Tag Archives: young adult

What Light

Review: What Light by Jay Asher

I mentioned in my post on 10 books to get you in the Christmas spirit how excited I was to read Jay Asher’s What Light. The idea of a YA romance set on a Christmas tree farm was just something I couldn’t pass up. Even better that it was written by Jay Asher, who, in the one book I’ve read of his, managed to balance teenage hormones with a plot line that didn’t make me want to vomit.

Asher does that again in What Light. Oh sure, there’s a fair amount of instalove and teenage angst, but what YA romance doesn’t have those? Sierra isn’t perfect, but she’s actually a fairly solid seventeen year old. Slightly naive, a bit melodramatic, but overall, someone you want to hug. Caleb is just dreamy enough and just flawed enough to make you swoon, without venturing too far into bad boy territory.

Sierra’s friends are also pretty great too, and it’s really nice to see a male author write strong, supportive female characters, especially in the YA realm. That said, What Light does still have the typical “girl meets boy and life is instantly perfect” schtick going on. But, I’m willing to overlook it, since I don’t pick up a book like this NOT expecting those kinds of happily-ever-after tropes. You shouldn’t either. After all, why else do we read romance? We don’t WANT it to be real, sheesh.

Anyway, What Light is definitely the kind of book you want to read during the snowy season, so grab a copy soon and get to reading!

Hardcover: 251 pages    Published: October 2016 by Razorbill    Source: Library via Overdrive

Buy it on Amazon for $9

What Light on Goodreads

From Jay Asher, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why, comes a romance that will break your heart, but soon have you believing again. . . .

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.

What Light is a love story that’s moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.

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Review: Wires and Nerve (Vol 1) by Marissa Meyer

People who know me well know I’m a huge fan of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles. I picked up Cinder on a whim, simply because Cinderella is my favorite Disney Princess. The first page hooked me, and that was that. I anxiously awaited each book in the installment, and though I didn’t think it was possible, enjoyed them all just as much as the first. So, when I heard Meyer had a graphic novel coming out featuring Iko, I knew it was just a matter of time before I read it.

People who know me well also know I’m kind of cheap, which is why it’s taken me until now to actually read Wires and Nerve. Simply put, I had no trouble shelling out $25 for one of the novels, but that seemed a bit too much for what essentially amounted to a handful of comics. I don’t mean to be glib, but graphic novels take me roughly 45 minutes to read – even long ones like Wires and Nerve – and that $25 cost doesn’t seem worth it. Sorry, writers and publishers of the world.

Anyway, I requested it through Overdrive and finally last week my hold came through. Sure enough, it took me less than an hour to read. And most of that time was spent zooming in on my tablet because the pictures were too small.

But you’re not here to read about my cheapness (or are you?). You’re here to read about my thoughts on the things I read.

I freakin’ love Iko, guys. Seriously. She’s probably the most underrated character in the entire Lunar Chronicles universe. She’s funny, resourceful, and serves as the perfect balance to Cinder’s somewhat stoic demeanor. That’s not to say Iko is all fun and games. She’s just as important to the story and the world as the other characters. She’s kind of like R2D2 in Star Wars. The story would probably survive without him, but why would you want it to?

Wires and Nerve finally gives Iko the credit she’s due, though I’ll admit I wish we’d gotten an Iko novel instead. A lot of Iko’s humor and candor doesn’t translate well to the graphic style; she comes off a bit flaky and selfish. I think it’s a situation where what the reader envisions is always going to be different from what the writer envisions, and to me, that’s part of the magic of novels. Showing us a character we’ve imagined and grown to love is tricky, because it calls into question everything we’ve assigned to that character. That’s why we so frequently criticize film adaptations. The “book is better” simply because it gives us the freedom to imagine.

Series: Wires and Nerve #1    Hardcover: 238 pages

Published: January 2017 by Feiwel & Friends    Source: Library via Overdrive

Buy it on Amazon

Wires and Nerve (Vol 1) on Goodreads

When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers’ leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the series.

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Blog Tour: If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer Armentrout

About If There’s No Tomorrow

Hardcover: 384 pages
Published: September 2017 by Harlequin Teen
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially at the start of her senior year. She’s ready to pack in as much friend time as possible, to finish college applications, and to maybe let her childhood best friend Sebastian know how she really feels about him. For Lena, the upcoming year is going to be epic—one of opportunities and chances.

Until one choice, one moment, destroys everything.

Now Lena isn’t looking forward to tomorrow. Not when friend time may never be the same. Not when college applications feel all but impossible. Not when Sebastian might never forgive her for what happened.

For what she let happen.

With the guilt growing each day, Lena knows that her only hope is to move on. But how can she move on when she and her friends’ entire existences have been redefined? How can she move on when tomorrow isn’t even guaranteed?

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

About Jennifer Armentrout

# 1 NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout lives in West Virginia.

When she’s not hard at work writing, she spends her time, reading, working out, watching zombie movies, and pretending to write. She shares her home with her husband, his K-9 partner named Diesel and her hyper Jack Russell Loki. Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent her time writing short stories, therefore explaining her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes Young Adult Contemporary, Urban Fantasy/Paranormal and Romance. She writes New Adult and Adult romance under the pen name J.Lynn.

She is the author of the Covenant Series (Spencer Hill Press) the Lux Series (Entangled Teen) and the upcoming YA Don’t Look Back (2014) and untitled YA (Fall 2014) from Disney/Hyperion. She is also published with Harlequin Teen and HarperCollins.

Connect with Jennifer

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts

I’ll just start off by saying that If There’s No Tomorrow is one of those books I love to hate and hate to love. It reminded me so much of how I felt reading Beautiful Disaster or Ten Birthdays – I couldn’t put them down, but I also wanted to throw them across the room. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Seriously, though, despite some of my better judgement, I really enjoyed If There’s No Tomorrow. It’s YA through and through, from the overly dramatic characters to the adorably-naive conflicts. There are friendships and boys and summer jobs, and there are bullies and bad things and fights with parents. Really, what more could a girl want?

What drove me nuts, though, was the way Lena’s parents – and half the other adults in the book – handled what happened. (Which I can’t really tell you because it’d be a spoiler…) Anyway, there seemed to be a lot of disappointment and blame going around that frankly seemed inappropriate and unrealistic. Having never been in the situation Lena finds herself in, I could be totally wrong – but I can’t imagine any of the parents I know reacting quite the way Lena’s did at first. Shrug.

Even that wasn’t enough to keep me from reading If There’s No Tomorrow in one night. Like I said, I couldn’t put it down! Sometimes I think we get so wrapped up in what makes a book good or bad or whathaveyou. The best stories transport you to a different time and place, and that’s what this one did for me. For one evening, I forgot everything and just lost myself in Lena’s story. If that’s not a book worth reading, I don’t know what is.

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops, and show your fellow readers some love!


Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harlequin Teen for the chance to participate in this tour! 

Review: Ten Birthdays by Kerry Wilkinson

Ten Birthdays isn’t quite the book I thought it would be, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. A charming summer read. 

About Ten Birthdaystenbirthdays

Paperback: 226 pages
Published: April 2017 by Bookouture
Source: Netgalley

Buy it on Amazon

Goodreads Description: “There are going to be so many things I wish I could’ve told you in person, Poppy. I won’t get the chance to do that, so perhaps this is my only way…”

It’s Poppy Kinsey’s birthday. She should be blowing out candles and opening presents – but hers falls on the type of heart-wrenching, agonising anniversary she would far rather forget. The worst day of them all. The day her mother died.

But this year is special because the person she misses most in the world has left her a set of letters, one for each of her next ten birthdays. As Poppy opens them year by year, she discovers that no matter how tough life gets, her mum will always be by her side, guiding her along the way.

My Review

I picked up Ten Birthdays expecting to read a sappy story about a girl and her mom. I had the tissues ready and felt like I was emotionally prepared for a John Green-style roller coaster. Turned out I didn’t need any of that. Ten Birthdays isn’t a tear-jerker. Honestly, it’s not even all that emotional.

We meet Poppy on her 16th birthday. She’s doing her best to ignore it, since her birthday also happens to be the one-year anniversary of her mother’s death. Poppy and her friends go shopping, and Poppy realizes something’s up about the same time she walks into a room full of people throwing her a surprise party. Oops. Once she calms down, Poppy’s dad hands her a letter from her mom, written before her death. The letter is a way for her mom to stay in her daughter’s life, and share things with her. The remaining chapters of the book tell us what happens on Poppy’s birthdays, ending with her 25th.

I liked the premise of Ten Birthdays, because it kinda reminded me of P.S., I Love You. The two books are nothing alike, however. Poppy’s letters serve as backdrops for the events, and I admired the way Wilkinson fit them together. Her mom’s letters are relatively short, and strike a fine balance between amusing and “mom wisdom.” I appreciated the lightness of them, but in a way, they often felt unneccessary.

And I think that’s my biggest complaint with the book. The letters from Poppy’s mom simply didn’t add anything to the story. I think I’d have gotten just as much out of the book if it’d been billed as a “day in time” style, similar to David Nicholls’ One Day. I didn’t hate the birthday letters, but they lacked any real emotional connection to the story.

Despite that, or maybe because of it, I did enjoy Ten Birthdays quite a bit. It was a light, cute read, somewhat predictable, but with a well-crafted ending. This would be a good beach read, honestly.

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Book Club: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

thehateugiveAbout The Hate U Give

• Book Club: May 2017 
• Hardcover: 
453 pages
• Published: February 2017 by Balzer & Bray
• Source: Purchased

Goodreads DescriptionSixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Why We Picked It

It’s relevant, it’s timely, it’s YA (our May theme), and it’s one of the most talked about books of the year already. And because our Book Club is in-the-know, you know?

My Thoughts

I’m always hesitant to review culturally relevant books, because unless I give them a 5-star rating, inevitably someone gives me the “how do you not think this is the most amazing book ever” reaction. And I get that, I really do – there are books that are well-regarded and well-loved not because they’re necessarily well-written, but because they deal with a theme that’s important or timely or taboo. And the other side of that is true as well – there are books that are loved because they’re well-written, but deal with robots and love triangles and neon-green puppies. In a way, that’s the beauty of books. Reading is a personal experience, and what speaks to one reader may or may not speak to another. Things that drive me crazy will no doubt seem inconsequential to some of you (and vice versa).

With all that said, I’d had several people recommend The Hate U Give as being an excellent book for our times. If you’ve had your ear even just a little bit to the book world, you’ve no doubt heard of it, and heard how wonderful it is. When one of the Book Club girls suggested it for our YA theme, I was more than happy to read it – not because it was something I was particularly interested in, but because I saw the value in reading it.

The Hate U Give is about Starr, a 16-year-old girl who witnesses her childhood friend Khalil being pulled over and eventually shot by a police officer. The book focuses on Starr’s reaction to the situation, as well as the community’s – both black and white. We follow Starr to school, read about her conflicting emotions as she balances her life at home in Garden Heights with the life she’s created at her mostly-white prep school. We watch her family deal with the ever-growing gang presence, compounded by the fact that Garden Heights simply does not have the opportunities more affluent neighborhoods do. And we watch as both sides come to terms with the issues surrounding the question of race and equality.

And here’s where I have to be honest. I didn’t hate The Hate U Give, but I didn’t love it either. I absolutely understand why it’s gotten so much press, and I’m glad for that. But as a book, taken purely on the content and style and form? It lacks so much.

I questioned Starr’s credibility right from the beginning, because her emotions and reactions and thoughts are so inconsistent. One second she’s afraid to speak, the next, she’s telling all who will listen. She talks about loyalty and family and love, and then denies any relation or connection to that very same family. For the majority of the story, she lets other people make decisions for her, seemingly content to be lost in the background.

Before you point out that she’s 16 years old, yes, she is. And yes, she’s just been involved in a horrible, traumatic event, and yes, the world she lives in is vastly different from mine. The issue isn’t so much that she’s not a strong character – it’s that she’s portrayed as one, and written as another.  I was never able to truly care about her, and with a storyline like this one, it’s critical to care about your character.

It’s also entirely too long. I could have lost about 200 pages and still gotten the gist of the story.

Book Club Discussion

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on your point of view), we all had similar reactions to the book. None of us hated it, but all of us felt the author missed out on a golden opportunity to really inspire change. The issues raised in The Hate U Give are incredibly important, but unless someone has absolutely no grasp of recent events, they’re issues most of us are already aware exist. In that regard, the book felt a little like a “rage against the machine” kind of approach, though I don’t mean that to say that it’s full of angst and hate. In fact, quite the opposite, as the themes of family and community are actually quite admirable. Simply, had Thomas been able to include solutions, or even attempts at reconciling the issues – or at the very least, beginning to address them – it could have been incredibly valuable in changing the current dialogue. (I realize that’s easier said than done; however, it’s not always enough to simply highlight an issue.)

We talked at length about that, and about how we’d wished we had someone who either disagreed with us or had had a different upbringing. As white, middle-class, college-educated young women, it was incredibly difficult to imagine a world like Starr’s.

Bottom line? The Hate U Give is an important – if not entirely engrossing – read that makes for great discussion. It doesn’t shy away from the truth, but doesn’t assault you with it either. My hope is that as people read it, they begin to recognize some of the more deeply rooted issues in our society, and begin thinking of ways to look at the world a little differently.

June’s Book Club Theme: In a Land Far, Far Away…

June’s Book Club Book: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Review: Joyful Trouble by Patricia Furstenberg

joyfultroubleAbout Joyful Trouble

• Kindle Edition: 180 pages
• Published: April 2017
• Source: Direct from Author

Goodreads DescriptionA humorous read about an incredible dog and how he had found his true, yet unexpected calling. A dog. A friendship. A purpose.
When a Great Dane arrives in a navy base nobody expects him to win everybody’s hearts, although breaking some rules along the way. But things soon turn sour as somebody threatens to put him to sleep. Who will stand up for this for-legged gentle giant? Tackling universal themes and voicing animal rights and the importance of fighting for what is right.

About Patricia Furstenberg

Patricia Furstenberg writes children stories about real and imaginary dogs and about animals in general. She believes each creature has a story and a voice, if only we stop to listen. He first children’s book Happy Friends, is also available from Amazon. You can read more animal stories and poems on her author website, Alluring Creations.

She is a winner of the Write Your Own Christie Competition.

My Thoughts on Joyful Trouble

When Patricia reached out to me about reviewing her book, I made it as far in her email as “Joyful Trouble is based on the true story of the only dog….” and knew I was going to read it. (This should come as no surprise if you’ve been here a while.)

Joyful Trouble tells us the story of the Great Dane, Trouble, the only dog to enlist in the Royal Navy during WWII. Everyone loves Trouble, and the enlistment comes about as a way to save him from certain death – you see, Trouble has a tendency to ride the train without a ticket, and the Railway Authorities are none too pleased. The soldiers who come to know Trouble on the train just can’t let this happen.

We learn Trouble’s story by eavesdropping on a Grandfather’s story to his grandchildren. Joyful Trouble is a simple story, and as an adult reader I’d have liked a little more about what Trouble did after enlisting – however, I don’t think that’s necessary for the young audience. If you’re like me and want to know more, here’s Trouble’s – aka, Nuisance’s – Wikipedia page.

This is a quick read that lends itself well to a parent reading to their own children. There’s no fluff here, though – we get Trouble’s story without smoothing over any of the less savory details. However, it’s told well, and we’re left with a warm fuzzy feeling after reading it.

Thanks to author Patricia Furstenberg for the review copy!  

Blog Tour: Blue’s Prophecy by Emily Ross

bluesprophecyAbout Blue’s Prophecy

• Series: The Canis Chronicles (#1)
• Kindle Edition:
 230 pages
• Published: May 2017 by TitleTown Publishing
• Source: Publisher via YA Bound Book Tours

Goodreads DescriptionTwo genetically altered dogs, two different fates. One is Robo, a beloved Great Dane, who is tricked out of the embrace of his human family and then is horribly altered by an evil scientist who rebuilds him with robotic parts, weaponizing the dog for money from the military. But that s not all the scientist does the experiments he conducts leave Robo a genius, almost immortal and with powers beyond explanation. But the horror Robo experiences at the scientist’s hands changes him, driving him insane with the sole mission to destroy all humans, especially those who have tortured and hurt dogs.

Meanwhile, a scrappy alley husky sits in a shelter, when she with her blue eyes and tough wolf-like features captures the attention of another group of scientists desperate to stop Robo from his path of destruction. This dog, called Blue, could be the chosen one to fight and defeat Robo. She is also genetically enhanced and left with glowing turquoise eyes before being released to face Robo’s vicious dog army. Her mission: save human civilization and the packs of dogs she’s grown to love.

About Emily Ross

Emily Ross, 13, is a fifth generation writer and an owner of three dogs, Balta, Buddy and Zoey. Her prose exceeds her years, with Emily starting work on Blue’s Prophecy, a science fiction/fantasy book for pre-teens and teens, when she was 10. Living in Atlanta, Emily is also an animator and a skilled archer, and relaxes by playing the double bass in her middle school orchestra.


My Thoughts on Blue’s Prophecy

It’s a well-known fact that any book with a dog on the cover or featuring a dog is going to make it onto my “must-read-now” list. So it’ll come as no surprise that I literally jumped at the chance to participate in the blog tour for Blue’s Prophecy. I mean, look at that cover. Go ahead, look. I’ll wait.

Plus, the idea for Blue’s Prophecy is pretty unique – genetically engineered robot dogs? Yes, please.

The story focuses on Robo, a Great Dane who’s been ripped from his family and turned into a half-robot dog. Robo has, among other “improvements,” a metal leg and implants in his brain and eye that make it possible for him to shoot lasers and speak English. Then there’s Blue, a husky who’s lived on the streets her entire life, and who’s just fine being on her own. Until, that is, she saves a couple of abandoned puppies from one of Robo’s cronies. All of a sudden, Blue finds herself thrust into a fight to save humanity from Robo’s warped sense of justice.

Blue’s Prophecy was so much fun. If you’ve read any of the Survivors books, it’s a similar feel – dogs against the world. I loved the pack dynamics, and the way Blue really grew from a lone wolf to a pack leader. And I’m honestly blown away that this book was written by someone as young as Emily Ross. The only thing that gave her away as a new writer was the story’s timeline – I had a hard time keeping up with where in time things happened. I think that’s an easy fix, solved by simply giving the reader a few “the next day” type markers. I expect we’ll see a little more of that in Emily’s next books, along with a little more backstory for the characters. As a first novel, however, this one is a solid, enjoyable read.

And that cover.

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops below, and show your fellow readers some love!

May 8Zerina Blossom’s Books and Reading for the Stars and Moon and 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too!  

May 9The Avid Reader  and The Silver Dagger Scriptorium and Crystal’s Chaotic Confessions 

May 10She’s All Booked (that’s me!!) and The Cover Contessa

May 11Adventures thru Wonderland and Books,Dreams,Life

May 12SolaFide Book Club and Diane’s Book Blog

May 15I Read Indie and Shh, I am Reading

May 16: Two Heartbeats

May 17Haddie’s Haven and Booklove

May 18Booker T’s Farm: Books & Nails & Puppy Dog Tales and Lukten av trykksverte, and YA Book Divas

May 19: CBY Book Club and Loves Great Reads

Big thanks to YA Bound Book Tours and TitleTown Publishing for the chance to participate in this tour! 

Review: Zodiac by Romina Russell

zodiacAbout Zodiac 

• Series: Zodiac (#1)
Paperback: 480 pages
• Published: November 2015 by Razorbill
• Source:

Goodreads DescriptionBook 1 in the breathtaking sci-fi space saga inspired by astrology that will stun fans of the Illuminae Files and Starbound series.

At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancrian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

Embark on a dazzling journey with ZODIAC, the first novel in an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series set in a galaxy inspired by the astrological signs.

My Thoughts

In Zodiac, we’re introduced to a galaxy made up of 12 planets, one for each of the constellations in the zodiac. Each planet is different, and the people who live on each planet embody their zodiac’s qualities. Each planet’s guardians serve as political leaders, ensuring the well-being of their planet, their people, and the entire galaxy.

Rho is a 16-year-old girl from Cancer, splitting her time between reading the stars and playing drums in her rock band. When Cancer is suddenly devastated by an asteroid attack and Cancer’s guardian killed, Rho is named as the new guardian despite her young age and complete lack of experience. Rho quickly determines Ophiuchus, the guardian of the fabled 13th house, caused the attack. Unfortunately, the only person who believes her is her best friend – the rest of the galaxy is convinced Ophiuchus is nothing but a children’s story. What follows is roughly 300 pages of Rho traveling across the galaxy trying to convince the rest of the guardians to band together to fight Ophiuchus, all while finding herself falling for two very different boys.

I picked up Zodiac in the bookstore because I was in the mood for a space opera, and the cover immediately caught my eye. Plus, I liked the idea of 12 different planets representing the zodiac. I read about a third of the book in one night – then it languished on my nightstand for about two months, waiting for me to finish it. When I finally picked it back up, I knocked it out in two more nights. Needless to say, it’s a pretty quick read.

That said, while I enjoyed it, I’m not sure I’ll be rushing to pick up the next book in the series. I didn’t actually like Rho a whole lot. Or rather, I didn’t dislike her, but I found her somewhat….useless? There just wasn’t enough action on her part to keep me rooting for her. In some ways, that’s to be expected from a 16-year-old character, and I don’t really fault Russell for that. I think she wrote her well, actually, but YA these days has conditioned us to want more from our main characters. Much of the “doing” is actually done by other characters, and to be perfectly honest, other than Mathias and Hysan, I had a hard time keeping all the secondary characters straight.

Speaking of Mathias and Hysan, have I mentioned how much I hate love triangles? No? Well, I despise them, and I REALLY despise them in YA novels. Thankfully, it’s not too intense in Zodiac, so I was able to ignore it even if I did find it lazy and predictable. I also don’t think the love triangle is *actually* resolved, but I don’t care enough to find out.

Seriously, though – why do YA authors think love triangles are necessary? And why is it always a girl stuck between two boys? Can’t we just have a strong female character who doesn’t need boys? (Feel free to leave me your suggestions – I know there’s gotta be books out there!!)

3 stars

February Book Reviews (2015)

I actually didn’t get much reading done this month! I was trying to read several books at once, mostly nonfiction, and it took me a while. Needless to say, I’m ready for some fun stuff – not that these weren’t fun, but I need a brain break! Plus, I realized that it’s now past time for me to read the next book in the Outlander series…and I still haven’t finished book 3 of Game of Thrones. March may be “epic books month.” We’ll see.


I use the Goodreads rating scale of 1-5 stars. I know sometimes it’s hard to stick to only 5 options…lots of times we want half stars!! But, half stars make things messy. My ratings tend to be on the somewhat conservative side, so keep that in mind. Also keep in mind that a 3 star rating doesn’t mean a book is bad. Generally, I choose books that I expect to enjoy (don’t we all?). If I do enjoy them, then they’ve met my expectations…so I give them a 3. Anything lower than 3 didn’t live up to my expectations, and anything above 3 exceeded them. I’m generally not looking for certain writing styles or plot lines or technical aspects. If something stands out (for good or bad), I’ll comment on it, but in general technical aspects won’t be the sole influencer on my rating.

Any questions on my ratings? If so, just ask, and I’ll try to clarify!

And now, on to the books!!!

Groomed For Murder (Pet Boutique #2)3 starsI loved the first one. The second was good….but I didn’t love it quite as much. Izzy kinda got on my nerves this time and the story was a little too predictable. The rest of the characters are great, and I still love the setting. Plus, I can’t wait to try the enchilada recipe in the back. (Don’t worry, I’ll tell you how it goes if I ever get around to it.) The third book should be out sometime this summer, and I’ll definitely pick it up.

One Brave Dog: Journey Beyond the Forbidden River3 starsRead the review here.

How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer3 stars

This was our February book club book. I’d never heard of Montaigne. Turns out he’s considered the father of the modern essay (not school essay, but personal essay). Bakewell’s book is a pseudo-biography that uses examples from his life and his writing (sorta) to answer the question, “How to live?”

Montaigne would have been a blogger, I think. He was all about looking inward and figuring out why he did the things he did. In a way, the book was a mix of philosophy and psychology with a good bit of history thrown in. I was expecting to read Montaigne’s writing – but other than short quotations, there isn’t any of it in here. I’ve got his Essays on my list for next month.

This is the kind of book that I think you really have to be willing to give a shot. It’s not an easy read, but it’s not terribly tough either. But, if you’re not at all interested in philosophical musings it’s probably going to put you to sleep. What I liked was that it made me think, and it made me curious.

That said, there was a lot…and I mean, a LOT….that I think could have been left out. At times, reading the history of the time periods was pretty interesting. Other times, I had no clue why it was being presented, because it made no difference to the “answer” Bakewell was presenting. I thought about half of the chapters made sense, but the other half felt like she was grasping at straws. I also think that I went into it expecting something different, and that probably messed me up a little. I was looking for more of a commentary on Montaigne’s writing, and this book wasn’t that. It was a biography, but that’s a little hard to remember with a title like “How to Live.”

What Are You Hungry For?: The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul

2 starsThis was a Blogging for Books book, and by rights, should have its own post. Meh.

I was really excited about this. I read Intuitive Eating last year, and this book seemed like it would be similar. Plus, Deepak Chopra is supposed to be THE GUY.

Honestly, I had to force myself to finish this. There were a few things that were valuable, but mostly, I just felt like I was being lectured. Like Chopra himself was standing over my shoulder berating me. He wants you to give up all the bad stuff (including alcohol and cheese and meat), and he wants you to love doing it. He wants you to pay attention because as soon as you do, you’ll realize you don’t like alcohol and cheese and meat. And he wants you to sit at the table with your family because if you don’t you have an unhealthy home life.

And then there was this line…”Self esteem allows you to look at chocolate cake and think, “I’m not doing that to myself.” EXCUSE ME? Since when is chocolate cake the devil? (In context, I think what he’s attempting to say is that if you feel good about yourself you can make a conscious choice about whether you truly want the cake or not, but the connotation is that chocolate cake is bad.)

I mean…ok. It’s not that I necessarily disagree with him on everything, but the whole thing was so black and white. Like, just do what I’m telling you and you’ll be happy. And thin. Because you can only be thin if you do these things.

I’m sure that’s not what Chopra intended (or maybe it is?) but I got really tired of his self-importance. I did enjoy the medical information – there are a lot of good explanations about how nutrition and your body works. Would I recommend this book to anyone? No. I especially would not recommend it to someone looking for “a solution to permanent weight loss.”

Station Eleven5 starsWait, what?! A five-star??!! Have we even had any of these since I started doing these monthly reviews? (Yes. Two – Ready Player One and A Little Something Different.) They’re rare. Sometimes Jimmie tells me I’m too strict in my ratings. Sometimes I think he’s right, but then I come across a book like this and I think, nope. This is why I’m strict. Because if I gave every book I enjoyed a 5-star rating, then there’d be nothing that told you THIS IS AWESOME. Because they’d all be awesome. Anyway.

This book made its way onto my radar when our book club decided to read a National Book Award finalist (you may remember that book. Ugh.) I’d read a couple reviews of it, and finally got around to reading it. First of all, this book is 10 million times better than All The Light. And. Since it didn’t win, I can’t even imagine how good Phil Klay’s book is, so I’m going to have to read that to find out. Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic story – it’s a little hard to explain, so I’ll honestly just refer you to the description. I’d make a mess of explaining it.

I think this is the kind of book you either love or you hate. I was about a quarter of the way into it, thinking, meh, this is ok…not bad, but not really grabbing me either. But I was curious, so I kept going. It’s not a hard read, though I wouldn’t call it easy either. A little over halfway through, I was hit with the most visceral reaction. I had to stop reading. All I could think was….when did this book become so real? When did I start to feel like I was in the story, and when did it suck me in? Days after finishing, I still have no idea when it happened, but it did. All of a sudden, it was real and I was both terrified and horrified and knew I was going to have nightmares. Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a horror story at all. But, it’s intense. If you’ve ever read The Road, it’s the same kind of feeling.

The more I read, the more beautiful the book became. I loved the ending – if you can even call it an ending. Most of the book you’re kinda scratching your head thinking, where is this going, and then you find out, but the story is left open. Not open like there’s going to be a sequel, but open like there’s any number of possibilities and the author wanted to let you choose. It’s one of those books that this ending works…I was so glad she didn’t feel the need to wrap it up nicely with a bow.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this book for days – and I woke up twice in the middle of the night with my heart racing and feeling like I’d been scared to death. Will I read this book again? No. Will I recommend it to everyone I know? No. Do I think it’s an excellent book that fans of this style of fiction should read? Absolutely.

Hunted (Spirit Animals, #2)

4 stars

This is the second book in the Spirit Animals series, about four kids who call “Spirit Animals” and then have to save the world. Basically. Each book is written by a different author, and it shows a little bit…I enjoyed Book 2 more than Book 1. That said, Maggie Stiefvater tends to get a little too “romantic” for my tastes, so I got kind of annoyed by the not-so-subtle flirtations going on between two of the characters. I kept thinking…this is for kids. Get that out of here.

Otherwise, though, I really enjoyed the book. Meilin is still a whiny brat, but she’s growing on me. Rollan is flippant, but we’re starting to see a little more depth. Conor is the classic hero, and Abeke is the underdog. It works.

There was a lot more action in this book, and the battle scenes were fairly well done. I love that the Spirit Animals play such a big role in the story – sometimes I like them more than the main characters.

Blood Ties (Spirit Animals, #3)3 starsStill enjoying this series! I didn’t like this one quite as much as #2, but I’m still definitely hooked on them. So far, it seems that each story sort of features one of the kids a little bit more than the others. This one was Meilin, and she’s just not my favorite. I do love Jhi though, her spirit animal.

One thing that kinda bugged me though – and that I hope doesn’t continue as the series progresses – is that there are characters in Book 2 that I really enjoyed. Some of them you sort of know what happens, why they aren’t in Book 3. But some of them, it’s like they never existed. I want to know what happens to them!!!! I realize the story isn’t about the extra characters, but still…give me a little more closure!!!

Book of the MonthThis shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone after that review….. February’s book of the month is….

 Station Eleven

What books did you read this month? Any keepers?

January Book Reviews (2015)

Holy January! I’ve got to say….if I can keep this pace up, I’ll have no trouble meeting my goal to read 100 books this year! True, I read a lot of short easy books, and I’d started one before January. Regardless. It’s still a lot of books!


I use the Goodreads rating scale of 1-5 stars. I know sometimes it’s hard to stick to only 5 options…lots of times we want half stars!! But, half stars make things messy. My ratings tend to be on the somewhat conservative side, so keep that in mind. Also keep in mind that a 3 star rating doesn’t mean a book is bad. Generally, I choose books that I expect to enjoy (don’t we all?). If I do enjoy them, then they’ve met my expectations…so I give them a 3. Anything lower than 3 didn’t live up to my expectations, and anything above 3 exceeded them. I’m generally not looking for certain writing styles or plot lines or technical aspects. If something stands out (for good or bad), I’ll comment on it, but in general technical aspects won’t be the sole influencer on my rating.

Any questions on my ratings? If so, just ask, and I’ll try to clarify!

And now, on to the books!!!

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success

3 starsI know, I posted a whole review of this book. But, I didn’t give you a rating. Here’s your rating. Go read the review. 🙂

Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up3 starsI admit, I almost didn’t share this with you, because it’s a little embarrassing. Terrible title. I read The Dance of Anger a few years ago, and this one has been on my radar since. So I finally made time for it. I like Harriet Lerner because she’s accessible, and because she’s not a touchy-feely-bullshitter. There were some good points in the book that anyone in a relationship can learn from. And it’s short. And the lessons in here are good for anyone, whether you’re married, in a relationship, or just thinking about being in a relationship.

Yes Please4 stars

Our January book club book. I knew nothing about Amy Poehler, and was a little skeptical. I was afraid it’d be like that horrible Chelsea Handler book I read. Thankfully, it wasn’t.

I think the thing that got me was Amy is a genuinely good person. I’m not a huge fan of her comedy, and truthfully thought she was probably a bit of a jerk. But either she’s not, or she’s a really good faker. I kid. There’s no way you can read this book and not see that she’s someone who cares about the people and world around her.

And she’s real. She’s humble, she’s proud, and she’s not afraid to admit she screws up. Her book is full of things she’s learned the hard way, of little nuggets of advice. There are a lot of profound moments in there too – and messages all of us could stand to read (and take to heart).

Her style is all over the place, which was fine with me but no doubt will bother a lot of people. It feels a little more like talking to a friend than reading a memoir, and for that reason I wish I’d listened to the audio book instead. Amy herself is the reader, so I bet it’s fun.

Little House in the Big Woods (Little House, #1)

2 stars I know, I know. This is a classic, and on all of the “best books” lists. I have no clue why. Maybe I’m too old for it. Maybe I’m too impatient for it. But seriously. ..where was the plot? It read like a diary, and not a particularly interesting one. By the second half I was reading only the first sentence of each paragraph, and don’t feel that I missed anything. I’m sure someone will think that’s blasphemous and I do apologize, but this book just wasn’t for me.

A Tiger's Tale (Call of the Wilde #2)

4 starsI want more of this series! I love the characters, and Morrigan has fantastic pacing. I got a little annoyed with Grace this time around, because of all the whining about not sharing her power with other people, but otherwise, another great book. Plus, it was neat to read a mystery that didn’t involve a murder. This is a missing persons case. If you like animals and cozy mysteries, definitely give this series a try.

Wild Born (Spirit Animals, #1)

3 starsI’m a sucker for a good kids series, and this has a lot of potential. The writing isn’t great in this one, but it’s tolerable. Each book in the series is written by a different author, so it’ll be interesting to see how the style changes. Basically, there are four kids with “spirit animals” and they’re trying to save the world. What’s not to love???

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat (Magical Cats, #1)3 starsI picked this up because of the cover and because the cats are supposed to be magical. I suppose they were, but I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t have larger roles! I was also a little put off by the main character. ..she was the head librarian but from what I could tell, actually didn’t do anything. I didn’t have much sympathy for her. This was cute but nothing special, and there are better cozies out there.

A Deadly Grind (A Vintage Kitchen Mystery, #1)

3 starsYet another cozy. This one was a bit different in that the main character really wasnt a very good sleuth. In fact, she was pretty bad. And she drove me nuts with her constant mooning over her ex. All that aside though, I enjoyed the story. I loved the vintage kitchen aspect, and I loved meeting all the characters. I thought Hamilton did a great job bringing the town to life and making me feel like I was in the story. I’ll keep reading the series, for sure.

Paws For Murder3 starsThis was too cute! Loved the focus on the pet boutique. The murder itself was a little boring, and the book was carried by the supporting characters just as much as the main character. In fact, I forgot her name half the time. A decent first book in a series, and enough to make me want to keep going.

The Beginning of Everything

3 starsI had mixed feelings about this book. At times, I loved it. At times, I hated it. Ezra was…..ugh. Exhausting. Cassidy reminded me too much of a girl I couldn’t stand in high school. On one hand, this book was too dramatically tragic. On the other, it was a pretty accurate portrayal of how teenagers think everything is a tragedy. Not to say there weren’t some serious bad things in here. But mostly, Ezra just waffled around and couldn’t decide who he was. (I mean, in high school, who can?) It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t a great one either.

Book of the MonthThis month was kinda tough, actually. I read a lot, but there really wasn’t a clear winner. I guess I’ll go with

 Yes Please

What books did you read this month? Any keepers?