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Book Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: The Folk of the Air, book 1
Rating: DNF
Recommend to Others?: No

 

Summary (via Goodreads):
Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

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My Review:
DNF at Chapter 15, Page 142. No Rating.

My thoughts from a previous post: I’m no stranger to Holly Black’s books and writing. At first I wasn’t sure if I would like this book – I didn’t think it was the right story for me at the time or at all. But Black does all things fae well so maybe it could turn out to be a good read. I’d like to give it a try.

I couldn’t find it in me to keep reading. I didn’t want to keep reading.

The title is an understatement. I couldn’t take the extreme bullying Jude was receiving from Cardan and his friends. It was all too much.

Jude was an okay character. Willful but reckless. I wouldn’t completely agree that she’s a glutton for punishment by provoking Cardan so much but I’m also glad she refuses to lower herself to being a doormat. Because she’s human, the only logical way for her to succeed in her desires would be to outsmart her adversaries and be mindful of words and favors. But it’s a mystery how she’ll overcome overcome; right now she’s angry and desperate to not feel powerless anymore. She also seems to be heading towards a dark path, one that might cause her to stoop to the same cruel level as Cardan. And I don’t think, and it seems she’s starting to see a bit, that she’s really thought through all her choices and decisions.

There were very few bright moments up to where I stopped. Vivi (Jude’s older sister) was the only character I actually liked. Taryn (Jude’s twin sister) I did not care for. Madoc (Jude’s “father”) was more terrifying than unlikable (based on his thoughts about the state of affairs in Elfhame). And Cardan is cruel to a T. Locke (who’s in Cardan’s circle) I don’t trust at all and suspect he’s up to something of his own.

There wasn’t enough to keep me interested, not enough good to cling to in the dark, wicked, beautiful world of this book. And with the impending change of rulers it seems the tone will be gloomy for quite a while. Objectively, I’m indifferent about this book. I can’t say if it’s actually a good or bad book unless I read the whole thing. But I don’t see myself finishing it in the future.


If you’ve read this book already, I’d love to know your thoughts about it. Let me know what you thought in the comment section below.

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Book Review: Taken by Tuesday by Catherine Bybee

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Series: The Weekday Brides, book 5
Rating: 5 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Summary (via Goodreads):
He’ll do anything to keep her safe…for the rest of their lives.

Judy Gardner: College graduate Judy stands ready to conquer the world…if she can get a job. Hoping to transition from aspiring architect to famous architect as quickly as possible, the dark-haired beauty moves to LA, staying in the home of her celebrity brother, Michael Wolfe. But it’s hard for Judy to focus on work when the sexy bodyguard she fell for last summer keeps showing up in her life and leaving her breathless.

Rick Evans: With his hard body, green eyes, and easy smile, Rick could have any woman he wants. But the Marine-turned- bodyguard only has eyes for Judy and her spitfire attitude. When a faceless villain attacks Judy, Rick will stop at nothing to protect the woman who opened his heart from the monster hunting her.

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My Review:
I really enjoyed reading this book. I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t want to put in down and finished it in under two days. Taken by Tuesday was just a sweet tale and interesting mystery inter-playing with each other.

I love Judy’s strength and persistence. She’s independent and relies on herself to make her dreams come true. Rick is very persistent in pursuing Judy, an alpha male to a T. He’s a good, honest man and very swoon-worthy. Judy and Rick are very attracted to each other (which started before the book began) but Judy wants a career first. She just graduated college feels pursing her long-time crush now would derail those plans.

In terms of fictional couples, Judy and Rick’s has the craziest beginnings of a relationship that didn’t seem nor was there any time to really explore what could be. Then threat to Judy becomes a major interruption. But against all odds the relationship is still able to find a way to develop.

Finding the culprit was an interesting mystery that gets complicated as the story goes on. I wasn’t sure who the bad guy was until right before the characters found out. I totally forgot the whole bride aspect of this series until it was brought up in the book and it was shocking yet impressive with how it’s inserted in this book. The climatic scene was slightly anti-climatic, but the story still ended well enough.

This is only the second book I’ve read of Bybee’s and I’m now a huge fan of her writing. This book was so good.  I loved the story and the family ties that bind everyone. Taken by Tuesday is a nice light, attention-grabbing, contemporary romance.


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Book Review: From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon

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Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Maybe
Favorite Quotes: “I wanted people to see me, to like me for who I was and what I had to offer. I wanted to use my talent to transform people’s lives and how they saw the world.”

“It’s never happened. But there are people out there, people like me, who need someone to come along and tell their stories. To explore all those different universes for them. So why can’t I be the one to do it?”

 

Summary (via Goodreads):
Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

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My Review:
This book was a lot to take in and has left me feeling torn about what to make of it.

I picked up this book because it sounded interesting (first book I’ve read of Sandhya Menon’s) and I’d never read a book where the MC was aspiring to become a filmmaker as a young Indian-American woman. I thought that sounded awesome.

In terms of the obstacles Twinkle faces, this is one of those stories where, as the saying goes, things get worse before they get better. And they do get worse and worse. So much that it made me an anxious reader while openly yelling things like “NO!” and “That’s not a good idea!” and “Think. Think. Think!” and “I can’t watch.”

There’s a lot of teenage drama, clicks, unrequited love, and social angst. Twinkle’s dwindling friendship with (formerly sister BFF) Maddie is also a major source of contention. Everything was too much sometimes. Perhaps there were too many issues going on that pulled the reader’s attention every which way despite it all being connected.

I liked how flawed Twinkle (and pretty much everyone else, except Dadi, Twinkle’s grandmother, really) and how strong and direct her voice is. For the teen characters, the biggest flaw is their insecurities: Twinkle feeling invisible and not good enough to be noticed at school and home; Sahil always being compared to his star-athlete star-academic twin brother. I think this heightens what Twinkle seeks to accomplish with her film (and future films) as well as the overall theme of the book about finding one’s voice and being able to share that voice with others (as well as the importance of telling underrepresented voices/stories).

There are times while reading when I was like, “Twinkle seems like she’s got a good head on her shoulders and is a really passionate person.” Then other times I was like, “Why, Twinkle, why would you do that?”, whenever her rational fled when deeper emotions took over. Also, I thought it ill-advised that she blindly believed that “N” had to be Neil – her crush who she’s had (so it appears) very little interaction/conversation with and knows nothing about. That would have been (reluctantly) fine if she also, logically, thought the email could well be a dangerous stranger on the internet or a troll cat-fishing her. “N” got her email from the school’s directory, so “N” being a student is more likely but still! Not once does she think “stranger danger,” even a little. I find that incredibly impossible. Also, it wasn’t hard to figure out the true identity of “N” but I was somewhat surprised by the why of it.

I like that Twinkle tells the story through letters to her favorite female filmmarkers in diary format. When she’s directly talking to them her passion comes through. I also like that her choice of the film she adapts for the festival, even if I haven’t ever seen it. I’d watch her version of it though.

I loved Sahil. Perhaps too perfect of a character? Maybe – he certainly wouldn’t think so. But he’s just a bright light in this crazy mess of high school drama. And I like that he too takes steps to be seen, to be heard in a way that is unique to him. He does it better than Twinkle by fa,r but everyone takes a different path to get to such a grounded place.

As dramatic as this book was, I think Sandhya Menon is a fantastic writer. There were lots of phrases whose diction was so amazing and seemingly effortlessly written. I thought it genius for her to have Twinkle describe her social status as “groundlings” versus the “silk feathered hats” (aka the rich and popular crowd) from Shakespearean days at the theater. She took something (super) old and made it feel fresh and new. Loved it.

The ending made me kind of emotional and happy. No storm lasts forever. When the clouds finally cleared things felt changed. Maybe a little to sugary sweet of an ending but good nonetheless.

Based on all that, I’m left conflicted about my overall impression of the book. It was too much drama but not bad. Inspiring in many ways at its core. And a talented writer at the helm.


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ARC Book Review: How We Roll by Natasha Friend

Thank you to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for providing me with an e-ARC to read and review.
How We Roll by Natasha Friend is set to be released June 5, 2018.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating:  4 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Summary (via NetGalley):
Quinn is a teen who loves her family, skateboarding, basketball, and her friends, but after she’s diagnosed with a condition called alopecia which causes her to lose all of her hair, her friends abandon her. Jake was once a star football player, but because of a freak accident—caused by his brother—he loses both of his legs. Quinn and Jake meet and find the confidence to believe in themselves again, and maybe even love.

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My Review:
In eighth grade, all of the hair on Quinn’s head fell off due to an autoimmune disorder called alopecia areata totalis. It subsequently tears down her social life and makes her reluctant to fully engage in a new one when she and her family move from Boulder, Colorado to Gulls Head, Massachusettes. This becomes a chance to totally reinvent herself in a place where the cruel nicknames of the past can’t follow her. Quinn’s voice is very clear and intelligent. She’s the kind of friend you want in your life because she’s incredibly kind and supportive. She does her best to take care of her own problems herself. It’s hard because she fear her wig might fall of at the worst moment and having to deal with an itchy scalp.

Jake’s life has been turned upside down with the loss of both his legs. He’s left angry and alone, finding it difficult to me a part of the world again. Quinn’s friendship is just what he needs because in a way she can understand him – even if their situations may be viewed as apples and oranges. Jake’s kind of moody – which is understandable – so the questions becomes how much will he change within the course of the story. I’m happy with how far he comes by the end.

The teen drama is very much alive in this book. And even in a fictional sense it’s heartbreaking that these kids, so young, would treat each other so callously. Perhaps this was to juxtapose it with what principle characters are going through? I too was wary when Quinn found a new group of friends. They talk a lot and share lip gloss (unsanitary but they seem close enough to do that) but they’re good people, which is what Quinn needs in her life

I like that the difficult situations aren’t sugar-coated. It’s a stark but honest reality: Quinn losing her hair. Jake losing his legs. Quinn’s little brother, Julius, having autism that can’t be clearly pinpointed on the spectrum. Raising a child who has autism.

There were enough lighter, sometimes funny, moments to drive away the sad ones. Quinn and Jake have really good back and forth banter in very few words.

The story is told really well and everything came together rather nicely in the end. I enjoyed reading How We Roll (a fitting title) and would recommend this book to anyone looking for a light, honest read on friendship, fitting in, trust and understanding, along with a great main character.


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Book Review: Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes
Favorite Quotes: “I can live with my downs and acrosses; I accept the larger truths of my life. But I don’t take the cells so seriously.”

“‘Failure isn’t permanent,’ she said. ‘Grit is the ability to learn and fail and learn some more. That ability is fluid, not fixed. You have the power to change.”

“Sometimes we know where we’re going and sometimes we get lost. But as long as we move, we grow.”

“I’d never been good at finishing things. But adventures like this one stay with you; they’re never really done. It’s like the universe. I can’t guarantee humankind will go on forever, but it’s going somewhere. Baby steps, growth. Because completion isn’t a prerequisite for growth. Momentum is.”

 

Summary (via Goodreads):
Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. Writing the Great American Novel? Three chapters. His summer internship? One week. His best friends know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion.

With college applications looming, Scott’s parents pressure him to get serious and settle on a career path like engineering or medicine. Desperate for help, he sneaks off to Washington, DC, to seek guidance from a famous professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of success.

He never expects an adventure to unfold out of what was supposed to be a one-day visit. But that’s what Scott gets when he meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles. When the bicycle she lends him gets Scott into a high-speed chase, he knows he’s in for the ride of his life. Soon, Scott finds himself sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even giving the crossword thing a try–all while opening his eyes to fundamental truths about who he is and who he wants to be.

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My Review:
A good book all things considered.

Down and Across is at first underwhelming but embodies a truck-load of chaotic charm and insight. Scott is the struggle of today that’s highly relatable.

It took me a while to really get into the book, hence the underwhelming feeling. I’m still not sure what it was because a lot was happening – maybe the action just wasn’t exciting enough? I could related to Scott (aka Saaket) Ferdowsi, the main character, in some ways, so that kept me curious and going. That and the great quotes you can find throughout (I have six sticky-note tabs marking pages, post-read). Not to mention Scott’s quest to become gritty is as admirable as it is adventurous. There’s a lot to take away from this book.

I’ve been to DC a few times for occasions only but I haven’t fully seen the city as much as Scott did. While I can’t speak to what it’s like in DC it does seem like the perfect place for this book’s cast of characters to roam and for the story to be told in. Every character is a stark contrast to each other – especially in the case of Scott and Fiora who are on two ends of a very long pole. But everyone is also incredibly real and I love that about this book. A few characters I didn’t like, but they’re realness and how they’re shaped make them the right characters for this hectic story as well. No one is a perfect angel and there are moments of shaking-my-head and not-sure-that’s-a-good-idea. Everything is so real – the author did a fantastic job writing this story.

I’ve never been good at crosswords (I’m a word search gal). But the metaphor and how Fiora explained crosswords in relation to one’s life made sense. I thought it a fun idea that a blank crossword was included in the back for the reader to solve. My favorite scene was meeting the Crossword Crusaders – so so funny and you get the best picture of who Fiora is.

From what you get out of it and from the way the story is told, Down and Across is definitely worth the read. I look forward to Arvin Ahmadi’s next book.


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Book Review: Not Quite Mine by Catherine Bybee

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Series: Not Quite, book 2
Rating: 5 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Summary (via Goodreads):

Gorgeous hotel heiress Katelyn “Katie” Morrison seems to have it all. But when she crosses paths with Dean Prescott—the only man she’s ever loved—at her brother’s wedding, Katie realizes there’s a gaping hole in her life. After the ceremony she gets an even bigger surprise: a baby girl left on her doorstep. Determined to keep the newborn until she learns who her mother is, Katie has her hands full and doesn’t need Dean snooping around…especially when his presence stirs feelings she thought were long gone..

Dean Prescott knows Katie is lying to him about the baby. He shouldn’t care what the woman who broke his heart is up to…and he most certainly shouldn’t still be aching for her. Yet Dean can’t ignore the need to protect Katie—or the desire to be near her every chance he gets. But when he and Katie solve the mystery surrounding the baby, their second chance for happiness could be shattered forever.

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My Review:
I really really enjoyed reading this book. It was such a fun, romantic, but serious story. The theme of motherhood, family, and reconciling with the past is well written and conveyed.

Katie has been a “party-girl” for the better part of her youth until recently. With her brother marrying the love of his life and starting a family, seeing the ex she loved but has kept her distance at said wedding, and a baby left on her doorstep right after the wedding, Katie is left in predicament with lots of questions. But she decides to take responsibility for the baby and control over her life. She is truly a kind person and with an immense capacity to love. She’s stronger than she realizes despite the messiness of her past. That strength, kindness, and love is paramount in every action she takes throughout the story.

Dean clearly still has feelings for Katie even after his ex-fiancé left him weeks before their wedding. And with those renewed feelings comes the resolve to settle things once and for all. The fact that he suspects something is up furthers his resolve and desire to help the woman he’s known since childhood. I like Dean’s character. I thought he was a bit too nosy at first, but I got where that concern was coming from. The Prescotts and Morrisons are close. Dean is Jack’s (Katie’s brother) best friend and the history between them is tight (practically family). But he is a good guy – a “good southern gentleman when he wants to be,” he claims.

It didn’t take much to guess who were the baby’s parents, but the mystery of solving the how and why was interesting and helped hold the story together. To each his or her own on what you make of why the baby was abandoned. I far more disagreed than agreed with the explanation. But that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story.

The close ties of the family and family friends was lovely. Katie’s relationship with her new/other sister-in-law, Monica (the sister of Jessie who married Jack), was goals. I love babies, so Savannah (the baby Katie takes care of) was everything adorable.

There’s so much more I wanted to say about this book but it would be difficult because of spoilers. But this was a nice, quick read. I would read more titles by this author.


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Book Review: Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating 4 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Summary (via Goodreads):
The more I touch someone, the more I can see and understand, and the more I think I can help. But that’s my mistake. I can’t help. You can’t fix people like you can solve a math problem.

Math genius. Freak of nature. Loner.

Eva Walker has literally one friend—if you don’t count her quadruplet three-year-old-siblings—and it’s not even because she’s a math nerd. No, Eva is a loner out of necessity, because everyone and everything around her is an emotional minefield. All she has to do is touch someone, or their shirt, or their cell phone, and she can read all their secrets, their insecurities, their fears.

Sure, Eva’s “gift” comes in handy when she’s tutoring math and she can learn where people are struggling just by touching their calculators. For the most part, though, it’s safer to keep her hands to herself. Until she meets six-foot-three, cute-without-trying Zenn Bennett, who makes that nearly impossible.

Zenn’s jacket gives Eva such a dark and violent vision that you’d think not touching him would be easy. But sometimes you have to take a risk…

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My Review:
A really good story that I want to know more about, especially the characters.

Though the concept of “touch = knowledge” or vision isn’t new to me, I find it incredibly powerfully used in this novel. Part of what makes this story so good is that this is young adult novel, an age group where things link touch, relationships, and bonds are so pivotal to the experiences during this tumultuous period of growth and development. I’ve seen the power of “touch” used in YA before but Wendy Brant has brought new meaning to this mysterious, psychic-esque power.

Eva, the main character, cannot have any close bonds because touching anyone or anything will give off what she refers to as fractals (or algos) – impressions about a person’s life colored by their emotions (their fears, anger, pain, sorrow, happiness). This impossible barrier has made it extremely difficult to have any meaningful relationship, even with her family. And that is what makes the idea of this story so compelling and strong.

In the very beginning, Eva’s highly critical judgments about others (at least that’s how they seemed to me) was a bit of a turn off and I feared she’d be an unlikable character. But I ended up liking her. I feel all that she is (how complex she is beneath her good-girl perfect student surface) made her the perfect voice for this story. Her character growth and what she experiences and observes is so important to the teenage experience, the outsider looking in. Very relatable. I adored her math nerdiness and her rather awkward moments – those moments she seemed most alive (other than when she was around Zenn).

Zenn I love to bits, especially his name which piqued part of my interest in reading this story. He’s so laid-back, hardworking, and real. His character presents a new possibility but also an obstacle – yet he’s more than just a plot device. He comes with his own story and struggles that are tightly woven into the story. However, the biggest thing that makes him different might could be seen as too cliché and hard to overlook.

Not sure why but all the references to real-world products and brands throughout kind of threw me off – probably because I’m not used to seeing so many of such references in contemporary fiction. And I guess for me it gave off a too-real vibe, an intrusion on the fantasy of the reading experience.

The cover and jacket is so cute, simple and fitting to the story.

There’s so much left undone and unsaid that it feels like there needs to be a sequel to this. Eva and Zenn’s relationship is just too interesting and circumstantially unique to be contained in one book or at least within 315 pages. There’s so much more I want to know about them and how they’ll cope with what’s happened further in life since they’re 18 and in their last year of high school. The epilogue is satisfactory, but the book can’t escape the unfinished, over too soon feel. I’d be interested in reading more.