Review of Save the Date by Morgan Matson

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Title:
 Save the Date
Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher:
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: June 5, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

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Synopsis:

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.


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You guys, am I broken? I didn’t love a Morgan Matson book and I feel like I let myself down. I went into Save the Date with so much hope and high expectations. I loved the premise of a wedding bringing a huge family together, but OHMYGOD there was so much drama and mishaps . . . AND GAH, I had such a hard time processing a 432-paged story with so many characters, very little romance, so many feelings, and just SO MUCH drama. And with so many characters not fully developed, I could not connect with any of them. But even though Save the Date didn’t work for me, there were a few “RAVES” I would love to highlight. Although this wasn’t the summer rom-com I was hoping for, I’m sure other contemporary readers will enjoy the wedding shenanigans that pursue.

RAVES

-There’s a cute dog named Waffles.
-The Grant family is very unique (and large), and I loved that a comic strip, created by the main character’s mom, is showcased throughout some chapters.
-The wedding planner’s nephew is a breath of fresh air whenever he shows up in the book.
-There are hidden Easter eggs and references to Taylor Swift, Stranger Things, and some characters from Matson’s previous books make a cameo appearance.
-J.J., one of Charlie’s three brothers, is hilarious, and I think he needs his own book.

1-star-rating

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Note:   I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in exchange for a review. I bought this book (and two other copies, lol) with my own funds, and I reviewed the book at my own discretion.  All statements and opinions in this review are mine. 
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Review of My Plain Jane

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Title:
 My Plain Jane
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Retelling, Historical, Fantasy

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Synopsis:

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.


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My Plain Jane is a unique story that combines a quirky retelling of Jane Eyre with a hint of ghost-hunting shenanigans. The book does have some funny moments, but I think the supernatural and ghost-busting were my favorite elements of the novel. I also thought it was clever that the authors took a Victorian classic and used the plot to subtly hint at a lot of our current political and cultural events/people.  

As some of you might know, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is my all-time favorite book. As a Victorian fanatic and anglophile, I love Jane Eyre for so many reasons. I love Jane’s proto-feminist attitude. My favorite scene of the novel takes place among the foggy moors. I love that the original novel incorporates the supernatural and some creepy laughing in Thornfield Hall. But I also like the brooding Mr. Rochester and the chaos that haunts his life. My Plain Jane incorporates a lot of the characters and events found in the original classic, and by focusing on the Gothic elements of the original novel, the authors of My Plain Jane add their own twists and fates to the characters. 

All of the characters are unique with their own set of flaws, and even though My Plain Jane is a “supernatural” story, the characters made the story seem realistic. If I had to pick a favorite character, I would go with Charlotte Brontë. Her character is determined, bold, and smart. I love that she is not afraid to show her witty side and her epic “can-do” attitude. I also characterized her as the “Veronica Mars” throughout the story, because she is so good at sleuthing. 

Overall, I found the My Plain Jane to be a fun and quick read. If you’re in the mood for a Jane Eyre retelling, some sleuthing, and a band of ghost-busting misfits, give My Plain Jane a read. It definitely has a Jane Eyre meets Scooby-Doo feel.   

3 star rating

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Note:   I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in exchange for a review. I bought this book with my own funds, and I reviewed the book at my own discretion.  All statements and opinions in this review are mine. 

Review of Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

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Title:
 Emergency Contact
Author: Mary H.K. Choi
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

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Synopsis:

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him. 

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.


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Confession time: I didn’t love Emergency Contact as much as I thought I would. I read some reviews, where readers labeled it as a romantic comedy, but I thought the book was too serious in tone to be considered a “rom-com.” I think portraying both Penny and Sam, the main characters, as being very “reclusive” and in constant “crisis” modes overwhelmed me. I picked up this book because I thought it was going to be funny and romantic, but instead their “inner thinkings” and sense of loneliness made the pacing of the story very slow and cheerless.

In Emergency Contact, I had a hard time connecting with the two main characters. Although they were unique and we were always inside their heads, the characters’ personalities and motives did not click with me. Throughout most of the book, the main characters are very stagnant, which almost made me put the book down and mark it as “DNF.” However, I pushed myself to continue reading, and the last 100 pages actually saved me from putting the book back on the shelf.

The latter part of the book definitely has its swoony and laugh-out-loud moments, even though both characters are going through some major life crises. Near the end, I enjoyed watching Penny and Sam’s lives become more entangled, which allowed their stories to be filled with heart, deep confessions, and motivations. Although the book was not 100% for me, I highly recommend it for fans of Eleanor and Park.

1 star rating

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Note:   I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in exchange for a review. I bought this book with my own funds, and I reviewed the book at my own discretion.  All statements and opinions in this review are mine. 

If It’s Not A Rant, It’s a Rave: Review of Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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Title:
 Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher:
Del Rey
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Genres: Young Adult/Adult, Fantasy, Romance

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Synopsis:

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.


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Uprooted reads like a dark fairy-tale that ignites the most luminous story of courage, female empowerment, whimsical magic, and a hint of romance. I read this book back in November 2015 and this year I decided to do a re-read, because honestly I cannot get this story or the characters out of my head. And once again, I savored Uprooted to the very end.

Every chapter of Uprooted is captivating and beautifully written. The main character, Agnieszka, is a fierce heroine that is very in tune with her natural ability to be bold and selfless. I loved that Agnieszka is portrayed as being very intuitive to her magical gifts, but she never tries to outshine those around her. She observes, learns, and reacts with her instincts. Although her teacher, the Dragon, often gets irritated with her  because she doesn’t stick to the rule book of magic, you can definitely see that he respects and cares for her. 

Along with Uprooted being an enchanting, fairy-tale-esque  story, the book also contains a slow-burn romance that will make your insides tingle. I loved reading the pages where Agnieszka and the Dragon argue and banter. The chemistry between these two characters is deeply rooted with passion, care, and respect for each other. 

I also want to rave about the portrayal of female empowerment in Uprooted. While men in the novel try to play by traditional (patriarchal) standards and set rules, the female characters listen to their intuition and solve problems by their innate reactions. The female characters do not try to cut each other down. Instead they work together, often becoming each other’s saviors instead of the men being the “knights in shining armor.” 

Overall, once again, I loved every second of Uprooted. The magic is dark but the characters are incredibly stunning. I really enjoyed the whimsical twists and gruesome turns. But most of all, I love that the quiet, simple girl doesn’t get lost in the pages or overshadowed by potential heroes;  instead she uses her fears, instincts, and vulnerabilities as strengths to conquer evil. 

star rating

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Note:   I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in exchange for a review. I bought this book with my own funds, and I reviewed the book at my own discretion.  All statements and opinions in this review are mine. 

If It’s Not A Rant, It’s a Rave: Review of First & Then by Emma Mills

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Title:
 First & Then
Author: Emma Mills
Publisher:
Henry Holt and Co
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary 

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Synopsis:

Devon Tennyson wouldn’t change a thing. She’s happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon’s cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn’t want them: first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.


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This is a “second chance” read for me. Back in late 2015, I read First & Then and rated it at a 2/5 stars. At that time, I stated in my short Goodreads review that I could not connect with the story or the characters. Now fast forward to 2018! I re-read First & Then and OHHHHMYYYGOD . . . I don’t even know what was wrong with my past self. So in regards to my re-read, I adored First & Then, and I am so happy I gave the book a second chance. 

It’s quite possible that I could not relate to First & Then back in 2015, because I am not a football fan. But last year, I binged watched Friday Night Lights and fell in love with the show, the drama, and maybe (just maybe) I started liking football. Add in the swoons, a dash of Prejudice and Prejudice appreciation, and an adorable cousin friendship, and voilà First & Then won me over. 

Overall, First & Then is a quick read and it comes with two of my favorite reading criterion: angst and warm fuzzies. Devon, the main character, and Ezra, her “nemesis,” have great chemistry throughout the book and the storytelling definitely won me over. I love that Emma Mills portrays her characters with flaws and vulnerabilities, making the story more vibrant and realistic. I am so glad I gave this book a second chance and I highly recommend that if you are fan of romantic contemporary books, First & Then is for you. 

4 star rating

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Note:   I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in exchange for a review. I bought this book with my own funds, and I reviewed the book at my own discretion.  All statements and opinions in this review are mine. 

Review of Beyond a Darkened Shore

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Title:
 Beyond A Darkened Shore
Author: Jessica Leake
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology

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Synopsis:

The ancient land of Éirinn is mired in war. Ciara, Princess of Mide, has never known a time when Éirinn’s kingdoms were not battling for power, or Northmen were not plundering their shores. 

The people of Mide have thankfully always been safe because of Ciara’s unearthly ability to control her enemies’ minds and actions. But lately, a mysterious crow has been appearing to Ciara, whispering warnings of an even darker threat. Although her clansmen dismiss her visions as pagan nonsense, Ciara fears this coming evil will destroy not just Éirinn, but the entire world. 

Then the crow leads Ciara to Leif, a young Northman leader. Leif should be Ciara’s enemy, but when Ciara discovers that he, too, shares her prophetic visions, she knows he’s something more. Leif is mounting an impressive army, and with Ciara’s strength in battle the two might have a chance to save their world. 

With evil rising around them, they’ll do what it takes to defend the land they love…even if it means making the greatest sacrifice of all.


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This year has been the year for Viking books, and I was so excited to finally sit down and read Beyond A Darkened Shore. I love the cover because I am a sucker for anything with birds on it, and the synopsis kept screaming, “Cassie, you need to read this!” Sadly, after struggling and forcing myself to finish, I did not end up loving the book. Beyond A Darkened Shore had some good twists, turns, and “whoa” moments, but in the end, the story and the characters did not win me over. 

Ciara, the main character, is a fierce warrior and holds a lot of responsibility on her shoulders. Throughout Beyond A Darkened Shore, she has to be physically and mentally strong for her little sisters. But as she starts learning more and more about her past and the people that she believed to be her “enemy,” she starts opening her eyes to a new world and embracing her magic that is frowned upon by her community. However, throughout the book, I always felt like Ciara was holding herself back. In many chapters, Ciara seemed to be pulling herself away from moving in a positive direction in many aspects of her life. Her hindrance and actions often left the story stagnant, which left me debating on if I should actually finish the book.

One of my favorite parts of Beyond A Darkened was the high potential of a enemies-to-lovers relationship (one of my favorite tropes to read). I did enjoy reading the scenes where Ciara interacts with her nemesis, Leif. Their friendship and relationship is great to watch blossom throughout the chapters, but they also have this playful banter that’s hard to ignore. However, even though I was a fan of the potential romantic aspects of the Beyond A Darkened Shore, the book fell short for me. Beyond A Darkened Shore didn’t blow me away, but the unraveled truths and twists at the end of the book did make me hopeful that if there was ever a second book, Ciara’s character will be developed more, and we can get more Leif and Ciara scenes. 

1-star-rating

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Note:   I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in exchange for a review. I bought this book with my own funds, and I reviewed the book at my own discretion.  All statements and opinions in this review are mine. 

If It’s Not A Rant, It’s A Rave: Review of Legendary by Stephanie Garber

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Title:
 Legendary
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher:
Flatiron Books
Release Date: May 29, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

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Synopsis:

Stephanie Garber’s limitless imagination takes flight once more in the colorful, mesmerizing, and immersive sequel to the bestselling breakout debut Caraval

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun.


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Hello, again! Yes, I am back to gush and rave about the world of Caraval (RAVING REVIEW HERE), but more importantly its sequel: Legendary. As some of you already know, I am a huge Caraval fanatic. I’ve read the book three times, and each time it gets better and better. So when Legendary was announced, I knew I had to get my hands on it, and of course buy all the copies: US edition, special editions, Goldsboro’s edition, Waterstone’s edition, and all the UK editions. I’m a mess, you guys! I know it’s the same book with the same exact words with the same story, but I need all the editions. And finally, after much . . . and I mean so much contemplation, and trying to accept that my raving review would have to be sufficient enough to explain how much I LOVED Legendary, here are a few of my raving thoughts on the book.

Once again Stephanie Garber, creates a world filled with magic, romance, mystery, enchantment, and the most beautiful darkness. I adore Stephanie’s richly descriptive writing style. Each of her sentences are like shimmering swirls of an enchanting spell. Stephanie’s storytelling is very atmospheric, metaphoric ,and spellbinding; it has that hint of pulling at the heart and the aching emotion that true magic encompasses the world of Caraval.

Legendary is Tella’s story (Scarlett’s sister). I will admit, at first, I was not 100% on board for Tella’s story, because I wanted more Scarlett, but WHOA! I am so glad I gave Tella and her story a chance. Tella acts so fierce and determined on the outside. But behind her fire, Tella bottles up her loneliness, the motivation to protect her sister, and the emotional effects of being abandoned by her mother at such a young age. Even though everyone seems to underestimate Tella, she is definitely a fighter. What I like about Tella is that she doesn’t hold back any attitude or motivation to do what she believes is right. There is a darker aura that surrounds Tella compared to Scarlett, but I enjoyed watching Tella mature throughout the novel.

I also found Legendary to be much more darker than Caraval, and the darker atmosphere definitely adds a lot of intrigue and mystery to the novel. Death and loneliness tend be constant entities that litter Tella’s story, and you just cannot look away from the action that ensues. I highly recommend that you read Legendary NOW! Not only will you discover the true identity of Legend, but you will also be swept up into a new game of Caraval with deadly kisses, the power of the fates, and sacrifice. 

star rating

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Note: Thank you to Flatiron Books for providing me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All statements and opinions are my own.