Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis

Synopsis (via Goodreads): In this charming and poignant novel, teenager Emmie Blue releases a balloon with her email address and a big secret into the sky, only to fall head-over-heels for the boy who finds it; now, fourteen years later, the one thing Emmie has been counting on is gone for good, and everything she planned is up in the air.

At sixteen, Emmie Blue stood in the fields of her school and released a red balloon into the sky. Attached was her name, her email address…and a secret she desperately wanted to be free of. Weeks later, on a beach in France, Lucas Moreau discovered the balloon and immediately emailed the attached addressed, sparking an intense friendship between the two teens.

Now, fourteen years later, Emmie is hiding the fact that she’s desperately in love with Lucas. She has pinned all her hopes on him and waits patiently for him to finally admit that she’s the one for him. So dedicated to her love for Lucas, Emmie has all but neglected her life outside of this relationship—she’s given up the search for her absentee father, no longer tries to build bridges with her distant mother, and lives as a lodger to an old lady she barely knows after being laid off from her job. And when Lucas tells Emmie he has a big question to ask her, she’s convinced this is the moment he’ll reveal his feelings for her. But nothing in life ever quite goes as planned, does it?

Emmie Blue is about to learn everything she thinks she knows about life (and love) is just that: what she
thinks she knows. Is there such thing as meant to be? Or is it true when they say that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans? A story filled with heart and humor, Dear Emmie Blue is perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and Evvie Drake Starts Over.

"In nine months, my best friend of fourteen years, the man I am in love with, is getting married to a woman he loves. A woman who isn’t me. And I am to stand right there, at the altar, beside him, as his best woman."
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Dear Emmie Blue was lovely! I really enjoyed the characters and the setting (yes, they all had accents in my head) and thought the author did a wonderful job bringing them to life. While Emmie frustrated me at times, I could sympathize with her and what she was going through.

I liked the whimsical way Emmie and Lucas meet as teenagers! Can you imagine attaching a note to a balloon and having someone an ocean away discover it? It was like a modern day message in a bottle, with Emmie feeling emotionally adrift and distressed. The resulting friendship was something Lucas and Emmie both needed, since they were feeling very alone and isolated in their respective worlds. It was fun seeing how they communicated over the years, and I was so happy that his family embraced her and treated her like one of their own. Found families for the win!

Emmie's mother was awful. She's the main reason Emmie felt so lonely and unmoored in the world. Something terrible happens to Emmie - - something that totally wrecks her and the life she's built - - and her mother says something like, "other people have it worse." What horrible nonsense! A mother should be there for her child, especially when that child has been through something traumatic. I was LIVID. Unfortunately, my intense feelings of dislike towards her mother only increased as the story progressed. She was a selfish, inconsiderate, heartless and vindictive woman.

Despite growing up feeling unloved and uncared for, Emmie finds some really solid friends after college. She's had Lucas for years at this point, but it's not until Rosie, Fox, Louise and Eliot, that she really finds a group of people that truly care about her. Rosie was hilarious and I would love to be her friend, Fox had a dry sense of humor that never failed to make me smile, Louise was a wonderful women that I'm happy Emmie had a chance to get to know while renting a room in her home, and then there's Eliot. I adored him from the start, but it took ages for him to really grow on me as a potential love interest for Emmie. I had reservations because she had them, and rightfully so. It was amazing how the author developed their relationship over time - - slow, slightly forbidden, and definitely worth the wait.

There is a lot going on in Dear Emmie Blue, but the story never felt overwhelming. Emmie is dealing with her mother (horrible woman), an absent father, sexual abuse (that keeps her from pursuing jobs she'd like and causing panic when memories resurface), unrequited love, planning a wedding as best woman, a job that makes her happy but doesn't pay enough - - it was exhausting. I don't know how she held it together for long, and can totally understand why she cried a lot throughout this book. Seriously, she was sobbing on someone's shoulder or alone in her bed every other chapter. The girl was dealing with a lot of emotional stuff.

I thought the author realistically portrayed the inner turmoil Emmie was feeling, and I only wish her friends hadn't coddled her quite so much. They were all afraid of shattering the carefully crafted life Emmie had created (since it had happened before), and no one was willing to just tell her what she needed to hear (except Louise). I think if people (the ones that truly cared about her) had been more honest from the start, it would have saved her a lot of heartache. Regardless, everything felt authentic and entirely plausible.

The ending really warmed my heart, and made Emmie's journey worth it. Her life still isn't perfect, but it's definitely better than it was. She's learning to be her own person without someone else's influence, and I think she realized she'd relied too much on Lucas until he was no longer an option. She would drop everything whenever he needed her, and it wasn't unusual for him to flake when their roles were reversed. He was a really good friend to Emmie, but I do think he took advantage of her sometimes. But back to the ending - - YES. It was perfect. A little late... but perfect. (★★★★⋆)

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

https://amzn.to/32dW0nvSynopsis (via Goodreads): Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six: The band's album Aurora came to define the rock 'n' roll era of the late seventies, and an entire generation of girls wanted to grow up to be Daisy. But no one knows the reason behind the group's split on the night of their final concert at Chicago Stadium on July 12, 1979 . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock 'n' roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

“Do you know what you do with that level of trust? When someone says, 'I trust you so much I can tolerate you having secrets?' You cherish it. You remind yourself how lucky you are to have been given that trust every day.” 
Daisy Jones & The Six was an amazing and utterly breathtaking read. I started this book back in January when my #OTSPSecretSister gifted it to me, but then the audiobook became available at my library. I'd heard the audio was phenomenal, so I gave it a shot. Thank the stars I did! I loved it so much! Everyone had a very distinctive voice, and it's why I opted to finish the book on audio instead of physically reading the rest when my hold expired. 

“Men often think they deserve a sticker for treating women like people.”
I desperately wanted this band and their music to be real! The author wrote their story in a way that felt factual - -  like it was something that really happened in the 70's - - and not something she simply pulled from her head. I honestly thought this book was based on a real band until I Goggled them and their songs. The disappoint was real, friends. I could have cried when I realized the author hadn't based her book on anyone real. Reid made me want to know Daisy Jones & The Six. This story was both perfection and nowhere near enough for me. I could have easily read another book about this amazing group of people. They included an instrumental version of Honeycomb at the end of the audiobook, but it only made me want to hear more. I wanted their entire album to be real so I could play it on a loop.

“She had written something that felt like I could have written it, except I knew I couldn't have. I wouldn't have come up with something like that. Which is what we all want from art, isn’t it? When someone pins down something that feels like it lives inside us? Takes a piece of your heart out and shows it to you? It’s like they are introducing you to a part of yourself.”
I was really surprised with how the story played out, too. There were so many small details that accumulated over time, and I loved that everyone remembered their shared past differently. They all had this amazing experience together - - this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - - and their thoughts and memories didn't always align. It was such an authentic portrayal of people and how we all see and experience life in different ways. Billy would remember saying such and such to Daisy, but her story would be just slightly different. You get the truth as people remember it, so you don't know exactly what happened. You get an idea about a situation or conversation, but people's memories shift facts and feelings around over the years (and sometimes while they're happening, because people perceive things differently).

“But loving somebody isn't perfection and good times and laughing and making love. Love is forgiveness and patience and faith and every once in a while, it's a gut punch. That's why it's a dangerous thing, when you go loving the wrong person. When you love somebody who doesn't deserve it. You have to be with someone that deserves your faith and you have to be deserving of someone else's. It's sacred.”
I cannot wrap my head around how wonderfully written this book was! I was blown away by the storytelling, and the incredible characters Reid brought to life. They really lived within the pages of this book. I could see them as they remembered themselves, how they were in the present, hear their songs being played - - it was like I experienced this fantastic rollercoaster ride with them. I wasn't a bystander witnessing greatness, but an active participant in their lives.

“I am not going to sit around sweating my ass off just so men can feel more comfortable. It’s not my responsibility to not turn them on. It’s their responsibility to not be an asshole.”
There were so many quotable lines in this book, and I'm looking forward to highlighting the hell out of my physical copy when I do a reread (because there will be a reread)! I wish I could show you all of my favorites, but that would basically be this entire book - - no joke. The ending was unexpected, but beautiful and absolutely perfect. I fucking loved this book.


Daisy Jones, read by Jennifer Beals
Billy Dunne, read by Pablo Schreiber
Graham Dunne, read by Benjamin Bratt
Eddie Loving, read by Fred Berman
Warren Rhodes, read by Ari Fliakos
Karen Karen, read by Judy Greer
Camila Dunne, read by January LaVoy
Simone Jackson, read by Robinne Lee
Narrator / Author, read by Julia Whelan
Jim Blades, read by Jonathan Davis
Rod Reyes, read by Henry Leyva
Artie Snyder, read by Oliver Wyman
Elaine Chang, read by Nancy Wu
Freddie Mendoza, read by P.J. Ochlan
Nick Harris, read by Arthur Bishop
Jonah Berg, read by Holter Graham
Greg McGuinness, read by Brendan Wayne
Pete Loving, read by Pete Larkin
Wyatt Stone, read by Alex Jenkins Reid
Hank Allen, read by Robert Petkoff
Opal Cunningham, read by Sara Arrington

Thursday, July 9, 2020

A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Korean-American author Jayci Lee delights with this delicious and light-hearted romantic comedy that readers will devour and ask for more.

Bake a chance on love.

Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see her gorgeous Korean unicorn again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out.

When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as possible...by sharing a villa.

When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.

"Her jaws went slack, and her tummy dipped and swerved at the appreciative gleam in his eyes."
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I really wanted to like A Sweet Mess, and thought the idea of two Korean-American foodies sounded adorable, but it was sooo cheesy and unromantic. I honestly thought this was the author's first book until I talked to Karen (from For What It's Worth). We'd unknowingly been trying to read it at the same time, but both struggled with the story. It was after messaging her that I realized the author has been published previously.

I'm also not a fan of telling over showing. I should be able to see and understand the humor without someone screaming, "LOOK! RIGHT HERE! THIS IS FUNNY! LAUGH!" I really struggled with the dialogue as well, since their conversations made them seem like teenagers in high school, and not adults with their own businesses and careers.

The formatting was atrocious. I'm already not a fan of POV changes in the middle of a chapter, but this book gives you absolutely no warning before dropping you into someone else's head. I would be reading thinking I was one person, but a few pages later realize that I'd been someone else all along. I would have to backtrack and start over, but even that was hard to do since there were no page breaks or any indication that there'd been a switch. Additionally, the story skips ahead a month without making that abundantly clear, and there wasn't a confirmed chapter until CHAPTER 4. How does that work?

The relationship between Aubrey and Landon wasn't all that believable either. Yes, people have one-night stands, but it felt like they rushed through everything at the start. I wanted there to be more build up before they banged. Basically, they meet at a bar, start to drink together while enjoying some light conversation, then abruptly jump up to act on their "uncontrollable" urges. I wish they'd deepened their conversation, explored their connection, and then left to go boink their brains out.

Finally, I cannot stand it when someone is attracted to a person that has screwed them over, like it's completely out of their control. Landon did something that was truly terrible, and other than "feeling bad" about it, doesn't really give a shit. He doesn't want to risk his reputation to do right by someone else. His "reasons" for staying out of it were crap, and I hated that Aubrey still wanted to hump his leg whenever she saw him again.

"Standing on the brink of losing her dream, she still wanted the man."

"She was determined to hate him, but the thought of him naked on her bed stalled her brain."

"She mentally slapped herself, annoyed as hell at her body’s reaction to him. He was the bringer of destruction. The pusher of her rage buttons."

Aubrey was a smart, successful woman, but the thought of this jerk naked made her act like a hormonal teenager. She should have had more respect for herself and the dream she'd worked so hard for. He could have easily remedied his mistake, but his pride was nearly as large as his ego. It also felt like the author was trying to justify her interest in Landon, despite him clearly being an asshole.

The parts of the book that I think were meant to be funny (like Darth Dimple) ended up making me cringe instead because of the context. She's justifiably mad at him, but mentally making excuses for his behavior. Nope. Sorry, bucko. You don't get any v-candy after being an asshat. His "roving eyes" should have made her angry, not horny. Instead of writing to him and his employer, she should have complained publicly and shared her story with the world. His review of her business was done unfairly, and she shouldn't have sulked around waiting for him to fix things for her. DNF at 20% (★★☆☆☆)

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

My Weekly Pull [123] & Can't-Wait Wednesday [98]

My Weekly Pull is something I do every Wednesday to show which comics I had pulled for me that week! If you're into comics, or you're looking to start, please join me! If you decide to do your own post, there's a link-up at the bottom. I would love to stop by and check it out!

Dungeons & Dragons Infernal Tides #4 by Jim Zub, Max Dunbar
Firefly #17 by Greg Pak, Davide Gianfelice, George Kambadais

Jacob's comics for the week!
The two BATMAN comics are actually for our son. :)

Batman: The Adventures Continue #2 by Paul Dini, Alan Burnett, Ty Templeton, Sean Murphy
DC Classics: Batman Adventures #2 by Kelley Puckett, Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett
Transformers Galaxies #7 by Sam Maggs, Beth McGuire-Smith, Umi Miyao

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly feature that's hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings. It highlights the upcoming releases we're really excited about reading! CWW is a spinoff of the feature Waiting on Wednesday (WoW), that was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

He Must Like You by Danielle Younge-Ullman 
Expected publication: July 14th 2020 by Viking Books for Young Readers

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Libby's having a rough senior year. Her older brother absconded with his college money and is bartending on a Greek island. Her dad just told her she's got to pay for college herself, and he's evicting her when she graduates so he can Airbnb her room. A drunken hook-up with her coworker Kyle has left her upset and confused. So when Perry Ackerman, serial harasser and the most handsy customer at The Goat where she waitresses, pushes her over the edge, she can hardly be blamed for dumping a pitcher of sangria on his head.

Unfortunately, Perry is a local industry hero, the restaurant's most important customer, and Libby's mom's boss. Now Libby has to navigate the fallout of her outburst, find an apartment, and deal with her increasing rage at the guys who've screwed up her life--and her increasing crush on the one guy who truly gets her. As timely as it is timeless, He Must Like You is a story about consent, rage, and revenge, and the potential we all have to be better people.

*Share your My Weekly Pull post! Please leave the direct link to your My Weekly Pull post and not just your blog's URL. Thank you for participating and happy reading!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Lost City (The Omte Origins, #1) by Amanda Hocking
[Blog Tour: Spotlight Post]

Hello, lovelies! Welcome to the next stop on the blog tour for The Lost City by Amanda Hocking, hosted by St. Martin's Press & Wednesday Books. This is a Spotlight Post, so if you've seen this book around the blogosphere and wanted more information, you've come to the right place. :)

The Lost City Book Description

Amanda Hocking, the New York Times bestselling author of The Kanin Chronicles, returns to the magical world of the Trylle Trilogy with The Lost City, the first novel in The Omte Origins—and the final story arc in her beloved series.

The storm and the orphan

Twenty years ago, a woman sought safety from the spinning ice and darkness that descended upon a small village. She was given shelter for the night by the local innkeepers but in the morning, she disappeared—leaving behind an infant. Now nineteen, Ulla Tulin is ready to find who abandoned her as a baby or why.

The institution and the quest

Ulla knows the answers to her identity and heritage may be found at the Mimirin where scholars dedicate themselves to chronicling troll history. Granted an internship translating old documents, Ulla starts researching her own family lineage with help from her handsome and charming colleague Pan Soriano.

The runaway and the mystery

But then Ulla meets Eliana, a young girl who no memory of who she is but who possesses otherworldly abilities. When Eliana is pursued and captured by bounty hunters, Ulla and Pan find themselves wrapped up in a dangerous game where folklore and myth become very real and very deadly—but one that could lead Ulla to the answers she’s been looking for. 


Author bio: 

AMANDA HOCKING is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

Early Praise for The Lost City

"Hocking’s fast, engaging fantasy will draw in new and seasoned fans of the genre... [She] keeps the surprises coming, [leaving] readers eager to know more" —School Library Journal (starred review)

Buy Links: Macmillan, Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, Amazon

Social Links: Author website, Twitter, Facebook, Author Blog, Pinterest, Goodreads

Monday, July 6, 2020

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

Synopsis (via Goodreads): This gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.

What happened to Zoe won't stay buried...

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year's Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe's life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected--and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe's body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna's confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn't satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina's podcast uncover the truth?

“First time in the Hamptons?” Tom asks. I turn my head toward him, tearing my eyes from the hedgerows and entrance gates that obscure what promise to be jaw-dropping houses from public view. “Yeah. Yes. I think so, anyway.”
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I really enjoyed reading Frick's I Killed Zoe Spanos, but the story's ending didn't blow me away. I was initially captivated by the unreliable narrator and her sketchy, half-remembered details, but there was something lacking there at the end. The characters were all the same, but the Big Reveal wasn't all that remarkable. It was unexpected, yes, but also a little underwhelming. After reading the first part of the book, I had higher expectations for its conclusion.

Anna would frequently lose time, forget important details, and had an alarming number of gaps in her memory. At first, I thought she might have a mental health issue that caused her to struggle with facts and retention, but even that aspect of the story lost some of its steam towards the end. Some of her memories were explained, while others were left untouched. I wanted to know more about all of Anna's dreams and hallucinations, not just the ones that were relevant at the end. If you've read this, I'm mostly referring to the one she had about Paisley. It seemed to be the only major one not addressed.

Additionally, I felt like the adults in this book were at the root of everyone's problems, and wish that had also been elaborated on a little more. Unfortunately, we only get a few breadcrumbs regarding their involvement in Anna's life. The secondary characters were interesting, if also somewhat one-dimensional. I understood the need for secrecy, and know the lack of details only made me more suspicious of everyone. I kept wondering what they were hiding, and if this or that reaction had anything to do with Zoe.

What I didn't understand was why anyone would be attracted to Caden. He was unlikable from the start, and clearly only cared about himself. However, I thought the podcast element was very interesting, and reminded me of Courtney Summers' Sadie. We get to learn details about the past without the characters having flashbacks, and I thought it really complemented the Then and Now format.

I can't really say too much more without giving something away, but if you like unreliable narrators, suspenseful thrillers, and small beach towns, then definitely give this book a shot. I Killed Zoe Spanos held my interest and kept me on my toes, but I wanted something more from its conclusion. (★★★★☆)

Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Sunday Post [51]

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly at the Caffeinated Reviewer! It's an opportunity to share news, post a recap for the previous week, showcase books, and highlight what's planned for the week ahead.


My neighbors are the worst. First, fireworks are illegal in Virginia, but that didn't seem to stop anyone on the Fourth of July. I understand wanting to celebrate the holiday with family, friends, and fireworks, but this year really should have been the exception. There were so, so many people in our neighborhood the other night. They were gathered outside in large groups shooting explosives into trees and between houses. I think I was actually more nervous than my dogs this year. 

To make matters worse, our neighbor knocked our door and invited us over. I declined through the glass, told him that we're still social distancing because of the virus, and that we were under the impression fireworks were illegal in VA (apparently you can to drive to North Carolina and buy them). He said he "didn't believe in the virus stuff," and proceeded to tell me that his kids really wanted to play with other kids. I told him we were sorry, but the virus is very much real, and I don't feel like risking my children's health (or my own) for a few fireworks and a playdate. He said he understood and that he's "just a jerk," but c'mon. You can't simply say you don't believe COVID-19 is real. It's not up for debate. It's killing people

I ended up letting the kids watch the neighborhood fireworks through the window, since they're young and don't really understand why other people get to do something fun and they don't. We've explained the virus to them, social distancing, masks - - but it's hard when they see other people disregarding those guidelines and safety measures. I've started telling them that some people just aren't as smart and informed as they are, so they'll feel better about being safe even when it's uncomfortable. Do you think a five-year-old wants to wear a mask while on a walk? Do you think it's easy to keep a mask on a three-year-old's face? Yes. It is easy. They understand the risks better than some adults, because we've talked to them about what's happening in the world. If my children can do their part without complaining, so can everyone else.

In other news... to homeschool or not to homeschool? That's the big question. I've talked to a few of you about it on Twitter, but there doesn't seem to be a good answer. 

Previous week on the blog:
What I'm currently reading:

The Lost City (The Omte Origins, #1) by Amanda Hocking
Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2) by Libba Bray 🎧
The Unready Queen (The Oddmire, #2) by William Ritter

What I plan on reading next: 

A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee
Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis

What I'm watching:

Obviously, we watched Hamilton this weekend AND LOVED IT. I couldn't believe how fast-paced it was! There was never a lull in the story, and I stayed completely captivated throughout the entire 2+ hours. We're definitely watching it again!

Kiddos are still working their way through Avatar: The Last Airbender and the newest season of Kipo. Jacob also watched The Big Green with them over the weekend. Disney+ has been life-saving during this pandemic. 

Challenge updates: