The Hazel Wood – Book Review

Title: The Hazel Wood

Author: Melissa Albert

Pages: 368

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Published: January 30, 2018

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away—by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began—and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

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Review:

The Hazel Wood is not the kind of fairytale that you were told as a child. It is a story full of mystery, intrigue and horrors you don’t want to imagine. The Hinterland is nothing like Wonderland, and Alice most definitely does NOT want to fall down the rabbit hole, but if she is to save her mother, that’s exactly what she’ll have to do.

It took me a long time to read this book, and once I finished, I wasn’t all that impressed. I started reading this book a little bit before Halloween, and didn’t finish it until the very end of the year. I never found myself needing to read this book to find out what would happen. In fact, I almost had to force myself to finish it just so that I could enter the new year on a clean slate and not in the middle of any books.

I think that this story will appeal to many readers, but it wasn’t for me. There are a lot of parallels to Alice in Wonderland, and at times it felt like it drew too much influence from other works. Overall the book felt slow, and dragged on forever in the first 2/3 of the book, and then the end felt so rushed and like everything was being tied up hastily without much thought for the story.

I think because this book is so hyped, I had really high expectations going into it, which made me all the more disappointed when I couldn’t get into it. I give The Hazel Wood 2.75/5 stars, and that’s really only because I liked the dark fairytales from Alice’s grandmother’s book, Tales from the Hinterland. It’s a shame the rest of the book couldn’t live up to my expectations.

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

My Top 17 of 2017

How is it already almost time to ring in the new year? I feel like I say this every year, but this year went by insanely fast! Before I knew it, I looked at the calendar and realized that it was time to narrow down my top 17 reads of the year. It was especially hard this year, because I read 218 books this year! Last year I read 82 books, so I thought I was being ambitious by setting my goal at 100. Little did I know I would read more than double that! So without any further ado, here are the books that I enjoyed the most in 2017, in no particular order.

 

I absolutely love cute contemporary books, and Tell Me Three Things was one of the best contemporary books I’ve read! The characters are so lovable, and there is a lot of character development that happens. To see my full review, click here.

 

 

 

Nice Try, Jane Sinner is what happens when Big Brother meets community college. This book is hilarious and real. NTJS goes on sale January 9th, so you’re definitely going to want to check this one out. See my review here.

 

 

The Winner’s Curse was the first book I read in 2017, and I loved it so much that I reread it a couple months ago. Kestrel is such a strong female lead, and I love the world building in this series. Check out my full review here.

 

 

 

 

By Your Side is another cute contemporary book. This one follows the story of Autumn when she accidentally gets locked in the library with a cute boy during a snowstorm. Who doesn’t want to get locked in a library for a weekend?

 

 

I was ecstatic when I heard John Green was releasing another book, and Turtles did not disappoint. I found that this book was a bit challenging to get through when Aza is having thought spirals, but it was so appropriate because anxiety and mental health issues are extremely difficult to live through.

 

 

 

This book was so hyped before it came out, and it was well-deserved hype. I heard a lot of comparisons between AEOR and ACOTAR, and while there are some similarities, An Enchantment of Ravens is very much a unique story and I fell in love with the characters and the setting.

 

 

 

Love & Gelato combines two of my favorite things in contemporary books: travel, and swoony boys! There’s some fun adventure in this book, and I can’t wait for Jenna Evans Welch’s next book!

 

 

 

 

Walk on Earth a Stranger is such an amazing book! It takes place during the California Gold Rush, and features an amazing cast of characters, along with some magic. The series wrapped up this year, so I highly recommend picking this up if you like YA historical fiction with a hint of fantasy.

 

 

I tried SO hard to read ACOMAF last year, but I just couldn’t get into it. I picked it up again this year and LOVED it so much. Sarah J. Maas is one of the best authors there is, and ACOMAF might be my favorite book she’s written so far. She does swoony men so well!

 

 

 

I read my first Marissa Meyer book this year, and loved it so much. Heartless was so magical, and the descriptions of food in this book are amazing. Every time I think of this book, I start craving lemon tarts. You know an author is great when she makes you love a character that you weren’t that interested in to begin with.

 

 

Katie Cotugno was a new author I discovered this year, and she quickly became one of my favorites. Her books are all so real, and deal with real issues that teenagers actually deal with. Her writing is raw, and I love it. I can’t wait for the sequel to this, 9 Days and 9 Nights.

 

 

 

The Belles was a book that I was so excited to snag an ARC of at YALLWEST, and it did not disappoint! The world and story is full of magic, wonder and whimsy, and really immerses the reader into the story. I can’t wait for this book to come out so everyone can share in the amazingness. It hits shelves on February 6th, 2018.

 

 

Another travel book! This was a really fun YA book, because the characters were college-aged, which I appreciate a lot. Sydney and Leela get into some crazy antics on their wild European vacation.

 

 

 

 

Daughter of the Pirate King sat on my TBR for the longest time, but once I picked it up, I flew through it! This was such a well written book, and I loved the pirate theme going for it. I absolutely can’t wait to see what Alosa gets up to in Daughter of the Siren Queen.

 

 

 

I love Krysten Ritter, so when I found out that she was writing a book, I knew I had to read it. Bonfire is a mystery thriller that really kept me wondering what was going to happen next. I hope this isn’t the last that we see of Krysten Ritter’s author career.

 

 

 

This book really surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. It takes place in an airport during a major snowstorm. All flights get cancelled, and Ryn meets some new people in the airport that help her to get through a tough time.

 

 

 

Glitter was one of my favorite books of 2016, so it only makes sense that the sequel, Shatter, made it onto my top list as well. Danica’s story is full of excitement and drama. I’m so curious to see where the final book takes this story. Shatter comes out on February 13th, 2018.

Top Ten – Book Review

Title: Top Ten

Author: Katie Cotugno

Pages: 320 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Published: October 3, 2017

Summary:

Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship:

10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?

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Review:

I feel like I can relate to Gabby a lot, which is probably why I liked this book so much. I’ve read a lot of reviews for this book in which people don’t like Top Ten because they can’t relate to the character, but that wasn’t an issue for me. Gabby has some pretty bad anxiety, and while my anxiety is nowhere near hers, I could still sympathize with a lot of what she feels, because I feel the same things to a lesser extent. I think that a lot of times, people don’t understand how tough it is to have feelings like this, and to see a character with such severe anxiety really helped me to feel like what I feel is more normal than I think it is. (I know anxiety is a huge deal, but it’s always hard to feel like you’re not alone in your symptoms.)

One of my absolute favorite things about Katie Cotugno’s writing is the fact that her books are never your “typical contemporary”. I always find that things never end the way you might expect or want them to in Katie’s novels. Sure, you might want things to end happy, with a neat little bow tied around everything, but that isn’t how life works, and it’s not how Katie’s books work either. And I LOVE it! Her characters are always flawed, and that makes them feel so much more real.

The format that this book was told in made it tough for me to grasp where in the timeline I was at times. It is told in an episodic structure, with each chapter being a different memory/story between Ryan and Gabby, and even though they were in chronological order, I was constantly confused about “has this already happened yet?!” I also think this confusion was slightly due to the fact I read this as an ebook, so it was much more challenging to be able to flip back to the beginning of a chapter and see when in the timeline that particular story was taking place.

I am a Katie Cotugno fan for life, and this book is no exception. I give it 4.25/5 stars.

 

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

 

Neighborhood Girls – Book Review

Title: Neighborhood Girls

Author: Jessie Ann Foley

Pages: 368 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Publisher: Harper Teen

Published: September 12, 2017

Summary:

When Wendy Boychuck’s father, a Chicago cop, was escorted from their property in handcuffs for his shady criminal practices, she knew her life would never be the same. Her father gets a years-long jail sentence, her family falls on hard times, and the whispers around town are impossible to ignore. If that wasn’t bad enough, she gets jumped walking home from a party one night. Wendy quickly realizes that in order to survive her father’s reputation, she’ll have to make one for herself.

Then Wendy meets Kenzie Quintana—a cigarette-smoking, Catholic-school-uniform-skirt-hiking alpha—and she knows that she’s met her savior. Kenzie can provide Wendy with the kind of armor a girl needs when she’s trying to outrun her father’s past. Add two more mean girls to the mix—Sapphire and Emily—and Wendy has found herself in Academy of the Sacred Heart’s most feared and revered clique. Makeover complete.

But complete is far from what Wendy feels. Instead, she faces the highs and lows of a vapid, toxic friendship, the exhaustion that comes with keeping up appearances, and the only loss that could hurt more than losing herself.

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Review:

 

Oftentimes when I start reading a book, I don’t like to read the description because I don’t want to “spoil” myself on what the book is going to be about. So while I did read the description before I requested this book, by the time I actually got around to reading it, I had no clue what it was about. Which is exactly how I like it.

Wendy has had a tough life in recent years, and she hasn’t exactly tried to make it any easier on herself. I think that there is so much character growth throughout this novel, not only with Wendy, but with a lot of the other characters as well.

Perhaps one of my favorite things about this book was the way that Jessie Ann Foley captures the strange ways that teenagers (and people in general, lets be honest) act. Sometimes its as if there is no reasoning behind certain decisions, but to whoever is making the decision, it just “feels” right. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve thought something would be a great idea, only to look back or be told by someone else how stupid it was. It’s just a part of life, but it is a part that Jessie Ann Foley captures in the most realistic way.

I am not a religious person, so the fact that religion plays a big part in the main character’s life had me a little hesitant to read this. I don’t really like it when things feel preachy, and like they are trying to push certain beliefs down your throat. A lot of this book takes place within a Catholic high school, and focuses around religious themes. But religion was handled so tastefully in this book, that I found myself almost forgetting it was even a factor.

Some of the pacing of this book felt a little off to me. At times, random stories or memories would be thrown into the main story arc, and it was a bit jarring, leaving me wondering how or why it fit into the overall arc. But overall, I enjoyed the story a lot, and give it 3.75/5 stars.

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

 

There’s Someone Inside Your House – Book Review

Title: There’s Someone Inside Your House

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Pages: 289 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Horror, Contemporary

Publisher: Dutton Books

Published: September 26, 2017

Summary:

Over a year after her parents sent her away from Hawaii to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, Makani Young is still adjusting to her new life. She’s made a small group of close friends and even flirted with romance, but her past in Hawaii is still hard to forget. And then . . . one by one the students of her new high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders. Makani doesn’t know who’s next on the list. Between this, and a secret scorching relationship with the school weirdo, this school year may turn out to be one to die for . . . literally.

Review:

 

Oh my goodness. Where do I begin with this book?

I really enjoyed this book. I’m not usually the type who likes scary things. I hate horror for the sake of horror (i.e. movies that make you jump just to scare the pants off of you), and I think of myself as more of a thriller kind of girl. So I’ll admit I was a bit hesitant about reading There’s Someone Inside Your House. But, seeing as though I’ve always loved Stephanie Perkins’ books, I decided that I was going to read this one regardless of my initial thoughts. I’m glad I did.

This book got right into the action in the first chapter, which I loved! There’s nothing worse than a book that drags on with a slow burn. Also, I definitely was not terrified by this book. It has some great horror elements, but it didn’t keep me up at night. That being said, there was one evening where I was reading this book rather late in the night, with all of the lights out (it was an e-ARC), and I heard some noises in my house, which set my heart pounding. I later found out it was my mom doing some weird things in the house, but boy, was I a little nervous. I even got up to double-check the house for anything suspicious.

I think if you go into this book expecting a full-on horror novel, you will be disappointed. But if you keep in mind that Stephanie Perkins is a contemporary writer, I think you will be very happy with this book. There’s plenty of romance within this book to appease those who want more of Perkins’ swoon boys, but it doesn’t feel like it’s too much for the genre. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of intrigue and mystery going on surrounding the killer.

I gave There’s Someone Inside Your House 4/5 stars.

*I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

 

The Dazzling Heights – Book Review

Title: The Dazzling Heights

Author: Katharine McGee

Pages: 432 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Science Fiction

Publisher: Harper

Published: August 29, 2017

Summary:

Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a beacon of futuristic glamour and high-tech luxury… and to millions of people living scandalous, secretive lives.

Leda is haunted by nightmares of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’s afraid the truth will get out – which is why she hires Watt, her very own hacker, to keep an eye on all of the witnesses for her. But what happens when their business relationship turns personal?

When Rylin receives a scholarship to an elite upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being here also means seeing the boy she loves: the one whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return.

Avery is grappling with the reality of her forbidden romance – is there anywhere in the world that’s safe for them to be together?

And then there’s Calliope, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who’s arrived in New York with a devious goal in mind – and too many secrets to count.

Here in the Tower, no one is safe – because someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. After all, in a world of such dazzling heights, you’re always only one step away from a devastating fall….

Review:

I loved this book so much. Just when I thought that this story couldn’t get much better after The Thousandth Floor, I was proven wrong because The Dazzling Heights is absolutely amazing.

The story picks up shortly after the events that ended the first novel. I won’t go into any details here to avoid spoilers, but the drama between characters is so entertaining. There were so many times where you just want a character to be aware of one little bit of information because it would make a world of difference, and the fact that they are so blind to everything except what they believe drives you crazy, but in the best way!

I also loved that we got a new character’s perspective in this novel, and got to experience more of this world outside of New York and what little we saw of Paris in the first novel. In The Dazzling Heights we also get to explore Katharine’s versions of Hollywood and Dubai, and they are just as stunning.

This book ended on such a cliffhanger and now I am absolutely dying to read the next one! Seriously though, who do I need to sell my soul to in order to ensure I get an ARC of the next book, because it’s all yours. Are you listening, HarperCollins?

I give 5/5 stars to The Dazzling Heights. It exceeded my expectations, and dazzled me until the very end.

*I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Reunited – Blog Tour and Book Review

Welcome to the final stop on the Reunited blog tour! Click on the banner above to see the other blogs featuring Reunited on this tour!

Summary:

After surviving her otherworldly adventure, Lily wakes up on her nana’s farm having forgotten everything. Her sun prince, her travels to Egypt, and her journey to the Afterlife are all distant memories.

But Lily is not the girl she once was. Her body is now part human, part lion, and part fairy. And if that isn’t bad enough, she must now harness this power of three and become Wasret: a goddess destined to defeat the evil god Seth once and for all.

With the help of her old friend Dr. Hassan, Lily departs on her final voyage through the cosmos and across the plains of Egypt. On the journey, she will transform into the being she is destined to become.

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Nice Try, Jane Sinner – Book Review

Title: Nice Try, Jane Sinner 

Author: Lianne Oelke

Pages: 432

Genre: YA, contemporary

Publisher: Clarion Books

Release Date: January 9, 2018

Summary:

The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.

As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She’ll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

Review:

Jane Sinner is not your typical main character. She is sassy, and a smart ass, and unapologetically herself. She’s been through some tough experiences in her life, but they’ve helped shape her into the person that she is. I think one of the things that I love most about Jane is that she sticks to what she believes in, and she doesn’t let others try to sway her. In the beginning of the book, Jane is faced with the decision of what to do after being kicked out of high school months before graduation. She knows that living at home isn’t the best environment for her, because she doesn’t have the same views as her parents and doesn’t want them to constantly judge her and her actions. So she agrees to go to community college to finish her high school diploma, as long as she can move out of the house. I admire Jane’s strength and tenacity.

Jane’s story is told through the perspective of her diary, which is such a great format for this book. Seeing as though Jane is a contestant on a student-run reality show similar to Big Brother, being able to know Jane’s deepest inner thoughts really allows the reader to get to know her. I’ve never been a huge fan of reality competition shows, but Big Brother has always been my guilty pleasure, and I loved that Jane Sinner took it’s own spin on the show.

Jane’s family is extremely religious, and the irony that their last name is Sinner is not lost on me. Being from a family that has religious values that I don’t agree with, I was able to understand Jane’s struggles with the issue. Jane can’t really figure out a way to let her parents know that she doesn’t believe in God without them thinking that there’s something wrong with her.

Jane is so snarky, and I love it! For most of the novel, I felt like Jane’s thoughts mirrored many of my own internal thoughts that I tend to keep to myself. She, however, has no qualms about speaking her mind and letting her thoughts be known. She is blunt and doesn’t beat around the bush. I really think that more people should be like Jane Sinner, because the world would be so much less confusing.

The supporting cast of characters is so varied and lively. They are all so well developed, and you can tell that they each have their own motivations behind their actions. I really believe that none of the characters in Nice Try, Jane Sinner are like any others that I’ve seen before.

I really don’t think I could have asked for any more in this book. I devoured it so fast, and was immensely satisfied. It surprised me in the best ways, and took turns that were entirely unexpected. Jane Sinner is refreshingly unique, and should be at the top of every YA lover’s 2018 TBR. I give it 5/5 stars.

I received an e-ARC of this from HMH Teen in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Perfectly Imperfect Match – Blog Tour and Book Review


Click on the banner above to see the other amazing blogs featuring The Perfectly Imperfect Match on this tour!

Summary:

Pitcher Dylan Dennings has his future all mapped out: make the minors straight out of high school, work his way up the farm system, and get called up to the majors by the time he’s twenty-three. The Plan has been his sole focus for years, and if making his dreams come true means instituting a strict “no girls” policy, so be it.

Lucy Foster, needlepoint ninja, big sister to an aspiring pitcher, and chicken advocate, likes a little mayhem. So what if she gets lost taking her brother to baseball camp…at her own high school? The pitching coach, some hotshot high school player, obviously thinks she’s a hot mess. Too bad he’s cute, because he’s so not her type.

Problem is, they keep running into each other, and every interaction sparks hotter than the last. But with Dylan’s future on the line, he has to decide whether some rules are made to be broken…

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The Essential Carl Mahogany – Blog Tour and Book Review

To see all of the awesome blogs featuring Carl Mahogany, click here.

Title: The Essential Carl Mahogany

Author: Zach Boddicker

Pages: 270

Genre: Fiction, Neo-Western

Publisher: Last Chance Press

Published: March 24, 2017

 

Summary:

What can an award-winning Nashville singer-songwriter learn about himself by agreeing to a best-of tour in a beat up old van? If it means getting out from under the thumb of a label that considers him washed up, he’s willing to find out. At least until an ex-lover wants to come along for the ride.

Carl Mahogany’s not your average protagonist. In the practiced drawl of the aging country singer, and echoing Edward Abbey’s Henry Lightcap, Boddicker takes us across the country in an Americana-steeped journey through Mahogany’s roots. Encounters with old friends and lovers, including the Eisenhower Interstate System, a firecracker tenured professor, former bandmates, and a down-to-earth small town mechanic, shake the dust out of Mahogany’s creases to revision his life.

If a lifetime of travel, songwriting and performing equates to learning to work with the monsters inside us, The Essential Carl Mahogany is that journey. Grab a six pack, settle into the cushions, and come along for the ride.

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