Friday, September 21, 2018

The 1st Annual Halloween Reading Challenge!

So I'm browsing some book blogs today, and I see some Christmas Reading Challenges... and I'm like "oh that's awesome, I'll have to get involved in that this year..." But then I thought, "wait, you know what I love reading more than Christmas books... Halloween books..."

Am I the only one who loves to read as many spooky stories as I can get my hands on during the month of October?? Why can I not find any Halloween Reading Challenges out there?

If they exist, please point me in their direction. If they don't exist... well, I'm about to start one. :D 

 { The Rules }

There aren't going to be a lot of rules, since I'm starting this so late into September... just an excuse to read some creepy books and have fun!

  1. Spread the word about the Halloween Reading Challenge! Blog it, tweet it, pin it, however you best like to spread info! We gotta get the word out since I'm starting this so close to October!
  2. Make a blog post about the books you intend to read for the challenge - you can find my list below. (You can of course read off-list... this is just a starting point.) Feel free to use the image above in your post if you'd like, but please be sure to link back to the Halloween Reading Challenge page so other bloggers can find the sign-up if they want to join in.
  3. Add your name and blog to the link-up here. Visit the other bloggers who signed up to see what they're reading too!
  4. You can link your reviews as you get them done, or you can link a wrap-up post. The last day to link up a post is November 2 (when Dia de los Muertos ends, in case you're wondering).
  5. Feel free to read whatever genres and subjects interest you - kidlit or adult, Halloween or Dia de Los Muertos, fiction or nonfiction, horror, gothic, suspense, humor, romance... whatever gets you in the mood for All Hallow's Eve!
  6. Read as many or as few books as you want... just have fun!

Sign up here for the 2018 Halloween Reading Challenge!

Link to your reviews and/or wrap-up posts here: (coming soon... please stand by!)

 { My Halloween Reading List }

There's no way I'm going to get to read all of these this year, unfortunately. :/ Some of them are rereads, some are classics that I'm way overdue to read for the first time, some are new finds that I hadn't heard of until now... and I'm excited to read every one!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

{ Top Ten Tuesday }: Books On My Fall 2018 TBR

{ Top Ten Tuesday } was started by The Broke and the Bookish but is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. She says, "It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together."

Books On My Fall 2018 TBR

Wow, just realized my Fall TBR is kinda dark. And I'm so ready. Bring me everything creepy, weird, and mysterious!

{ #1 }
An Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason
by Virginia Boecker

Despite the fact that every time I look at this book I think it's a part of the Montague Siblings series, I'm still excited for it. Murder plots and royal spies set around a Shakespeare play in the days of Queen Elizabeth I? Yes, please.

{ #2 }
Blanca & Roja
by Anna-Marie McLemore

Reviews say this is a retelling of a mix of Snow White & Rose Red and Swan Lake, with rival sisters, a diverse cast, and beautiful writing. Sign me UP.

{ #3 }
The Boneless Mercies
by April Genevieve Tucholke

The Goodreads synopsis says: "Full of fierce girls, bloodlust, tenuous alliances, and unapologetic quests for glory, this elegantly spun tale challenges the power of storytelling—and who gets to be the storyteller." I mean... To say I want to read it is an understatement.

{ #4 }
Empress of All Seasons
by Emiko Jean

A fantasy with Japanese mythology. An enchanted palace with rooms themed by the seasons. A competition where girls try to survive the rooms to become empress. Also, at least two of the girls are monsters.

{ #5 }
Girls of Paper and Fire
by Natasha Ngan

Paper girls are taken to become concubines of the king... until one falls in love, and dares to change her fate. Sounds amazing. I hope it lives up to the hype.

{ #6 }
Grim Lovelies
by Megan Shepherd

This one strikes me as almost a reverse Beauty & the Beast - animals are enchanted to become human by an evil witch, and they must solve the mystery of her murder before the enchantment keeping them human disappears. It's getting mixed reviews, but the Parisian setting and (let's be honest) that cover are really drawing me to it.

{ #7 }
by Amy Lukavics

Set in the 1950s, a girl who aspires to be a horror writer is committed to a mental institution, where people disappear and she begins having hallucinations... Some reviews say it's hard to figure out what is going on, due to an unreliable narrator, but that sounds like just my kind of read.

{ #8 }
Sawkill Girls
by Claire Legrand

The synopsis alone for this one sounds so eerie and magical and fantastic, I can't wait to get my hands on the actual book.

{ #9 }
When We Caught Fire
by Anna Godbersen

Anna Godbersen hooked me way-back-when with her Luxe series - I loved the romantic, dramatic, elegant atmosphere in those books. This one set amidst the Great Chicago Fire and the synopsis says it's "sweeping, soapy, and romantic," and contains "an epic love triangle—one that will literally set the city ablaze." I'm ready, y'all.

{ #10 }
The Wren Hunt
by Mary Watson

There are two groups of people fighting for a magical power, and one girl is chased through the woods every year, for some reason? I don't even understand what this one is about, but I'm really excited for it. It sounds magical and intricate.

What books made your list this week? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Pea-Sized Reviews: Archival Quality & Spectacle

I'm on a serious graphic novel kick right now... I'm literally putting a hold on every new graphic novel my library gets in that remotely interests me. I love that I can binge-read these in like a day, and yet still get so completely sucked into the story and the world and the characters because the art brings it all alive. If you have any suggestions for great graphic novels, please send them my way!

Archival Quality
by Ivy Noelle Weir & Steenz

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition
Pages: 280
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication date: March 6, 2018
Suggested tags: young adult (ages 13-17), graphic novel, mystery, ghosts, mental health

From Goodreads:
"After losing her job at the library, Celeste "Cel" Walden starts working at the haunting Logan Museum as an archivist. But the job may not be the second chance she was hoping for, and she finds herself confronting her mental health, her relationships, and before long, her grasp on reality as she begins to dream of a young woman she's never met, but feels strangely drawn to. Especially after she asks Cel for help…

As Cel attempts to learn more about the woman, she begins losing time, misplacing things, passing out—the job is becoming dangerous, but she can't let go of this mysterious woman. Who is she? Why is she so fixated on Cel? And does Cel have the power to save her when she's still trying to save herself?

I think the idea behind it was fantastic, and I liked the author's note at the end showing how it all came to be. But for me, somehow it just didn't quite live up to that idea in the execution, I guess? It was hard to follow along at some points - the clues that Cel finds weren't always clear (as in, I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to be learning from them), and time would pass from one panel to the next without any indication, so I'd get confused and have to back up and read it again. I didn't really buy the twist with Abayomi (SPOILER - highlight to read: He's been experiencing the EXACT same things as Cel, and yet he treats her like she's an unhinged vandal at first?? Blaming things on her and getting mad at her, when apparently all along he knew she didn't have anything to do with it?? I'm sorry, what?!?) And overall, I wasn't a huge fan of the artwork - I think Cel's character was the least well-defined (which is a shame, since she's the main character) and again, I just got a little lost when it was up to the art to tell the story, like to bring the reader's attention to a certain clue or show what it meant without using words. But of course, this is something that is very subjective, so this could be my issue alone and no one else would have a problem understanding what's going on. Overall, I'd say if the synopsis interests you, definitely give it a read! It just didn't work for me as well as I had hoped, unfortunately.

Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Spectacle, Vol. 1
by Megan Rose Gedris

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 136
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication date: May 22, 2018
Suggested tags: young adult (ages 13-17), graphic novel, mystery, ghosts, circus/carnival

From Goodreads:
"Fan-favorite webcomic creator Megan Rose Gedris (Yu+Me Dream) crafts a compelling tale of magic, deception, and wonder in this stunningly illustrated graphic novel about the bond between sisters.

Pragmatic engineer Anna works as a psychic in the Samson Brothers Circus, but she doesn't believe in anything supernatural—until her twin sister Kat is murdered and comes back as a very demanding ghost. Sharing a room with her sister was hard, but now they're sharing a body while trying to identify the killer. With few leads, a troupe full of secretive folk, and strange paranormal occurrences popping up around the circus, solving the case seems near impossible. But the murderer in their midst may be the least of their problems...

I have a thing for books set in circuses or carnivals, plus I liked the murder mystery plot with a ghostly twist, so this one was a winner for me. I wasn't sure how I felt about the style of the art at first, but it did grow on me quite a bit. I actually loved the bonus art at the end with the circus posters. The story starts off kind of heavy with Anna discovering her twin sister Kat's murdered body... but it does get a little lighter and even humorous at some points. Kat finds that she can dive into Anna's body and kind of camp out there, so the two of them get down to the business of collecting clues and trying to solve Kat's murder. There are some mysterious things happening around the circus and it ends on kind of a wtf cliffhanger that made me want to pick up the next volume immediately (and after some searching, I discovered that more issues are available online! wheee!!).

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

{ My reviews are honest and my opinions are my own; 
your reading experience may vary, so give it a read and see what you think. :) }

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

{ Binge, Borrowed, Bargain }: Magicians, museums, & Vikings

More new blog things?? Sure, why not! :D

Book Riot does a thing called Buy, Borrow, Bypass that I like, and I wanted to do something similar but in my own style and at my own pace. (They read A LOT of books over there at Book Riot. Because I think technically that is their job.)

So in my version, I'll share something I have binged or am about to binge-read (the Binge, obviously), something that I have discovered at the library (the Borrowed... again, kind of self-explanatory), and something I have found for free on Amazon for my Kindle (the Bargain).

Ready? Here we go!

{ Binge }

The Paper Magician
by Charlie N. Holmberg

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 222
Publisher: 47North
Publication date: September 1, 2014
Suggested tags: young adult (ages 12-18), fantasy

First in The Paper Magician series. From Goodreads:
"Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic… forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined — animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner — a practitioner of dark, flesh magic — invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

I'm very late to this party, but I read the first chapter yesterday and I'm so ready to get completely lost in this magical world! I envision myself tearing through this one. (um... was that an unintentional paper pun??)

{ Borrowed }

Archival Quality
by Ivy Noelle Weir & Steenz

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition
Pages: 280
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication date: March 6, 2018
Suggested tags: young adult (ages 13-17), graphic novel, mental health

From Goodreads:
"After losing her job at the library, Celeste "Cel" Walden starts working at the haunting Logan Museum as an archivist. But the job may not be the second chance she was hoping for, and she finds herself confronting her mental health, her relationships, and before long, her grasp on reality as she begins to dream of a young woman she's never met, but feels strangely drawn to. Especially after she asks Cel for help…

As Cel attempts to learn more about the woman, she begins losing time, misplacing things, passing out—the job is becoming dangerous, but she can't let go of this mysterious woman. Who is she? Why is she so fixated on Cel? And does Cel have the power to save her when she's still trying to save herself?

I used to work in a museum and I loved it, so any book I see about museums pretty much immediately ends up in my hands. This one popped up on the list of new books at my library and I snagged it!

{ Bargain }

The Viking's Chosen
by Quinn Loftis

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 300
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: February 12, 2018
Suggested tags: young adult (ages 13-17), historical fiction, romance

First in the Clan Hakon series. From Goodreads:
"The prophesy must be fulfilled.

His orders are clear: launch a raid against England and bring home the spoils of war. But the prophecy is also clear: General Torben will take a foreign bride—one who is a seer and healer just like his mother. The eldest princess of England is said to be just that…a beautiful, charming, and headstrong woman. But he's a Viking army general and she's an English princess—and one who is already promised to the king of Tara.

Two worlds collide in this epic historical fiction centered on an undeniable chemistry that smolders against the odds. Richly written and injected with moments of humor, this action-packed romantic tale will leave you breathless.

I had this one on my "maybe read" list. Generally anything sold as a "romance" is just not my thing. But the Viking twist is calling to me, and it's freeeee, so I'll give it a shot!

Hope you liked my latest effort in new content! If nothing else, you got a freebie alert, right? ;) See you next time!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

by Stephanie Garber

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 451
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: May 29, 2018
Suggested tags: young adult (ages 13-17), fantasy

Second in the Caraval series. From Goodreads:
"A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister, Scarlett, from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister's. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice, but now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever...

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . the games have only just begun."

I hate to say it, but I think I'm giving up on this series. The idea of Caraval, with its magical game where you never know what is real and what is not, was absolutely fantastic to me. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. And I thought it was pretty good - the beginning was amazing, but the ending left me disappointed (you can read more in my review here if you'd like). But Legendary did not give me the same magical feels, I'm sorry to say.

What I liked: I liked getting a peek into Tella's side of things as the narrator. Caraval is from Scarlett's point of view, so I liked seeing the differences in the sisters. (Although is it just me or does Scarlett become totally bland in this one?? I had like zero interest in her story line this time...)

I thought the mystery of what happened to Tella and Scarlett's mother, as well as Tella's complicated feelings towards her, were pretty intriguing. I liked seeing Tella wrestle with her own perception of her mother as she kept uncovering more and more parts of the mystery.

And I loved the Deck of Destiny story line! I could devour a spin-off series just set in that world. The cursed cards, the Prince of Hearts, the gods coming back among the mortals... all of that was really intriguing to me. But unfortunately, there's another side to that that I didn't like, which I'll get to in a second...

What I didn't: Ok, so here's my main issue with this book... My favorite aspect of Caraval was the actual game play itself, following Scarlett as she searched for clues and found secret passageways and made progress in the game. So I was willing to give Legendary a shot, since that synopsis sure sounds like it will involve following Tella as she plays the game this time, right??


There is little to no actual game play by Tella herself. We are told that others around her are playing the game, but she's on her own agenda which does not involve the same kind of game play as the first book. It was far less magical for me, and far less interesting.

And, like I said above, I did love the Deck of Destiny idea... but here's what I don't like about it: The Deck of Destiny plot line feels like a totally separate series. It has its own characters and world and rules, and while I was really into it all, I was kind of like... "what does this have to do with the world of Caraval??" This book didn't feel like a continuation of Caraval to me much at all, except for the fact that we are told there is a game going on in the background. 

Also, the reveal of Legend's identity was so disappointing to me. (SPOILER - highlight to read: It's Dante. Big surprise.) Legend just started off as such an amazing, mysterious character, this shadowy person that no one really knows anything about, pulling the strings from behind the scenes. So for all that build-up, I just felt like the reveal was really anticlimactic, and now that we know who he is, all of that magic and mystery is gone for me.

TL;DR: Despite what the synopsis promises, Legendary is hardly about the game at all, but rather about Tella discovering her own secrets. So if you were more into the characters from Caraval and less into the game, then I would say definitely keep going and give Legendary a try. If you're like me, though, and the game was what made it magical for you, you may be disappointed in this one.

Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars

{ Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy. My reviews are honest and my opinions are my own; your reading experience may vary, so give it a read and see what you think. :) }

{ Follow Stephanie Garber }

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

{ Spotted & Sampled }: A new YA take on Lost & Lord of the Flies, a blast from the 90s past, and a sneak peek at a royal murder

Hello, fellow bookworms! Hope you all had a great summer! I spent mine with my hubby (who is a teacher and therefore can party all summer, woohoo!) and my son, who is now a toddler and has way too much energy. We spent a lot of time outside and we went on a big road trip at the end, so it was a nice break for all of us!

But now I'm back - yay! - and I bring you new blog things!!

So I keep discovering all kinds of books that I'm so excited about, and that I really want to share with people. Also, I have recently become aware of SO MANY ways to read samples of books, which is so great because I love getting a taste of the plot and an author's writing style ahead of time. And so I thought to myself, why not just make a weekly post about what I've spotted and added to my TBR list, and also what I've come across in the way of samples over the past week?

So here we are! Spotted & Sampled! LET'S DO THIS.

{ Spotted }

When We Were Lost

by Kevin Wignall

Available as: unknown
Pages: unknown
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Expected publication date: 2019
Suggested tags: young adult (ages 12-18), survival, thriller

From Goodreads:
"When a plane bound for Costa Rica crashes in deep jungle, the tail section breaks free and nineteen teenagers miraculously survive. Joel Aspinall, son of a local politician and student rep on the school’s council, is quick to take on the mantle of leadership, to organize everyone until a rescue party arrives. But the plane was crashed on purpose, no one knows where they are and no rescuers are coming. To make things worse, Joel’s decisions lead to more people dying, and he’s determined to wait it out.

Tom Calloway didn’t want to be on this trip. Tom doesn’t want to bond with his classmates – he isn’t the bonding type. He’d rather they just left him alone, and he’s always been unfriendly enough that they’ve been happy to oblige. But that was before the crash. Now he finds himself building the friendships he’s always tried to avoid. And despite his determined efforts to be left alone, he begins to see that he might be the one to challenge Joel and pull off another miracle, by getting all the survivors to safety.

When We Were Lost, featuring elements of Lost and Lord of the Flies, is a novel of survival, of teenagers thrust into a hostile environment. It’s a novel of life and death and the razor-thin dividing line between them. And it’s a novel about finding a place for yourself in a world that’s infinitely complex."

Lost + Lord of the Flies + YA = YES. Survival stories are so my thing. I'm already lining up for this one.

The Race to Chimney Rock
by Jesse Wiley

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition
Pages: 160
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication date: September 4, 2018
Suggested tags: chapter book (ages 7-10), historical fiction, choose your own adventure

From Goodreads:
"Go west, young pioneer—your journey begins here! In this first leg of your trek on the Oregon Trail, you need to find your way to Chimney Rock—but not without unpredictable challenges ahead. This is the first installment of four books that will take you all the way to Oregon Territory—if you make the right choices.

In book one of this exciting choose-your-own-adventure series, it's 1850 and your first goal is to get your family, covered wagon full of supplies, and oxen to Chimney Rock on time. But hurry—you'll need to make it through the rugged mountains before winter snow hits. Plus, there are wild animals, natural disasters, unpredictable weather, fast-flowing rivers, strangers, and sickness that will be sure to stand between you and your destination!

Which path will get you safely across the prairie? With twenty-two possible endings, choose wrong and you'll never make it to Chimney Rock on time. Choose right and blaze a trail that gets you closer to Oregon City!


Ahem. ... I'm fine. Everything's fine. ... But yeah, as soon as I saw this it was IMMEEEEEDIATELY on my to-read list. And you better believe I'm gonna read until I find all 22 possible endings.

{ Sampled }

Four Dead Queens

by Astrid Scholte

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, audiobook
Pages: 432
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Expected publication date: February 26, 2019
Suggested tags: young adult (ages 13-17), fantasy

From Goodreads:
"Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she's, in fact, one of Quadara's most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara's most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara's queens dead.

With no other choices and on the run from Keralie's former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation's four dead queens.

An enthralling fast-paced murder mystery where competing agendas collide with deadly consequences,
Four Dead Queens heralds the arrival of an exciting new YA talent."

Sampled from: Bookish First (If you haven't heard of Bookish First, go check them out! You can read samples of upcoming books every week, and reviewing books earns you entries into weekly drawings and points towards FREE BOOKS. Yes please!! ... P.s. I'm not affiliated, just a big fan.)

Ok, so... YA fantasies are like THE THING right now. There are soooo many of them. And I'm starting to feel like they're all kind of... the same? I feel like I haven't read a new YA fantasy in a while that's really unique. So I'm a little hard to please when it comes to this type of book.

And after reading this sample, I'm kind of torn on this one. Parts of it I liked, and parts of it I didn't. I wasn't wowed by Keralie's story at the beginning - she's basically a pickpocket, working for an Oliver Twist-esque Fagin character, and the hints of her backstory (she left home apparently, after some kind of situation with her father) didn't really make me all that interested to know more, I hate to say.

Then we move over to a scene at the palace, where there are four queens of four different areas of this world called Quadara. I mean... again, I'm torn. Quad, four - clever, I get it. There are four distinct areas, but I wasn't really all that interested in any one of them. And I didn't really get into the queens' story line until (SPOILER! ... Well, not really, since it's in the title...) one of them is murdered.

Both Keralie's and the queens' story lines end in cliffhangers, and I *did* find myself wanting to read more to find out what happens from there. So I give this a solid "meh". I do want to keep reading, but I'm not going to be first in line when it comes out.

That's all for this week! Did you like it? I hope so. I liked doing it! So I'll hope to see you next week for more spottings & samples!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Pea-Sized Reviews: A Map for Wrecked Girls, Spirit's Key, & Starstruck

Trying a new review style... Smaller bite-sized reviews. On a pea-themed blog. So, Pea-Sized Reviews, obviously! Eh? Eh??

Well, it's a work in progress. Let's move on...

A Map for Wrecked Girls
by Jessica Taylor

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 368
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication date: August 15, 2017
Suggested tags: young adult, contemporary, survival

From Goodreads:
"We sat at the edge of the ocean—my sister Henri and I—inches apart but not touching at all. We'd been so sure someone would find us by now.

Emma had always orbited Henri, her fierce, magnetic queen bee of an older sister, and the two had always been best friends. Until something happened that wrecked them.

I'd trusted Henri more than I'd trusted myself. Wherever she told me to go, I'd follow.

Then the unthinkable occurs—a watery nightmare off the dazzling coast. The girls wash up on shore, stranded. Their only companion is Alex, a troubled boy agonizing over his own secrets. Trapped in this gorgeous hell, Emma and Alex fall together as Emma and Henri fall catastrophically apart.

For the first time, I was afraid we'd die on this shore.

To find their way home, the sisters must find their way back to each other. But there’s no map for this—or anything. Can they survive the unearthing of the past and the upheaval of the present?"

Pretty much anything that's a "lost on a deserted island" story will end up on my TBR. I love survival stories. And I was really intrigued by the sisters storyline in the synopsis for this one. But... I don't know. It wasn't for me. It wasn't bad, it was just not really my style of writing (the synopsis gives you a good idea of what it's like - kind of choppy and sparse, which some readers may really like), and the flashbacks interspersed in the story didn't really work for me. I kind of felt like I was reading two separate books instead of a story with flashbacks. Also, I feel like this story would have been better? just as good without the Alex and Emma romance - I would have been just fine if it was only Henri and Emma on the island together. So yeah, not bad, just not what I thought it would be, I guess? More of a romance and less of the sister story I was expecting, and the writing style and format didn't work for me, but it would probably be a winner with other readers.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

{ Thank you to Goodreads Giveaways and the publisher for providing me with a review copy. }

Spirit's Key

by Edith Cohn

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 320
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication date: September 4, 2014
Suggested tags: middle grade, mystery, paranormal

From Goodreads:
"Spirit's Key is a mystery with a bit of magic for fans of Savvy and Because of Winn Dixie.

By now, twelve-year-old Spirit Holden should have inherited the family gift: the ability to see the future. But when she holds a house key in her hand like her dad does to read its owner's destiny, she can’t see anything. Maybe it’s because she can't get over the loss of her beloved dog, Sky, who died mysteriously. Sky was Spirit’s loyal companion, one of the wild dogs that the local islanders believe possess dangerous spirits. As more dogs start dying and people become sick, too, almost everyone is convinced that these dogs and their spirits are to blame—except for Spirit. Then Sky's ghost appears, and Spirit is shaken. But his help may be the key to unlocking her new power and finding the cause of the mysterious illness before it's too late."

I wasn't sure what to expect with this one, but it turned out to be good! I loved the island setting, the talent that Spirit and her dad have for telling the future, and the idea of ghost dogs?? I want one!! It was a little heavy, with the dogs on the island dying, but it was a decent mystery story (although the reveal of whodunnit was a little meh for me). Nice themes of friendship, belonging, and doing what's right. I'd recommend this to middle grade readers who need a little something supernatural in their books (like my younger self... I would have loved this kind of book as a tween!), but who won't be too heartbroken over dying animals.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

{ Thank you to Goodreads Giveaways and the publisher for providing me with a review copy. }


by Rachel Shukert

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 339
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication date: March 12, 2013
Suggested tags: young adult, historical fiction, 1930s, California

First in the Starstruck series. From Goodreads:
"Every week they arrive in Los Angeles--beautiful and talented young hopefuls who dream of becoming stars. It's all Margaret Frobisher has ever wanted—and when she's discovered by a powerful agent, she can barely believe her luck. She's more than ready to escape her snobby private school and conservative Pasadena family for a chance to light up the silver screen.

The competition is fierce at Olympus Studios and Margaret—now Margo—is chasing her Hollywood dreams alongside girls like Gabby Preston, who at 16 is already a grizzled show-biz veteran caught between the studio and the ravenous ambition of her ruthless mother, and sultry Amanda Farraday, who seems to have it all--ambition, glamour . . . and dirty secrets. Missing from the pack is Diana Chesterfield, the beautiful actress who mysteriously disappeared, and there are whispers that Diana's boyfriend—Margo's new co-star—may have had something to do with it. Margo quickly learns that fame comes with a price, and that nothing is what it seems.

Set in Old Hollywood,
Starstruck follows the lives of three teen girls as they live, love, and claw their way to the top in a world where being a star is all that matters."

I'm so into historical fiction, and also books that follow the storylines of multiple characters, so this one made my TBR with no second thoughts. It reminded me a lot of the Luxe series by Anna Godberson, where you get a peek at the lives of different girls, which includes much secrecy and gossip and romance and etc that keeps me flipping the pages long past my bedtime. The setting in 1930s Hollywood was really interesting to me and seemed accurate enough, from the limited knowledge I have of it. It's probably not something I would reread, but I liked it well enough and I think anyone interested in this time period or this type of dirty-little-secrets book should give it a read.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

{ Thank you to Goodreads Giveaways and the publisher for providing me with a review copy. }

{ My reviews are honest and my opinions are my own; 
your reading experience may vary, so give it a read and see what you think. :) }