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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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: 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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ARC Book Review: A Pattern for Pepper by Julie Kraulis

Thank you to NetGalley and Tundra Books for providing me with an advance copy to read and review.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Picture Book
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

My Summary:
Pepper needs a special dress for a very special occasion. But will she be able to find the perfect pattern that’s just right?

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My Review:
This book was so cute! Pepper is so adorable. She’s classy and sassy and knows what she wants just like any child. I got a Goldilocks and the Three Bears vibe from reading this story. I also liked learning about the different kinds of fabrics, which immersed me more into what was happening.

What I loved most about this book were the illustrations. My eyes swept over the pages, needing to take in every little wonderful detail and color. I love the way the pictures are laid out on the page and that sometimes you get a different angle/perspective of a scene. Interesting border choices are used as well that I found to be particularly complimentary to the story.

A sweet story that tells it like it is, I’d recommend it to child readers and anyone who enjoys children’s fiction. I definitely want to read more books by Julie Kraulis.

A Pattern for Pepper is set to be released August 1, 2017 by Tundra Books.


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ARC Book Review: Yak and Dove by Kyo Maclear, Pictures by Esmé Shapiro

Thank you to NetGalley and Tundra Books for providing me with an advance copy to read and review.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Picture Book
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

My Summary:
Yak and Dove are best friends until their polar-opposite differences come between them. Can they learn to accept each other for who they are?

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My Review:
This book was hilarious from start to finish! Yak and Dove had such a great concept and pretty illustrations.

It’s divided into three stories and is all dialogue, which I found refreshing. The font is distinguished enough between each character’s voice to easily follow along. I liked that this book was longer than the standard for picture books – I think the story would have had less of an impact if it had to be cut down.

I liked the book’s message that being friends with someone – or just interacting with someone – means accepting their differences as well because nobody is perfect. It made me think of the Maya Angelou quote, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” Also, the use of the word “horticulturist” might be too advanced for a picture book, but that could just be me.

Great story, lovely characters, interesting structure, immersive storytelling, wonderful illustrations. Yak and Dove is absolutely a book to add to your reading list.

Mark your calendars! Yak and Dove is set to be released September 19, 2017.


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Book Review: Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: The Arcana Chronicles, book 1
Rating: 4/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

My Summary:
It’s a new school year. Evie Greene is back at school with her friends and boyfriend, and her sixteenth birthday is coming up. All is right with the world except for the new students from across the bridge – and especially the arrival of Jackson Deveaux. Evie hopes the terribly haunting visions that landed her in a mental institution are behind her and that she can finally move on with her life. But what she thought were visions was only the beginning. The Flash transforms the entire world into the apocalypse. Evie will struggle against surviving in this new environment while resisting a destiny she never wanted.

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My Review:
Goodness, this book was a lot to take in.

The beginning was so creepy and uncomfortable that I felt like skipping it. But I didn’t want to risk missing something that would later be pertinent to the story.

First off, I like that the story was told non-chronologically. This is not only well done but it compliments Evie’s struggles so well.

I liked Evie’s character and am glad that although she is typecasted she is still relatable/likeable in some ways. Her best friend Melissa is crazy funny. Her boyfriend, a good boy, is your typical jock and teenage boy. Other typically cliché-ish characters appear and cliché-ish things happen but you learn to deal with it. The rest of the school you don’t get much of a glimpse of other than rich.

Jackson I don’t think I’ve fully formed an opinion on. Like Evie, it’s hard to understand him enough to whether I can say I like his character or not. He’s definitely a good guy but I don’t know what to make of him. He’s kind of a mystery, which is ironic because he says how he himself doesn’t like leaving puzzles unsolved.

Which led to several frustrating interactions between him and Evie. They were so back and forth with each other – not okay and then okay and then not okay again with each other. I’m a little confused and unsatisfied by the state of their relationship at the book’s conclusion.

I though the treatment of mental health was done fine but sad – that fear of being judged and others not knowing how to “deal with you” so instead cast you off was sad.

The apocalypse itself was unnerving. I’ve seen plenty of post-apocalypse TV shows/movies and the way the author crafts this world is well done. I also do highly appreciate that the zombies (aka “Bagmen”) can’t run (it’s one of my zombie characteristic pet peeves).

I liked that the fantasy part of this book is based off of tarot cards. But I’m still confused about it – and maybe it’s because I don’t know a whole lot about it- in relation to the apocalypse. There’s so much to figure out and at times what you do learn is hard to understand in the grand scheme of things. And after reading the whole book I feel like there’s still a whole lot that’s been left unsaid – but I guess everything will be clarified in the coming books.

As of now, I don’t have plans to continue this series. Maybe in the future. I did like it in the end but I’m not sure if I’m interested enough to keep reading on – perhaps this just wasn’t the series for me but I would still recommend it to others if fantasy/post-apocalypse books are your cup of tea.