The Girl The Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

the girl the sea gave back

official blurb
For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse. For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

my blurb!
A story told in two points of view about two tribes at war with each other after a prolonged time of peace.

Remember me ranting and raving about Sky in the Deep?  Well this is the second book in that series.  Technically I think it is a standalone novel but I personally think they overlap enough that Sky in the Deep needs to be read first. When I saw this book was coming out, I requested it like crazy.  I’m so happy to have been gifted a physical copy from the publisher!  Like Sky in the Deep, this book features some graphic war scenes – reader beware! Ready to hop into the review? Let’s do it!

arc review

3 out of 5

what i liked
This book ended on a real high note for me.  The war scenes are well written and fast paced.  They wrap you up in the pace and leave you feverishly turning the pages.  I enjoyed the last bit of the book a lot.  This sentiment reminded me a lot of the Red Queen series, where most of the book you’re not loving it and the end is so good that you end up rating the book a lot higher than you thought you would.
I loved getting a glimpse back to my old friends lives! And by friends I mean the characters previously written in Sky in the Deep.  Fictional friends totally count as friends!
One of the main narrators is Halvard- it’s great to see where he is now, and his interactions with the other members of his tribe.  It is also really interesting to learn about what was happening in this world of theirs with other tribes during the time period of Sky in the Deep!
This might be a silly pro, but honestly the cover of this book is unreal.  It’s so well designed, and there are different textures. You just feel cool carrying it around.  It almost makes you want to read it longer so more people can see you reading it.

what i didn't like
There were some errors while reading that made some sentences confusing.  Because this is an advanced readers copy, this shouldn’t be held against the overall rating of the book, so I didn’t factor that in.  I mean, I’m mentioning it because I should-  but I’m hopeful that all of it will be corrected before printing.
In the beginning of the book I had a really hard time keeping track of the characters.  This was crazy to me because I just read Sky in the Deep. There was a character named Espen and I was thinking…  should I know who that is? Who is that?!
The best word I can describe for the tone of the first 2/3 of the book is…messy.  It’s told in dual POVs, which isn’t a big deal- I read a lot of those.  But it also time hops.  Present day. Then 11 years ago. Then present day. Then three years ago.  Then present day.  Then 7 years ago.  …See what I mean?  It just didn’t work as well as it should’ve.  World building still needed to happen because two additional tribes were introduced but the time jumps took away from the world building.
There is a large plot point about Tova, our other main character, being hated. It was touched on numerous times and when I finished the book- I still thought that plot line fell flat for me.  It didn’t make sense to me this intense hatred and the reasoning behind it.  The responsibility that Tova takes personally for this hatred never correlated for me.
There’s some insta-love in this book.  I’m not a fan of insta-love personally, so this is a negative for me.  The characters were supposed to be pulled together by fate.  I wasn’t feeling it myself.
I sighed a lot while reading this book. I know- I’m telling you, most of the way through reading it- I was going to rate it 2 stars!  (That’s how much the last bits of the books paid off!)
The things I adored about Elyn in Sky in the Deep were missing from this one.  Tova and Elyn were so different from each other.  So was Halvard.  So this viking/warrior vibe that I adored in the first book – was not present in this one.  Tova literally begs not to be killed and curls up in a ball, covering her head for protection.  I’m not expecting the characters to be the same, for sure.  But this was one of my favorite aspects of Sky in the Deep, so it was disappointingly lacking in this book.
Ready for my last gripe?  The cover of this book is epic.  I mean I LOVE it. But alas, it was misleading.  Tova has her arrows taken away very early on. I made a note that at page 238- we have barely encountered her with her arrows.  I felt like she was gonna be a little more like Legolas with the cover of the book…and that just wasn’t the case.

while reading you should
Do: sign up for a self defense class.  Why not feel empowered?!
Listen: What I believe from the Wonder Woman soundtrack
Drink: water- something about fighting scenes makes me want to stay hydrated

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Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum

hope and other punch lines

official blurb

Sometimes looking to the past helps you find your future. Abbi Hope Goldstein is like every other teenager, with a few smallish exceptions: her famous alter ego, Baby Hope, is the subject of internet memes, she has asthma, and sometimes people spontaneously burst into tears when they recognize her. Abbi has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of September 11. On that fateful day, she was captured in what became an iconic photograph: in the picture, Abbi (aka “Baby Hope”) wears a birthday crown and grasps a red balloon; just behind her, the South Tower of the World Trade Center is collapsing. Now, fifteen years later, Abbi is desperate for anonymity and decides to spend the summer before her seventeenth birthday incognito as a counselor at Knights Day Camp two towns away. She’s psyched for eight weeks in the company of four-year-olds, none of whom have ever heard of Baby Hope. Too bad Noah Stern, whose own world was irrevocably shattered on that terrible day, has a similar summer plan. Noah believes his meeting Baby Hope is fate. Abbi is sure it’s a disaster. Soon, though, the two team up to ask difficult questions about the history behind the Baby Hope photo. But is either of them ready to hear the answers?

my blurb!

Two teens dealing with the aftermath of 9/11 find that different coping mechanisms can still lead to healing.

5 out of 5

what i liked

Wow, two chapters into this book and I knew I would be hooked. It is what I think a good YA book is, it’s cute yet heavy, it’s hopeful yet real. The book is alternating chapters between our two main characters – Noah and Abbi. Abbi who has, for better or worse, become the face of the survivors of 9/11. Noah who is determined to joke his way through tragedy. Both characters were both relatable and likable. I cruised through this book but also wanted to savor it. I think you will too!
Ready for me to call out some specific moments in this book that I fell in love with? How about on page 181 where Noah references Julie Buxbaum’s previous book Tell Me Three Things?! I love love love little easter eggs from an authors previous books. Sarah Dessen is a master at doing this and it will never get old!
I tried to think of the quote in this book that I think captured the entire sentiment of it. Here’s something that Noah says that I feel like really sums up Love and Other Punch Lines:

“But you can be serious and funny at the same time. We need the serious to recognize the funny, and the funny to give us even a shot in hell at surviving the serious. It’s a really simple theory if your think about it. They’re mutually dependent, not mutually exclusive.”

This book focuses a lot on 9/11, and as I was reading it was so curious what was made up, and what was real. It was almost like reading a historical fiction book and you think you’re learning a lot and then you think… well is this even real? Well at the end of this book the author reveals what was true and what was not true. Much of what I was genuinely intrigued about and had never heard of, was indeed true. This really solidified the 5 star ranking for me. I love that I learned something from this book, and that teens who maybe weren’t old enough to comprehend 9/11 will read this book and get a bigger understanding of a moment in time that turned everything else into after.

while reading you should

Do: name your car
Eat: gummy bears
Drink: a slushy

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Harry Potter (#1) and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

HP1

official blurb
Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry. Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.

my blurb!
An eleven year old boy finds out that he can do magic and gets to go to a new school to study it.

So this was a reread- or in my case a re-listen.  I have always listened  to the Harry Potter books. Yes you read that correctly, me- a huge Harry Potter fan, I have not actually physically flipped pages of an HP book.  I listen to Jim Dale’s many voices to make the story come alive.  And it is…magical.

5 out of 5

 

This is REQUIRED READING FOR FANTASY LOVERS.  Let me reiterate that.  If you don’t like fantasy books, you probably won’t like this book.  If you don’t like middle school age books, you probably won’t like this book.

what i liked
Ron is an MVP! I didn’t remember how much I really liked Ron. His humor is really funny throughout the book. I definitely laughed out loud multiple times.
I’ll always have a soft spot for Neville Longbottom, there’s just something about him that I adore! It could be because of the actor who plays him and what he looks like. Just saying. But really Neville is my favorite.
The world building is done very well! I seriously loved every scene with the Dursleys in it. She does so well writing them so that you can’t help but hate them! But you also love reading about them!
Funny story about listening to the audio books is that I don’t know how to spell a lot of the words in Harry Potter and I didn’t actually know that Voldemort had a “t” at the end of his name! I did eventually pick up a book and read his name and was shocked, because Jim Dale the reader of the audiobooks does not pronounce the T.
Upon listening to the book this time around, I noticed that Hermione’s skin color is never mentioned and this time I pictured her being black because of the description of her features and her hair. Of course I’ll always imagine Emma Watson but it was interesting that my mind chose somebody else this time around!
It really makes magic seem normal and that’s the best possible compliment I could give to JK Rowling. I sometimes didn’t even notice that this is a fantasy book because it seems so real!
Another thing the book does so well is to actually capture the ages of the characters. The snide remarks and the annoyance about teachers… the way that Harry refuses to call Professor Snape by the title of Professor and just called him Snape haha! The line at the very end of the book really captures Harry’s age and his wiliness! (Sidenote- isn’t wiliness the best word ever? I need to use it more often!)

what i didn't like
There’s a little cheesiness involved in this book regarding the ending and how Harry is able to defeat the bad guy.  I think it should be noted, but honestly I didn’t mind it that much.  These books are done so well and I’m so happy to finally be reviewing them!

while reading you should
Listen: to this book on audiobook.  I mean, you can read them it’s true.  But seriously Jim Dale is a master at his craft! I’ve listened to almost every audiobook he’s ever read!
Do: Get some harry potter swag. There are so many things to buy that are HP themed, the options are endless!
Watch:  The first Harry Potter movie!

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Fame, Fate and The First Kiss by Kasie West

fame fate

official blurb
Lacey Barnes has dreamt of being in a movie for as long as she can remember. However, while her dream did include working alongside the hottest actor in Hollywood, it didn’t involve having to finish up her senior year of high school at the same time she was getting her big break. Although that is nothing compared to Donavan, the straight-laced student her father hires to tutor her, who is a full-on nightmare. As Lacey struggles to juggle her burgeoning career, some on-set sabotage, and an off-screen romance with the unlikeliest of leading men, she quickly learns that sometimes the best stories happen when you go off script.

my blurb!
A teen actress who hates homework, is forced to work with a tutor on more than one assignment.

3.75 our of 5

what i liked
I love a Kasie West book.  She writes roughly 1 million books a year.  Okay, I might be exaggerating but seriously she churns these suckers out.  Some of her books have made it to my Required Reading List. 
There were some great quotes in this book.  There’s one in particular that I wrote down because it just screamed wisdom from Kasie West.

“Life lesson, Grant,” I said.  “Just because someone says another person is attractive doesn’t mean they’re saying you’re not.  And just because you’re good-looking doesn’t mean everyone is attracted to you.”

Gotta love it right?!  I did read this book in one sitting.  I mean, it was a night when I was having insomnia but still.  I did really enjoy this book!
There was a small mystery in this book- and I am NEVER surprised in mysteries.  But honestly, I wasn’t sure who the culprit was! I had many theories but none strong enough to slap the handcuffs on someone with authority.  That’s a big win for this book!
The dad in this book was really solid. I love when YA books feature good parents.  It gives me hope in the world for some reason. (They do say that art imitates life!)
The two main characters were fun and cute.  It should be noted that this IS a companion novel to Love, Life and The List.  I remember not loving that book, but you get a glimpse back to those characters in this novel and I enjoyed hanging out with them again.
Overall the story moved quickly and it was funny.
Oh also, it featured the topical item of zombies. So that’s something.

what i didn't like
I actually initially rated this book 4 stars, but even a 4 star rating for me usually means I’m recommending it a lot- and I haven’t recommended this since I read it at the end of February (Okay, so I’m behind on reviews. You caught me).
The main problem is that I didn’t find the characters sticking with me.  I didn’t strive for an outside of the pages friendship.  (What? I’m totally normal, I promise).  I liked them but they were maybe a tad boring? I’m not sure. Pretty quickly after I read this book I couldn’t remember any of the characters names.  That’s not a big deal but I felt like that needed to be reflected in my rating.
I couldn’t picture Lacey. Like ever.  The whole book I kept thinking… what does she look like?!  I wish all authors would supply you with their pinterest board of inspiration so you can get a good handle on who they were thinking of while they were writing. (Ps. if you missed my review from Sky in the Deep – the author DOES provide a pinterest board for that book!)

when to read
Read this book during the school year. Specifically during you junior or senior year of high school!

while reading you should
Eat: at a restaurant where your friend is the waiter. (My friend in high school worked at Baskin Robbins.  If yours does too, I am in full support of eating there instead of a place where you can get an actual meal).
Do: Decide what you would do if you realized zombies were a real thing
Listen to: Everybody’s Girl by Jennifer Lopez

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The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

the truth about forever.PNG

official blurb
A long, hot summer… That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father. But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to question her sheltered life.

my blurb!
A girl who is in search of perfection finds her perfect life doesn’t look exactly like she planned.

5 out of 5

 

what i liked
This is required reading for YA fans! (Here’s my list of amazing YA books).
Let me start with the elephant in the room.  Before I met my husband I was in love with someone else.  I have never gotten over him and still think of him often.  That’s right, I am talking about my first fictional boyfriend, Wes.  And he lives in the pages of The Truth About Forever.  Now before you go on and on saying that you also loved Wes, let me tell you that our love is good and it is true- so don’t go trying to make it anything other than that with your false tales of your swooning heart!  Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, you can see why Wes is the first thing mentioned under things that I liked in this book.
This is a reread. To be truthful, I reread this book every year.  Every. Year. Since it was published. I told you my love for Wes was real!  So to be clear, this was published in 2004. I’m pretty certain I read it back to back when I got it, so that brings my total to 15 times read!  I guess you could say I like this book.
Sarah Dessen came out with a gauntlet of perfect YA books in the early 2000s.  And don’t let this whole “YA” tag fool you.  She writes heavy topics that also happen to have swoon worthy love stories in them.
In this book, Macy is trying to cope with life after her dad died.  Dessen does an amazing job of giving you all of the feels of loss, and the repercussions of choosing the way you’re going to mourn. Macy is a crazy flawed character. She is insecure and wants total control.  She never speaks her own voice and she hides in other people’s shadows.  And she is somehow so likable.
Macy and her mom have so many realistic interactions that it is sometimes stressful to read.  Me being me, I wanted all Wes scenes all day long.  The worst part about this book is going from being with the fictional love of my life, directly into the next scene of a crappy interaction with Macy’s mom! I found myself saying, “I don’t care about your mom damn it! I want Wes!”  And then the librarian would graciously ask me to lower my voice and refrain from using curse words while watching my kids play at the library.
Have I ranted on and on about this book enough to convince you to read it? No… okay here comes my second wind.
Just kidding.  Go get this book!

Ps. You can order a personalized book from Sarah Dessen here.  I personally would like a dedication stating that she acknowledges that I am Wes’ true love but that she felt she couldn’t write about our nonfiction love so she wrote Macy instead. That’s reasonable, right?

when to read
This is a great summer read!  But since it is required reading- pick it up any time!

while reading you should
Listen to my “The Truth About Forever Mini Playlist:”
-Summertime romance by Johnnyswim
-Something Stupid by Michael Bublé ft Reese Witherspoon
– Catching Feelings by Justin Bieber
-I Run To You by Lady Antebellum

Picture the following actors as the characters in this book:
Wes: Bob Morley, Shawn Mendes, Liam Hemsworth, Logan Lerman
Macy’s mom: Lauren Graham, Julia Roberts,
Macy: Dakota Fanning, Lily Collins, Emma Watson
Kristy: (way younger) Kirsten Dunst, Jennifer Lawrence
Monica: Taylor Momsen, Carly Chaikin
Jason: Michael Welch, Freddie Highmore, Lucas Till
Bert: Jack O’connell, Taron Egerton

Eat: Meatballs
Do: Go for a Run
Watch: A news special on Armageddon

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Snow In Love by Various Authors

snow in love

official blurb
What’s better than one deliciously cozy, swoon-worthy holiday story? Four of them, from some of today’s bestselling authors. From KASIE WEST, a snowy road trip takes an unexpected detour when secrets and crushes are revealed. From AIMEE FRIEDMAN, a Hanukkah miracle may just happen when a Jewish girl working as a department store elf finds love. From MELISSA DE LA CRUZ, Christmas Eve gets a plot twist when a high school couple exchange surprising presents. From NIC STONE, a scavenger hunt amid the holiday crowds at an airport turns totally romantic. So grab a mug of hot cocoa, snuggle up, and get ready to fall in love…

my blurb!
A book of four short stories by different authors all involving the holiday season.

2.25

what i liked
Don’t let this rating confuse you too much when I start raving about this story.  The rating is an average of all of the stories and one story was AMAZING and cute.  Who wrote that one you ask? Well, Kasie West of course!  You may know by now that I have a small crush on Kasie West and her writing.  I mean the woman is a cute writing book machine.  She did not disappoint me with this story.  I read it so quickly and have thought of it a few times since.  Hers was the first story in the book titles- Snow and Mistletoe.  It was predictable in the best way possible (you know, in the Hallmark Channel amazingness kind of way?)

what i didn't like
Stories 2-4 didn’t fair as well in my humble reading opinion.  The second story was called Working in a Winter Wonderland.  I wrote down a few notes while I read this story and they went something along the lines of “will this story ever end?!”  Keep in mind that this is a short story.  I know, telling right? haha.  Some other thoughts when reading the story went something like, “I already know who she is and is not going to end up with!”  So this story was also predictable but not in a Hallmark amazingness kind of way.  Also our protagonist in this story was SUPER annoying.
The third story was called The Magi’s Gifts.  This story also featured a protagonist who I didn’t like at all.  In fact I disliked her.  I know, I know – I need to start pulling my punches.  This story was ALSO predictable in a bad way. (Is it possible that people tend to just write super predictable stories when it comes to the holidays?)
The last story in the book was called Grounded.  I didn’t even finish this story.  At this point in the book I started to wonder why I was suffering through stories- whether they were short or not- that I wasn’t immediately loving.

So here’s the full breakdown of my ratings:
Snow & Mistletoe : 5 Stars
Working in a Winter Wonderland : 1 out of 5 stars
The Magi’s Gifts:  2 out of 5 stars
Grounded:  1 out of 5 stars

The truth of the matter is, that I rarely like anthologies.  I would pick this book up and solely read Kasie West’s story and then return the book to the library.  Her story really was super cute.

while reading you should
Read: Almost Midnight by Rainbow Rowell (this is a 5 star short story book!)
Listen to: Little Drummer Boy by For King and Country
Do: Something to make your life easier over the holidays. (No one notices that you bought the cookie frosting instead of making it from scratch.  Oh, maybe that one was actually just speaking to myself)

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Christmas by accident by Cameron wright

christmas by accident.PNG

official blurb
Carter is an insurance adjuster whose longing for creative expression spills over sometimes into his accident reports. Abby works for her adoptive father, Uncle Mannie, in the family bookstore, the ReadMore Café. Carter barely tolerates Christmas; Abby loves it. She can’t wait past October to build her favorite display, the annual Christmas book tree stack, which Carter despises. When an automobile accident throws Carter and Abby together, Uncle Mannie, who is harboring secrets of his own, sees a chance for lasting happiness for his little girl. But there are so many hurdles, and not much time left. Will this Christmas deliver the miracle everyone is hoping for? Where love and Christmas are concerned, there are no accidents.

my blurb!
A book about a guy who decides to write a Christmas book for money.

1 out of 5

what i didn't like
Wow. This book was awful.  It was one of the most boring books I have ever read! I don’t think I would’ve even read it as long as I did if I wouldn’t have brought it on vacation with me. Why is it that holiday themed books rarely deliver?
A big part of the plot in this book was about a guy named Carter who thought Christmas books were so poorly written but still sold, so he was going to exploit that and write one himself. This felt like the actual real life reason as to why Wright even wrote this book.
I decided to abandon this book 153 pages into it. The book is only 225 pages long so I could have easily finished it. But why? It wasn’t very good and there are too many good books out there to waste my time on the bad ones!
About the point in the book when I stopped reading, the characters realized they were falling in love with each other. This was an eye-opening moment to me when I realized I didn’t even care if they ended up together because I had no attachment to them whatsoever.

Skip this book and save yourself the bore.  (Too harsh?  Well, did I mention this book was boring and basically sucked the fun of reading a Christmas book out of the world? …Okay I may have a flair for the dramatic.  But seriously. Read any other Christmas book please).

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