Series: standalone

3 Mini Book Reviews

Posted September 14, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 12 Comments

3 Mini Book ReviewsWesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn
Series: standalone
Published by Swoon Reads on July 18th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars

Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend—until he ruined her life, that is.
So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score all at once—by getting him fired.
But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to just get over it.

A cute Young Adult Contemporary romance about a girl named Quinn Hardwick, who is having it kind of rough. Her grandmother is having Alzheimer and is put into a home. Her father’s gambling addiction seems worse than ever and she has a trip to London with her band that she needs to afford because it has always been her dream to go there. To top things off, Wesley James is back in town and he has ruined her life.

This was a cute read… I flew through it fast, but it was quite a bit frustrating. First, Quinn is 16 years old and Wesley James had an incident like 5 years ago when he was just a little kid, he said something and Quinn automatically accuses him of ripping apart her family. Uh, she is 16 years old and still blames him for something that happened at like 11? Come on Quinn, grow up. Every time her friend pointed out that there was no way it was Welsey’s fault she wouldn’t hear it.

So attraction grew, but I found Quinn frustrating and immature. There wasn’t much character growth here as she didn’t realize her mistakes till like 90% of the book and it was because her mother finally decided to say something after 5 years? Yea, not very believable.

3 Mini Book ReviewsHello, Sunshine by Leila Howland
Series: standalone
Published by Disney-Hyperion on July 11th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars

A Prep School Girl with a Hollywood Dream
Becca Harrington is a reject. After being rebuffed by every college on her list, she needs a fresh start, so she packs up everything and moves to LA, giving herself one year to land an acting gig or kill herself trying.
Unfortunately, not everything turns out as planned, and after a few grueling months, LA is looking like the worst idea ever. As hard as she tries, Becca can’t land an agent, she's running out of cash, and her mom is hounding her to apply to more schools. In an act of desperation, Becca and her friend Marisol start posting short videos online—with the help of their adorable filmmaker neighbor, Raj—and the videos catch the attention of a TV producer. Could this be it? Her big break? Or will she have to move back home with nothing but some bad head shots and a monstrous credit-card bill?
Becca may not get the Hollywood ending she was hoping for, but perhaps she’ll learn there’s more than one way to achieve her dream.
Readers will love every page of this funny, romantic, aspirational, and ultimately triumphant novel about a girl who just wants to make it on her own.

Becca Harrington feels like a reject after being rejected by all the colleges on her list, so she drops everything and moves to LA where she gives herself a year to land a gig as an actress. To make matters worse, Becca ends up being dumped by her high school sweetheart after he drops her off at LA and ends up living in a small one room apartment as she struggles to get an agent to notice her.

Umm… I found this interesting, apparently, because I kept reading it. The book did take me a while to get through. I did not understand how Becca was so naive the entire time.

She shows up in the city and has every door slammed in her face because she does not know what she is doing and has no formal training. They kept saying she was a good actress, but I found it hard to believe. She shows up in LA thinking she can just walk into an office and get an agent to see her. No real history of acting, no head shot, just show up. Right.. no

The romance was weird. There was Raj who was in love with her and lived in her building and befriended her. Becca is still heartbroken over her ex boyfriend, but then she meets a fellow actor during one of her shoes and sleeps with him – thinking they can be the next big Hollywood couple. Ah! But wait, he warned her before they slept that he wasn’t looking for anything with her. So Becca flies off irrationally when he acts like she was just a one night stand the next morning because she was picturing them as a couple already. Raj is put on a second burner.. Not okay, I did not feel she deserved him and honestly wished he sent her packing.

Overall, okay read – but Becca keeps being frustrating the entire time because despite everything she still does not seem to get it even 90% into the book. Same mistakes, just as naive.

3 Mini Book ReviewsThe Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender
Series: standalone
Published by Point on August 25th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Pages: 329
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars

In this asylum, your mind plays tricks on you all the time…
Delia’s new house isn’t just a house. Long ago, it was the Piven Institute for the Care and Correction of Troubled Females—an insane asylum nicknamed “Hysteria Hall.” However, many of the inmates were not insane, just defiant and strong willed. Kind of like Delia herself.
But the house still wants to keep “troubled” girls locked away. So, in the most horrifying way, Delia gets trapped.
And that’s when she learns that the house is also haunted.
Ghost girls wander the halls in their old-fashioned nightgowns. A handsome ghost boy named Theo roams the grounds. Delia finds that all the spirits are unsettled and full of dark secrets. The house, as well, harbors shocking truths within its walls—truths that only Delia can uncover, and that may set her free.
But she’ll need to act quickly, before the house’s power overtakes everything she loves.
From master of suspense Katie Alender comes a riveting tale of twisted memories and betrayals, and the meaning of madness.

I think it’s safe to say at this point I have read everything this woman has ever written.

This book was fun and creepy and just what I wanted, ghosts.

Delia inherits her grandmother’s house, and her parents take both her and her sister during the summer to help them fix the house. Delia is also in trouble because she tried to sneak out on a trip without her parents knowing and lied to them, now they don’t trust her.

After finding something strange in the house and trying to get out, Delia’s parent’s don’t believe her, lock her up and she dies.

Now Delia is stuck in the house unable to move on because something is keeping her and the other girls of Hysteria Hall trapped and she must find out who and why.

Interesting story, I was glued to the pages. There is another strange sibling relationship here that is rocky at the beginning (seems to be typical for this author) but ends up being resolved at the end as Delia’s tries to save her sister from the house claiming her as another soul.

Creepy, interesting, atmospheric and perfect for fall. A bit slow going, now much has been happening for a while, but overall, a good read.

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ARC Review: When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Posted September 11, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 12 Comments

ARC Review:  When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew WhalenWhen We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
Series: standalone
Published by Lake Union Publishing on September 12th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 276
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?

I did not really know what I was getting myself in it. I picked this book up on a whim after a Youtuber I have been watching mentioned it, then I sat down to read it and I could not put this book down.

If you are looking for a contemporary book with raw, vivid characters, a heartbreaking chain of events set in small-town that triggers self perseverance in a midst of a tragedy look no further.

Worthy is a town of about 5,000 people in Georgia who basically see all and known all. It’s a small town so someone will always know someone. Worthy has one thing that they are really proud of and that is their football team who seem to be one of the best. It’s a huge thing anytime the high school football happens and the town to be involved in. Well, one night, after a big win, three teenage cheerleaders end up in a big car accident with one of the teenage boys from their school. The three girls die, the boy survives, and the event shakes the whole town.

This story was heartbreaking and it felt so real. Like the reactions, the actions, the emotions. You as a reader can just picture this happening and it doesn’t feel far from the truth in a likely event. As someone who now lives in a small town for a couple of years, I can definitely see how something like this can shake the community.

The book falls Ava, a high school teacher who is struggling in her marriage and ends up being reckless with another person that leads to some legal troubles. Leah, another cheerleader that was part of the group of girls who died, who somehow avoided the accident by not being in the car with them at the time. Darcy, the mother of the son who the town is holding responsible for the accident that took the lives of the three girls. And Marglyn , mother of one of the cheerleaders that died.

The story was well done. I did take one star off because I felt like the end did wrap up kind of quickly, but I can see in retrospect how it works anyway. The characters felt real and as a mother, I couldn’t help but feel for Marglyn and her pain. I cannot imagine losing a son or a daughter on such a note. Her story was even more heart breaking because the last time she saw her daughter, they fought and it feels like one of the worse things that can occur to anyone if that is the last time they see this person.

The writing was great. The storytelling was wonderful and emotional. The characters just stick with you. It was a really quick read for me and I found that I did not want to put the book down until I knew how it was all going to come together.

I do have to say. The mystery male in the book that Ava had a flirtation with through me off, I was not really expecting that and it only kind of makes me wonder even more about the real innocence of her character.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for anyone that loves to sit down and enjoy a contemporary fiction set in a small town. It was well done.

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Review: Depth of Lies by E.C. Diskin

Posted September 7, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 20 Comments

Review:  Depth of Lies by E.C. DiskinDepth of Lies by E.C. Diskin
Series: standalone
Published by Thomas & Mercer on September 26th 2017
Genres: Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 288
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“A brilliant examination of the shadows lurking in every relationship and what happens when you step into the darkness.” —Mindy Mejia, author of Everything You Want Me to Be
When Shea Walker, a sunny, easygoing mom, is found dead in a bathtub with a stomach full of booze and pills, the shocking discovery shatters the complacency of her comfortable suburban community.
Kat Burrows, Shea’s longtime friend and former neighbor, is hit hardest. How could a woman she thought she knew so well come to such a sordid end? What could lead happy, well-adjusted, responsible Shea to accidentally overdose on alcohol and narcotics? Or, worse, drive her to suicide?
Compelled to uncover the truth of Shea’s final months, Kat delves beneath the orderly surface of her familiar world to discover a web of thwarted desire, shameful secrets, and shocking betrayal that suggests a scarier explanation for what happened to Shea. As her carefully constructed reality begins to crumble, Kat must question every reassuring assumption her life is built upon to solve the mystery…and summon the courage and resourcefulness to survive it.

A group of friends come together after one of their own is found in a B and B bath tub dead with her belly full of booze and pills. As everyone is ready to dismiss the Shea’s death as suicide, Kat is unable to shake the feeling that something else entirely is going on here and she cannot leave back home until she finds the truth.

This was an interesting read, the story follows Kat as she tries to unfold the lies and get to the bottom of the truth to what really happened to her best friend and we also get to see Shea’s part of the story with the events leading up to the death with the big collision that reveals everything in the end.

I really enjoyed this format. I think it was easy to follow and it made the book hard to put down. The storyline was interesting and it kept my attention. The friends had a lot of skeletons in their closet and it was interesting to see how a tragedy could reveal some very dirty laundry.

I liked how loyal Kat was to her friend and that she did not believe that Shea would kill herself and stuck with her gut feeling. I did find that her loyalty could be felt as overwhelming at times because she was really prying into some personal things and re-opening really fresh wounds.

I was also struggling with how open Kat was at times. I understand that she had no reason to suspect any of her friends, but she basically kept telling everyone what she learned of Shea and some of the dirty secrets including to her widowed husband. I felt like at times she didn’t even understand the damage she could be causing, especially to Shea’s husband Ryan due to all the things he didn’t know about his wife and it was like rubbing salt on an open wound. Regardless, in the end that is probably the only thing that saved her life when the mystery was unrevealed.

Overall, an interesting read, fast paced and easy to follow. The ending was definitely not what I expected, so there is a twist.

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Review: Rook by Sharon Cameron

Posted June 11, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 27 Comments

Hi Guys, hope everyone is having a great weekend. I don’t have much time today but I do have Sophia Rose on the blog with a YA Dystopia Romance review. Gosh.. I miss Dystopia books. Going to have to look into some I have not read yet myself. Anyway. I hope you enjoy your weekend and weather and leave this girl some love <3

Review: Rook by Sharon CameronRook by Sharon Cameron
Series: standalone
Published by Scholastic Press on May 31st 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopia, Romance
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:one-flame

History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. The mysterious Red Rook is a savior of the innocent, and a criminal in the eyes of the government.
Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy's arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.
As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow ever higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.
Daring intrigue, delicious romance, and spine-tingling suspense fill the pages of this extraordinary tale from award-winning author Sharon Cameron.

I discovered Rook had a connection to the old classic, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and it became a must-read for me. I love the old tale of a hero in disguise saving people from death during the time of the bloody French Revolution and I was keen to see how the basic elements of that story would play out in a dystopian YA context. Rook is a separate and independent story so a reader doesn’t have to have read the old classic to appreciate this one.

Rook opens on an intense and exciting first scene where the reader gets a first glimpse of the Scarlet Rook saving innocents from the prison just before they are meant to be executed and then leaving her disguise behind to play an entirely different role back home. It’s a story full of intrigue, plots, spies, and no one seems to be whom they pretend to be and most have a private agenda.

This was one that I had to pay close attention to what was going on, always. There are narrative shifts, swiftly changing scenes even from paragraph to paragraph (this was a niggle), and it’s a large cast of characters though Sophia (ha, love that) Bellamy is the main character. There are main plot threads and smaller ones. Things get confusing near the end and then a series of twists and reveals take place that left me both nodding my head because I saw some of it coming while others were shockers for me.

The dystopian world came about through the shift of the magnetic poles bringing our current world to a crashing halt and centuries later the world of Rook is the result. I found the big natural disaster followed by the domino effect it wrought on humanity was well-done and the social situation of Rook made sense within that context. The theme of this whole book could be that history has a way of repeating itself.

I liked the characters and how there is some depth to them. Sophia was a strong female lead with both brilliant and impetuous moments. Like many YA characters, she has youthful confidence that slips into arrogance at times. She started her double-life because of the excitement and danger before she settled into needing to help the desperate. It worked in this story because she also was given vulnerability and felt fear and uncertainty. She knew she and her friends were the only ones willing to step into the gap and do something for the poor folks getting slaughtered on the guillotine so a few corrupt officials could steal their holdings and keep the mob in a blood frenzy.

There is romance in this one, but it’s complicated by the fact that both individuals are living double-lives and aren’t sure where they actually stand. There is a sad unrequited love also. I do like that the ‘love’ word isn’t tossed around early or lightly especially with all the other things going on in this story.

All in all, this was a great tribute to the classic, but also an engaging story in its own right. A little slow and could get confusing at times, but also exciting and twisting. This is YA dystopian, but the setting is more like French Revolutions era so I think it would also have some appeal for those who enjoy YA Historical Romantic Suspense.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Posted May 31, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 17 Comments

Review:  One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManusOne of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Series: standalone
Published by Delacorte Press on May 30th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller
Pages: 368
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 2.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.
Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Well guys, I official don’t know how to review this book. I set on it for a day now and I think this will end up just me spilling my thoughts out the best way possible, without spoilers.

The book is about five teens that end up in detention together. Abby, the popular girl. Bronwyn, the good, smart girl. Nate the bad boy. Copper, the jock, and Simon the social pariah. Nothing too original. They end up in detention after a teacher confiscates their phones for breaking his rules. So despite the fact that after they present evidence that the phones are not theirs and this looks like a setup, the teacher refuses to believe them. Right, that happens…

So an incident occurs and Simon, the social pariah ends up dead. So despite the fact that the teacher was also in the room, the police are convinced that it was murder and the foursome is lying.

Which leads me to the title, it’s very misleading. All four of them are lying and Simon was about to expose them for their lies, but he dies (also, not a spoiler it’s in the blurb)

The book is also the first point of view with a section dedicated to each teen. So sometimes, when your mind wanders, and mine did often, you kind of forget who you are now reading. Especially since none of the teens really stood out.

So despite the fact that the police have no evidence and it’s blatantly obvious that the group was set up. They continue to grip at straws and drag these teens through the mud.

Which brings me to my next gripe. The adults in this book, are painted as major idiots. I get it, okay, teenagers can clash with adults. But this time I have to say, wtf?
The police? Idiots. The Lawyers? Idiots. The media? Idiots. The parents? Yeah, you get it.

It is just so damn frustrating what the cops/detectives put these teens through and the part where they violate Coopers personal rights made me so angry. Because one, they didn’t even bother looking elsewhere, they were so focused on destroying these young peoples lives. Like does that happen? Because the clues really kind of lead you that someone else might be involved, but they don’t even bother. So obviously they are completely incompetent and it’s up to the four to find the real killer.

So you can guess…

The cops did not solve the mystery in this book.

I love that for the teens that do end up reading this. The authorities are painted so damn badly in this, that it’s not only scary it just does not instill any sort of confidence in them or respect. See, that really bothers me.

Also

I hated the ending. No. I did not fully see it coming and when things were explained I was actually taken back by it. Because one, I was really angry and annoyed about how far one of the people involved in this let it get and the fact that another character in this continued their relationship with this person.
Like that person should have never let it get this far.
Second, the ending has been just horrible.

Which leads me to another issue.

I do not like the way bullying was handled in this book. I kind of felt like everyone was a bully in this book. The teens, the classmates, the media, the cops, the parents. Ugh. The treatment has been just horrible.

I can see the appeal of this book, so maybe I am over analyzing it. But, I do have to get one thing out there to adult authors who are writing YA books.

Stops making EVERY single adult in YA Books and IDIOT. You are doing no one a favor here, including yourself.

And dear god, if you’re going to deal with a form of bullying in your book. Deal with it better, cause this gave me a headache.

But I get the appeal and why so many people loved it. To me though, I felt there were quiet a few issues I wasn’t comfortable with.

 

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Review: The Outlandish Companion Volume Two by Diana Gabaldon

Posted May 23, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 19 Comments

Hope everyone is doing well! The weather here is looking like it’s finally starting to turn nice. It’s been so hectic in real life, so not enough time to catch up on blogging. Luckily dear Sophia had a review for me.  I was just thinking I should really start this series myself.

Review: The Outlandish Companion Volume Two by Diana GabaldonThe Outlandish Companion, Volume Two: The Companion to The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, An Echo in the Bone, and Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
Series: standalone
Published by Delacorte Press on October 27th 2015
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 656
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

More than a decade ago, #1 New York Times bestselling author Diana Gabaldon delighted her legions of fans with The Outlandish Companion, an indispensable guide to all the Outlander books at the time. But that edition was just a taste of things to come. Since that publication, there have been four more Outlander novels, a side series, assorted novellas, and one smash-hit Starz original television series. Now Gabaldon serves up The Outlandish Companion, Volume Two, an all-new guide to the latest books in the series.
Written with Gabaldon’s signature wit and intelligence, this compendium is bursting with generous commentary and juicy insider details, including
• a complete chronology of the series thus far• full synopses of A Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, An Echo in the Bone, and Written in My Own Heart’s Blood• recaps of the Lord John Grey novels: Lord John and the Private Matter, Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, Lord John and the Hand of Devils, and The Scottish Prisoner• a who’s who of the cast of Outlander characters,

For over a year, I’ve been meandering my way through this one that I got a couple Christmases ago (thanks to Simply Angela’s Outlander challenge I buckled down and finished, LOL). Sometimes treating it like a coffee table flip-through book and sometimes getting riveted to different parts. It really does its job of what I wanted it for by reminding me of what I was starting to get hazy on with some of the older books and also providing some great enrichment materials to better appreciate the books in the Outlander World.

I was one that devoured and used the Outlandish Companion v. 1 so I was tickled to see that a v. 2 happened. The Outlander World of stories is such a huge saga of history, characters, and story threads that I need something like this to help keep me straight. And then let’s add in the TV adaption storylines. Gah! I needed this.

This one does broaden the scope of what it covers now that Outlander is a sensation on the screen and in audio as well as in the written world. I thought this book did a good job of being an all things for all people so that from whichever path the Outlander lover followed to the Companion they received something for it. For instance, I have not followed the show much, but I have read and listened to the books. However, I saw a lot of references that those watching the show could read and appreciate.

It was fun to browse through this, reading summaries of the books large and small, getting the Lord John and stories away from Jamie and Claire, too. I also enjoyed the lovely maps, charts, indexes (yay for that character one). The structure of this Companion was somewhat more relaxed and less of the scholarly reference tool feel you get when there are citations, cross-references and a ton of indexing. I like it either way.

So, this is a great one for the extras and worked well the way I took my time with it. I know I’ll pull it down off the shelf often to continue referencing it from time to time when re-reading and hey, if I need to pursue a historical point non-Outlander related as well.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

Posted May 17, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 21 Comments

Review:  The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi WaxmanThe Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Series: standalone
Published by Berkley Books on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Womens Fiction, Chick-Lit
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Heat:one-flame

Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years—ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she’s becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed.
At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks—like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there’s that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can’t be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity.
After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover—with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners—is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not…

I really needed something different and fun in my reading life, so when dear Heidi over at Rainy Day Ramblings personally recommended this book, I jumped at the chance to read it.

Guys, I cannot express how much I adored this book. It did exactly what I need it to do. It pulled me out of my reading slump and offered me a book with so much fun, laughter and a lot of heart.

Lilian Girvan is a widow. Her husband died a couple of years ago in a car collision right outside of their house and left Lilian with two little girls. Lilian had a hard time recovering from his death at first and actually had to be admitted to a hospital. Her sister Rachel provided a huge support network not only helping Lilian get past her husband’s death, but also in taking care of the kids.

Now Lilian is working as an illustrator and her company is hired to illustrate a gardening book. They only have one request. Lilian must take a gardening class. So after recruiting her sister and her daughters to join her in the class on weekends, Lilian’s world opens up to the great group of gardeners that might be just what the doctor ordered.

This book was fantastic. The writing was super great, super fun and I adored Waxman’s humor, it was just my kind of cup of tea. I was super surprised that this was her debut novel and also a bit disappointed because I so want more of the author’s writing. I cannot wait for her next book to come out, it is definitely going on my auto buy list.

This book is just great for the spring and summer alike. As a gardener myself. I adored the gardening aspect of the story. I also love the quirky gardening guides between the chapter breaks, they had me rolling with laughter.

All the characters were wonderful and endearing. I adored’ Lilian and her daughters. I love the interactions between Lilian and the characters – especially her two little girls. I also loved the strong sister bond between Lilian and Rachel. Really, I just loved everything about this book. The supporting extra characters in this book also just really added both heart and depth to this story.

The only thing that made this a little frustrating was the open ending. I kind of wanted to know a little more and not just where Lilian’s character was going, but also Rachel’s. I guess I could almost understand why the author wrapped it up the way she did, but I still found that I really did want that closure.

Overall, I am looking forward to more of Waxman’s writing. If you are looking to add to your summer book read, I highly recommend this one.

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Review: My Jane Austen Summer by Cindy Jones

Posted May 15, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 22 Comments

I hope everyone had a great mother’s day weekend. This afternoon I have Sophia Rose back with another review to start this lovely week. Hope you enjoy it and leave her some love.

Review: My Jane Austen Summer by Cindy JonesMy Jane Austen Summer: A Season in Mansfield Park by Cindy Jones
Series: standalone
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on April 1st 2011
Genres: Womens Fiction
Pages: 324
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars
Heat:three-flames

A down on her luck woman goes on an Austen-inspired journey of self-discovery in Jones's middling debut. After Lily Berry loses her mother, gets dumped by her boyfriend, and is fired, she finds in her passion for all things Jane Austen (Jane, indeed, is Lily's imaginary friend) an escape route: she travels to England to participate in a Jane Austen re-enacting festival. Full of enthusiasm—but not acting talent—Lily is not embraced by many of the Janeites, but this doesn't prevent her from meeting a charismatic actor, contending with an impossible roommate, and struggling with dark family secrets, all while trying to find the courage to be the protagonist of her own story. While Jones does a credible job of creating a heroine in transition, Lily's process of self-realization isn't nearly as involving as the subplots, which is quite unfortunate, considering how much time is devoted to sussing out her issues.

This book has been setting on my shelf for some time. I originally picked it up because I loved the idea of reading about a woman traveling overseas to work a summer gig as an actress and all around Girl Friday at a Jane Austen festival held on an English country estate. A fun ‘travel themed’ group read with my GoodReads group gave me the motivation to get going with this book.

I dove in with a little excitement and soon sat back on my heels. This was not going to be a light and fun summer read like I expected. The heroine, Lily, goes well beyond quirky. She has some very real issues that she is refusing to acknowledge by hiding between the covers of her favorite Jane Austen novels- her mother’s death, her father’s rapid replacement of his wife with a younger model, losing her job, losing her boyfriend whom she stalks thinking he’ll change his mind though he has moved on, and finally her determination that she can live out a life like/as a Jane Austen heroine got into some heavy issues and set the tone and pace of this slow moving gentle story.

There is a strong connection to Mansfield Park which I thought was handled well in a modern story. It’s not a one to one correspondence like a retelling which I thought was a smart move. It’s there and noticeable especially when Lily herself starts to not just realize, but purposes to follow the formula in the original novel seeing herself as Fanny Price fending of a rich man’s tempting assurances, pining over a man who has committed to someone else, dealing with disappointment and jealousy over a rival, and being tempted to be the woman who was seduced then discovered she was temporary goods.

While I appreciated some of this story, I stayed disconnected from it and the heroine throughout. I was glad to see her growing and finding herself, but my practical side kept screaming at me that she needed to seek some counseling to deal with the losses and grief and her unhealthy retreat into her imaginary world. She was very deep into that world and stayed there which I think plays a huge role in why I couldn’t get into her- I couldn’t find the real Lily very well. And that ending. Open. I know some people not only tolerate, but love them. I fall at the other end of the spectrum.

I think when all’s said and done, I would have appreciated this more if I would have anticipated this book differently. I didn’t pay attention to the way it was classified and labeled. I went in seeing a light, even comedic, read when it was more a serious women’s fiction about a heroine finding herself and putting distance with her past issues and fails.

So, it was a little satisfying and I’m glad I read it, but it is a story that left me still wanting.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Posted May 10, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 23 Comments

Warning: This is unpopular opinion review post. It is okay for you to love this book as it is okay for me to hate it. If you feel like this review might offend you, you don’t have to read it. If you want to know why I gave this book the rating I did and can handle it, you can read the review below.

Review:  The Upside of Unrequited by Becky AlbertalliThe Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Series: standalone
Published by Balzer & Bray/Harperteen on April 11th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 336
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 1.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.
Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is.
Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.
Right?

Okay, now that we got that out of the way on to the review.

I’m putting it out there. I never read Simon. I do know it’s a beloved book for many, many people. I didn’t read Albertalli because of the hype. I read the book because I had an eARC and okay, maybe I was curious what the fuss is about.

This book is about Molly a self-proclaimed “fat girl”, her 27 unrequited crushes, a stupid “love-triangle” and Molly’s fixation about being the only person on the planet left without a boyfriend.

This was suppose to be a cute, fluffy, contemporary, feel good romances and I never felt cute or fluffy reading this.

The amount of body issues in this book, was overwhelming. The sister hate in this book, was overwhelming. The need to validate who you are through relationships, was overwhelming.

Maybe in Cassie’s world, you can do that and have it end in making out. But I’n not sure it works that way for fat girls. I don’t know I just like to be careful about this stuff.

Really, I could just let the quotes speak for themselves here.

Because if Mina thinks Olivia’s body is noticeably curvy, I’d like to know what she thinks about mine. No. Actually, I would not like to know.

She is letting her weight rule her, her need for a relationship rule her. To the point where she needs it to validate who she is as a person and feel better about herself, more confident.

She had twenty six? Twenty seven? Unrequited crushes? But Molly is 17 now, it’s summer, she has a job and somehow ends up with possibility of two different boys suddenly being an option. One is a skinny hipster named Will (aren’t hipsters in their 20’s, 30’s?) the other is a “husky” geeky co-worker named Reid. These people, where the most generic characters ever. Cause apparently, when you see geek, Reid had to be a total package. It’s like she looked up what geeks liked and combined it all together, Tolkien, Game of Thrones, World of Warcraft, Ran-Fair. I was like, cue some serious eye roll.

Guess who Molly ends up with?

Can we just mention a quick fact that Reid is just there? And has like no freaking character development whatsoever? Especially when he plays such a major role in this book.

The book felt stale, forced, boring, and it went nowhere. The entire time it was Molly whines about her weight and being the only person who doesn’t have a boyfriend. Am I repetition that? Well, that’s okay because the book itself, was super repetitive.

If it is a glance about me, I will die. We are amused by the sad chubby girl who is clearly enchanted by our hipster beauty.

And like there was so much diversity in this book (again, felt generic. It’s like, oh what will make people praise this book.) I did not understand how can everyone be so accepting about the sex in this book, but not the person’s weight? Like her grandma was so rude and downright mean about it and then she goes to a party, where apparently another kid mentions her weight.

This book put me in the dark place. It made me feel shitty about my own body. Like when Mina says that Reid is not the kind of person you have sex with, but a type of person you marry. Like … what… the ef? Did I connect with the book? Somewhat, I guess. Not in a good way. It brought back really shitty memories. I don’t think I’m fat. I might be a little overweight. But what is considered fat these days? Because by media standard anyone above size 1.

And then this happens

Here’s what I would never, ever admit out loud: a part of me always thought it was some kind of a secret compliment when someone got called a slut. It meant you were having sex. Which meant people wanted to have sex with you. Being a slut just meant you were normal.

Really, like what did I just read? Are you kidding me?

These kids didn’t read like 17 year old’s. I felt like they were 15 based on their behavior alone so when Molly’s age got mentioned I was a little baffled. Dude, you are not mature enough to have sex. Get your stuff straight first.

Why was having a relationship ruling her life so much? Like it felt like Molly had no personality in this book. I get she is crafty and likes pinterest. But what are her aspirations? Like, why is having a boyfriend in high school so damn important? Like it’s a small blip in your life and most relationships don’t last past that when you go your separate ways to colleges and discover yourself as an adult.

Why did this book focus on her body issues? I was surprised that the author works with teenagers and has a degree in psychology. Because if she was writing a book to make it feel like they can relate in a good way, she should have stuck with maybe avoiding body issues and body shaming in her book? It felt overwhelming and did she even realize that it can trigger some bad memories for these teens?

I myself spoke to teenagers about body issues in books and although some would love the MC to be curvy, they don’t like being constantly reminded how others treat them because of it, and the dark thoughts they might have because of that.They would much rather the focus was on the personality of the individual and let that rule who they are. I found I can relate to that way of thinking. I don’t like being reminded of this kind of crap in books. I read them to escape that’s why it’s called FICTION. This book just made me feel so shitty about myself.

Also, the sister relationship between Cassie and Molly was horrible. Cassie was so god damn horrible to Molly it just wasn’t even funny. Even in the end, the nastiness was unnecessary. But like, things smoothed out just because Molly finally had a boyfriend.

Oh, and get this.

Molly feels better about herself when she get’s a boyfriend. All the sudden, she sees herself as a beautiful girl.

So… You need a boyfriend to feel better about your body? Really?

UGH

This review

Is choppy and it sucks, but I just…

I did not understand the love this book received. I guess I felt like, if the author’s first book is a hit that she can do no wrong.

Also, the description of images and WHAT’S WITH ALL THE CAPS at the time was just blatantly annoying. Also, Molly’s raging anger towards Olivia was making my head spin. Also, I never felt there was enough positive about body image to combat all the negative.

I will never recommend this book to teenagers , especially those already suffering from body issues.

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3 Mini Book Reviews

Posted May 1, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 17 Comments

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
3 Mini Book ReviewsA Wedding for Christmas by Lori Wilde
Series: Twilight, Texas #7
Published by Avon on October 25th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Holiday
Pages: 384
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 2 Stars
Heat:three-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The whole town is ready for the holidays: The Cookie Club is baking, Main Street glitters with lights, the carolers sing . . .There’s even a Christmas wedding.
When bodyguard Ryder Southerland sees his best friend’s sister Katie at an L.A. Christmas party, he mistakes the slinky blonde for a celebrity stalker and tackles her. Then they tackle each other . . . at his place. The next morning, Katie’s gone, and Ryder tells himself it’s for the best. It isn’t. Now, one Christmas later, Ryder’s falling for the woman he’s been missing in the town he hasn’t missed at all . . .
Katie Cheek’s outgrown the romantic fantasies she had about Ryder when she was fifteen. Katie’s packed their hot night away in a box labeled “fling”—or tried to. But Twilight’s bad boy is the best man in her brother’s wedding. And up-close and personal, Ryder’s impossible to ignore. So Katie can either go into hiding—or surrender to Christmas magic.

This book is kind of a follow up to what happens in the last book when two women from two different worlds exchange houses for Christmas. It can however be read as a standalone.
I did not like this one as much as I liked the one before. I do feel like this was Wilde’s weaker book in this series.
I really liked Ryder, I thought he was swoon worthy. He did come with some packages. He left town when his best friends sister kissed him and it freaked him out, especially since he always pictured their family as his, after living in their house for a while due to his own family issues. His father blames him as a kid for his mother’s death, that was very unfortunate and very sad. I hated his father for what he put the kid through, especially since Ryder already blamed himself.
I hated Katie, she destroyed this book for me. She goes to LA, has sex with Ryder and disappears. When he shows up in town for his best friends wedding, it gets complicated. Ryder went to the military, he grew up, he changed, but Katie keeps making him pay for his past. I hated her stupid treatment of him and her stupid rules. I never felt that he deserved the way she handled things.

3 Mini Book ReviewsIf You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins
Series: standalone
Published by HQN Books on August 25th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Chick-Lit
Pages: 411
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Heat:one-flame

Sisterhood in all its drama, hilarity and tears is at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins's thoroughly captivating new novel, featuring the wit and romance that readers have come to expect from the much-loved creator of the Blue Heron series...
Wedding-dress designer Jenny Tate understands the happily-ever-after business, yet somehow she's still involved in her ex-husband's life. In fact, Owen's new wife may—inexplicably—be Jenny's new best friend. Sensing this, well, relationship isn't helping her move on, Jenny trades the Manhattan skyline for her hometown up the Hudson, where she'll be able to bask in her sister Rachel's picture-perfect family life…and hopefully make one of her own.
Her timing couldn't be more perfect, since Rachel will need her younger sister. Her idyllic marriage has just fallen to pieces in spectacular fashion after she discovers her husband sexting with one of his colleagues. Second chances aren't in Rachel's nature, but the desire for an intact family has her rethinking her stance on adultery, much to Jenny's surprise. Rachel points to their parents' "perfect" marriage as a shining example, but to protect her sister Jenny may have to tarnish that memory—and their relationship­—and reveal a secret about their family she's been keeping since childhood.
During this summer of secrets and lies, temptation and revelation, Jenny and Rachel will rely on each other to find the humor in their personal catastrophes, the joy in their triumphs…and the strength to keep hanging on.

After reading On Second Thought, I really wanted to read the other book related to this town and found If You Only Knew.

This follows Jenny and Rachel. Jenny is divorced, but remains friends with her ex-husband and his new wife. At the beginning of the book she is in her replacements baby shower and ends up delivering the baby.

I found that I really liked this book and the authors writing and the people, but I did not love this one. It is the weaker of the two.

I had a problem with the way Jenny treated Loki the dog and all her stupid remarks about him being old and when is he going to kick the bucket? She had this inner fantasy dialog that I found irritating and desperate at times. She really wanted to get married.

Rachel story was kind of heart breaking, but also on the annoying side. Her husband cheats on her and she keeps forgiving him until she finally has enough. When Jenny stands up to him, Rachel takes the losers side.

There was a bit of slut shaming in this book aimed at the woman who had the affair with Rachel’s loser husband.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
3 Mini Book ReviewsShadow Falling by Rebecca Zanetti
Series: The Scorpius Syndrome #2
Published by Zebra on August 30th 2016
Genres: Post- Apocalyptic, Dystopia
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars
Heat:three-flames

Before the Scorpius Syndrome tore through North America and nearly wiped out the population, Vivienne Wellington was the FBI’s best profiler. The bacteria got her anyway. But she survived. She recovered. And when she woke up from a drug-nightmare of captivity, her skills as a hunter of men had gone from merely brilliant to full-on uncanny. Her mysterious rescuer wants her to put them to the test. But no matter how tempting he is, with his angel’s eyes and devil’s tongue, Vinnie knows she shouldn’t trust him.
If the FBI were still around they would rate Raze Shadow as one of the bad guys. His military training can’t wipe out his association with the Mercenaries, the most feared gang in a thousand miles. His loyalties are compromised. He won’t even tell Vinnie his real name. But there’s no FBI in the new America of fear and firepower, only instinct and risk.
And the way his arms wrap around Vinnie tells its own story. Whatever else Raze is concealing, he can’t hide his desire . . .

This book continues with the events happening in book 1, I do not suggest to read this series out of order or a standalone because it has an ongoing story and conflict that keeps growing.

This was Raze’s story, but as much as I was excited about it – I found it to be a bit on the disappointing side.

Raze needed Vivienne Wellington in order to exchange her to the mercenaries for his sister. Despite the fact that he knew about his sister’s life being in trouble and what he had to do it did not stop Raze from sleeping with this woman and getting attached fairly quickly.

I found that stupid, reckless and made me think that they should have not gotten together in that kind of circumstances. Also, makes me really thankful that I do not have a brother to screw me over like that if god forbid something like this happened. Cause Raze only thought with his penis to begin with and not his loyalty to his family.

Also, just the whole set up, if I closed my eyes and listened to the book and ignored the names Vivvy and Raze – the set up and the personalities (including the spanking?) were pretty much exactly like the last two characters in book one.

I liked this because I loved the background conflict, but as far as the love story in this, I did not like it at all. Which was a shame, since I loved Raze in book 1, but did not think he would lead with his penis. I was hoping for a more back and forth, tug and pull and not straight to bed kind of thing.

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