Monday, June 24, 2019

Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston Review


Title: Red, White and Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                I’ve been going through a lot of personal stuff right now, and so, I’ve been craving romances and stories with happy endings. I don’t normally read romance, but with this book, that has since changed. I was reminded of just how much I love the genre. Red, White, and Royal Blue has become one of my favorite books of 2019; it was a romance that was nuanced, hilarious, sexy, and tender, all at once. I loved it; Casey McQuiston is a shining new talent in fiction. This modern, gay fairy tale swept me off of my feet and stole my heart within the first chapter. I was rooting for Alex and Henry through the whole thing, and I finished this afternoon. I haven’t been able to stop smiling. This book was as delicious and satisfying as a home-cooked meal, and I loved every moment of it. I’m glad I started my journey into the romance genre with this excellently written book. Enemies to lovers is one of my favorite romance tropes, and this book showcases it fantastically.

                Red, White and Royal Blue starts in the way that many romances do: two smart, sexy main characters, a rivalry, and explosive, engaging chemistry. Alex-Claremont Diaz is the First Son of the United States, the only son of Madam President and her senator ex-husband, and he hates Prince Henry of Wales, who he thinks is snobby, rude, and prudish. When an international incident occurs due to their mutual dislike, the two young men are forced to feign friendship. But sparks fly as they begin to understand each other, but it’s not exactly up to them to make the decision. Will our two knuckleheads find love, in spite of the forces rising against them?

                This book was such a treat! I was immediately engaged in the story, the pacing was nice, and the pages practically crackled with energy and chemistry. I loved McQuiston’s writing style, wry and funny and totally unique. The premise certainly wouldn’t happen in real life, but it’s not formulaic or unoriginal. I loved every escapist moment of it. The characters were so great I was constantly laughing or swooning! I adored Alex and Henry, as well as the characters around them: Zahra, Cash, June, Nora, and their respective parents. This book was a real breath of fresh air, and I’m very sad that I don’t have this book in my collection. The love story was what really got me though; that was my favorite part. Watching two people fall in love is such a magical, happy thing, and Casey McQuiston knocked this element out of the park. I’m so very happy with this book; I came away from it happy, diverted from my worries, if only for a little while. And isn’t that all we can ask from anything we read, but especially fiction? The bottom line: Sexy, sweet, and funny, I loved Red, White and Royal Blue! Easily one of my favorite books of 2019! Next on deck: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo Review


Title: With the Fire on High
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Elizabeth Acevedo’s work has been on my radar since her debut verse novel, The Poet X, came out. Unfortunately, I was not able to read it before it went back to my local library. When I heard that she had a sophomore novel coming out in May, I put it on hold, and I was lucky enough to receive my library’s first copy! It’s been sitting in my stack for a while, and once I realized I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it up to the top right after Finale. With the Fire on High did not disappoint; it’s one of my favorite books of 2019. Fresh, honest, endearing and sweet and full of unique flavor, I will never forget Emoni Santiago and her journey. Acevedo has cemented her place as one of my favorite authors with this prose novel.

                Emoni Santiago is the girl that all the parents warn their kids away from, because she got pregnant with her daughter her freshman year of high school. But she doesn’t let that bother her, because she’s got Babygirl, her beloved grandmother, Buela, and her passion: cooking. But Emoni has a lot on her plate: dealing with Emma’s father, Tyrone and his parents, who never approved of her, becoming reluctant friends with a new student named Malachi, and her fierce desire to become a renowned chef, worrying about Buela and her college applications, her semi-absent father. When the opportunity to go to Spain arises with the culinary arts class elective, Emoni jumps at the chance, despite knowing that she may not be able to go. But how will she juggle all of her responsibilities and the dreams she longs for so desperately?

                I loved, loved, loved this book! It was amazing! Teen moms need more of a spotlight in literature in general, and Acevedo did a fantastic job with Emoni Santiago. I was instantly captivated by her vibrant, honest, and hilarious voice. Also, diverse books for the win! The pacing was breakneck, and I was rooting for her the whole way through the book. It felt like I was talking to a friend, and I ended the book feeling happy and sad all at the same time, because that’s what Enomi became for me. The characters around her helped emphasize her: Babygirl, Tyrone and his parents, Buela, Julio, and Angelica. Emoni’s budding friendship with Malachi was one of my favorite parts of the book. I also adored her relationships with Emma and her loving grandmother. She was fierce and tender, determined, sassy and sweet. I loved her, and her character development was excellent. Elizabeth Acevedo has recently become one of my favorite writers with With the Fire on High, and I am just floored (in the best way) by her talent. The bottom line: Delicious, sweet, and savory, I loved Elizabeth Acevedo’s sophomore novel and first prose offering; I will never forget Emoni Santiago! Next on deck: Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Finale by Stephanie Garber Review


Title: Finale
Author: Stephanie Garber
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Caraval, book three
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                The Caraval series has been one of my favorites of recent years, and when I put a hold on it, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I had received my local library’s first copy. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, and if I’m being completely honest, I was putting it off because I just didn’t want it to be over! But Finale more than exceeded my expectations, and though I’m sad that it’s all done, it didn’t disappoint at all. Full of romance, aching tension, twists, turns, magic, and surprises, I loved Finale! I will never forget the Dragna sisters, and their dangerous, magical journey!

                Finale picks up where Legendary left off, with Tella and Scarlett racing against the clock to undo a terrible mistake. But in order to do so, they must ally with the most unexpected persons. With the destruction of their entire world imminent, the sisters must use every bit of their wits and cunning in order to save the people they love and each other. But forces out of their control are rising against them, and getting stronger every day. Will our heroines make it out of this quest alive?

                I won’t say too much about the plot; I don’t want to give it away for those who haven’t read it yet. But I will say that my sequel anxiety was unfounded entirely. It took a little bit for me to remember what was going on, but once I did, Finale grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go until the final page. The pacing was breakneck and I read it in a day and a half. The twists and turns throughout the book practically gave me whiplash, and I was in turns gasping, crying, laughing, and nearly pulling my hair out. I was constantly thinking about it, even when I had to step away. I adored all of the characters, but Scarlett and Tella stole the show, and I loved them. And that ending! It made it all worth it. I loved the Caraval series so much, and I will never forget it. Finale was incredible, and I loved every single moment; I’m just so sad that it’s over now. The bottom line: Lush, seductive, and dark in the best kind of way, I loved Finale! I will never forget the Dragna sisters! Next on deck: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Boy Next Story by Tiffany Schmidt Review


Title: Bookish Boyfriends: The Boy Next Story
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Bookish Boyfriends, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                A Date with Darcy, the first book in the Bookish Boyfriends series, was one of my favorite books of last year, so when I found The Boy Next Story sitting on a shelf in the new book section, I took it home. It’s been sitting on the top of my stack, and as soon as I finished Save Me the Plums, I dove in. This installment in the series, The Boy Next Story, focuses on the youngest Campbell sister, Aurora, Rory for short. Shy, artistic, and overshadowed by her older, more vivacious sisters, she is harboring a desperate and unrequited crush on their next-door neighbor, Toby May, who just so happens to have a crush on her sister Merri. Her grades are slipping, and she’s totally not gelling with the assigned English book, The Great Gatsby. She is assigned Little Women soon after by Ms. Gregoire. When she is put in an advanced art class and starts exploring her talents, she finds that there’s competition there, too. When a once in a lifetime arises, Aurora must decide if she will let her fear rule her, or if she will gain the courage to live her life as she pleases.

                I really enjoyed this book, quite possibly even more than A Date with Darcy. One of my favorite things about this hilarious, sweet series is how it focuses on the Campbell family as a unit and each of the sisters individually. I loved how shy, quiet, artistic Rory got the spotlight this time, and I really related to her. I was captivated by her sweet, slightly insecure voice, and the pacing was great. I adored her, honestly, for all her flaws: prickly, shy, snarky and sarcastic, but artistic, kind, and gentle also. I loved reading about her struggles: with math, the place in her own family, her identity and her unrequited crush on Toby. The chemistry between the two of them was explosive, full of sparks and barbs and so much passion that at times, I was screaming, giggling, and tearing my hair out. This book made me feel a lot of things. Rory’s character development from the baby sister unhappy with life to a young woman unafraid to go after everything she wants, unapologetically. All of the other characters provided great foils to her, and I loved the way they all played a role in helping Rory find her courage. I adored the ending. At times, Rory seemed a bit whiny, but it wasn’t a huge deterrent. I loved her, and the whole Campbell family, and I’m hoping to the book gods that there’s another book in store! I have so many questions! The bottom line: Warm, hilarious, romantic and heartfelt, I loved The Boy Next Story! I hope that there’s more in store for the Campbell clan! Next on deck: Again but Better by Christine Riccio!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl Review


Title: Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir
Author: Ruth Reichl
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                I’ve always been a great fan of Ruth Reichl, from watching her on food shows such as Top Chef and reading her restaurant reviews in The New York Times. I’ve been curious about her other books of food writing, so when I heard about Save Me the Plums on Instagram, I reserved it at my local library. It’s been sitting on the top of my stack for a while now, and I wanted to make sure I was able to review it before I had to return it. This wry, honest and sidesplitting memoir had me laughing, gasping, and crying as I followed her journey to become the manager of the now defunct Gourmet magazine. I very much enjoyed it, though I was hoping that the focus would be more on the food. However, it’s definitely got me curious about the rest of Riechl’s extensive body of work, as well as food writing and nonfiction in general. It also makes me sad that I didn’t realize Gourmet’s existence before it went under.

                Ruth Reichl, in essence, is a writer. That’s how she’s made her living for a number of years, so she was, to say the least, surprised when she was approached to take over a classic food magazine, Gourmet. Which also inspired her to plunge into the world of food and food writing, not unironically. Feeling intimidated and completely out of her depth, she decides to go for it anyway, eager for an opportunity to try something new and be closer to her family for the first time in years. Hilarity ensues, and so does innovation: Reichl publishes the controversial David Foster Wallace article about boiling lobsters alive, and more besides. Seeing the magazine through many changes, I really feel that the magazine, classic, was really in its modern heyday when she was heading the charge. This book was thoughtful, entertaining, tender and surprisingly funny; I’d really like to explore more of her work. As I said, I’d really liked it if more food was involved, but it was very good! I’m happy I read it, and I’m really looking forward to reading more of Ruth Reichl and food writing in general. The bottom line: Hilarious and grim, thoughtful and entertaining, I loved Save Me the Plums! Next on deck: The Boy Next Story by Tiffany Schmidt!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi Review


Title: Girl Gone Viral
Author: Arvin Ahmadi
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Arvin Ahmadi won my heart completely last year, when one of the book clubs I go to chose his debut novel, Down and Across. I loved it so much; it was one of my favorite books of 2018. So, when I found out that he was writing a sophomore novel, I was so excited that I ordered it from my local library. It’s been sitting on the top of my stack for a while, so as soon as I was finished with Love a la Mode, I got started. Arvin Ahmadi leads the reader through a fantastic, twisted world where technology rules all, and the darkest secrets hide behind a glossy, shiny fa├žade. But even more than that, he brings up important questions: When will technology and innovation take over our society and, essentially, replace the experiences that form our reality? It’s quite possible that I love this book even more than Down and Across. Thought-provoking, dark, and more than a bit terrifying, I loved every tense, mysterious moment of it, and I will never forget Opal Hopper and her friends!

                Opal Hopper is a girl who is broken into pieces. Devastated by her father’s disappearance five years ago, she has retreated into the immersive world of VR, becoming a tech-savvy hacker to capture Howie Mendelsohn’s attention, the owner and CEO of Wave, who, she is convinced, has the answers to why her father left their family. Desperate for the truth, Opal throws all caution to the wind and begins a channel that forces viewers to face the real truth. But her desire for the truth leads her to follow a dark, twisting path that exposes the dark underbelly of her world, and she and her friends may not be able to weather the fallout…

                This book was wonderful! Told with Ahmadi’s signature wry tone, I was immediately captivated by Opal’s voice, and her desperate need to discover why her father left her and her mother. The pacing was breakneck; I devoured this book in a little over a day. It was dark, thoughtful, and more than a little terrifying. It got me really thinking about the dark side of social media and technology. In our desire to be seen, to be heard, how much of our true selves are we sacrificing? I love, love, love books that make me think, and Ahmadi has absolutely outdone himself with his second novel. Though Opal was the main star, I also loved the other characters, and the world they lived in. I also adored the journey that Opal took to the dark underbelly of her world, and the way that she was undaunted and dogged in her quest for the truth. I really felt like I couldn’t trust anyone in this book, perhaps not even Opal herself. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, it knocked my socks off and felt like the most brutal, awful punch to the stomach, in the best way! Arvin Ahmadi has cemented his place as one of my favorite authors with Girl Gone Viral, and I can’t wait for more from him! The bottom line: Dark, visceral, truly frightening and thought-provoking, I loved Girl Gone Viral! Next on deck: Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Love a la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm Review

Title: Love a la Mode
Author: Stephanie Kate Strohm
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                When I found out that our book club pick for June was Love a la Mode, I was ecstatic! I’d already ordered a copy through my interlibrary loan system, and I was excited for the excuse to push it to the top of my stack. I was hopeful for The Flame and the Candle, but it wasn’t working for me. Plus, things have been crazy for me in my personal life, and I needed a break from all the dark stuff I’ve been feeling and experiencing. I figured this would fit the bill, and I was right. Romantic, mouthwatering, hilarious and as sweet and light as any pastry made in Paris, I loved Love a la Mode, and I’m beginning to have a new appreciation for the romance genre in general. It really is the perfect antidote when real life is bogging you down.
                
Henry Yi and Rosie Radeke are two teens that both love food, and they are both on their way to Paris to study at one of the best cooking schools in the world. And they just so happen to fall in love on the airplane ride over. But alas, lovely Paris isn’t all delicious food: Rosie begins to wonder if she can really cook after all, and Henry longs to run his own restaurant, just like his father, despite his mother insisting he go to college. Hilarity, hijinks, and adorable love scenes ensue, complete with misunderstandings and kisses straight out of a romcom! Honestly, I really loved it. Before I’d read Love a La Mode, I’d forgotten just how therapeutic this genre can be. I’ve been dealing with a lot of heavy stuff, and I’m finding that I’m gravitating toward happier things instead of dark ones. The pacing was breakneck, I was crying laughing throughout the book; this book is a real gem! I loved all of the characters, and their distinctive personalities. And the descriptions of the food! Oh, my goodness, I was so hungry as I was reading this book! It was all so vivid I felt as though I could taste the food. I loved the rollercoaster that was Henry and Rosie’s relationship. Love a la Mode was a great reprieve from the stresses of life, and I very much enjoyed it. It was a great example of the YA romance genre. The bottom line: Bubbly, sweet, romantic and hilarious, I loved Love a la Mode! Next on deck: Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi!

Friday, June 7, 2019

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing Review


 Title: My Lovely Wife
Author: Samantha Downing
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                I’ve had My Lovely Wife on my list since before it came out, and I was so excited to finally snag a copy through my interlibrary loan system. When I was finished with Kingsbane, I pushed this book to the top of my stack and finished it in a little under two days. This book was like Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith, only without the spy stuff. It was dark, chilling, weirdly funny, and more than a little bit terrifying. Granted, it didn’t help that I’ve been watching true crime shows on repeat since my summer began, but moving on… Samantha Downing has penned a deliciously smart and creepy debut worthy of Gillian Flynn. But to compare this book to one of the queens of crime is to do is Downing a disservice. What a way to break the mystery/thriller genre wide open! Definitely one of my favorite and terrifying books of 2019, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next!

                The unnamed narrator and his wife, Millicent, seem to have it all. A passionate, loving marriage, two children, money, and prestige. But they have a dark, deadly secret that could ruin them. To keep the passion in their marriage alive, he and Millicent kill women. Yes, you read that right, they kill people! When they give in to their awful, unsettling urge, they start targeting young women, and in the process, resurrect a local bogeyman. The couple’s murderous hobby leads to their entire family’s lives being upended, and as the stakes get higher, they begin to wonder if they can indeed get away with murder…

                This book; I can’t even fully describe how it made me feel. It was chilling, more than a bit creepy, dark and weirdly funny. It really made me wonder how much we really know the people we interact with every day: our families, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. The pacing was breakneck, and I was absolutely spellbound by the unnamed narrator and his strange marriage to Millicent. It was truly terrifying. Even so, I couldn’t stop reading; the twists and turns had me gasping, screaming, and practically tearing my hair out as the book went on. It was so compelling; so much so, in fact, that I found myself thinking about it even while I was sleeping. I loved all of the characters, and they all complemented each other. Millicent and her husband are a match made in hell, and the ending had my jaw on the floor! I got so many feelings from this book, and it really got me thinking about the monsters that wear human faces and mask the ultimate evils. This creepy, visceral debut novel was incredibly dark and weirdly funny, and I loved every tense, crazy moment of it. I can’t wait to see what Samantha Downing has in store for us next! The bottom line: Scary, smart, horrendous and thrilling, I loved My Lovely Wife! An absolute knockout for the thriller genre! Next on deck: The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Kingsbane by Claire LeGrand Review


Title: Kingsbane
Author: Claire LeGrand
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Empirium Trilogy, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Furyborn was one of my favorite books of 2018, so ever since, I’ve been eagerly looking forward to Kingsbane. And for the most part, the sequel lived up to my expectations, but there were definitely parts that fell short. Nonetheless, if I wasn’t fully invested before, I most certainly am now! Full of dark magic, secrets, lies, and romance, Kingsbane picks up where Furyborn left off, with both Rielle, and her daughter, Eliana, racing against time to stop a terrifying future that could save the world, or destroy it. The prophecy both young women chafe against is about to come to pass, and across the centuries they fight for their own agency, even if it means losing everything…

                I don’t want to say too much about the plot for the people reading who haven’t read it yet, but I will say that LeGrand has penned a worthy sequel to my favorite book in her body of work. As with all sequels, it took me a little bit to remember what was going on, but once I did, the pacing was breakneck and I couldn’t pull away. Even when I was doing something else, the book was always in my thoughts, and my mind was forever working to unravel Kingsbane’s secrets.

I loved the characters, as well as their development; if I’m going to read a book, I have to engage with the characters, or nothing’s going to happen. I adored all of the characters, but Eliana, Rielle, Corien, Audric, Ludivine, and Simon were particular standouts. The pacing was breakneck, and the constant twists and turns had me gasping or screaming, either out of excitement or frustration. The flow of the events between Rielle and Eliana was smooth, though at times it was hard to keep up with all the different countries and customs. More than once, I had to refer to the map and appendix of the novel. However, this book was wonderful. For all its minor flaws, it was great. And that ending, though; my jaw hit the floor! I cannot wait for the last book! I can only hope that it’s going to answer all of the burning questions that Kingsbane has born. I can’t wait to see how this dark, feminist trilogy ends! The bottom line: Though at times a bit heavyhanded, and it was a bit difficult to keep up and keep everything straight, I really enjoyed Kingsbane, and I’m looking forward to the third book! Scary, romantic, and thrilling, I loved Kingsbane! Next on deck: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing!