March 13, 2019

Tomorrow There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
It's still pretty cold here in Virginia, and there's no escape like a read about somewhere sunny and warm. This adult fiction read, Tomorrow There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt, takes place in Mexico and has a gorgeous beachy cover that screams warmer weather.

In this book, two families head to a gorgeous villa in Puerto Vallarta on a joint vacation and birthday celebration. But as they always say, there's soon trouble in paradise. Jenna's husband keeps taking secretive calls, and she's on edge from her recent cancer diagnosis and the trouble she is having finishing her next book. Not to mention the fact that the family they are with is getting on Jenna's last nerve, and there is unrest in Puerto Vallarta dealing with rival drug cartels. 

What appeared on the surface to be a pretty light read was actually really heavy. It has the struggling family dynamic, drug violence, medical drama, references to autism, and more. Even though the dust jacket said this book was funny, I don't think I laughed once. To me it was much more serious, and evoked anger and sadness rather than comedy. 

I absolutely felt for Jenna. I thought that everyone around her treated her like crap when she was just trying to be a good wife, mother, and friend. I absolutely hated how they treated her diagnosis like it was nothing, just because the prognosis was good. I hope to God I never find myself in her shoes, because I don't know what I would do if I was surrounded by such cruel people.

I did fly through this read, as it was only 275 pages, but it left me feeling on edge and really uncomfortable. While I thought it was a good book, I don't think I can quite say that I enjoyed it simply because of the way it made me feel. But it was written well and thoroughly developed. I'm glad it's over, but I'm also really glad I read it.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Pamela Dorman Books for a finished copy of this read! Tomorrow There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt is out now!

March 12, 2019

Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Pull me out of the oven...I'm done. I don't think any book will ever top the adorableness of this read. Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren is a YA contemporary that not only checks all the fluffy and cute love story boxes, but also focuses on sports and women's equality. 

Holland "Dutch" Delviss is a girl player on a boys varsity hockey team. All her life, she has fought to prove herself and make it known that she deserves her spot, even though she is better than half the boys on the team. When her town is thrust into the spotlight for HockeyFest and the shot at a televised game falls on Holland's shoulders, the pressure starts to get to her more than it ever has. And it certainly doesn't help that she suddenly finds herself falling for Wes "Hot Sauce" Millard, the asshole team captain she has always despised. 

Oh how I loved every minute of this book. I was so sad to put it down when it was over. Every element of this story was fantastic. Yes, it was an adorable romance, but it was so much more than that. Holland had to face so much pressure as a woman in a man's world, and she held her own so well. Even when she got hurt, both physically and emotionally, she stuck to her guns to prove herself. 

The stereotypes in this book about women, that we are vulnerable and weak, are very alive in our world. We are not yet done trying to prove that they are wrong, that we are equal, and this book definitely shone a light on that.

Plus can we talk about Holland's and Wes' TASTE IN MUSIC!? Unbelievable. Glam bands, the Foo Fighters, Metallica, Poison. Their love of vinyl!? All of this spoke to me on so many levels. I feel the same way Holland does when I walk into a record store, and I really appreciated this element of the story. And the fact that there were playlists throughout the book? A total win.

And I loved so many other things that I could just go on forever. The family dynamic, the setting, the journalism references. But I'll just stop here and let you read it and discover all these wonderful things on your own.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Amulet for an ARC of this read! Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren is out TODAY, March 12th, so be sure to grab a copy of this adorable yet powerful story.

March 8, 2019

Alex & Eliza by Melissa De La Cruz

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've talked it about extensively on my Twitter, but I have a HUGE Hamilton obsession. So much so that recently I've jumped head first into the world of Hamilton-themed fiction. The first book I picked up was Alex & Eliza by Melissa De La Cruz. 

Eliza Schuyler, rich as she is, wants nothing more than to help with the war effort. But her parents and sisters focus more on the finer things in life, even as their fortune starts to dwindle. Eliza has no time for suitors, especially Colonel Alexander Hamilton. But the more time she spends around the soldiers, and Hamilton in particular, the more those feelings start to shift.

This obviously had a very basic plot, and exists simply to further a fictional back story between these two famous characters. That being said, this absolutely did what I was hoping for-it gave me more time with characters I love. It also developed Eliza more extensively than you see on stage, and I enjoyed getting to see more of Angelica and Peggy and their own relationships.

While a lot of this is steeped in historical fact, you have to remember that much is a creation of the author's imagination. I won't go into details as to what is real and what isn't, because if you take this simply for what it is-a work of fiction-that just doesn't matter.

Historical fiction, historically, has not been my thing at all. But I think I just hadn't found the right subject matter. I fell in love with these characters through the musical, and I'm not sure I would like this is much if I had read the book first. Regardless, I enjoyed the time I spent with this read and don't think I will get tired of Alexander or Eliza any time soon.

The second book in this trilogy, Love & War, is out now and I can't wait to pick it up. And the last installment, All for One, comes out in April!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

March 7, 2019

The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
So I read this book over Christmas break and completely forgot to post a review. I'm usually so good about that so I'm over here kicking myself! But better late than never right? The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox is a detective/crime thriller that follows Detective Aidan Waits. This is actually the second book in the Aidan Waits series. 

Resigned to his lack of any real future and his permanent delegation to the night shift on the force in Manchester, Aidan has lost his zeal for pretty much everything. But when he and his partner come across a body one night, Aidan is suddenly invigorated with a new zeal for his career. You see, the dead man is smiling. But why? With no trace of his identity except for a patch sewn into his pants (his teeth and fingertips had been replaced, offering no help in identification), Aidan throws himself headfirst into trying to figure out who this man is and what happened. Even when colleagues and his supervisor tell him to stay away from the case, he just can't leave it alone.

This book was INCREDIBLY gritty, but I really enjoyed that! While I read a lot of thrillers, I don't read a ton of detective focused crime reads, so this ironically offered a breath of fresh air for me.  This really invoked a lot of film-noir vibes  and I really did envision everything in black and white. I loved the abandoned setting of The Palace hotel, and while I actually hated Aidan's partner Sutty, appreciated what he and all the other characters did for the story. There were some great side stories in this book in addition to the main plot as well.

I actually was not aware at first that this was the second book in the series, but apart from a few conversations where I didn't understand what was being referenced, it was easily to jump into this as a standalone.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Crown Publishing for an advanced copy of this read! The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox is out now!

March 5, 2019

Corpse & Crown by Alisa Kwitney

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I'll start this by saying I completely missed that this was the second book in a series when I requested it. That being said, it was still very easy to figure out what was going on. Corpse & Crown by Alisa Kwitney is a YA historical fiction blended with sci-fi (with a little bit of a retelling thrown in!) that is definitely different from anything on the market today.

It's the Victorian era in England, and Aggie is training to be a nurse. The hospital where she is completing her studies is controversial due to its research in Bio-Mechanicals: human robot hybrids. The hospital becomes aflutter when the Kaiser plans a visit hoping to pit his bio-mechanical soldier against British technology, but thus far nothing they have produced has been successful enough to face the challenge. Aggie doesn't like the focus placed on this research, and would instead rather help the average patients that walked through the door. But she gets trapped in the Bio-Mechanical research, like it or not, and soon discovers things she never would have imagined.

I liked the story fine, but nothing special jumped out to me. As unique as this was, I just didn't feel any attachment to the book or the characters. Between the sci-fi elements, the historical fiction setting, and the Oliver Twist retelling, I honestly thought this book was trying to do to too much. Two of these elements combined might have been more successful rather than trying to squeeze in all three. 

There were too many story lines to follow and too many points of view for my liking. I kept losing track of who each chapter was about, and with so many characters to care about I ended up not really caring about any of them at all. I don't think reading the first book would have made a difference for me in these opinions, as my struggles were more with the writing style and too much content, rather than not understanding the back story. This was one of those books that I couldn't wait to get through so I could read something else.

I will absolutely give credit where credit is due however, and I thought the world building in this book was phenomenal. I also appreciated Kwitney's inventiveness and creativity, even if it didn't quite hit it out of the park for me. All this being said, I do actually want to give the first book, Cadaver & Queen, a shot if I can fit it into my reading schedule, as I did like the overall premise and this may just be a case of "second book in a series slump."

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Thank you to Inkyard Press for an advanced copy of this read! Corpse & Crown by Alisa Kwitney is out now!

March 2, 2019

Barnes and Noble Book Haul Sale

Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably know about the Barnes and Noble Book Haul Sale happening right now! Barnes and Noble rarely has sales, so this is a great time to pick up both new release and backlist titles at a great price.

I went to two different stores to get everything I wanted, which meant two free bags! I love these bags so much more than the green ones with classic covers on them and was so excited for this perk. You get a free bag when you purchase three books from the sale.

Now for what I picked up!

Even though I keep telling myself I'm going to move away from YA, I couldn't help but pick up a couple of titles. I chose A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel, Anna and the Apocalypse by Katharine Turner with Barry Waldo, and The Similars by Rebecca Hanover.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I've been on a huge Hamilton kick lately, so I snagged I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott. I really wanted to grab The Hamilton Affair, but it was sold out at both stores I went to. 

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer has been on my wish list for ages, and I keep hearing a lot about The Black Prism by Brent Weeks, so I grabbed it on sale as well.

I really enjoy self-help nonfiction, and Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee caught my eye. Plus this book is gorgeous under the dust jacket-it's covered in confetti!

And finally, The Priory of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon was NOT in the sale but I have been so eager for it to come out I just had to add it to my haul. This book will be my Everest.

I'm so happy with what I was able to grab, and hope that Barnes and Noble continues offering this sale periodically! I'm excited to add these 8 books to my ever-growing TBR. The sale runs through March 4th so you still have time to add a few new books to your collection!

February 28, 2019

Making Reading More Magical for Little Ones

While I don't have any kids of my own, I know that many of my readers do. To this day, I credit the exposure I had to books as a child as the reason I am such a voracious reader today. I know that many of my friends' children sneer at reading when they could be playing video games instead. But here are a few ways to combat that and help make reading a more magical experience for the children in your life.

We all know the magic of delving deep into a new novel that is ready to test our emotions, senses and thoughts. Escaping to another enchanted world that is quite different from your own everyday life is simply unexplainable. The excitement of reading a new book will never get old to you, but what about the younger generation? Perhaps you have younger siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews or children of you own. You want to pass down the baton and let them know about the awesome adventures they can have by picking up a book. In the modern age children are becoming more and more enticed by gadgets, television and social media, but whatever happened to reading a good old fashioned book? The following ideas will help you to set a great example to youngsters in your life so that they can enjoy the magic of reading throughout their lives.

woman sitting while reading book
Audio Books
It can be quite a battle trying to get youngsters to read nowadays, not only because their video games are more appealing, but because some are struggling with learning difficulties. Children with dyslexia find it extremely overwhelming to look at a whole bunch of small words on a page. By introducing books on tape to these kids who are struggling to read, we can introduce books without the stress. They can follow along in their own time and enjoy the true meaning behind the story without getting frustrated. Reading should be accessible to everybody, especially those with special needs. This is an excellent way to give everyone the opportunity to get into brilliant books.
Choose Books For Their Age Range
Kids can easily become disengaged with books because they are too mature or babyish for them. Make sure you’re choosing a subject that is appropriate for their age group so that they have a better chance of getting drawn into the story. Their school will be able to provide you with book that are appropriate for their reading level and age group too.
Lead By Example
If we are all sitting around on our smartphones and browsing Netflix every evening, what do we expect the younger generation to do? When it comes to getting your kids to read more it is important to lead by example. When you sit down to read for half an hour, encourage the little ones around you to do the same. You will soon get into a routine and reading will become an everyday habit for all involved.

It is sad, but true that many people are misunderstanding the magic of reading, especially in the younger generations. Making reading accessible to everybody and enjoyable is one of the most important arts-related matters our society faces at the moment. So spread the joy of books and make reading more enticing to the people around you. The more of us that pick up a book, the more will soon follow suit. Everyone deserves to laugh, cry, and become absorbed into another fairy tale land within a story, so it’s time to make that possible right now.

Disclaimer: Partnered post that may contain affiliate links.

February 27, 2019

The Truth About Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
If there was ever a book written just for me, it's this one. I was so excited when Karole reached out to me asking if I wanted a copy of her book, The Truth About Happily Ever After, because it sounded like the perfect book for me: a fluffy contemporary filled with Disney-inspired theme park magic. And it absolutely was. I do want to put a trigger warning on this for eating disorders, however.

Alyssa plays Cinderella at the famous Enchanted Dominion theme park. She loves her job, her long-distance boyfriend is about to come down for the summer, and everything seems perfect. Until suddenly it isn't. As Alyssa's fairy tale fantasy starts crashing down around her, she has to decide what is more important: the illusion of that fairy tale, or the joy that real life can bring.

Being a former cast member, this book spoke to me on so many levels! Even though I wasn't a character performer, I had many friends that were, and I experienced so many of the things mentioned in this book. While it definitely isn't 100% accurate in terms of cast member life, privileges, etc. it was very close. And I will say that the parts about character performers being under extremely intense scrutiny for appearance, weight, etc. is absolutely true. I really identified with Alyssa. From her love for Lilly Pulitzer and her sorority sisters (proud Alpha Gamma Delta alum here!), to her unwavering optimism and desire to stop at nothing to get what she has her heart set on, I saw myself in her from the very beginning. I loved watching her grow throughout the story, and just about cried at the ending!

I do think I would classify this as New Adult rather than Young Adult, since the main character and all her friends are college students rather than in high school, and there's a decent amount of sexual innuendo. This is actually great because I don't think there are nearly enough NA books and we need more!

I just couldn't put this one down, and flew through it as fast as my schedule would allow. This book was sugary sweet, and I know I will turn to Alyssa and the Enchanted Dominion again and again when I need a fun book to get me out of a reading slump.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Karole Cozzo for sending me a copy of this magical read! Be sure to pick up a copy!