Archives

Together at Midnight – Jennifer Castle

Together at Midnight – Jennifer CastleTitle: Together at Midnight by Jennifer Castle
Publishing Info: January 22, 2018 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Date Completed: March 1, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

What does it really mean to be kind . . . and why does it sometimes feel like the hardest thing in the world to do? High school senior Kendall, who just returned from a life-changing semester in Europe, and Max, who is drifting his way through a gap year before college, struggle with these questions when they witness a tragic accident in New York City during the holiday season. Racked with guilt, the two accept a dare to perform random acts of kindness to strangers. The challenge pulls these two teens, who have a history together from back home, closer and closer as they explore a vibrant city filled with other people’s stories and secrets.

Kendall and Max can’t deny their growing bond, even though they both have other romantic entanglements and uncertain futures. As the clock counts down on New Year’s Eve, will they find themselves together at midnight?

bookreview1

So when I first added this book to my TBR, the synopsis for this book was… not this. I thought this was cute and fluffy and feel-good and I still had that impression in my mind before I started reading it. I don’t usually got back and read synopses before I start a book because sometimes things are updated that include the most mild of spoilers and I really like going into books relatively blind, so it would have been helpful if I had gone back, but then I also probably wouldn’t have read it. It’s not a heavy book per se but it’s also not light and fluffy, so I was super surprised to hear about the accident (not a spoiler, or well, I guess it’s not a spoiler if you read the synopsis (unlike me)) and how much it set things into motion.

The book was interesting and it was very good and despite not realizing what it was supposed to be about when I started it, I still didn’t connect to it as much as I thought. I really did appreciate the reality and diversity represented in a lot of different ways. The characters had a lot of depth in that respect but I still didn’t quite connect to their personalities like I had hoped. They were fine characters but I had a hard time finding a depth that I connected with and sometimes it felt like they were more characters than having me believe that they were real people, breaking that story feel and heading into that soul connection.

As much as I liked all of the realistic situations, the storyline just wasn’t something that I was really interested in reading, or at least at this point in time. I was torn with the little asides to the people that the characters helped with the RAKs. I thought it was neat to see how those acts of kindness really affected people in ways that we don’t really know and yet it also felt like it took me out of the story and didn’t quite fit.

This is a weird rating for me because there actually were a lot of things that I liked about the writing and the style and yet there were also things that threw me in those same areas. It was a good book but still not a book that really hit the spot for me.

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Realistic fiction. I tend to stick towards light and happy for realistic/contemporary so I probably wouldn’t have picked this up otherwise, but I’m glad I read it.
Left Me Wanting More: Connection. I’m writing this review several months later and I just feel so disconnected from this book.

Addiction Rating
Consider it

This book really wasn’t for me but a lot of my friends have given it a solid four stars. It wasn’t that it wasn’t a good book for me but it just wasn’t something I was into.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE TOGETHER AT MIDNIGHT

          

Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) – Maureen Johnson

Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) – Maureen JohnsonTitle: Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) by Maureen Johnson
Publishing Info: January 16, 2018 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult
Date Completed: February 19, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson weaves a delicate tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a striking new series, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and E. Lockhart.

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. 

The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three.

bookreview1

In my defense, I didn’t realize this was a series halfway through, so it did affect my reading experience BUT knowing that and getting to the ending was still preeeeetty disappointing. I love mysteries and read a lot of them and there are essentially two ways to end a book in a mystery series (to break it down to the bare bones): extend the mystery over the whole series OR have each book be one mystery that’s resolved in each novel. Obviously there are finer points than that, but those are essentially the two strategies here. TRULY DEVIOUS does not resolve in the first book, which is fine, but I was pretty disappointed at the lack of any closure whatsoever. We get some clues and Stevie comes to some conclusions but there’s really not even one answer to what happened in the present day or in the past. I was hoping for just one hint one way or another to bring some kind of closure to the book but still leading into the rest of the series and I really didn’t feel that at all.

I felt like the characters were more cohesive and realistic towards the end of the book — the beginning was kind of garbled with some of the students blending together but the personalities really started to shine towards the end. They were also all a little too quirky for my tastes, but you know how I get when a whole cast is quirky and not just a few select characters. I feel like it ruins the reality of that specialness and ends up just making everyone seem silly and unrealistic, though I guess this really was the school for the unique.

I also felt like there could have been a bit more history given in the flashbacks to the 1930s, just maybe some more for us to see how these two mysteries are connected, because we’re coming to that point even if we haven’t gotten there yet. I think it would have really tied the book together more for me and made me feel like we were going somewhere with the flashbacks. They’re definitely connected and that’s very obvious but I just wanted more to really tie them together.

I think the lack of any resolution just really let me down and left me feeling disappointed so I can’t say that I had fond feelings for the book, but I really do look forward to continuing the series knowing what I learned and what I’m in for!

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Unique mysteries. It was interesting to see something from the past connected to something in the present like this!
Left Me Wanting More: Answers. I didn’t realize this was a series going into it but I still would have liked something to at least wrap up this book in some way.

Addiction Rating
Try it

I didn’t LOVE it but it was definitely interesting! I’m curious about the next book but I think this might be a more binge series since the first book didn’t really close anything.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE TRULY DEVIOUS

          

Series Review: Monsters of Verity duology by Victoria Schwab

I’ve been very hit-or-miss with Victoria/V.E. Schwab but my friends loved this series so I wanted to give it a shot! It made it easy to read with my library having copies of the first audiobook and I ended up purchasing the second to finish it out.

Reviews for each book/the series are a whole are generally spoiler-free for any major occurrences or twists but may contain info about plot points so I can properly discuss the plot. 

Series Review: Monsters of Verity duology by Victoria SchwabTitle: This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab
Publishing Info: July 5, 2016 by HarperCollins
Source: Audiobook borrowed from library
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: September 17, 2017
Related Posts: Vicious (Vicious #1), , A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1), A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2), A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3)

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

I wrote a pretty quick collection of thoughts on Goodreads and since it’s been quite a few months since I actually read the book, it’s interesting to read these thoughts and look back on my experience reading the book… which is that I don’t remember as much as I had hoped. THIS SAVAGE SONG was a solid read, but it didn’t really stay with me. The book kind of had a feel like THE 5TH WAVE except more of a paranormal/urban fantasy concept with monsters instead of aliens. (I mean, it’s not a direct comparison because a lot is different but that kind of post-apocalyptic feel is there.)

I was entertained the whole way though and I enjoyed the characters of August and Kate. I really liked Kate’s toughness and I appreciated August’s situation but I was always left feeling like I wanted a little more background. It’s only a two-book series so I was hoping there would be more world-building and set-up included in THIS SAVAGE SONG and there wasn’t, so I was left waiting for that in book two.

Series Review: Monsters of Verity duology by Victoria SchwabTitle: Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) by Victoria Schwab
Publishing Info: June 13, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: September 19, 2017
Related Posts: Vicious (Vicious #1), , A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1), A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2), A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3)

THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn't afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she's good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims' inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

OUR DARK DUET was a less enjoyable read for me. I kept hearing about all of the FEELS here but since I didn’t really have them for the first book, I really didn’t keep anything moving to the second book. I felt like the author was relying on feelings to carry the book through and still, I was really lacking that development of the world and the background of the story. I wanted so many more details on how the monsters are formed, WHY they started forming in the first place. I mean, this isn’t a fantasy world — it’s our world and monsters have changed the way we live in it… so where did they come from? Why did they start forming? The concept is there of the reason that they do but what changed that this process creates monsters? There’s a difference between an urban fantasy world in which these creatures have always existed and or own world in which a change has been made that created an urban fantasy setting. It’s SUCH an important part of my reading experience and without it, I just didn’t believe the story.

SERIES THOUGHTS

I find myself disappointed again with the lack of development from Victoria Schwab. Just a bit more thought on the background of things could make any one of her books so much richer. There was plenty of space for it and ample opportunities but she doesn’t seem to go that extra step to really make her worlds that much deeper.

I did enjoy THIS SAVAGE SONG but I lost something with my read of OUR DARK DUET. I just have a really hard time when I like the conclusion of a series less than its beginning because it ends on a lower note and I have a hard time wanting to recommend the series.

addiction_factor1

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

SO many people seem to love this series but it wasn’t a hit for me. I had some issues with the structure that really bothered me and it affected my whole read. I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend these books but I also wouldn’t go out of my way to tell anyone not to read them. It was just very middle-of-the-road for me.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE MONSTERS OF VERITY

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Series Review: The Firebird Trilogy by Claudia Grey

I had been eyeing The Firebird Trilogy ever since I saw the cover for A THOUSAND PIECES ABOVE YOU and fell instantly in love! NO WAIT. I’ve actually been eyeing the trilogy ever since Claudia Grey gave a sneak peek of it at a signing for SPELLCASTER. (Seriously. I made a note of it.) Anyway, I finally got around to reading the books and decided to binge all three for a cohesive series read!

Reviews for each book/the series are a whole are generally spoiler-free for any major occurrences or twists but may contain info about plot points so I can properly discuss the plot. 

Series Review: The Firebird Trilogy by Claudia GreyTitle: A Thousand Pieces of You (The Firebird Trilogy #1) by Claudia Grey
Publishing Info: November 4, 2014 by HarperCollins
Source: Audible, Gift
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Alternate Reality, Parallel Universe
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 26, 2017

Cloud Atlas meets Orphan Black in this epic dimension-bending trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray about a girl who must chase her father's killer through multiple dimensions.

Marguerite Caine's physicist parents are known for their groundbreaking achievements. Their most astonishing invention, called the Firebird, allows users to jump into multiple universes—and promises to revolutionize science forever. But then Marguerite's father is murdered, and the killer—her parent's handsome, enigmatic assistant Paul— escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite refuses to let the man who destroyed her family go free. So she races after Paul through different universes, always leaping into another version of herself. But she also meets alternate versions of the people she knows—including Paul, whose life entangles with hers in increasingly familiar ways. Before long she begins to question Paul's guilt—as well as her own heart. And soon she discovers the truth behind her father's death is far more sinister than she expected.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores an amazingly intricate multi-universe where fate is unavoidable, the truth elusive, and love the greatest mystery of all.

This book had been on my TBR and on my shelves for a very long time (I mean, hello, one of the most gorgeous covers I’ve ever seen) and the concept was something that instantly drew me in. I finally grabbed the audio for this, wanting to read something more sci-fi and what better to pick up than an multi-dimension story?

The book started off abruptly for me. It kind of starts right in the action and things immediately start happening. I really wished Claudia Gray had taken the time to set up a little backstory before throwing readers into things because it permanently messed up my feelings towards some of the characters, without giving away any spoilers, and once that happens, it’s really hard for me to go back and “correct” that. The first impressions stuck with me and I didn’t even have time to learn a little backstory, but more importantly, see some character history and personality, before the action took off.

The concept was exactly what I was looking for! Hopping from dimension to dimension and travelling between worlds. I have to say, I was super impressed with the different universes that Claudia Gray created for these characters! Most books, when dealing with alternate universes, focus a lot on things that are very close to the life that we’re living now but a few major or minor things have been changed to have a significant impact on a character. Here, Gray set up worlds where the main characters have a whole lot more to figure out. From a world where technology has progressed much faster to a world where technology has progressed MUCH slower so that the world is essentially still in the dark ages. A world where Marguerite ends up in a place almost exactly like her home to a world where she lives in a different country and has an entirely different upbringing. It’s easy to create a setting for a book a tamper with it slightly to come up with an alternate universe. Claudia Gray really gets into the different possibilities and how anything minor can create a huge major difference!

I also really love the family aspect and how tightly knit this family is. There’s a great dynamic, the parents are loving and supportive (although I guess it depends in what universe, right?), and the graduate students that work with Marguerite’s parents have become a part of the family too.

What I didn’t love was the romance. It was set up a little awkwardly and there were some… things that happened that really turned me around right from the start. I won’t get into details because that heads into spoiler-ville but the set-up and execution of the romance felt really clunky to me and even heading straight on to the second book (which I’m reading now), I still can’t shake that feel because of how it was set up in book one. Again, with no backstory for these characters when the book started, I had no sense of who was supposed to be what to Marguerite, the history she had with them, her feelings for them, and why she should trust anyone. I just really needed that chapter or so in the beginning to introduce all of the characters. The book felt like it was the second book in the series, not the first, with the way that it started and threw the story and characters at me right away and that made things a little difficult. The book does offer flashbacks so readers are still able to see things from “before” but that didn’t really make up for what I was wanting in the very beginning.

A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU didn’t exactly go how I had hoped but it was still an enjoyable read and I’m so impressed with the different worlds that Claudia Gray has built! I’m already in the second book because I’m interested in bingeing the whole series and I’m loving her creativity so far.

Series Review: The Firebird Trilogy by Claudia GreyTitle: Ten Thousand Skies Above You (The Firebird Trilogy #2) by Claudia Grey
Publishing Info: November 3, 2015 by HarperCollins
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Parallel Universe, Alternate Reality
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 29, 2017

Ever since she used the Firebird, her parents' invention, to cross into alternate dimensions, Marguerite has caught the attention of enemies who will do anything to force her into helping them dominate the multiverse—even hurting the people she loves. She resists until her boyfriend, Paul, is attacked and his consciousness scattered across multiple dimensions.

Marguerite has no choice but to search for each splinter of Paul’s soul. The hunt sends her racing through a war-torn San Francisco, the criminal underworld of New York City, and a glittering Paris where another Marguerite hides a shocking secret. Each world brings Marguerite one step closer to rescuing Paul. But with each trial she faces, she begins to question the destiny she thought they shared.

The second book in the Firebird trilogy, Ten Thousand Skies Above You features Claudia Gray’s lush, romantic language and smart, exciting action, and will have readers clamoring for the next book.

I think I enjoyed this book better than the first! I liked having everything established and it was neat to see these concepts expanded even more. One thing I love about good fantasy/sci-fi writers is when they make the readers think they’ve gotten all of the reveals and then something totally new is revealed and it’s like a whole new world opening up!

I’m still not the biggest fan of the romance, but I don’t think I will be at this point. It’s kind of just there for me and I don’t love that it’s the main reason why Marguerite is doing what she’s doing, but I guess I also like that her guy isn’t someone she just met and that it’s someone who’s been in her life for a long time. There’s just something about it that still feels like instalove for some reason, and I think it’s the way it was all set up in the first book. I don’t have a problem with instalove when it’s executed well but I’ve just never been a fan of this relationship.

The further development of the multiverse is fascinating! We get to know the same characters but in different dimensions and how their lives are different, as well as how one dimension may be affecting another. Things dig way deeper in this book and the plot was even more fascinating!

I’m still not tooootally in love like I had hoped to be but these books are proving to be very enjoyable and I’m glad I’m reading them back-to-back-to-back so I’m able to soak everything in and not have a year in between each book!

Series Review: The Firebird Trilogy by Claudia GreyTitle: A Million Worlds With You (The Firebird Trilogy #3) by Claudia Grey
Publishing Info: November 1, 2016 by HarperCollins
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Parallel Universe, Alternate Reality
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 31, 2017

A million universes. A million dangers. One destiny.

The fate of the multiverse rests in Marguerite Caine’s hands. Marguerite has been at the center of a cross-dimensional feud since she first traveled to another universe using her parents’ invention, the Firebird. Only now has she learned the true plans of the evil Triad Corporation—and that those plans could spell doom for dozens or hundreds of universes, each facing total annihilation.

Paul Markov has always been at Marguerite’s side, but Triad’s last attack has left him a changed man—angry and shadowed by tragedy. He struggles to overcome the damage done to him, but despite Marguerite’s efforts to help, Paul may never be the same again.

So it’s up to Marguerite alone to stop the destruction of the multiverse. Billions of lives are at stake. The risks have never been higher. And Triad has unleashed its ultimate weapon: another dimension’s Marguerite—wicked, psychologically twisted, and always one step ahead.

In the conclusion to Claudia Gray’s Firebird trilogy, fate and family will be questioned, loves will be won and lost, and the multiverse will be forever changed. It’s a battle of the Marguerites…and only one can win.

I think this may have been the best book of the series for me! I really liked how everything came together and it was nice to follow the story having gotten to know these characters and really get into their histories. I really enjoyed the conclusion and that it included even deeper layers of these worlds and how they entwined with each other.

One thing I always have a hard time with in sci-fi books is how much science the reader should really be exposed to. We knew the Firebirds worked and that there was a lot of physics and science behind them, but I always found myself wanting to know just a bit more about the science behind it. I understand we don’t want to bog readers down with complicated explanations but I always feel that it adds to the world-building (at least personally, for me) and adds that sense of reality instead of just saying “we created these with science and the science works”. Obviously there’s no real technology like that (at least not that the public knows *cue conspiracy theory music*) but I was left wanting just a biiiiit more of an explanation of why the science made it work the way it did. There were descriptions of how the Firebirds worked but I wanted to know how the science made those functions possible. Maybe I’m going one step too far, haha.

Anyway, I found this book really enjoyable! The whole series was a very solid four-star read for me but I never quite fell head over heels for it, and I think that was because of the characters. They were all very good characters with depth (as noted in their different personalities in different dimensions), but I just never LOVED them. I did love all of the different universes and I’m still impressed with how much time and thought went into each one of them.

Listening via audio, I did find one discontinuity which wasn’t a big deal but it really bothered me for the brief moment that it existed and I needed to get it off my chest! If you want to check it out, head over to my Goodreads review and peek between the spoiler tags!

So TL;DR, this series was very fun in terms of concept and set-up! I didn’t totally love the characters — mostly the romance. I don’t know why but I never fully got on board! I think I liked Theo better, to be honest… I love the rakish rogues, what can I say? — but it was a super solid series and I loved the creativity and detail!

SERIES THOUGHTS

The Firebird Trilogy was really enjoyable! I thought it was a very solid series, all quite good with some great characters, excellent settings, and creative plotting. I really loved that the different universes Marguerite travels to aren’t just slight changes but large changes. It was different from the other alt-reality books I’ve read and it was quite fun to experience such alternate realities!

I was on the wrong side of the love triangle the whole time, so that was hard for me, but I did enjoy the characters to a certain extent. When you’re on the wrong side of a love triangle, it’s REALLY hard to fall into the “do anything for love” concept so that became slightly unrealistic for me but I tried to go with it.

I did want a little more detail with the science to better explain some things but I really enjoyed all of the dynamics between all of the characters and how the different worlds shaped them. I never quite fell in love with these books but they were all very, very good reads and I like the way everything wrapped up! It’s always nice to be able to recommend a series from start to finish.

addiction_factor1

Addiction Rating
Read them!

These books were so interesting and Claudia Grey did a wonderful job with the different worlds. I’m really glad I finally read this series!!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE FIREBIRD TRILOGY

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

The Hating Game – Sally Thorne

The Hating Game – Sally ThorneTitle: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Publishing Info: August 9, 2016 by HarperCollins
Source: Audible
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 17, 2017

Nemesis (n.)
1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome;
2) A person’s undoing;
3) Joshua Templeman.
Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

bookreview1

Well, this book was so incredibly enjoyable! I haven’t read an adult contemporary novel in a very long time (most of my non-YA reads tend to be fantasy or mystery) and this was so much fun! I tend to avoid adult contemporary at large because I like reading to have fun and don’t particularly enjoy reading about more serious realistic topics (divorce, babies, cheating, break-ups, blah blah I know that’s not all adult contemp but you know what I mean) but THE HATING GAME was on sale at Audible in a 2-for-1 sale and I had heard such great things from bookstagram that I grabbed it! Thank you, bookstagram.

I agree with my friend Brittany when she told me that the beginning was better than the ending (hence the four stars and not five). I LOVED the beginning of this book and the hate-fire that fueled the tension between Lucy and Joshua. It was tense, exciting, funny, and sexy. I loved those shared moments when you could tell they hated each other so much that they didn’t hate each other anymore. It was absolutely perfect and I loved how this relationship developed!

The ending was also wonderful too. I loved how the book resolved, how both characters really grew, and how the reader learned so many different things about each character’s past by the time the story concluded. It was romantic and brilliant and I could read so much more about Lucy and Josh (except for the fact that the awesome hate-tension wouldn’t be there anymore). I loved their personalities, especially Lucy, and how this book really came to life.

Mild Spoilers: The only thing I was missing was that I wished the “Hating Game” part of the book had gone on longer. The book starts out with Lucy and Josh positively despising each other and I thought that could have gone on just a bit longer and Sally Thorne could have established their relationship (the hate side) a bit more before breaking that sexual tension. The tension was so fantastic that I just wanted it to keep going, and I thought it should have lasted just a bit longer. I enjoyed watching that hate dissolve and Lucy and Josh still spurring each other on all the while, but it almost felt like the resolution of the book started a little too early and it lost a little momentum. You want to keep reading to see when that breaking moment happens and it just broke a little too early, I thought.

Overall, I really, really enjoyed this book and I immediately added Sally Thorne’s next book to my TBR (I actually added it before I was even done with THE HATING GAME). It’s not a sequel to this book, which I’m glad this was a stand alone, but I definitely want to read her next novel! I loved the writing and the characters were so vivid and real. I’m so glad I picked this one up after seeing it everywhere!

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Adult contemp. I don’t read a ton of adult contemporary, but when I do, it’s books like this! I love the falling in love side of things (it’s why I read so much YA) and it’s fun to read in an adult setting! I loved the publishing office and how work really affected their relationship.
Left Me Wanting More: Tension! I thought the hating side ended just a liiiiiittle too soon because I LOVED that tension and banter! It sort of lost a little steam taking that tension away but the whole book was really so much fun.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

This book was so incredibly cute, a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to read more from Sally Thorne!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE THE HATING GAME

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

InterWorld (InterWorld #1) – Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves

InterWorld (InterWorld #1) – Neil Gaiman & Michael ReavesTitle: InterWorld (InterWorld #1) by Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves
Publishing Info: April 29, 2008 by HarperCollins
Source: Library
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Children's & Middle Grade, Science Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 5, 2017
Related Posts: Fortunately, the Milk, Stardust, American Gods, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neverwhere

When Newbery Medal winner Neil Gaiman and Emmy Award winner Michael Reaves teamed up, they created the bestselling YA novel InterWorld.

InterWorld tells the story of Joey Harker, a very average kid who discovers that his world is only one of a trillion alternate earths. Some of these earths are ruled by magic. Some are ruled by science. All are at war.

Joey teams up with alternate versions of himself from an array of these worlds. Together, the army of Joeys must battle evil magicians Lord Dogknife and Lady Indigo to keep the balance of power between all the earths stable. Teens—and tweens and adults—who obsessively read the His Dark Materials and Harry Potter series will be riveted by InterWorld and its sequel, The Silver Dream.

bookreview1

I had heard that this book felt a little young before I started but that was incredibly evident once I started getting into it. The main character is in high school but this read at a middle grade level and really felt quite young. I’ve actually read quite a few better middle grade books and ones that were better-written, which is sad since this is co-authored by Neil Gaiman and I’ve loved everything I’ve read from him (which by now is a a decent amount of his works). I’m not sure what percentage of the co-authoring Neil Gaiman did but I found it hard to really get into this book.

I’m a total sucker for parallel worlds and the like but INTERWORLD got a bit too deep into some strange science-fiction stuff that just ended up being too much for me. There was a lot of technical jargon, including interdimensional creatures (oh, we all know how much I love wacky creatures…) that was hard to keep up with. I felt that the book went way too overboard in introducing some of these concepts, especially since it’s the first book in a series and there would have been so much to build up to.

It’s also very much a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, and I have a bit of trouble combining the two when reading fanta-sci books. Despite the fact that sci-fi is a subgenre of fantasy, they just don’t really blend well for me. It did actually seem better accomplished than in other fanta-sci books that I’ve read but I feel like fanta-sci just allows a bit too much to spiral out of control. You’re allowing belief to be suspended from two different angles instead of just one and as a reader, I have a hard time letting go in two different directions and I wanted things to be a bit more grounded.

I would have loved to see this developed more slowly into a couple different books and not have all of this been in the first book. We could have gotten to know Joey, his family, his friends, and his world more before throwing him into this ability and concept. I could have used some more world-building to allow readers to get a grip on Walking and the InterWorld instead of just being thrown into it and having to catch up like Joey had. It was too much and too confusing, in my opinion.

I knew this one might not be a hit but I definitely won’t be continuing the series. I was hoping it might be just so-so for me and there would be an option to continue but this was a total miss for me. It was a short audiobook so it wasn’t too bad to get through but if it hadn’t been short, I probably wouldn’t have finished. I just really wasn’t interested and the tone was just too young for me, even as an occasional reader of middle grade books.

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Fantasci. This was definitely a new step in fanta-sci for me with a mix between fantasy and science-fiction. Sadly, it’s something that I tend to have an issue with as I tend to want a book to be more fantasy or more sci-fi, but it was definitely interesting.
Left Me Wanting More: Maturity. This book just felt young, even more so than most middle grade books I’ve read. I just felt like it was sort of dumbed down and it really didn’t need to be.

Addiction Rating
Skip it

I should have listened to the advice when I was told to skip this one but I just had to know for myself! It wasn’t a very good read for me.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE INTERWORLD

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE CITY OF EMBER

Series Review: The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whelan Turner

I had seen The Queen’s Thief series around Goodreads for a long time and even picked up the first book at a used book store, but it wasn’t really high up on my TBR being that my TBR contains over 1000 books, so I was really excited when I had seen that Harper had the audiobooks available to request for review when this series was introduced on audio for the first time a few months ago! I took a shot and requested them all and miraculously, they were all approved! So I went on a hard series binge and essentially read them all almost back-to-back (to back to back, etc)! Plus, Steve West narrates the audio so how can you go wrong?

Reviews for each book/the series are a whole are generally spoiler-free for any major occurrences or twists but may contain info about plot points so I can properly discuss the plot. 

Series Review: The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whelan TurnerTitle: The Thief (The Queen's Thief #1) by Megan Whelan Turner
Publishing Info: December 27, 2005 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 7, 2017

The king's scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king's prison. The magus is interested only in the thief's abilities.

What Gen is interested in is anyone's guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

THE THIEF was not at all the book I expected it to be, though not in a bad way. I had many incorrect assumptions about it based on appearance and general reading experience (it is not, in fact, a book about a female thief and it is not a light and snarky read). These weren’t bad things but due to the fact that I like going into books blind, I didn’t re-read the synopsis before I started so I was surprised!

I really enjoyed THE THIEF and not in the way that I expected. It did get a little slow with a lot of uneventful traveling (we all know how much I get bored with travel stories) but I loved the little bits of mythology to break it up and those were actually my favorite parts. The creation stories were really interesting, vivid, and created a solid foundation for this world.

THE THIEF is also a fantasy world that is fantasy but without magic, similar to books like THE WINNER’S CURSE. There is a presence of religion/mythology and part of the plot does deal directly with the gods so there’s the concept of the involvement of gods but it’s more deities and less magic system. I know this book was written before the majority of the YA fiction out there but since I’m only reading this for the first time, I found the change in pace in fantasy refreshing. I liked the blend of mythology and politics and how they played their roles within the plot.

The characters became more and more interesting as the book went on. Gen got more personable, we see the true colors of Sophos and Ambiades, and the Magus gets really fleshed out and I actually thought his character development was the most interesting of all. At first he’s played out to be the villain (and even has a villain voice, as voiced by Steve West. For those of you who are avid Steve West audio fans, it’s along the lines of Benjamin Malvern in THE SCORPIO RACES so you just know he’s a snooty bad guy) but the more he gets to know Gen, the more you see of his true character and how he treats people. I actually loved it and thought it was wonderful to see something that was much less black and white, good vs evil.

The beginning and middle were a little slow because a lot of it was working up to the big finale, which was definitely big! Megan Whelan Turner did a fantastic job of sneaking in little details that the reader doesn’t know are important until you realize what all has been going on and I loved the surprises in the end.

I also really loved Gen’s voice and his narration throughout the book. I always love listening to Steve West narrate and it feels especially personal to hear his narration in first person, I think in part because of my love for THE SCORPIO RACES. Although it was a bit slow for a while, by the time the book ended, I was ready for more! I received the entire series for review on audio from HarperCollins so I immediately jumped into book two upon completion of THE THIEF!

Series Review: The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whelan TurnerTitle: The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief #2) by Megan Whelan Turner
Publishing Info: January 24, 2006 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 12, 2017

Revenge
When Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis, stole Hamiathes's Gift, the Queen of Attolia lost more than a mythical relic. She lost face. Everyone knew that Eugenides had outwitted and escaped her. To restore her reputation and reassert her power, the Queen of Attolia will go to any length and accept any help that is offered...she will risk her country to execute the perfect revenge.

...but
Eugenides can steal anything. And he taunts the Queen of Attolia, moving through her strongholds seemingly at will. So Attolia waits, secure in the knowledge that the Thief will slip, that he will haunt her palace one too many times.

...at what price?
When Eugenides finds his small mountain country at war with Attolia, he must steal a man, he must steal a queen, he must steal peace. But his greatest triumph, and his greatest loss, comes in capturing something that the Queen of Attolia thought she had sacrificed long ago...

THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA was actually quite a different experience than THE THIEF! It started off in a very different but good way with a POV switch from first person to third person. I don’t normally like structure changes mid-series BUT I actually did appreciate that Megan Whelan Turner made that decision for this book, and I’m assuming, the rest of the series. THE THIEF was very much a Gen-centric story while THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA started getting more into the political side of this world, involving Attolia, Eddis, and Eugenides’ role between them.

Things were INTENSE right off the bat. I totally wasn’t expecting that given that the first book was… well, not light but it definitely had a lighter tone and nothing too crazy happened. THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA really stepped it up with a reality check for the characters and brought a whole lot of serious to this series.

I sort of started to drift towards the end. There was a… well, I guess it was a twist since it was only revealed in the end of the book but I wouldn’t really call it a twist — but anyway, it was something that didn’t really sit right with me. I had a hard time coming to terms with it, and since it was involving Eugenides, I couldn’t tell if it was a lie/con at first so I spent some time not believing it, but it seems to be the real deal. It’s hard to talk about since I don’t want to spoil anything but essentially it felt a little out of character for a few of the characters and it just didn’t really fit for me. I got a little used to it when the book ended, especially since it seems like it’s going to be a major part of the next book, but I may have a rough time adapting. I guess we’ll see what happens next!

I also found myself wanted more world-building in this book. I loved the mythology stories in THE THIEF and the gods were still involved here but the politics were the main focus of the world-building aspect here. I don’t have an issue with that because I actually loved the political motives in books like GRAVE MERCY, but for some reason I just didn’t feel like it was quite moving things forward and giving me that world-building satisfaction like I was wanting. I can’t quite put my finger on it but there was just something missing.

Series Review: The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whelan TurnerTitle: The King of Attolia (The Queen's Thief #3) by Megan Whelan Turner
Publishing Info: January 24, 2006 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 20, 2017

By scheming and theft, the Thief of Eddis has become King of Attolia. Eugenides wanted the queen, not the crown, but he finds himself trapped in a web of his own making.

Then he drags a naive young guard into the center of the political maelstrom. Poor Costis knows he is the victim of the king's caprice, but his contempt for Eugenides slowly turns to grudging respect. Though struggling against his fate, the newly crowned king is much more than he appears. Soon the corrupt Attolian court will learn that its subtle and dangerous intrigue is no match for Eugenides.

These books have all been good and enjoyable but still nothing that’s totally wow-ing me. In each book, I hit a point where I get a little bored. It’s interesting to see where the book finally ends, but it’s such a round-about way (which is truthfully actually very cool) to get to the end point, and the end goal isn’t always something massive. It ends up feeling a little anticlimactic and I would have loved to see a few of these elements written in together with one final larger goal instead of each of these being a different book (if that makes any sense at all).

I’m really enjoying the characters but I just wish the story was pushing forward a little bit more. I feel like some things are thrown into action too quickly and others take a long time to happen.

I am enjoying the series, though. I do still think the hype built this up too much but they’re fun reads, I love the tone, and the characters really make the books. I’m just not quite finding myself as impressed as I had hoped.

Series Review: The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whelan TurnerTitle: A Conspiracy of Kings (The Queen's Thief #4) by Megan Whelan Turner
Publishing Info: March 23, 2010 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 21, 2017

Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father's villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace.

In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again.

Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the Magus and Eddis, sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever.

I’m actually kind of enjoying that each book has a different POV! And Sophos! And the Magus! I love that the gang is back together… kind of. But I really enjoyed this one. I seem to reach a point every book where my interest wanes a little bit so still not quiiiiiite totally engrossed in this series but I’ve been enjoying every book and Sophos’ POV was very fun to follow! I do like him a lot and he has a lot of personality.

The story-telling is just a little different in every book which is actually kind of interesting. Usually a series sort of sticks to one style and this really changes with each character. Sophos was telling a lot of the story until it caught up to current events but I also really enjoyed his story and where it took the readers!

Series Review: The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whelan TurnerTitle: Thick as Thieves (The Queen's Thief #5) by Megan Whelan Turner
Publishing Info: May 16, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 24, 2017

Deep within the palace of the Mede emperor, in an alcove off the main room of his master’s apartments,. Kamet minds his master’s business and his own. Carefully keeping the accounts, and his own counsel, Kamet has accumulated a few possessions, a little money stored in the household’s cashbox, and a significant amount of personal power. As a slave, his fate is tied to his master’s. If Nahuseresh’s fortunes improve, so will Kamet’s, and Nahuseresh has been working diligently to promote his fortunes since the debacle in Attolia.

A soldier in the shadows offers escape, but Kamet won’t sacrifice his ambition for a meager and unreliable freedom; not until a whispered warning of poison and murder destroys all of his carefully laid plans. When Kamet flees for his life, he leaves behind everything—his past, his identity, his meticulously crafted defenses—and finds himself woefully unprepared for the journey that lies ahead.

Pursued across rivers, wastelands, salt plains, snowcapped mountains, and storm-tossed seas, Kamet is dead set on regaining control of his future and protecting himself at any cost. Friendships—new and long-forgotten—beckon, lethal enemies circle, secrets accumulate, and the fragile hopes of the little kingdoms of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis hang in the balance.

This has been by far my favorite of the series! I was wholly engrossed the whole story and the two main characters (The Attolian!) were amazing. Their relationship and tentative friendship was complicated and meaningful and I felt a little bit of a bromance there! It was fun to really see the two men kind of hate each other and then really develop a solid friendship. The characters were definitely my favorite part of this novel and that’s what really hooked me. I finally got super into it and I think the friendship was really what sold me and that bonding was something that I was missing in the previous books.

I love the little tricks that Megan Whalen Turner always has up her sleeve and there were a few emotional roller coasters here!! In previous books, there were some things that I didn’t see coming because they were revealed after everything happened, but these were exciting surprises that really threw me for a loop as I was reading! There was also a lot more action in this book than some of the others so all-in-all, this was definitely my favorite of the series.

 

SERIES THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed reading this series and getting to know this whole world! I didn’t quite connect AS much as I had hoped with the first few books but I really started to get into the swing of things towards book four and five. It’s really interesting getting so many angles of this world from so many characters and it’s actually fairly unique to other series that I’ve read. I actually enjoy seeing the “main characters” from a “secondary character’s” (which I put in quotes because the secondary characters become the main characters often times) and it’s quite different to see that from a totally different perspective! I really enjoyed this series overall!

addiction_factor1

Addiction Rating
Read them!

These books were so interesting and the series structure was so different from what I normally read! I’m so glad I had the opportunity to review and listen to these audiobooks!!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE QUEEN’S THIEF

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) – Evelyn Skye

The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) – Evelyn SkyeTitle: The Crown's Fate (The Crown's Game #2) by Evelyn Skye
Publishing Info: May 16, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 23, 2017
Related Posts: The Crown's Game (The Crown's Game #1)

Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

bookreview1

** Warning: This review DOES contain spoilers for the book! I will be talking about specifics! ** 

THE CROWN’S GAME was one of my favorite reads of 2016 and I absolutely loved how much it reminded me of THE NIGHT CIRCUS in so many ways (which I actually just finished re-reading and it cemented this feeling even more)! Naturally, I was very excited to read THE CROWN’S FATE and it was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017! It’s always so hard when I have an most-anticipate read coming up because I tend to hype the book up for myself so it was an interesting experience reading THE CROWN’S FATE!

There’s no way I can talk about this book without specific spoilers, so first I’ll talk about some non-spoilery things! I loved that this world felt the same! There are some times with sequels that it feels like a totally different book but I was able to fall back into this world right where I left off.
The world where we left it after THE CROWN’S GAME was much more political and while I don’t mind that, I did miss some of that fun and a “challenge” aspect of THE CROWN’S GAME itself (the game, not the book) because it was a fun structure and involved some creativity on the characters’ parts to explore their abilities.
And I still love Pasha. He was very different in this book because of all the political ramifications and situations that he had to deal with so he just wasn’t as much fun but I still loved his spirit.

Okay, so here are the spoilers. While the world felt the same, why why whyyyyy did we have to have Nikolai turn bad?! Nikolai was too pure and sweet and precious and he was my favorite part of the whole darn book, so I was SO SAD to see that his character was essentially removed from the story line since his whole personality changed. I know it was because of REASONS, yes, but still. My favorite part of this story was changed and to boot, that affected the romance too which I wanted to see developed even MORE but that got put on hold because “bad” Nikolai, of course, wasn’t pursuing romance. SIGH. The book was still enjoyable but this changed so many things and took away those little nuances that really had me enjoying the series so much!

I also just wanted more magic…? The magic involved in this book was kind of dark, which is cool, I can appreciate dark magic… But I missed that sparring between Vika and Nikolai so much. I guess I’m just tired of everything ending in war or battles (which is silly considering that this series is also kiiiiind of historical fiction, with magic) so I didn’t really want to see things come to that. I just really loved the structure of the Game itself, which encouraged the enchanters to grow and explore their powers and THE CROWN’S FATE was more of a desperate battle for power or to stop that power, so it lost that magic and that spark that I loved so much. I didn’t feel as enchanted, no pun intended.

I DID appreciate that things didn’t turn out too sunshine-y though. I actually liked what happened to Vika in the end, actually. There has to be something in the events of war because no one comes out wholly unscathed and it’s a great shock to readers when something happens to a main character, even if it’s not a death. I applaud Evelyn Skye for taking it there like so many other authors have avoided. I know it’s hard to have something difficult happen to your characters without a way to “save” them but these things need to be done to keep things realistic or at least not a cheesy happy ending.

When it comes down to it, this was not the ending I was expecting or hoping for the series but I also appreciated how it wrapped up. I think I just wanted more romance and more Nikolai. Always more Nikolai.

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Historical fiction meets magic. I never used to enjoy history or historical fiction so I’ve really been appreciating books that combine it with magical elements! It’s kind of a way for me to catch up on some historical events or at least feelings, even if they are fictionalized and combined with other things.
Left Me Wanting More: Romance. I don’t always need romance in a book but I was so delighted by the relationship between Vika and Nikolai in the first book and things were heading in a great direction… until the end. But then they didn’t really continue in this book!! I almost feel like THE CROWN’S GAME should have been a stand alone in many ways, but maybe that’s just because I didn’t totally love the finale here.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you loved THE CROWN’S GAME, it’s definitely still worth the read! It was different than what I was expecting and I would have loved just a bit more but I also did appreciate so many things still!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE CROWN’S GAME

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    GRAVE MERCY

Fireworks – Katie Cotugno

Fireworks – Katie CotugnoTitle: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno
Publishing Info: April 11, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 1, 2017

From Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days, comes Fireworks—about a girl who is competing with her best friend to become the new pop star of the moment—and all the drama and romance that comes with it—set in Orlando during the late-'90s boy-and-girl-band craze.

It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.

But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.

It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.

Set in evocative 1990s Orlando, New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno’s Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.

bookreview1

Heads up, talking about specifics so there will be SPOILERS.

This book wasn’t quiiiite what I thought it would be and that was okay but there were things that just didn’t quite fit. I liked Dana a lot but it never really felt right for her to be a part of this pop star world. I feel like it would have been a little different if there had been an expressed interest in singing before she took Olivia to her audition. It just felt so off of Dana to even enter the world of singing and show business without even wanting any part of it before she got there. Maybe that’s just me as a big choir nerd not understanding how you can jump into this without a passion for music or performing… I have no idea. Not staying that you HAVE to have experience in order to get into the music industry but trying to think about it as someone who was only a part of choir was overwhelming, not to mention voice lessons, dance lessons, and all of the show biz type stuff that you have to do. I don’t know… I just felt like Dana didn’t belong there, which I guess was the point, but it felt wrong to take that opportunity away from someone else just because she wanted to get out of her town. There are so many people who have that DREAM and while she may have been a natural performer, I don’t know… It just didn’t click for me and I actually was not rooting for her to make it in the industry. It really bothered me throughout the whole book and despite the fact that she was actually putting a great effort forth to grow and listen and perform… I still didn’t think that was the right place for her and I knew it the whole time.
Aside from that, let’s not even tap into the fact that four girls are chosen for this girl group and out of four in the whole country, Dana is selected ALONG WITH her best friend, even when she sings Happy Birthday and… that’s it. No other auditioning process? No other callback? No tests to see if she even knows how to read music or if she’s a good dancer or if she doesn’t have an attitude, etc etc etc?? I 100% understand selecting someone for their star quality but people aren’t selected because of that alone. There has to be something else going there to make someone think they can turn that person into a star and that the work is going to be worth it. They flat-out didn’t see enough of Dana to even know that.

The friend thing bothered me too. One of the reasons I loved Open Road Summer so much was the fact that the best friends were supportive and things didn’t get catty. One was the star, one was not, and it wasn’t a competition. I didn’t like that Olivia sort of abandoned her best friend for the other girls because they had more experience and were, for lack of a better word, cooler than Dana was. I didn’t like that this book pitted the two best friends against each other and then Olivia stabbed Dana in the back!!! Ugh UGH UGH. I couldn’t stand that.

I also just had more hope that this was going to have some more 90s/early 2000s type feelings with all of those shows like Making the Band and Popstars. That was what I immediately went to when I heard the girls were going to audition for a girl group and there were some feelings of it there but I would have loved to get a little more of that feel. There wasn’t much of a time era feel aside from music references, which I would have loved to see more of because HELLO 90s, like the best time ever (ha)! There wasn’t that nostalgia that I had hoped for at all.

There were other feelings I got from this book though, in so many ways. I actually felt a lot of Center Stage because of all of the industry moments and things we got to see that happen in closed-door meetings. People get cut from groups, deals are made, people get stabbed in the back, images are created. I also felt some That Thing You Do! and Selena with some of those musical moments about trying to get your music out there and be heard, so that was a fun feeling.

The book was entertaining but I feel like I had a totally different image going in. FIREWORKS is a cute title for it but the cover is pretty misleading for what the book is about (despite the fact that I love it). Things were not really fun and friendly… they were kind of catty. And the fireworks were a small part of the book although related to kind of a big concept. I feel like it made the book seem so much lighter and easy-going and it was intense show business work!

When it comes down to it, I enjoyed the read and it was quick but I can’t quite give it four stars because I didn’t feel like Dana ever fit into this world and it stuck out to me the whole time. I just felt like everyone was forcing her into that role even though SHE knew it wasn’t the right place for her either, even if she did have that star-quality. It made it hard for me to root for her to succeed because I didn’t feel like even she wanted it.

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Not-quite-historical-fiction. I love books set in specific eras that aren’t quite historical fiction since they’re still somewhat current (even though the 80s are now 30 years ago and the 90s are 20 years ago!). It’s fun to have that nostalgia while still peeking into a time frame that I was actually alive and enjoying!
Left Me Wanting More: Fun. This book just wasn’t… fun. The girls were mean to each other, there wasn’t a lot of 90s nostalgia, and it all felt a bit dramatic. I just really was hoping for more a light summer read.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

Some people LOVED this book. It just didn’t work for me. I think I went into it thinking it was something else so I guess it depends on what you’re looking for!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE FIREWORKS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE REECE MALCOLM LIST

DNF Digest [5] – The Lonely Hearts Hotel

dnfdigest

I didn’t intended on making “DNF Digest” a regular thing because honestly? I always hope to finish a book! Lately, though, I’ve been more inclined to mark a book as DNF because there are just soooo many books I need to read (you’ve seen my shelves) so I just can’t afford to be pushing through books that I’m really not enjoying. If I’ve read a lot of the book I finish, it’s sort of a policy of mine to try to write a small “review” saying why it didn’t work for me, but today’s collection of DNF round-ups didn’t quite warrant reviews because I didn’t make it as far as I’d hoped.

I’ve been doing kind of well at not DNFing books lately but I have put a few on hold. Today, I’m just talking about one relatively recent DNF due to the content as well as extremely different expectations.



Title:
 The Lonely Hearts Hotel
Author: Heather O’Neill
Format I was reading: audiobook received from the publisher for review
Started reading: 2/9/17
Date marked as DNF: 2/9/17
Marked DNF at: a few chapters in (don’t know the exact due to formatting)
Reason for marking DNF: (My mini-review from Goodreads) I started listening to this audio and only made it two chapters before I turned it off. I had high hopes with nods to The Night Circus as far as timing, magic, and two orphans (and the fact that it was marketed as a NIGHT CIRCUS comparision)… But I couldn’t even make it past the beginning of the book. Only two or three chapters that only span into the first five years of the two main characters’ lives and the book was already too much for me. Trigger warnings for rape, incest, child abuse, child neglect and more within the first couple chapters. And again, this didn’t even span past the first five years of their lives. It seemed like there was way too much included for shock value and not that I made it far enough to really solidly say, but chances are that all of those horrors were not necessary for the overall plot of the book. I know this book is adult and not YA but I still don’t think that’s an excuse or allowance to include so much so fast. No matter what the target audience or age range, it just felt like overkill.

The writing and possible potential of where the story might go just weren’t enough to keep me reading and being bombarded with so many abhorrent events really didn’t make me want to keep reading. If this was the way the book started, what the heck do I have to look forward to here? It really got me down before the story even started and turned me way the heck off to the book instead of pulling me towards a emotional connection and sympathetic nature towards the two main characters.

As I do with any DNF, I checked out other reviews and they really didn’t seem too positive either. Another reviewer had finished the book and still gave it one star, citing that things really didn’t get better for our protagonists so I surely wasn’t going to stick around for that. If I couldn’t handle the beginning, I couldn’t bear to read a whole book like that.

Maybe check out reviews before picking this one up, but seriously beware of all of those trigger warnings if you’re sensitive to any of them. I’m usually able to stomach quite a bit but they all immediately turned me off and had quite a depressing start to a book that I was expecting to be magical.


This book just really didn’t work for me on many levels and even if the triggers weren’t overwhelming for me, I just am not in the mood for such a painfully dark and serious read at the moment. Thank you the publisher for the review copy of this one and sorry it didn’t work out!