many young individuals go through, like dealing with change and becoming and independent person from your family. Charlie seemed very ‘young’ to me, despite the fact that she was 18 based on her outbursts and reactions. I would have enjoyed seeing more of her after she had learned some of these important lessons.

Overall, I thought that Matson wrote a fun and quick contemporary that touched on some important themes but I found that the execution of the novel was done poorly. It seemed like a panic, which possibly reflected the feelings of the characters but felt rushed as a reader. Despite the problems I had with the pacing and the characters, I thought the plot was well done, if a little short and overshadowed by the character introductions. I enjoyed the wedding setting and, as usual, I enjoyed the tone of Matson’s writing.

 

 

REVIEW: The Cruel Prince

REVIEW: The Cruel Prince

The Cruel Prince 

by Holly Black

4/5 stars

“I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26032825-the-cruel-prince

Jude has been stolen away alongside her twin sister Taryn and older sister Vivienne. As young kids, Vivienne’s biological father kills their parents and spirits them away to the faeries realm under the hill. Treated as gentry, they want for nothing, except that as full humans, they are treated as lowly by peers. Jude decided that one day she’s had enough and fights back against Prince Cardan and his cruel sneers. In an attempt for a power of her own, she is ensnared in a plot for the crown and has to bargain and lie, making choices that will change the path of everyones lives.

I knew I was going to love this book on the basis that A. Faeries B. Holly Black… that’s it, that’s all it took for me to be completely head over heals for this book! The imagery of Holly Black’s faeries are so beautifully crafted, they are human-like but always so creatively different and magical, this book was no exception.

SPOILERS:

The sisters: Jude, Taryn, and Vivi all had very different personalities but all had their flaws and irks. Jude, the main character, is bloodthirsty for a world that she matters, I think her reaction to the world and her circumstances was reasonable, even if some of her decisions and actions I didn’t agree with. I thought her progression into being a killer was a little abrupt and unfeeling, but overall I found Jude was someone I wanted to root for (for now). Taryn drove me crazy, I would have thrown down in a battle with her too! I found her to be a pathetic character, not pathetically written, just pathetic. Her secrecy and wishy-washy feelings was a little confusing, and I hope there is more explanation in the next book to why she is the way she is. Vivi we didn’t get much information from but she filled out the role of big sister very well and I think her character was the most likeable of the three, even being the rebel she was.

The dipwad: Locke, you dipwad.

The princes: We all love bad boys? right? I found that Cardan toed the line between being overly cruel and understandably so given his circumstances. He also flopped to a completely different character when held captive, much more swoon-worthy and less morally repugnant. I am interested to see more of this side of him in the next book, because at the moment he still sounds like a spoiled brat with no depth. Dain… what a puzzle, I was sure he was going to turn out to be evil and he was? I think? He definitely did some bad things, but he wouldn’t have been that terrible of a ruler. Balekin just seems like an altogether awful guy, not only does he keep humans in a horrifying way and beat his brother, he just seems like a bad ruler and horrible choice for the throne. I hope he dies.

The story: The story was a nice flow of action and world-building. I thought some of the transitions were a bit fast and could have been drawn out more, but maybe thats me just wanting more book… I am excited to see what happens next, as much of this books felt like a prequel to the real story. I feel as if The Cruel Prince brushed the surface of everything: characters, plot, story, and I’m hoping theres more in the next instalment.

Overall I enjoyed the book and the story it told immensely and I am ready for the next one, which is out… no time soon.

 

REVIEW: My Lady’s Choosing

REVIEW: My Lady’s Choosing

 

My Lady’s Choosing

by Kitty Curran

 

4.5/5 stars

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36054958-my-lady-s-choosing

“The carriage arrives at your destination, and you are shaken by your gloomy thoughts – if only for a moment. Perhaps tonight will be the night that everything changes?”

This choose-your-own-adventure incorporates your wildest fantasy of joining the cast of a Jane Austen book and the nagging sense of mystery and adventure. You get to be your own heroine, making your own choices and dealing with the consequences. This book is great for those who find themselves yelling at their romance novel heroines for picking the wrong guy or ending up in an unfortunate circumstance.

The journey begins in a second-person perspective walk-through of your characters and your desires. You are given the chance to get into character before making any big decisions on behalf of your new persona. This introduction was handled very well and piqued my excitement to continue through the book. You are also first introduced to several of the main characters, who may become love interests to you, should you choose them and their adventures. When first reading the book, I thought that these were the only love interests available, but going through my first read-through that proved not to be true, as I ended up somewhere completely different and with someone completely different than I had first thought I would.

I loved that the choices were made with a wit and hilarity that made the book so much more enjoyable to read. I found myself laughing and giggling at the choices and the way they were presented. The only pit-fall for me in this book was that there was no way to back-track. Losing your page is not an option because there is no “came from page so and so” at the top if you wanted to reread a section. Other than that I found it very readable and the page flipping grew my anticipation to further the story.

Another thing I was overjoyed about was the possibility of a LGBTQA+ relationship in the mix. So many stories blatantly disregard minorities and this book allows for your own sense of choice, taking into consideration that not everyone falls into the mould that victorian life perpetuates.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something a little different as a way to spice up their reading and make their romantic hearts flutter (giggling along the way). It is a fun read that can take you 45 minutes or several days to complete. I, for one, will be going back in to see who I may end up with next time… a handsome rouge perhaps? a wealthy and witty lord?

 

REVIEW: Emergency Contact

REVIEW: Emergency Contact

Emergency Contact

by Mary H. K. Choi

5/5 stars

” “Even so,” she said. “You’re the best person I ever met. And my favorite.” “And you’re mine.” “

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35297272-emergency-contact

Penny, newly starting in university, is excited to get away from her MILF mother and become the Sci-fi writer she has always dreamed of being. Sam is still hung up on his beautiful ex-girlfriend and needs to get his life together. The two of them seem to find themselves by finding each other and they lean on one another, over text of course (because IRL is scary and who needs human contact?), through the hardships they are both facing. This book is laugh-out-loud funny at times and heart-wrenchingly real in others, blending to make a current and familiar story of moving through pain and learning to grow.

It has been a very long time since a book has pulled at my soul the way this one has. It is achingly real and current, the dynamic, flawed characters and the intense relationships that bond them bringing an insight into connections in a digital era and our own insecurities. Each chapter felt like a journey that I was both living in my own life and watching happen to a friend. I think the relationships and concerns in this novel are relevant to everyone growing up and coming to terms with their own pitfalls, which, incidentally happens to be most of the population. Everyone at one point has likely found themselves in a time of loneliness and struggle, held things back from the people around them or pushed people away because it all seemed “too much”. This novel does an excellent job at showcasing the desperate need to lean on others and to open up even if it is terrifying, even if you aren’t particularly close with anyone.

Penny was relatable, I could se myself in some of the decisions she made. She was far from perfect, but unlike some other contemporaries where the flaws make the characters “quirky”, Penny’s flaws made her real. As an individual that keeps everything in her bag from band-aids, to snacks, to lysol wipes, I could relate to Penny’s scattering brain and need for structure. I enjoyed that the texts between her and Sam weren’t flirty or serious, but everyday things that come to ones mind, meaningless and nonsensical. Penny was clearly a character that was continuing to develop even as the book came to a close, not neatly wrapped up with some sort of epiphany at the end, making for a satisfying and hopeful character arc. Sam was much the same, still figuring things out throughout the novel and past the end of the book. I enjoyed that Sam felt like a typical contemporary “bad boy” but in a more realistic way. He wasn’t stereotypically masculine and it was clear that he struggled with self identity among other things, giving him depth. Overall I felt the characters, even the side characters, had very real struggles, not just plot devices, which was refreshing to see in a contemporary novel.