The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson

official blurb
Newly orphaned, recently divorced, and semi-adrift, Nina Popkin is on a search for her birth mother. She’s spent her life looking into strangers’ faces, fantasizing they’re related to her, and now, at thirty-five, she’s ready for answers. Meanwhile, the last thing Lindy McIntyre wants is someone like Nina bursting into her life, announcing that they’re sisters and campaigning to track down their mother. She’s too busy with her successful salon, three children, beautiful home, and…oh yes, some pesky little anxiety attacks. But Nina is determined to reassemble her birth family. Her search turns up Phoebe Mullen, a guarded, hard-talking woman convinced she has nothing to offer. Gradually sharing stories and secrets, the three women make for a messy, unpredictable family that looks nothing like Nina pictured…but may be exactly what she needs. Nina’s moving, ridiculous, tragic, and transcendent journey becomes a love story proving that real family has nothing to do with DNA.

my blurb!
A somewhat sad story about searching for yourself and accepting what you find.

2.75 out of 5
what i liked
I liked Indigo. She’s not really a main character but isn’t necessarily in the background either. She is wild and trying to find herself and boundaries and discover her place in highschool.
A.J. Barnes was a hit for me too. Although  he was for sure a background character, I really liked his dialogue and insight into Phoebe’s life.
I went back and forth over whether or not to call this book realistic- because it was kind of depressing to me at times. But it was also probably pretty realistic. And I do like that about the book in some sense.  I mean, I like that it makes the characters more real and identifiable.
Phoebe was our birth mom in the story.  She lived a really hard life and she was still living. She hadn’t exactly given up on life, but she wasn’t searching for the rainbows either.  I liked her, I felt like she could’ve been a real person and when it came down to her ultimate explanation of how and why the sisters ended up getting adopted- I understood her.
Sidenote: You know how I feel about plot points that seem like they are supposed to surprise you but don’t?  I am still not sure if I was supposed to be surprised while reading the explanation about the fate of a certain character… but I was not surprised. Although there was a little “twist” in the breakdown of the adoption story that I wasn’t expecting, so any points lost in the “fate of character” breakdown were given back with the “twist.”

what i didn't like
The books tone was overall… kind of sad.  And it’s not that I don’t like a sad book, because one of my all time favorites is The Fault in Our Stars – and let me tell you, that book is a tearjerker.  But this one was almost…unhopeful.  (Most people would have used the term hopeless here, but it wasn’t hopeless it just wasn’t dripping with hope either).
Really, a lot of times I don’t enjoy reading adult fiction because the main characters lives are such a mess.  They’re usually unhappy and not sure what to do about it. And it makes me sad to see they’ve made it so long into their lives without finding happiness.  And it makes me really sad to experience their humdrum lives for 364 pages.  (I know, maybe I’m being to hard on them, but I’m 30. It’s not fun to read about characters in their mid 30s having midlife crises).
Nina- our ultimate main character, was raised with two amazing loving parents who adopted her.  But she never could get past her adoption.  That made me a little sad – even if it was realistic.  (Yes, I do watch This is Us. And yes, Randall is my favorite character and he does experience the same thing.  I don’t know how to explain why I didn’t like this as much, other than to just say that perhaps I just didn’t like Nina as much).
There was a “love story” with Nina and another character.  The reason I put that in quotes is that, I never really thought she did love this character. So when she does end up with him in the end and she seems pretty happy… I almost didn’t buy it.  So that automatically deducts a star from the rating because I should root for every love story I read about.
I’ve barely mentioned our other main character- Phoebe.  I didn’t love her or loathe her in her perspective chapters- so if she didn’t add a lot, should there really have been chapters in her perspective?

This was my second Maddie Dawson book (my first one was Matchmaking for Beginners), and I still might try another of her books, because I did enjoy her writing, but did not really enjoy this book as a whole.  So if you were going to read one- go ahead and reach of MFB instead.

while reading you should
Eat: blueberry pie
Make: A list of things you want to do with your year
Watch: obscure music videos on YouTube

if you would like to buy
Click here: The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness

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The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel

official blurb
Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide in her small Minnesota hometown and living with her parents, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks. When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship. As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.

my blurb!
Return to Me meets The Bucket List.

2 out of 5
what i liked
I enjoyed the premise of the book…. that’s about it.  It featured someone accomplishing a bucket list, and I really do enjoy that idea in life!  I should start making my own list!
This book was also a Christian Fiction book- which I didn’t realize. And I read outside of my normal genre again. Yay me!

what i didn't like
I love all things cheesy and hallmark. But this one was too much for me.  It spelled out situations too much, it mentioned God in what felt like every other sentence (maybe normal for Christian Fiction), it resolved things and then broke them again for another 50 pages of uselessness.
It may be that I prefer my cheese on television only and not in books.  hmm… something to ponder. Maybe I’ll ponder it while watching Hallmark’s Fall Harvest specials haha.

There wasn’t anything in this book that was awful. In fact, I read it in 3 days or so. But I wasn’t enjoying it the whole time. I actually liked the beginning most of all, and really… shouldn’t you always like the ending of the book the most?

while reading you should
Watch: the travel channel
Listen to: Rains in Asia by Jump Little Children
Eat: crepes.

if you would like to buy
Click here.

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The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

official blurb
Andie had it all planned out. When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks). But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life. Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that?

my blurb!
A plan oriented teen with a pension for surface level relationships falls for a nerdy teen writer.

2.75 out of 5

what i liked
I liked the relationship between Andie and her dad.  Isn’t it nice to read a relationship evolve in a good way between parent and child? I’m sure a lot of teens have crap relationships with their parents and that’s why it’s written about so regularly, but I really liked Andie’s dad and how his character changed throughout the book.
Some good loose ends. I don’t want to give away anything, and I won’t! Hmmm… let’s just say, yay for a friendships that aren’t entirely cookie cutter.
The books that Clark wrote that were scattered in between the pages.  I might’ve liked it better if I could read the whole book that Clark wrote!

what i didn't like
Andie. I didn’t connect with her at all. She was my least favorite character.  She was way too annoying for me.  And seriously, why did it take her so long to read Clark’s book?
There are over 500 pages in this book.  It was insanely long. Too long.  It was a 500 page love story and I really didn’t feel the love. I just didn’t care about the couple. I should’ve been LOVING this story to concede to reading 500+ pages.
This was my third Morgan Matson book, which I actually didn’t realize when I picked this up on a recommendation from someone. Some of her previous books ranked a 1 star and a 3 star – so perhaps this is on par for me and the world of Matson.  I know a LOT of people loved this book, and in fact reread it every summer.  I would skip this one unless you know you’re a fan of her writing, there are a lot of other great YA’s out there with a shorter page count.

while reading you should
Listen: American Girl by Tom Petty
Watch: Chasing Liberty
Do: walk your dog

if you would like to buy
Click here

when to read
The Summertime!

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The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

official blurb
Nantucket is only two and a half hours away from Martha’s Vineyard by ferry. But the two islands might as well be worlds apart for a set of identical twin sisters who have been at odds for years. When a family crisis forces them to band together — or at least appear to — the twins slowly come to realize that the special bond that they share is more important than the sibling rivalry that’s driven them apart for the better part of their lives.

my blurb!
A semi- parent trap plot that doesn’t carry near as much heart.

2.75 out of 5

This was my first Hildebrand novel. It may not be my last but I certainly won’t be running to pick up all of her seasonally themed books.  I have seen her books ALL over instagram and thought it was high time I picked up one of her books for myself.  I did what every book reader does, looked up the most highly ranked book on goodreads and decided to give that one a go. (We all do that right? Ps. Follow me on goodreads!)

what i didn't like
I read the first 62 pages one day. I then put the book down, read two other books and left this one sitting on my nightstand.  It just wasn’t compelling! It wasn’t awful but it almost entirely starts out with characters and their flaws and I didn’t find myself rooting for anyone enough to keep reading. BUT we all have a rule about quitting books, right? Mine is 100 pages. I will give a book 100 pages to capture my love.  62 pages in, and I was ready to divorce this book.  But alas, I EVENTUALLY kept reading and ended up finishing the rest in 2 days.
The sisters were a little too cut throat. I have sisters, two in fact, and definitely get the whole “you’re dead to me sibling!” vibe that was happening  (don’t worry- my real life sisters are not, in fact, dead to me!). But (no spoilers) there were a few plot elements that had me thinking- wow these girls are messed up.  And by girls I mean 40 year old women.
The beginning lacked enough dialogue for me. I am PRO dialogue! If I were to become a politician I would run on that stance, and you can quote me on that.
The twists that weren’t twists. COME ON. I don’t want to spoil it, but I will say that an event happens in the first 62 pages.  Then 200 pages later the outcome is revealed. NO ONE is surprised….
There were supporting characters that seemed a lot more interesting to me than the main characters.  I could do with books about Caylee and Brendan.

what i liked
I enjoyed the book enough when the plot picked up.
Ainsley- I didn’t like her at all in the beginning but she really grew on me.

while reading you should
Take a trip to the beach
Listen to some live music
Eat some ice cream

if you would like to buy
Click here.

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

official blurb
They killed my mother.  They took our magic.  They tried to bury us. Now we rise. Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

my blurb!
A YA fantasy novel about teens attempting to save their world.

2.75 out of 5

Full disclosure: There was an extra .25 star for the end notes written by the author.

what i didn't like
The predictability! I just got the vibe that this book was supposed to be constantly surprising me with plot points. But somehow I was never surprised.
The writing –  This book was written for a young audience. But I read a LOT of books written for a younger audience. It was just too spelled out. How are the characters feeling? I know exactly how they’re feeling because you literally just told me.
The characters constantly making annoying choices. I won’t go into specifics to avoid any spoilers but I was basically annoyed the whole book.
Inan reminded me a lot of Cal from the Red Queen series but without the likeability of Cal. (Team Cal!) Inan mostly annoyed me 100% of the time.  BUT his character was needed in the plot so he’s meh.

what i liked
A lot of plot elements (but not twists) were featured in this book, and that made it a little more fun to read.
The setup of the world was believable and realistic for it being a fantasy novel.
Shout out to Mama Agba. Her character was strong, resilient and great!
Shout out to Tzain for putting up with his annoying sister. (So annoying!)
Shout out to Amari for being anything but what she was born to be.

Overall, I had to force myself to read this book which is over 500 pages and is not a stand alone novel.  I don’t know if I’ll read the next one but feel free to wait until the whole series is out before you pick it up.

It should be noted that this author is black. She advocates for black rights and we need more authors like her. We need to be reading more diverse books (myself included!).  In her authors note she explains that she wrote this book to allow people to process and have more empathy for the police brutality issues plaguing brown America.  For that reason, I would recommend this book if you’re thinking of picking it up.

while reading you should
Take: a self defense class
Eat: a fresh loaf of bread
Watch: The Harry Potter series (feel free to skip around and watch one you know you love, ONLY if you’ve already watched them all before.)

if you would like to buy
Click here.

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War Storm by Victoria Aveyard (Red Queen #4)

The following review is the fourth and final book of the Red Queen series and therefore contains spoilers about the previous three books.

official blurb
Mare Barrow learned this all too well when Cal’s betrayal nearly destroyed her. Now determined to protect her heart—and secure freedom for Reds and newbloods like her—Mare resolves to overthrow the kingdom of Norta once and for all… starting with the crown on Maven’s head. But no battle is won alone, and before the Reds may rise as one, Mare must side with the boy who broke her heart in order to defeat the boy who almost broke her. Cal’s powerful Silver allies, alongside Mare and the Scarlet Guard, prove a formidable force. But Maven is driven by an obsession so deep, he will stop at nothing to have Mare as his own again, even if it means demolishing everything—and everyone—in his path.

my blurb!
The disappointing finale to a saga that started out strong.

2 out of 5

Okay, there’s nothing immediately wrong with this book. I didn’t want to start it because upon rereading the previous books I just didn’t feel the steam.  There was no momentum to find out the ending for me. I was tired of the writing style and tired of Mare (world’s biggest understatement).  When I FINALLY picked up this book the day it was due, I was sucked in.  Well maybe sucked in is a strong term…  I wasn’t exactly clambering to read it, but I was trucking along in it every time I did pick it up.  Here’s the thing.. it’s long.  Really long. So when I felt like I was making some good progress (chapter 15 aka 250 pages into the book) I decided to see exactly how many pages were left. That’s where I made my mistake.  I flipped directly to the epilogue and I didn’t look at the page number. I looked at the words and started reading! What was I thinking?! (I couldn’t help myself!)  And here’s the real kicker… I HATED the ending.  It was lame. Not entirely lame but almost entirely lame.  So here i am writing a review for a book that I did not finish because I know I won’t like the ending…because I didn’t like the ending.  did you follow that? not really?  welp.  I’m nothing if not an honest reviewer! (I should state that I was persuaded to start reading at chapter 30 and read it out until the epilogue [like the last 8 chapters]. So I read chapters 1-15 and 30-38).

what i liked
I liked the chapters from Cal’s perspective.  I also really liked Evangeline! Who would’ve thought that crazy woman would’ve grown on me so much. So much so that I stopped thinking she was crazy and totally understood all of her motives.  That’s the perk of reading from the specific characters perspective – you get in their head and you don’t always mind being inside of it.  The same was the case for Cal. I know there are a lot of Cal haters out there. I am not one of them.
Also shout out to my favorite character Farley for being a total bad ass.
What else did I like… what else…. what else…. yupp that’s about it.

what i didn't like
Mare!!!!!!! The world’s biggest whiner!!!! We know that she isn’t the most amazing electricon there is. So she’s not special there.  She whines all of the time. All. The. Time.  People have had much harder lives than her in the series.  But Mare. Whew. The. Worst. If you don’t believe me. Read the 657 page book.  An in the epilogue when you read it…. you will agree with me.
There are SO many things I hated about the ending. I could go into them but I don’t want to spoil it for you.  But if you’ve read the book or WANT spoilers- feel free to write me in the comments. I would love to rant.
One of the biggest things I didn’t like (no spoilers, I promise!) is that we never find out what happens to certain characters.  We spends chapters with a certain character and we read about this person in the big war scene but then in the epilogue they’re not mentioned! What?!
Also, isn’t the epilogue supposed to wrap things up for the reader?  This isn’t the second book- it’s the FOURTH book!  I mean, COME ON.

If I would have rated the book after the first 15 chapters it would have gotten about 3 stars for me.  That’s how much the ending sucked. It knocked off not part of a star… but a WHOLE star. Whew. Rough stuff…

while reading you should
Watch: X-men- days of futures past. and imagine this whole storyline could be erased and rewritten by someone going to the past and changing the annoying future.
Listen to: Belle (reprise) from the  Beauty and the Beast 2017 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.
Eat: Your feelings.

if you would like to buy
Click here.

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Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

official blurb
Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding, and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing she did that left her miserable and heartbroken—and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn’t about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once inseparable siblings. Miserable, Addie can’t wait to visit her friend in Italy and leave her brother—and her problems—behind. So when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she’s able to finally escape her anxious mind and Ian’s criticism. And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world’s smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute, Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.

my blurb!
You know the friend in Love & Gelato?  This book is about her. And it’s not very good.

2.75 out of 5

Welp, I had high expectations for this book. I LOVED the first book – Love & Gelato. Like LOVED. It made the required reading list for Traveling and for Young Adult novels.  This book will not make either list.

what i didn't like
Let me start by saying the love in this book is love of family and friendship. So don’t expect the world’s cutest love story. Love is love. But…. I mean, I feel like that expectation was there and then it wasn’t met.
The secret. ENOUGH with secrets that are obvious!!!!! PLEASE I BEG OF YOU. I cannot take it anymore! If the secret isn’t a secret, there is no twist and no suspense. It is just an annoying storyline.
Sibling bickering.  Don’t enjoy reading siblings bicker for roughly 250 pages? You will not enjoy this book.
I’ve read a few books where people are obsessed with something specific.  From Fangirl, to Geekerella, to Eliza and her Monsters. In this book they are obsessed with a band named TitleTrack.  I didn’t enjoy it. I could probably expound on that but I just didn’t like reading about it. There was nothing wrong with it- I just didn’t care for it.

what i liked
The Mom.  She was awesome. You know how you read some books and the kids are up to no good and you think to yourself- where in the world are their parents?!  This mom is present and she is awesome.
I liked the snippits of the Irish guide book in between chapters.
That is all.

I would still HIGHLY recommend Love & Gelato.  This book is a companion book and not a sequel- so you’re not missing anything by not reading this book.  I say skip it and end on a high note.  OR if you can manage your expectations then go ahead and pick this up.

while reading you should
Watch: Leap Year
Eat: Irish Stew
Do: check your car’s oil (and schedule an oil change)

if you would like to buy
Click here.

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