Monday, May 31, 2021

The Lucky List by Rachael Lippincott
& Willa of Dark Hollow (Willa, #2) by Robert Beatty
[Blog Tours: Reviews + Giveaways]

 
Halito! Welcome to the next stop on the blog tour for The Lucky List hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Thanks for stopping by today, and don't forget to check out the giveaway at the bottom! For the full tour schedule, please visit the Rockstar Book Tours website.

About the Book: 

Title: THE LUCKY LIST
Author: Rachael Lippincott
Pub. Date: June 1, 2021
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook
Pages: 304
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, Kindle, Audible, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.org

White Whale Bookstore Pre-order! Signed, Personalized, and Enter The Giveaway! *** Rachael has partnered with White Whale Bookstore for an exclusive giveaway! All pre-orders for signed and personalized copies placed through White Whale’s website will get one of each of the stickers designed to celebrate The Lucky List, and 30 random orders will be chosen to receive one of three Lucky List themed totes! The drawing will take place on June 1, when the book is published. ***

From the #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of Five Feet Apart comes a gripping new romance, perfect for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

Emily and her mum were always lucky.

But Emily’s mum’s luck ran out three years ago when she succumbed to cancer, and nothing has felt right since.

Now, the summer before her senior year, things are worse than ever – Emily has wrecked things with her boyfriend, Matt, and her dad is selling the house she grew up in and giving her mum’s belongings away. The only person she has to talk to is Blake, a girl she barely knows since she and her dad moved back to town five seconds ago.

But that’s when Emily finds the list – her mum’s senior year summer bucket list – buried in the back of her closet. When Blake suggests that Emily take it on as a challenge, the two set off on a journey to tick each box and help Emily face her fears over losing her connection to her mum. As she starts to feel closer to her mother, so too does Emily’s bond with Blake deepen into something she wasn't expecting.

And suddenly Emily must face another fear: accepting the secret part of herself she never got a chance to share with the person who knew her best.

A captivating, heartfelt love story about learning who you are, and who you love, when the person you’ve always shared yourself with is gone.

Praise for THE LUCKY LIST:

"A countdown to finishing the list before a class trip keeps the pacing solid, and an entertaining unraveling of connections to her parents’ pasts adds nice depth. Told in Emily’s first-person narration, the breezy tale explores the theme of learning to live life without holding back, as Emily both questions her sexuality and learns to heal from her grief....A truly charming summer romp." —Kirkus Reviews

Join Rachael for her online Launch Party! 

The Lucky List gave me all the feels! I don't have a very close relationship with my mother, so I love stories about daughters and mothers. Sadly, Emily's mother is dead and she's still grieving several years later. I loved watching her deal with her feelings and learn to love life again. She has a lot going on with her dad selling her childhood home, her friends and ex-boyfriend giving her the cold shoulder, and a new friend she immediately connects with. 

I really enjoyed the bucket list aspect of this story! It added another layer to the story and forced Emily to address certain thoughts and feelings she'd previously been avoiding. I thought the author handled the loss of a parent very well, and I liked that she didn't villainize the dad despite his attempts at moving forward before his daughter was ready.


About Rachael Lippincott: 

Rachael Lippincott was born in Philadelphia and raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She holds a BA in English writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, splitting her time between writing and running a food truck with her partner.

Her debut novel, FIVE FEET APART, is a #1 NYT Bestseller.




Giveaway Details:

3 lucky winners will win a finished copy of THE LUCKY LIST, US Only.



Halito! Welcome to the next stop on the Willa of Dark Hollow blog tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Thanks for stopping by today, and don't forget to check out the giveaway at the bottom! For the full tour schedule, please visit the Rockstar Book Tours website.

About the Book:

Title: WILLA OF DARK HOLLOW
Author: Robert Beatty
Pub. Date: May 4, 2021
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
Pages: 384
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, Kindle, Audible, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.org

This enchanting companion to Robert Beatty's instant #1 New York Times bestseller Willa of the Wood is perfect for any reader who cares deeply about the natural world.

Willa and her clan are the last of the Faeran, an ancient race of forest people who have lived in the Great Smoky Mountains for as long as the trees have grown there. But as crews of newly arrived humans start cutting down great swaths of the forest she loves, she is helpless to stop them. How can she fight the destroyers of the forest and their powerful machines?

When Willa discovers a mysterious dark hollow filled with strange and beautiful creatures, she comes to realize that it contains a terrifying force that seems to be hunting humans. Is unleashing these dangerous spirits the key to stopping the loggers? Willa must find a way to save the people and animals she loves and take a stand against a consuming darkness that threatens to destroy her world.

Praise for WILLA OF THE WOOD:

"Willa of the Wood will grip readers from its first page... Willa is... an admirable protagonist."—Culturess

"A moving, atmospheric journey of hope."—Kirkus Reviews

"Beatty conjures up a resourceful, compassionate heroine. Full of atmospheric details and richly described magic... this well-paced tale asks insightful questions about the relationship between nature and humans."—Publishers Weekly

"The heroine is an appealing character... and her anguish is clear as she wavers between frightened self-preservation and her desire to help her friends."—School Library Journal

"Willa is a strong and likable creature of the natural world, and seamlessly represents themes of loyalty, tradition, family, and stewardship of the Earth in this engaging story."—School Library Connection

Accolades:

2018 Goodreads Choice Awards: Middle Grade, finalist
2018 Cybils Award, Elementary Middle Grade Speculative Fiction Nominee
Amazon: Best Children's Books of 2018, ages 9-12
Imagination Soup: Best Middle Grade Chapter Books of 2018
BNKids: July's Best Books for Young Readers, selection (2018)
Brightly: 9 Middle Grade Books for Environmentally Conscious Kids, selection (2018)
PopSugar: The Best books for Kids in 2018, as Voted by Actual Kids and Parents Who Read Them, selection
A Mighty Girl: 2018 Books of the Year, ages 9-12

GRAB WILLA OF THE WOOD NOW! 


I haven't read Willa of the Wild Wood, and while I don't think it's necessary to read them in order, it would probably help readers have a better understanding of what's going on at the start. However, Willa of Dark Hollow easily stood on its own, and was a thoroughly enjoyable story despite not having any prior knowledge of the world or its characters. 

I did read this one with my son, and he's already asking me to find the first book so we can read it too. I love that the author addresses how humans have altered the natural world, and enjoyed seeing nature fight back and stand up for itself. It reminded me of the television show Zoo, but it's more about animals revolting and killing off humans. As for reading it with my son, there were a few graphic parts that might have been a little too much for a seven-year-old, but he didn't seem to be bothered by the imagery. Nature isn't always nice

I thought Beatty wove a beautiful, poetic story that I won't soon forget. His fictional story has real world applications, and I think it's wonderful that these things are being addressed in a children's book. (Middle Grade if you want to be specific.) Children really are the future, and I hope they see nature as something to live harmoniously with, and not something to destroy and use without a second thought. Brilliant book!


About Robert:

Robert Beatty is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of the Serafina series and the Willa of the Wood series published by Disney Hyperion. Loved by young readers and adults alike, the Serafina and Willa books are being taught in over a thousand classrooms nationwide and have been translated into over 22 languages. Robert lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina with his wife and three daughters. He writes full-time now, but in his past lives, Robert was one of the early pioneers of cloud computing, the founder/CEO of Plex Systems, the co-founder of Beatty Robotics, and the chairman/CTO of Narrative magazine. In 2007, he was named an Entrepreneur of the Year. When asked about the inspiration for his books, Robert said, “The Serafina and Willa books grew out of my desire to write stories about unusual and heroic young girls for my three daughters."


Giveaway Details:

3 winners will win a finished copy of WILLA OF DARK HOLLOW, US Only.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

High School Musical: The Road Trip by Melissa de la Cruz
[Blog Tour: Spotlight + Giveaway]

 
Halito! Welcome to the next stop on the High School Musical: The Road Trip blog tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Thanks for stopping by today, and don't forget to check out the giveaway at the bottom! For the full tour schedule, please visit the Rockstar Book Tours website.

About the Book:

Title:
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE ROAD TRIP
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Pub. Date: May 4, 2021
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 272
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, Kindle, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.org

An original novel inspired by the hit Disney+ television series HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL, by the #1 New York Times best-selling author of the Descendants series, Melissa de la Cruz.

Join everyone's favorite Wildcats from the Disney+ smash hit original series High school Musical: The Musical: The Series in this novel by New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz.

On the heels of their wildly successful run of High School Musical, the gang learns of a can't-miss opportunity—a High School Musical convention in the next state. There's something for everyone: panels about mounting your next hit show, cafeteria-tray-dance workshops, Wildcat cosplay, and even a special appearance from the pooch who played Sharpay's dog (well, one of her puppies, that is).

Ready to hit the road, the crew immediately begins making plans. Nini can't wait to use the weekend to show how much she cares for Ricky (especially since they just got back together). Kourtney debates signing up for a singing workshop (especially if she's maybe, just maybe, considering auditioning for the next show), and Gina and Ashlyn decide it'll be the perfect trial run for living together (especially because Gina has never actually had a friendship last this long). Carlos can't wait to help Miss Jenn prep for the spring musical, even if Seb has to stay behind to help with the family farm. But car breakdowns, late starts, and a lost E.J. throw a wrench in their plans.

Will the East Highers get the weekend getaway of their dreams? Or will the bumps on the road get the better of them?


About Melissa: 

Melissa de la Cruz (www.melissa-delacruz.com) is the author of the #1 New York Times best-selling Descendants series, as well as many other best-selling novels, including all the books in the Blue Bloods series: Blue Bloods, Masquerade, Revelations, The Van Alen Legacy, Keys to the Repository, Misguided Angel, Bloody Valentine, Lost in Time, and Gates of Paradise. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.


Giveaway Details: 
3 winners will win a finished copy of HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE ROAD TRIP, US Only.

Friday, May 28, 2021

10 Truths and a Dare by Ashley Elston
[Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway]

Halito! Welcome to the next stop on the 10 Truths and a Dare blog tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Thanks for stopping by today, and don't forget to check out the giveaway at the bottom! For the full tour schedule, please visit the Rockstar Book Tours website.

About the Book:
Title: 10 TRUTHS AND A DARE
Author: Ashley Elston
Pub. Date: May 4, 2021
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
Pages: 304
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, Kindle, Audible, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.org

This companion to Ashley Elston's beloved 10 Blind Dates follows Sophie's high-achieving cousin Olivia as she juggles last-minute P.E. credit, end-of-year parties, and a secret new romance in the chaotic week before graduation.

It's Senior Party Week, that magical in-between time after classes have ended but before graduation, chock-full of gimmicky theme parties, last-minute bonding, and family traditions. Olivia couldn't be more ready. Class salutatorian and confident in her future at LSU, she's poised to sail through to the next phase of her life.

But when the tiny hiccup of an unsigned off-campus P.E. form puts Olivia in danger of not graduating at all, she has one week to set things straight without tipping off her very big and very nosy extended family. Volunteering to help at a local golf tournament should do it, but since Olivia's mom equipped her phone with a tracking app, there'll be no hiding the fact that she's at the golf course instead of all the graduation parties happening at the same time. Unless, that is, she can convince the Fab Four--her ride-or-die cousins and best friends Sophie, Charlie, and Wes--to trade phones with her as they go through the motions of playing Olivia for the week. 


I really enjoyed 10 Blind Dates and the Messina family, so I was thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for 10 Truths and a Dare. While I didn't enjoy this one quite as much, I still liked being around the Fab Four, catching up with Sophie and Wes, and seeing more of Charlie's antics. (I really hope the next book is about him!) I didn't mind the Evil Joes, since there presence also brought Leo into the mix. 

My main issue with this book was the conflict. I've never been a fan of lying in books, since telling the truth usually resolves all of the main character's problems. In Olivia's defense, she didn't want to disappoint her family and friends, but I think they would have been happy to help. I doubt it would've been the one thing she was remembered for, and thought the lengths she went to were a little excessive at times. She even convinced Wes, Sophie, and Charlie to go along with her insanely complicated plan, which had them lying to their friends and family to cover for her. Since I love how welcoming and boisterous their family is, it bothered me that they would chose to lie instead of asking for help. I really wanted Nonna to figure it out early on and bust them.

I also didn't like how involved Olivia's mom was in her day-to-day life. It felt a little over-the-top. I understood her wanting a location or tracking app on her daughter's phone while they were away, but they live near 100 other family members that could have checked in on their daughter. The app felt like an invasion of privacy, and her commentary felt too intense most of the time (Charlie and Wes were understandably bothered by it). She would offer suggestions on clothing and honestly knew way too much about her daughter. Maybe this just wasn't my experience growing up, but I find it hard to believe that a parent would behave this way all the time.

I did enjoy the sweet romance that builds throughout the book, and didn't mind the slow-burn since everything else was so chaotic. The tender moments between the two of them made me smile and reminisce about what it was like to be young and in love with someone new. Everything is exciting; each stolen moment worth cherishing. 

I wish my senior parties has been this elaborate! They definitely sounded memorable and like they'd be a lot of fun. I think it's great the parents were involved, too. Although, I'm not sure how the keg made it into the one toga party, haha. If this had been my high school experience, I think everyone would have ended their senior year on a high note. I can totally understand why Olivia wanted to make it to them despite everything else she had going on. I'm bummed on her behalf that she didn't get to fully enjoy them with her friends.

While the Fab Four are still my favorite characters in this book, I did like seeing more from Olivia's other friends. I wish she had opened up to them a little earlier, since it was clear they cared about her and were concerned about her whereabouts (she kept missing parties, was late to events or had to leave early, and always gave vague excuses that weren't believable). I think they deserved better from their friend, just like her family deserved the truth from the start. Overall, it was a quick read that only took me a day to get through once I finally had time to sit down and read it. (★★★⋆☆)


Praise for 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston:

2020 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers Top Ten Title

2020 Florida Teens Read Book List

"POSITIVELY DELIGHTFUL—all caps—from beginning to end."—NPR

"This piece-by-piece romance doesn't need its Christmas theme to sell, but it makes it glitter all the more."—Booklist

"A fun story of finding love, getting to know yourself, and getting to know your family."—Kirkus Reviews

"In a funny holiday romance that has Sophie dog-sitting in a hockey rink, watching porn at a drive-in theater, and playing the Virgin Mary in a middle school Nativity, Elston cleverly reflects the family members' personalities through their choices of dates for Sophie."—Publishers Weekly



About Ashley: 

Ashley Elston is the author of several novels including: 10 Blind Dates (a Top Ten ALA Quick Pick and the companion to this book), The Rules for Disappearing (a finalist in the Best Young Adult Novel category of the International Thriller Writers Thriller Awards), This Is Our Story, and The Lying Woods. She has a liberal arts degree from Louisiana State University in Shreveport and worked for many years as a wedding photographer before turning her hand to writing. Ashley lives in Shreveport with her husband and three sons. For more information about Ashley and her books, please visit www.ashleyelston.com.


Giveaway Details:
3 winners will receive a finished copy of 10 TRUTHS AND A DARE, US Only.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

My Weekly Pull [169] & Can't-Wait Wednesday [144]

 

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!

Shadecraft #3 by Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, Antonio Fabela, Jim Cheung
Miles Morales Spider-Man #26 by Saladin Ahmed, Carmen Nunez Carnero, Taurin Clarke

Spector Inspectors #4 by Bowen McCurdy, Kaitlyn Musto

Jacob's comics for the week!

My Little Pony Transformers Friendship in Disguise II #2 by Sam Maggs, Ian Flynn, Priscilla Tramontano, Trish Forstner, Tony Fleecs


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.

Kill All Your Darlings by David Bell
Expected publication: July 6th 2021 by Berkley Books

Synopsis (via Goodreads): When a student disappears and is presumed dead, her professor passes off her manuscript as his own--only to find out it implicates him in an unsolved murder in this new thriller from the USA Today bestselling author of The Request.

After years of struggling to write following the deaths of his wife and son, English professor Connor Nye publishes his first novel, a thriller about the murder of a young woman.

There's just one problem: Connor didn't write the book. His missing student did. And then she appears on his doorstep, alive and well, threatening to expose him.

Connor's problems escalate when the police insist details in the novel implicate him in an unsolved murder from two years ago. Soon Connor discovers the crime is part of a disturbing scandal on campus and faces an impossible dilemma--admit he didn't write the book and lose his job or keep up the lie and risk everything. When another murder occurs, Connor must clear his name by unraveling the horrifying secrets buried in his student's manuscript.

This is a suspenseful, provocative novel about the sexual harassment that still runs rampant in academia--and the lengths those in power will go to cover it up.

*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!

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Blacktongue Thief (Blacktongue, #1)
by Christopher Buehlman

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.
But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.

Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.

Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva's. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.


I received an ARC from the publisher 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.

The Blacktongue Thief is one of the best fantasy books I've read in ages! It's right up there with Lord of the Rings in terms of world-building and characters you want to root for. Kinch was definitely more developed than the others, but I was satisfied with how fleshed out the secondary characters were (more would have been lovely, because they were all uniquely interesting). I was surprised by how much I started to care for certain people, and heartbroken when something unfortunate happened to someone I'd grown used to. It was hard to like everyone, but I did enjoy their presence on the pages.

Buehlman has masterfully woven a tale of unlikely heroes, since Kinch himself is a certifiable thief trained by the Takers Guild. He's done some questionable things in his life, but his personality and heart more than make up for it. He's not afraid to do what needs to be done, but that doesn't mean he goes out of his way to do it. I wouldn't say he's loyal or trustworthy (he is to an extent), but he does care about Galva and Norrigal in his own way. He's also hilarious and I loved his sense of humor and way of viewing the world. His love of a blind cat is probably what cemented my affection for him. 

This book was also a little dirty and a lot dark. The author didn't shy away from the nitty gritty bits of the world he created, and we get to see our fair share of impossible situations and unfortunate circumstances. People that are just trying to scrape by however they can, and the lengths they will go to for a few coins. I was thoroughly entranced by this story, and my heart hurt for these fictional people and their make-believe problems. That's how you know when a book is good - you care for something or someone that isn't real. Also, the language used in this book isn't for the faint of heart or those that would rather avoid obscenities and indelicate situations. I don't mind cursing and vulgarity, and even though Kinch used words and phrases that were unfamiliar, their meaning wasn't hard to figure out. ;) 

I started reading a physical ARC of this book, but then I stumbled across the audiobook on NetGalley. Friends, if you have a chance, listen to this one! The author narrates the story and it was a truly amazing experience. Kinch's voice is something I'll be able to recall for days, if not longer. It was so unique and distinctive; I felt as if I were traveling right next to him on their journey. There's also singing! I've never heard a narrator sing before. They usually just read the words - sometimes with a little change in their voice - but this book had singing. I loved it. It made the book even more memorable, in my opinion. 

At first I wasn't sure this book was going to be a good fit, but I am so glad I stuck with it. It took me a few chapters to get used to the world and its rules, but now I feel like I've lived there my entire life. Buehlman has created new languages, new peoples, and new monsters. I'm sure I'll have nightmares about goblins in the future, especially after what happened by the fence. I'm not going to lie, there were some BRUTAL aspects of this book that really made my stomach turn. I think it says a lot about the writing that I was able to feel so repulsed by certain actions and still wanted to keep reading.

Weirdly, I enjoyed the book's leisurely pace. It wasn't slow by any means, since the characters were constantly facing this or that challenge, but Kinch does love to tell a story. He used stories and anecdotes to educate readers on different aspects of the world we're reading about, and I thought it was crafty of the author to build the world through the eyes of one of its inhabitants (based on that person's experiences). Old tales, stories about gods and goddesses, a tale sung in a tavern - all added additional layers to the world. There's plenty of fighting, and the author does skip through some of the traveling, but it was nonetheless an enjoyable experience.

I honestly cannot praise this book enough. It doesn't end on a cliffhanger, but it did feel like the author pressed pause on the story. There's definitely more in store for Kinch and the others, but I have no idea what their future will look like. We're left feeling hopeful, and also a little sad. There's a lot to love about this book, but it will definitely play your emotions like a fiddle (iykyk). It's one I always looked forward to picking up again, and one I know I'm going to be thinking about for days. A few times now I've caught myself reaching for something that isn't there, so I'm already eagerly awaiting the next one. If you enjoy fantasy books, make sure you add this one to your TBR! (★★★★★)

Thursday, May 20, 2021

DNF&Y [37]

 
DNF&Y is used to explain why I gave up on certain books, and what about them just didn't work for me. What I disliked about a book might be something you love, so it helps to share your thoughts even when they're negative! If you would like additional information, please click on the DNF&Y tab at the top. If you want to join, you can link up at the bottom!

*Posting this early since I have a lot of tour stops coming up!

Astrid Sees All by Natalie Standiford
Published April 6th 2021 by Atria Books

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Most Anticipated: The Great First Half 2021 by The Millions

New York’s last bohemia—the glittering, decadent downtown club scene of the 1980s—is the setting for this brilliantly winning novel about a smart, vulnerable young woman taking a deep dive into her dark side, essential for fans of Sweetbitter, Fleabag, and books by Patti Smith.


New York, 1984: Twenty-two-year-old Phoebe Hayes is a young woman in search of excitement and adventure. But the recent death of her father has so devastated her that her mother wants her to remain home in Baltimore to recover. Phoebe wants to return to New York, not only to chase the glamorous life she so desperately craves but also to confront Ivan, the older man who painfully wronged her.

With her best friend Carmen, she escapes to the East Village, disappearing into an underworld haunted by artists, It Girls, and lost souls trying to party their pain away. Carmen juggles her junkie-poet boyfriend and a sexy painter while, as Astrid the Star Girl, Phoebe tells fortunes in a nightclub and plots her revenge on Ivan.

When the intoxicating brew of sex, drugs, and self-destruction leads Phoebe to betray her friend, Carmen disappears, and Phoebe begins an unstoppable descent into darkness. She may have a chance to save herself—and Carmen, if she can find her—but to do it she must face what’s hiding in the shadows she’s been running from—within her heart and in the dangerous midnight streets.

A love letter to gritty 1980s New York City, Astrid Sees All is an irresistible, original novel about female friendship, sex and romance, and what it’s like to be a young woman searching for an identity.


I received an ARC from the publisher 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.

Sadly, May has not been a great reading month for me. I picked up Astrid Sees All thinking it would be the book that saved me from this slump (I'd read several really good reviews for it), but it was just as disappointing. I honestly cannot remember the main character's name (I'm sure it will come to me later), because all she ever talked about was Carmen this and Carmen that. The main character was OBSESSED with Carmen! She salivated over every crumb of attention that her "friend" deigned to give her. Where were her other friends? A roommate was briefly mentioned, but I have no idea what happened to her after she moved in with other people.

I don't even want to get into the main character - AH! Phoebe! - describing her vagina as having a "plain milky smell," or how much her boyfriend (someone she didn't even like until Carmen suggested she give him a chance) enjoyed it. Phoebe had no original ideas and couldn't go to the bathroom without Carmen's permission. Their relationship was seriously fucked up. Once Phoebe realized that Carmen was "repelled" by people who wanted her attention, she started playing hard to get. Who does that? Oh, yeah! Psychotic people. (Everything about Phoebe's relationship with Mark - including Carmen's role and the information she withheld - was VERY strange.)

"I thought the problem was with me, that in some way I was unworthy of her confidence. What was I doing wrong? I looked around at the behavior of my fellow students and came to the conclusion that carmen sensed how much I wanted her to like me, and that repelled her. I opened my eyes and received the message blaring all over campus: vulnerability equals weakness, and weakness arouses contempt. I had only to hide my longing and my desire, and they would be fulfilled."  

RED FLAG! This entire statement is problematic, and it honestly makes me think everyone involved needs therapy. Your longing and desire to be someone's friend? Why was Carmen so special? Why did Phoebe single her out and think she HAD to be her friend? Carmen wasn't even a nice person, yet that was who she wanted to emulate? 

Let's backtrack a little! The guy Phoebe started dating only because Carmen said to? Yeah, she's absolutely terrible to him. He wasn't a great guy or anything, but she did use him and then admit to herself that not being as invested in the relationship gave her power over him. If you're thinking, "What the actual fuck?," join the club.

"I tried to comfort him, but the longer he groveled, the more disgusted I felt. Did Mark really like me this much? If he did, wasn't it kind of gross of him to show it?"

Oh, so now feelings are gross? If you do read this book, can you please explain Mark's off-the-wall monologue to me? It was so confusing! And what was the point? Pregnancy? Coffee? No free will? Please, don't leave me? You guys, my brain. *mimes explosion*

I really didn't like any of the characters and thought Phoebe consistently got worse as the story progressed. She just wasn't a good person, so I had no desire to continue reading about her. At one point, the rich kids were throwing a Gatsby-themed party, and she was disappointed that it was being held where they'd filmed the movie. Girl, you weren't even on the guest list and now you're complaining about where it's being held? Go fuck yourself. 

"It wasn't very original of the host consortium to throw a Gatsby party in the Gatsby house." 

Carmen. Carmen. Carmen. It's basically every third word Phoebe says or thinks to herself and I AM OVER IT. If this was supposed to be a book about Carmen, then she should have been the protagonist. 

"I was sorry I'd hurt him, but not really, because it had been worth it. I'd glimpsed the golden world, and returning to it was my only goal."

She's so shallow! Seriously, all of the characters were awful. I stopped on page 53 because I couldn't take it anymore. I really wanted to like this book, but the characters made it impossible. The setting was interesting, but everything was ruined by Phoebe's commentary and her actions. Carmen was just as bad, but we're not in her head. Maybe a duel POV would have made her more likable? I doubt it, but anything's possible.

Oh, and everything the author wrote about Jack Kennedy (JFK's grandson, I think), only made this book feel even more unbelievable. He kept popping up in their lives (in class, at parties, etc.), and every interaction she had with him made me cringe. It just felt fake and forced, like the author needed a celebrity to make the story more interesting. 

Also, the story went from the present to the past, but then jumped around in the past? It was weird. It wasn't necessarily hard to follow, but it did make it hard to get a grasp on the characters and what was happening in their lives. The ONE thing I liked about this book were the ticket stubs. I love the idea of using the titles of shows to tell fortunes or predict the future. It sounds like a fun game you'd play at a party. Unfortunately, I only read enough of the book for the concept to be explained, and I didn't actually get to see Phoebe performing with them. (★★☆☆☆)


Spells Trouble by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
Expected publication: May 25th 2021 by Wednesday Books
Narrated by Cassandra Campell

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Double double, twins spell trouble…

Hunter and Mercy Goode are twin witches, direct descendants of the founder of their town of Goodeville. As their ancestors have done before them, it is now time for the twins to learn what it means to be Gatekeepers–the protectors of the Gates to different underworlds, ancient portals between their world and realms where mythology rules and nightmares come to life.

When their mother becomes the first victim in a string of murders, the devastated sisters vow to avenge her death. But it will take more than magic to rein in the ancient mythological monsters who’ve infected their peaceful town.

Now Hunter and Mercy must come together and accept their destiny or risk being separated for good.


I received an ARC from the publisher 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.

Spells Trouble was just a tad too unbelievable for me. I don't want to have to suspend my disbelief that much for a story to work. I'm all for authors writing progressive female characters, but the twin's mother was annoyingly sweet and supportive. Her comments were a little too endearing and nonjudgmental, which I found off-putting. She felt more like an eccentric aunt than the girl's mother. It didn't help that they called her Abigail instead of Mom, which we get no explanation for. Right of the bat she's talking to Mercy about safe sex, condoms (making sure they make it onto her new boyfriend's penis), her clitoris (and how she's been blessed with multiple orgasms), and even discussing the ring size (Mercy's boyfriend gave her his ring) and insinuating that it means her boyfriend has a large dick. None of this felt like appropriate "Mom talk," because of how their mother chose to address these topics. She made it creepy and gross, not educational and informative. 

I enjoyed the prologue, but everything that happened in the present felt over-the-top and forced. It was like jamming two puzzle pieces together because you're convinced they fit, only to realize your mistake later on. This book had a lot of pieces that felt forced together, which really hurt the story's believability. There was also a lot of telling and very little showing. 

The chapter with Dearborn? WHAT? That whole debacle was very poorly explained, and then his behavior later on was incredibly offensive (it honestly felt like he was a completely different person). He should not have been talking to the girls about their dead mother (it's in the synopsis, lower your pitchforks) so casually. Where was his sensitivity to their loss? The other officer just kept apologizing for his behavior, but it wasn't even remotely acceptable. I don't care if he's been through an "ordeal," he can't be callous and insensitive. He also can't discuss another investigation with two teenage girls. It was just too unrealistic for me to continue reading this one. Stopped around 24%. (★★☆☆☆)

Narration: I started listening to an ARC of the audiobook and seriously considered switching to my physical ARC after a few chapters. The voice really didn't work for me, and I thought it made the characters sound ditzy and immature. Even their mother's voice had a childlike quality to it, which made it hard for me to take anyone seriously.



The Baddest Girl on the Planet by Heather Frese
Published March 2nd 2021 by Blair

Synopsis (via Goodreads): WINNER of the LEE SMITH NOVEL PRIZE

Evie Austin, native of Hatteras Island, North Carolina and baddest girl on the planet, has not lived her life in a straight line. There have been several detours―career snafus, bad romantic choices, a loved but unplanned child―not to mention her ill-advised lifelong obsession with boxer Mike Tyson. Evie is not plucky, but when life’s changes smash over her like the rough surf of the local shoreline, she muddles through―until that moment of loss and longing when muddling will no longer suffice.

This is the story of what the baddest girl on the planet must find in herself when a bag of pastries, a new lover, or quick trip to Vegas won’t fix anything, and when something more than casual haplessness is required. The Baddest Girl on the Planet is inventive, sharp, witty, and poignant. Readers will want to jump in and advise this baddest girl on the planet―or at least just give her a shake or a hug―at every fascinating turn.


I received an ARC from the publisher 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.

Basically, the main character is a terrible person. The flashbacks to her childhood weren't any better, and after a while I got really bored with the story. I'm not sure how she's supposed to be the "baddest" girl on the planet, because all I saw was a petty, jealous adult. She didn't want to be in her marriage, so she self-destructs. She also didn't seem to care about being a mom, and I hated her indifference towards her child. 

Also, a strange man touching you without your permission is definitely something that should "weird you out." Why did it matter that it was her hips instead of her breasts? UGH. She made some comment about people always looking at her boobs, and her friend explained that this guy being attracted to something else on her body was a cultural thing. Seriously, UGH. 

She was unlikable in the past and in the present (which I feel terrible saying since she's only a child in the flashbacks), so I stopped reading this one on page 67. I really tried to push through thinking it would get better, but it just wasn't for me. (★★☆☆☆)

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

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

My Weekly Pull [168] & Can't-Wait Wednesday [143]

 

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!

Champions #7 by Danny Lore, Luciano Vecchio
Daredevil #30 by Chip Zdarsky, Marco Checchetto
Stillwater #7 by Chip Zdarsky, Ramon K. Perez, Mike Spicer

Jacob's comics for the week!

Transformers #29 by Brian Ruckley, Anna Malkova
Transformers Escape #3 by Brian Ruckley, Bethany McGuire-Smith
Transformers #30 by Brian Ruckley, Anna Malkova, Stefano Simeone
Transformers Beast Wars #4 by Erik Burnham, Josh Burcham

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.

Satisfaction Guaranteed by Karelia Stetz-Waters
Expected publication: June 1st 2021 by Forever

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Opposites attract in this playful and laugh-out-loud rom-com from Lambda Award finalist Karelia Stetz-Waters.

Cade Elgin has a life and career in New York City, and she's determined to get back to both as soon as possible after her aunt's funeral in Portland. However, when she unexpectedly inherits her aunt's sex toy store -- and has to save it from foreclosure -- Cade realizes she's not going anywhere. But making Share the Love profitable won't be as easy as Cade had hoped. Her new partner has an infuriating lack of business sense, and an infuriating ability to turn Cade on.

Selena Mathis knows that nothing is more important than saving Share the Love. Not her pride, not her inconvenient attraction toward her new business partner. Cade may be more buttoned-up than Selena usually goes for, but that doesn't mean she doesn't know how to turn the store around. But the more they work together, the harder it becomes for Selena to ignore her growing feelings for Cade. And she starts to wonder if there is something more important than saving Share the Love.

*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!

Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Sunday Post [64]

 
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.

News:

Hello, lovelies! I  am enjoying this wonderful warm weather we've been having. It's not summer hot yet, so we haven't gone to the beach, but it's been stay-outside-all-day kind of weather. We've been going on walks, riding our bicycles, visiting the various playgrounds in our area, and generally enjoying not being stuck inside all of the time. The kids were hesitant about not wearing their masks outside, but we've relaxed our rules a little based on the information from the CDC. It's been so great seeing them play with other kids and have normal childhood experiences. Although, it does mean they are exposed to more germs and likely the reason we all had a cold last week.

I had an amazing Mother's Day with my monsters! Breakfast in bed followed by a day of used bookstores, Ethiopian food, and ice cream. All of it was wonderful. 

Soccer season has come to an end, so we're enjoying a brief reprieve from some of their extracurricular activities. It's been nice not having to be somewhere every single day. My son's almost done with school, but we're thinking about doing a summer session to help him catch up on what he missed while everyone was virtual this year. He has been doing so much better with in-person instruction, and he comes home so happy each day. I'm sure being able to socialize with kids his own age has really helped, too. We did our best with virtual learning, but there are just some experiences you can't replicate at home. 

My last Sunday Post I mentioned my job and how terrible they were being, so I'm happy to report that I no longer work there. They've actually had a pretty high turnover rate since I left, and blame me for "starting something," when I put my two week's notice in. It's not true, obviously. I had no idea 5 other people would quit after I did. Maybe treat your employees better? Pay them more? I doubt that will happen, but the minimum wage is being increased in Virginia. It's still not what people deserve to be paid, but it's better than nothing. 

I've started buying multiple copies of my favorite books, because people don't return them. ThriftBooks has been a lifesaver in that regard. I want to share my love of reading, and I'm happy to loan out books from my collection, but you have to give them back. I expect you to fall in love with them - that's why I let you borrow them in the first place - but you can't keep them just because you loved them. BUY YOUR OWN AND GIVE  MINE BACK. 

Previous week on the blog:

Sunday: Nothing to see here...

Monday: Nothing on this day either... 

Tuesday: Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau - Review

Wednesday: My Weekly Pull [167] & Can't-Wait Wednesday [142] - Post

Thursday: Nada...

Friday: Past Due Reviews [8] - Post

Saturday: Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau [Sticky Notes Edition + Giveaway] - Post

What I'm currently reading:

The Accidental Apprentice (Wilderlore, #1) by Amanda Foody ๐Ÿ“ฑ
Astrid Sees All by Natalie Standiford ๐Ÿ“–
Spells Trouble (Sisters of Salem, #1) by P.C. & Kristin Cast ๐ŸŽง

I started Accidental Apprentice with my son last night. We're both enjoying it so far, especially since they just mentioned a dragon. The boy loves dragons, haha. Astrid Sees All is one I've been reading for a few days, but I'm having trouble losing myself in the story. I love the setting, but the characters are meh. I'm not giving up on it yet, so hopefully it gets better soon. Spells Trouble is my current audiobook (received a physical ARC from the publisher and an audio ARC from NetGalley). Unfortunately, the narrator really isn't working for me, so I'm thinking about switching to my physical copy.

What I plan on reading next:

The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren 
The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent

What I'm watching:

We just finished Falcon and Winter Soldier, so we're all caught up on our MCU stuff. I'm still watching One Piece and Black Clover, and I think I'll start season four of Attack on Titan soon (always creeps me out, but sooo good). 

Challenge updates:

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau
[Sticky Notes Edition + Giveaway]

If you're looking for the book's synopsis or want to read my original review, please click here. This isn't a comprehensive review of the book, just my thoughts as I was reading it (or at least the ones I jotted down).

In case you haven't guessed, I dog-ear my books while reading. I fold the top corner down when I want to mark my spot, and I fold the bottom corner up when I want to refer back to something on a specific page (usually a quote). I also make small marks on the pages (asterisks) to make it easier for me to find what it was that caught my attention, and will occasionally make small notes in the margins. However, there are times when sticky notes are needed to fully convey my thoughts on something I've read, which makes it easier for me to write reviews. I also like using sticky notes when reading library books (can't write in those), or when it's a book I plan on giving away after reading (people really don't like dog-eared pages).

Thus, the Sticky Note Edition was born! I will review a book like normal, then a few days later (when applicable), I will post about the same book using only the things I've scribbled onto sticky notes throughout the pages. They will be posted unaltered and in order, which I think will give people an interesting look at what goes on inside of my head while I'm reading. Normally, I just toss the sticky notes in the trash once I've written my review, but this seems like more fun (just don't judge my spelling and grammar too harshly, haha). I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did posting it!


WARNING: Possible spoilers if you haven't read the book!

Said penis 8 times on this page, 7 times on the next. Does one really need to say it 15 times in 2 pages?

So many racist comments on just two pages. Sooo happy to trash Jews until Jesus gets brought up. Wth, people.

Adults should not undress in front of children - especially those there to babysit

I feel like all of the "adults" are putting a lot of expectations on a 14-year-old.

I'm all about being open and honest with your kids, but walking around naked in front of your 5-year old and her babysitter is NOT okay. 

Issy should know what a penis is, what it's used for, but she should not have seen "lots" at her age. Especially her father's. 

Number of times "penis" was said on this page: 6

Why are there so many penises in this book?

OMG. SO. GROSS. This is a health hazard for their child. 

This is the second time MJ has mentioned the Cones' failing/forgetting to bathe their child. 

Um...that seems a little racist. 

Why are they so concerned with what a 14yr old thinks? Who cares if her parents like the president? 

So now she does the cooking, cleaning (and there's a lot), the grocery shopping, and the parenting of their child? And this makes her happy?

That shouldn't be MJ's responsibility. I get that their "free" lifestyle is supposed to be "enlightening" or whatever, but they are using a 14 yr old as a maid. 

I'm all for normalizing topics and words in front of kids, but there are some things you just don't expose them to, especially when they're 5.

Unsafe environment. C'mon people. Wtf?

MJ and Izzy should NOT be the ones cleaning this up. FFS. Why is she even trying?

Oh hey! Someone acknowledged how wrong it was for kids to be in the middle of their adult madness. 

I am choking on the racism. I don't know if it accurately reflects the 70's - probably - but I'm not sure how we got started on this topic of conversation.

Why don't they bathe their child?

For a psychiatrist, this is very shitty problem solving. Why isn't anyone addressing the real problem? They have a 14yo doing EVERYTHING.

YET THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT YOU'RE DOING TO MJ! AHHH!

Why isn't anyone commenting on the fact that Mrs. Cone mimics everything Sheba does?

So. Inappropriate. It's okay to talk about sex and anatomy, but describing the dick you've had in great detail is too much. Again, she's 14. 

Seriously? Wtf, people? Even I don't know what that one means. 

Yep. This married mom is def. trying too hard to get the attention of a married man that has zero interest in her.

*Rolls eyes*

Funnnyyy how a 14yr old notices what adults do not. 

Not her job. People should stop putting her in these situations. 

Again, the 14yro is the only one with a shred of responsibility and rationality. You do not leave a 5yro alone in a house.

How did no one see that coming?

Why is THAT what made her mother proud?



Giveaway Rules:

This giveaway officially starts on May 15th and ends on May 29th at 12 AM. The winner will be announced on May 30th on this post within the Rafflecopter form, and also notified via email. The winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will have Rafflecopter select another winner (read my full giveaway policy here).

International friends -- your giveaway will be a little different! Instead the book mentioned above, you can choose one book (up to $15) from The Book Depository! Just make sure they ship to you, which you can check right here. I know it's not the same thing, but I don't want to leave anyone out! If this happens, I will have Rafflecopter select a second winner for the physical copy shown. Good luck!