The Bookshelf Corner

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Book Review: Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

Image via Goodreads | Published by Viking Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Romance
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Book Summary (via Goodreads):
As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen’s thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.

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My Review:
This is the first book I’ve read by Sarah Dessen and I loved it. Once and for All is a beautiful story of love, second chances at love, and if happily-ever-afters exist.

This novel really pulls at the heart-strings, especially with what incites the conflict and every obstacle that follows. What made me pick up this book was that it involved wedding planning and the premise seemed really interesting. Those two things combined surely would make a great story, right? It did. Also, let’s not forget that the cover is simple but gorgeous.

Every character I loved and had something wonderfully special about them.

I’ve read stories with cynical main characters before but Louna – which, by the way, I love her name – has to be my favorite. There’s just something really likable about her that I can’t quite fully describe. She’s a cynic – and understandably so as you get further into the book – but her character is just so…on point and dynamic that her notions about love don’t deter a hopeless romantic like myself.

Ambrose I have a love-not-so-love feelings toward. I did not care for Ambrose for a majority of the story – probably because of his personality and overly cocky presence. But he’s not all bad. He has his moments. His character in the story is one thing that makes this story so good. In the early chapters of the book, I couldn’t see what effect he’d have on Louna by the end but his influence worked its way in well. Where their relationship ends up by the story’s conclusion I was 90-95% satisfied with.

Natalie Barrett (Louna’s mom) and William (Natalie’s partner at the company) are just darling. I loved them both and their back-stories. I found myself rooting for them as much as Louna. They are three lovable cynics. Louna’s best friend, Jilly, is great – the kind of friend everyone needs – and I love what the author chose as her family background.

I liked that the wedding planning business aspect was present throughout the entire story. I have no experience in that area but the weddings depicted in Once and for All I have no doubt have actually happened in real life. It was like watching an episode of Say Yes to the Dress. The story also flips back and forth between past and present a few times. I really enjoyed (contrary to the feels felt) those chapters that took place in the past and how Dessen placed them within the storyline so perfectly and with great affect.

As stated previously, this is my first time reading a book by Sarah Dessen. I’ve known about her books since (I think) This Lullaby was published and know her and her books are really popular. I never read any of her books way back then was because I was very much enthralled in fantasy worlds and knights and magic and shifters for a very long time (still am).

But I saw Once and for All on NetGalley. The cover looked so pretty so I was curious to see what it was about since I also recognized the author. I was very intrigued by the premise and wanted to read more. I’m glad I did. I have been missing out. Sarah Dessen is truly a talented writer and has a beautiful way of telling a story and crafting characters. Once and for All was a fantastic read and one of my favorite books of 2017 (so far). I highly recommend reading this book. I’m definitely going to check out her other novels.


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Beautiful Covers For New Anticipated Books

I’m a bit late to this but the covers for two books I’m looking forward to reading were recently revealed! I am so in awe of these beautiful covers. Just gorgeous. Sadly, these books won’t be released until early 2018. But for now enjoy these lovely book covers!

Heart on Fire by Amanda Bouchet
Kingmaker Chronicles, book 3
Publisher: Piatkus
Release Date: January 2, 2018

Image via Goodreads

Such a pretty and beautiful cover! Loving the blend of colors, especially where the power is emanating from Cat’s sword. She looks strong and stunning on this cover, like an Amazonian gladiator. This is sadly book three of the trilogy but I anticipate an epic conclusion to Cat and Griffin’s story.

Past Reviews: A Promise of Fire (Book 1) | Breath of Fire (Book 2)

 

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce
The Numair Chronicles, book 1
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Release Date: February 6, 2018

Image via Goodreads

Interesting and stunning cover. I am loving this cover. I have a guess of what the feather symbolizes but the dripping of gold has me at a loss (perhaps related to where the story takes place?). I might have to re-read the Immortals quartet again where Numair is primarily featured. I’ve been waiting for Numair’s story (from his younger days) to be told for many years so I have high expectations. But if it’s anything like this cover and author, it’s going to be fantastic.

Past Post: My Literary Hero: Tamora Pierce


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Book Review: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes
Favorite Passage: “Words matter, in fact. They’re not pointless, as you’ve suggested. If they were pointless, then they couldn’t start revolutions and they wouldn’t change history. If they were just words, we wouldn’t write songs or listen to them. We wouldn’t beg to be read to as kids. If they were just words, then stories wouldn’t have been around since before we could write. We wouldn’t have learned to write. If they were just words, people wouldn’t fall in love because of them, feel bad because of them, ache because of them, and stop aching because of them.”

 

My Summary:
Rachel moves back to Gracetown where she grew up to live with her aunt after failing Year 12 due to her brother’s death just months before. Getting away should drastic her from the pain of losing her brother. She hasn’t been able to feel but she’s all too aware of the feelings she left behind in a love letter tucked between the pages of a favorite book belonging to her long-time best friend Henry. He never responded. She’d rather avoid him but, unfortunately, she’ll be working with him at his family’s bookstore. Henry’s not fairing so well either. His girlfriend’s dumped him, the bookstore’s in financial trouble, and his family seems to be falling apart at the seams. But love and life and words between the pages of books may offer a kind of solution for Rachel and Henry.

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My Review:
Words in Deep Blue was okay. I wasn’t blown away by it but it has good qualities.

I first discovered this book on NetGalley but by that time it was not available for requests anymore. Luckily, my local library was ordering a copy and I was happily the first cardholder who got to read it. What made me interested in reading this book was the cover – blue is my favorite color and the book jacket is so pretty and has a unique design. I also liked the premise and, as a self-proclaimed book nerd and hopeless romantic, it spoke to me.

But the book ended up being okay, sadly. The story concept I liked – it’s YA love presented from a fresh angle. Henry’s family bookstore has a section called the Letter Library where you can write or mark the book how you wish or leave notes inside but you can’t take/buy any of the books. I love that idea for a bookstore – it’s got a communal and romantic feel. And throughout the book you get to read some of the letters in between the chapters told in Rachel and Henry’s POVs. I’m not familiar with most of the books being referenced (which is fine) but it did distance me a little (which is not the author’s fault). I was never one for literary novels but I recognize some titles from school. I felt more like a spectator as I was reading. I didn’t feel connected to the story or characters, but I was invested enough to read it in full.

I love YA but the teenage aspect in this book was annoying to me (especially with one character) – this I say as an adult whose teenage years can still be recalled. The characters are (I’m guess here) between 17 and 19 years old (excluding the grown-up characters featured).

Cath Crowley writes wonderfully and I love how she chose to frame the story – a mixture of past and present. I will say that there was too much repeating of what was said in a previous chapter at the beginning of the next chapter going on. Sometimes it was unnecessary or could have been framed better. But the writing is solid. There were many great lines/passages. You get a clear picture of who each character is. They’re likable, each with his or her distinctive challenges being face. They are all effected by something and/or someone in the story.

I think in its own right, Words in Deep Blue is a good book. I just didn’t particularly enjoy as much as I thought I was going to.


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Book Review: The Hunters by John Flanagan

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: Brotherband Chronicles, book 3
Rating: 4/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

My Summary:
Hal and his crew had finally caught up to Zavac – the pirate who stole the Andomel, Skandia’s most precious treasure – but he managed to slip away last minute. But the members of the Heron haven’t given up the hunt. They’ll need to regroup and try more cunning tactics if they want to finally catch Zavac and reclaim their pride and lost honor.

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My Review:
The epic adventure of the Heron brotherband continues in book 3 with nearly non-stop action and danger.

Sometimes it was challenging to guess how Hal and his friends would overcome the obstacles in their way – but that’s the fun part of reading any story to challenge the reader and keep them guessing. And, indeed, this was a fun book to read.

Some of the dialogue exchanges between our protagonists were a little cringy and exasperating. As one character points out, “If we’re finished playing All Friends Together, can we get on with it?” Amen, I thought. Hal felt compelled to say something leader-like to his friends since he is the skirl of Heron but, thankfully and quite comically, words failed him. These kinds of moments in stories, for me, tend to feel awkward and cringy for some reason.

I love seeing Hal’s continued growth as a leader and skirl – he’s a natural at both. He knows and will acknowledge his strengths and weakness and will utilize the strengths of his friends to the group’s best advantage. He is a team player of admirable character.

I like the note the story ended on but am sort of wary about what was foreshadowed to come as the series continues. I can’t say what it is without spoiling but I just hope it’s handled a lot better than this type of things was in the Ranger’s Apprentice series.

The epic-ness of the Brotherband Chronicles seems like it’s going to raise in the next book, Slaves of Socorro, so I’m looking forward to reading it really soon.

 

Past Reviews – Brotherband Chronicles
The Outcasts by John Flanagan (book 1)
The Invaders by John Flanagan (book 2)

Past Reviews – Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years
 The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan (book 1)
The Battle of Hackham Heath by John Flanagan (book 2)


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(NetGalley) Book Review: Waiting for Sophie by Sarah Ellis, Illustrated Carmen Mok

Thank you to NetGalley, Pajama Press, and Myrick Marketing & Media for providing me with an e-copy (of the ARC galley) to read and review.
Waiting for Sophie was recently released April 3, 2017.
I received an e-copy of this book after its initial publication.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Picture Book
Rating: 4/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes
Favorite Quote: “I want to smash it to smithereens and flush it down the toilet.”

 

My Summary:
Liam has been waiting a long time for his baby sister, Sophie, to arrive. He couldn’t be happier when she finally comes home. But in no time he starts to become impatient and wishes she would grow up faster so they can play and do more things together. Can Liam learn the virtue of patience?

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My Review:
A cute story that teaches children about patience. It’s especially perfect for parents to read to their small (only) child when there’s another on the way.

Carmen Mok does a wonderful job with the illustrations and I love the color palette she chose.

I found myself invested in the story, anticipating how Liam would deal with his disappointment about all the things Sophie can’t do. He has a typical reaction to Sophie and I was pleasantly surprised at how adorably proactive he became.

I think my favorite thing about this book was whenever the word “smithereens” was used – it’s such a quirky, funny-sounding word to include in a children’s book. However, I’m really confused about why the grandmother is called “Nana-Downstairs.” Is it that she lives downstairs in the house? I had a hard time getting past the oddity of her name which felt so out-of-place.

Sarah Ellis has a way with words; I would read more books by her.


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Book Review: Ever My Love by Lynn Kurland

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: MacLeod, book 10
Rating: 3.5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

My Summary:
Emma Baxter travels across the pond to experience the “Scotland in my dreams” and find inspiration to rebuild her jewelry business back up again.

Nathaniel MacLeod is a recluse literally living a double life. For the past five years, Fate it seems has dragged him back and forth through time – between present day and 14th century Scotland – for reasons he cannot begin to fathom.

When the two meet under the most unusual of circumstances, it sets in motion a chain of events and a mystery that must be solved before something more dangerous can happen.

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My Review:
I always enjoy reading one of Lynn Kurland’s books and Ever My Love was no exception.

The cover is so beautiful and I love the pinks, purples, blues, and whites mingling together, fading in and out of each other to create this mystical, romantic vibe.

A huge pro about this story is the role reversal between genders – if you’ve read any of the MacLeod or de Piaget books you’ll understand this. Yes, these books have a predictable format in the way the story is told. But this one is refreshingly different. There is a better time travel predicament involved.

I found the “antagonists” of this story to be rather weak and think they could have been more…sinister and bigger oppositions. There’s a complete 180 that occurs that I found to be a bit unrealistic and a rush to finish the story.

These books of Kurland’s are lengthy reads so things tend to move at a more moderate pace. But with this story, for me, it took too long to get to the point.

As with any Lynn Kurland book after a certain point in publication history characters from past books appear. So it was, as always, lovely to see some of my favorite MacLeod men in this book.

I liked Emma’s character but boy! was her stubbornness frustrating at times. The hopeless romantic in me loved Nathaniel’s characters – he’s dreamy and noble but almost too perfect.

Ever My Love was a good read and I’m happy I finally got to read it.

 

Past Reviews of Kurland’s Books:
Dreams of Lilacs by Lynn Kurland (de Piaget, book 16)
Stars in Your Eyes by Lynn Kurland (de Piaget, book 17)
From This Moment On by Lynn Kurland (de Piaget, book 9)


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(NetGalley) Book Review: Prophecy Awakened by Tamar Sloan

Thank you to NetGalley, Clean Reads, and Xpresso Book Tours for providing me with an e-copy to read and review.

Prophecy Awakened is a new book recently released April 25, 2017 and is now available in e-book format.

I received an e-copy after its initial publication.

 

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Paranormal Romance
Series: Prime Prophecy Series, book 1
Rating: 4.5/5 (Note: I gave this book 5 stars on NetGalley and Goodreads, which don’t have half rating)
Recommend to Others?: Yes
Favorite Passage: “Downstairs the front door opens and closes, and Mitch’s voice skips up the stairs. Stash lets out an excited bark and launches off the bed in a single leap. His jet-propelled body vaults through Noah as if he doesn’t pose a barrier. And he doesn’t, he’s unceremoniously bowled backwards from the bed. Stash streaks from the room without a second glance. Noah is nowhere to be seen.”

 

My Summary:
Eden St. James has never been able to fit in. Anywhere. Shy and self-conscious, and an uncanny ability with animals, she doesn’t expect her life at her new school to be any different. That is, until she makes eye contact with Noah Phelan.

Noah has felt lost for the past two years after his intended path in life mysteriously halts. It seems he can do nothing but continue on toward a partly uncertain future. But what he is sure about is the instant attraction he feels when he meets Eden, diverting his path toward something possibly truly wonderful.

Noah wants to see where this connection leads but Eden is hesitant to take a leap of faith. Can they solve the mystery of their unexpected connection?

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My Review:
This book was everything and then some – perfect for a paranormal romance-loving, wolf-obsessed, hopeless romantic like myself! One of my new favorite books ever and of 2017.

Tamar Sloan is a talented writer. Her writing is so wonderful, modern, lyrical, flowing and youthful. She puts together interesting and engaging details and descriptions that I can only hope to achieve with my own writings.

Prophecy Awakened has likable characters readers will love getting to know and just the right amount of romance. This story earned extra brownie points before it even began as it involves wolves (my spirit animal). Not to mention the cover is so pretty.

Eden was my favorite character as I could see much of myself in her. She’s brave and smart and quick-witted. But overall, she is a perfect protagonist to help tell this story. I loved the two dogs, Stash and Caesar – they’re so cute and playful and loyal and everything I love about dogs in general. I also liked that though you only get Eden’s and Noah’s POV, Mitch (Noah’s younger twin brother) and Tara (Mitch’s girlfriend) aren’t pushed to the background. You get to know and love them just as much as Eden and Noah.

As much as I loved this story there were still a few things that rankled me a little. There were one too many repeated phrases or similar descriptions of the same thing, most notably the word “heat” and its variant tense-spellings. Also, certain things happened in the story that would warrant an immediate investigation due to the significance, but it seemed like none of the immediate characters wanted to try to find the truth of the matter. It’s almost like they forgot about it or wanted to forget about it entirely. Why? I have no idea.

I like the things the author has done to differentiate her wolves from other books with wolves – for example, the shifting process, the size of the wolves. But it felt like there was some lack of strength of presence, something missing I can’t quite pinpoint. Perhaps it’s just a part of them blending in with the human populace? Perhaps I’m just used to the wild strength I’ve seen in other books involving wolves? But what is undeniable is the lovely sense of community and family you get from them.

Whatever issues I had with the story were far outweighed by my enjoyment of it. I was so engrossed in the story that I was reluctant (and sad) each time I had to put it down to go do something else. I can’t wait for the next book to come out. Prophecy Awakened was awesome to read and is a great YA novel to have on your bookshelf and TBR list.