Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman

I LOVED this book. I know that not everyone who reads it will love it in the way that I did, mainly because this book hit my two main teenage/college hobbies: camping and singing. Not only that but Ingrid’s journey and trials were told through her experiences in these activities, making her connections with the outdoors and with her life in music even stronger. If you’re thinking about reading this book, let me give you a little bit of a synopsis:

257521542Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined is told from Ingrid’s point of view, but through two different timelines: one as she is growing up with her opera star-gone wrong mother, and one in the present on a month long wilderness survival-turned disaster trek she wasn’t quite expecting. Growing up, Ingrid and her mother lived a wonderful life, with Margot-Sophia Lalange performing in the spotlight of the great opera houses until she does exactly what she knows not to do–she over sings and does not take care of her voice thus resulting in vocal nodes and the end of her career. Ingrid’s mother becomes bitter regarding music and theater, and the glamorous life ends. Ingrid struggles to fit in at school and she grows up taking care of her mother. Eventually, a role in the school play and (of course) a boy will change many things for both Ingrid and her mother.

5-star ratings are very difficult to earn from me, but I’m feeling generous today and I will round up a 4.6 rating on this one to a 5 for a few reasons. First of all, the wilderness survival camp is one for at-risk teens and while Ingrid didn’t feel that she wasn’t “at-risk” so she didn’t need to be there, she still toughened up and took it like a champ. I think that a lot of her thought processes were exactly like mine would have been (I won’t really give more information than that because it’s part of the humor and charm [lol…sass?] of Ingrid). Second, the way that passion for music and performing on stage is described. How you get up on stage and more or less don’t always know if you did well or not. Or Margo-Sophia’s phrases like “You did well last night but today you must be better. Always better.” In some ways she often comes across as self-centered but her career and that state of mind was her entire life. It was her state of mind for years. It was hard to see her discourage Ingrid from pursuing music but she was completely horrified for her. The one thing I did NOT like was how Ingrid treated Isaac after the show and the incident with the other girl. I didn’t think that blaming him so strongly was fair at all and I hated that. I thought that was the big chink in the book for me. And the end, of course, is a cryfest and my biggest weakness in books. It could have been more played up but I think it was just the right amount considering the characters so I say it was very well done. Overall, wonderful book. It is one that I highly recommend.

–I was given a copy of this book by Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review–

Book soundtrack: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

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First We Were IV by Alexandra Sirowy

20795198_995366038329_2075362817_oThis book has me left with mixed emotions! No, scratch that. This book has left me an emotional wreck! Let me first say that I am a big fan of thrillers and there aren’t too many in the YA genre so when one releases, I am ON IT! I dove into First We Were IV with a fiery fury. Pranks, secrets, a murder mystery…all the yes!!

Here comes the actual synopsis: Izzy (often called “Icky” by the popular kids in school), Viv, Graham, and Harry are best friends. They only have each other and are often pushed around by their peers, some rivalries even stemming back as far as elementary school. NO MORE, they decide. So this, coupled with the fact that the four best friends will soon be parting ways for college, leads them to form the Order of IV, a “secret society” of the four friends created for pranks, fun, and forever memories. All they wanted was to be included in parties and to keep in touch. Of course that’s not how it ends. Of course it escalates….and I’ll let you read all of that for yourself.

So in my opinion, the beginning is interesting, and the ending rocked me to my core. The middle 300 pages were filled with 95% eye-rolling drama and 5% interesting plot. For me, the murder mystery with Jane Doe was so disconnected from the central characters….I just didn’t understand why Izzy cared so much to begin with. Maybe if the incident occurred a week ago, or if it was her cousin she was seeking justice for, or if she really had PTSD. I’m not trying to be cold or like I don’t care about missing persons cases but really, there was no real reason why Izzy cared. I don’t get it! Harry had a reason to want to pursue crimes against his father, yet they didn’t pursue those. I get that. But Izzy was selfish. This was hugely unsettling (and mildly boring and even confusing) to me.

While I didn’t like this, it was also an ironic point in the book. Live in the moment. Just be with your friends and loved ones. When friends are so loved and so close like this group is, there shouldn’t be competition of who loves who more; of who was friends first, or of which memories are better or stronger. Just make the most of everything. Bullies and adults will do what they will but you have each other and that is the strongest thing and that is better than anything than they will ever know (haven’t you seen Harry Potter? lol – just kidding). So that’s what I felt was a theme, who knows if that was an actual intent of the author.

MAJOR SPOILER IN WHITE – WARNING – DON’T HIGHLIGHT UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THE BOOK – FINAL NOTE: HOW DID THEY GET AWAY WITH ALL OF THAT? NO WAY! WHAT?! 

Soundtrack: “Your Song” by Elton John

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“Confess” by Colleen Hoover

(NOTE: This review contains no spoilers.) Oh, Colleen Hoover. You know how to tug on some heartstrings. This book is titled “Confess” because there literally are confessions throughout the book that are based on real-life confessions gathered by the author herself. Some are happy, while some are the stuff of nightmares.

22609310Confess begins with 15 year-old Auburn saying goodbye to her dying boyfriend, Adam. We really don’t get many details of their past or even their present, other than that they are very much in love and they are being torn apart in his last few days. Five years later, Auburn has her life together, but yet not. On her way home one day, she stumbles across a “help wanted desperately needed immediately” sign and the artist posting the sign, Owen, has troubles of his own. She ends up working for him anyway ($200 for 2 hours of work at his gallery showing) and they go our for a drink afterward and the rest of the book is history.

In this book, I actually really liked Auburn and found her to be a very realistic female character. I felt that she acted towards both Owen and Trey (the jealous, jerky competition cop in the book) in a reasonable and responsible way. She was never only thinking of herself. Often we sacrifice ourselves for those we love, and she did not only that, but she ultimately was smart about it and came out on top. Thankfully she had a good roommate, a good boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s father got his head out of his ass and all came out for the best.

14043302As for Owen, he was a little less realistic to me. Don’t get me wrong–I loved him. If a man this sweet and this caring and this amazing(ly hot) exists, I’ll take him! But he was mushy gushy from the first second and that was his “confession” (and his secret…which he never, throughout the entire book, told Auburn….stalker much?). So that sort of rubbed me the wrong way. No, he never hurt her. No, he never did anything against her will, but he called it “fate” and left it at that. But its one-sided fate. Does that count? I don’t know, its still messed up to me. Part of it is so sweet. Seriously, that ending! A punch to the gut!! BUT AUBURN WILL NEVER KNOW!!!! That is so not fair, in my opinion. I hate that. I think its sweet. So, yes, I’m a little frustrated.

So basically, if you want to know what Owen’s confession is, you’ll have to read the book for yourself because this review contains NO SPOILERS. And with that, my friends, I leave you. =]

Listening to: “No Stopping You” by Brett Eldredge

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The Wrapping Up of All the Things

As always, the end of all things came too quickly. More specifically in this case #24in48, the Biannual Bibliothon, and even more significantly, JULY!! How did July get by us? I guess we say that every month. Ah, well. Time to wrap it all up.

o7f2dlnf_400x400To begin the recap, for #24in48, I completed my full 24 hours of reading plus just a little more and I felt so accomplished! In those 24 hours, I finished All Things New, and I came close to finishing Sarah Dessen’s Once and For All. I also made some progress on The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, but for whatever reason, that is a really slow read for me. It just doesn’t hold my interest very strongly.

dcj4gyko_400x400Next up was the weeklong Summer Biannual Bibliothon, which just wrapped up yesterday. My week was busier than I anticipated, unfortunately, but I did get some reading done and some books wrapped up. So during the Bibliothon, I finished Once and For All, I started a new cozy series (because they tend to keep me out of slumps and I am really anticipating fall!) called Curse the Day and I finished that book as well, I started and finished Erin Watt’s When It’s Real, and I have been reading First We Were IV and When I am Through With You. So that’s 3 finished and 2 progressed through. All things considered, I’m pretty happy with that!

And now for the overall July breakdown:

★★★★★ The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

★★★★ Hook’s Tale: Being the Account of an Unjustly Villainized Pirate Written by Himself by John Leonard Pielmeier

★★★★ When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

★★★★ All Things New by Lauren Miller

★★★ Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

★★★★ Curse the Day by Annabel Chase

★★★★ When It’s Real by Erin Watt

So that’s it, folks. 7 books total finished for the month. 3 of them were ARC’s read before their publication dates. Average rating = 4.0

Its so weird for me to be reading so many contemporaries. As I mentioned earlier, I was craving that cozy/witchy mystery with fall coming up because I just felt a slump coming on and I think it is partially because of the genres I’m reading. I tend to read more YA contemporary romance in the summertime. It just feels right to me. I’m glad that I have been because I have been finding some gems and obviously, from the ratings above, I recommend them as well! Until next time, I also highly recommend finding yourself a readathon or two to participate in. It boosted my reading from 4-5 books read per month to 7! Sure it takes a little organization if you are going to commit and there are optional challenges you can participate in but they are all in good fun. Goodluck and as always, happy reading!

Currently watching: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”

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“When Its Real” by Erin Watt

30731416When It’s Real was my first read by Erin Watt and I didn’t go into it with very high expectations. Having just come out of a let-down contemporary by another author, I was all the more ready to be crushed once again by the genre. To be completely honest, the book started off a little slow, but after about 30-40 pages, I was in love with both the “him” and “her” voices in the story. Hate-love is my trope and this was my type of book! Oak and Vaughn put each other in their places in the best of ways and it was just great. There was humor, sweetness, just the right amount of anger and snap in both characters. Plus every contemporary romance has to have an excellent cast of supporting characters and this book has it. Oak with his bodyguards (hilarious!) and Vaughn and her family…they were all a perfect compliment to the plot. I really enjoyed it.

Let me back up for just a second here and give you a more specific summary of the book. As I mentioned, the “him” is Oakley Ford–a super hot, teen rock star who hit it big when he was young. He is the son of super-star actor parents, so he has pretty much always been in the spotlight. He wants to be taken seriously and write his own music and really make a new and unique sound for himself. Enter: Vaughn Bennett. She hasn’t exactly had it easy growing up either. She lost her parents in a car accident and graduated early in order to help take care of her younger siblings. She and her older sister work hard to care for ‘the twins,’ and when the opportunity to be Oakley Ford’s fake girlfriend presents itself, the money that comes along with it is irresistible.

Then of course the fake relationship begins and Vaughn is repulsed by the arrogant Oak. Also, she has a “real” boyfriend that the publicists have to stage a fake break-up with. Needless to say, the real douche of the story is the boyfriend, but I’ll let you read all of that for yourself. The story really picks up and for me, I could not put the book down. To be honest, it was the first book I stayed up past my bedtime reading in a long time. Especially in this genre!

So if I “really enjoyed it” so darn much why didn’t I give it 5 stars? Well I’d say a solid 4.5 that I would almost have rounded up to 5 if not for the slow start. Also, there was a lot of underage drinking, drugs (pot, though not mentioned specifically), and sex. Granted its the ‘rockstar lifestyle’ and Oak is an emancipated minor but still…his ease of access to it bothered me. Oh well. Can’t knock a book too bad for that. It was still awesome and I will be checking out more Erin Watt in the future!!

Listening to: “Waiting for Superman” by Daughtry

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Day 7 Blogger Challenge ~ Biannual Bibliothon

This is it, folks. The final challenge for the Biannual Bibliothon! Today’s challenge is a fairly simple one: write a letter to a book character. I am going to write to Oakley Ford from When It’s Real by Erin Watt, because it is the most recent book that I finished. I will write from my own perspective as a reader and “fan” of Oak as a musician and character. (Just as a sidenote: I have not yet posted my review of this book, but if you need to reference the synopsis or other reviews, here is the link to the book’s Goodreads page.)

love-letter1Dear Oak,

First off, congrats on your latest record! I am so happy for you for finding your own sound and pursuing new projects with King. You really made the right decisions for yourself and it totally payed off. You are kicking ass on tour and doing amazingly–congratulations, man. Secondly, best wishes to you and Vaughn! I heard things with her are going well and for that I am so glad. She seems to be a good influence on you and your music. I also heard that she was able to put you back in touch with your mother and heal some old wounds between you. That sounds wonderful.

So Oak, as a fan and friend, let me just ask you one question: once your tour is over, can we expect to hear wedding bells? Its not too soon to ask that is it? I know that Vaughn is planning on going back to college, but you two are perfect for each other and practically attached at the hip. Plus her sister and the twins all approve so why not?  I know I said this, but I am so happy for you. You really deserve all the happiness after all the hard work you put into your music and your art. I hope you know that.

Well, congratulations again. If you ever need a new assistant or someone to help keep your hot bodyguards in line, don’t hesitate to give me a call. I miss you, buddy! Wave at the Statue of Liberty for me!

Listening to: “This is Love” by Oakley Ford

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Day 6 Blogger Challenge ~ Biannual Bibliothon

rapunzel-background_090955577_186Hello, fellow bloggers, Bibliothonners, and readers! I hope that your Friday is spectacular and that your reading progress is going well. Today’s challenge is to write 25 facts–no more, no less–about myself. This may seem easy, but I don’t think its ever really easy for most people (myself included) to talk about themselves. Especially today, since I had a job interview this morning and had to more or less sell myself to the lady sitting in front of me. Uck. Nevertheless, though, I shall complete the challenge and try to make it fun. I will not be doing all bookish facts, but I’ll do as many as I can think up. So here goes:

  1. I read 2-4 books at a time.
  2. My least favorite genre is Christian romance.
  3. I love Goodreads and am addicted to signing up for challenges.
  4. I am addicted to bookish merch, specifically candles and bookmarks!
  5. Another recent addiction of mine is bookish subscription boxes. Opening them is like Christmas!
  6. I collect books for my shelves. Hardcover, paperback…I don’t really care. But if books are from the same series, the editions MUST match!
  7. My preference for coffee or tea depends on my mood, but I do like both.
  8. The first big concert I ever went to was the Backstreet Boys.
  9. Speaking of the Backstreet Boys, I was a huge fan growing up and my walls were plastered with their posters. Literally, at least one (maybe 2) of my walls were not even visible.
  10. If you follow my blog or have read my bio, you know I am a singer. Well, I firmly believe that one of the reasons that I have an ear for harmonies is because of spending hours listening to, and singing along with the harmonies of boy bands.
  11. The first time I sang in public, I was in preschool and I sang “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma. The second time I was supposed to sing in public, I chickened out.
  12. In second grade, I was the “best singer” in my class and they made me be the Big Bad Wolf in our class musical of The 3 Little Pigs. I hated it because I was a girl. I’m still embarrassed about it to this day.
  13. My first car was a magenta Dodge Shadow that I named “Pinky.”
  14. I didn’t name my second car, which I owned for +10 years. It was a blue Dodge Neon.
  15. I now own a Chevy Equinox and her name is Georgie.
  16. I call my grandmother ‘Mormor,’ which is Swedish for Mother’s Mother.
  17. I still sleep with a teddy bear that I’ve had since I was a kid and a Build-A-Bear my fiancé made me. He doesn’t much love having to share the bed with them too. Too bad!
  18. I like scary movies, and definitely like movies that mess with your mind whether they are scary or not (i.e. Saw, Inception, The Cure for Wellness)
  19. My first paying job was at a Bowling Alley. I was a birthday party hostess. It sucked to come home smelling like that.
  20. My favorite paying job was working at a summer camp. I was a camper there for over ten years, and I was on the payroll for almost as long.
  21. My ideal reading spot would be in a hammock in front of or near a lake OR on a porch swing. Obviously I like gentle movement and the sound of waves.
  22. I love warm rain, and reading in rain/thunderstorms.
  23. While my mom is a reader, she doesn’t read as much as I do. She follows my Bookstagram though and always asks how I get so many books.
  24. I always travel with at least one book and/or my iPad. My phone has my reading apps too.
  25. I only recently learned to appreciate audiobooks, but I’m so glad I did. I am still a little picky about what books and genres I read though.

So there you have it. 25 facts about little ol’ me. Several are bookish, several are not. If you would like to leave a few facts about yourself, I would love to get to know you more as my readers and followers as well!! Please tell me some things about you!

Listening to: “Larger Than Life” by Backstreet Boys <– yes, now I am craving BSB

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Day 5 Blogger Challenge ~ Biannual Bibliothon

Hello everyone! I hope that if you are participating in this challenge, your reading is going well and you are finishing mountains and mountains of books!! I, for one, am not. Not for lack of trying though. I’m less than 3 hours from finishing When Its Real by Erin Watt and I am LOVING. IT. Apparently Hate –> Love is my favorite romance trope. Or one of them, at least. I am also about 150 pages into First We Were IV by Alexandra Sirowy. I hoped to have this one finished by its release day on 7/25 but that didn’t quite happen, and that’s ok. Book’s still good so far!

Anyway, day 5’s challenge is a Character Connection – picking a character whom I connected with on a personal level and discuss what they should have done differently in a certain bookish situation. The character I choose is Louna from Sarah Dessen’s Once and For All. I didn’t give the book the highest rating but I felt a connection with her past and I finished the book recently so its fresh in my mind.

So Louna is a girl who is just finishing up high school and is in her last summer before college. She works for her mom’s wedding planning company and she is extremely skeptical about happily-ever-afters (pretty rough for someone who works in the wedding industry!). The scene Louna definitely needed to do differently was one where a bride was getting cold feet and worrying about her future, and she looks Louna directly in the eye and asks directly “Am I going to be ok? Am I going to have my happily every after?” And Louna absolutely freezes in terror. She cannot answer this bride who is literally about to walk down the aisle!!! If it were me, I would swallow down my past, put on my big girl, professional panties, and make something up. Wouldn’t you think that you should have a plan for a scenario like that? Wouldn’t you think her mother would have helped her plan for a moment like that? I mean (I don’t want to give away spoilers in the book as to WHY Louna doesn’t believe in love), her mom and her partner know her history so you would think that they would help her to figure out something to say, or some way to deal with these situations!! So basically, if it was me, I would ALWAYS have an Ace in my sleeve. Some cliche pearls of wisdom to share. And I feel like most wedding planners do!

And that, my friends, is my input for today! Happy reading!

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Day 3 Blogger Challenge ~ Biannual Bibliothon

Today’s challenge is (dun dun DUNNNN!!!) the Villain Synopsis. This one is hosted by Dominique at Pirates and Pixie Dust and this one is, indeed, a doozie. The directions are:

1️⃣ Pick a book you love

2️⃣Imagine that the story was written from the antagonists perspective.

3️⃣Rewrite the books synopsis from the VILLAINS point of view.

So I think I’m going to choose “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” Cliche but….I don’t want to do a fairy tale because there are SO many fairy tale villain tellings and a lot of YA villains aren’t very strong. In HP, however, we all know how that goes.

Synopsis:

P-p-p-poor St-st-st-stuttering P-p-rofessor Quirrell. Oh, they have no idea what I can do. How strong I am. Who I came across in the woods one stormy day last summer and how he would change my life forever. As a professor at Hogwarts, I went about my days teaching students and going about my seemingly average life. However, I always knew I was destined for great things. Ever since my days as a student at Hogwarts when I first heard about the dark arts, I felt them tingling in my bones and just knew I was fated to be a servant of the Dark Lord. But then he found me, and my fate would never be the same….

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Day 2 Blogger Challenge ~ Biannual Bibliothon

Day 2 of the summer Biannual Bibliothon is hosted by Kassie of Miss Sassie Kassie. The second day challenge is to write a book review. Last night/early this morning (about 1:30 am) I finished Once and for All by Sarah Dessen so I will use that as my review for today!

32078787So as I’m sure many of you Bibliothon-ers are aware, Once and for All was a summer release by Sarah Dessen. The book revolves around Louna, who has just graduated from high school and is working her final summer for her mother’s wedding planning business. (What a cool business for your mom to run, huh? I think so! Stressful, but unique, right?? Honestly its one of the only reasons I picked up this book–I’m honestly not a huge Dessen fan.) Louna meets Ambrose at a wedding when she is the designated wedding assistant who has to chase down the missing groomsman….Ambrose. He is, of course, involved in another wedding later in the season and ends up involved in the family business and in turn, involved with Louna ‘once and for all’ (see what I did there?).

I’m sorry to say that I set my expectations a little too high and I shouldn’t have. I think my brain was a little confused, and honestly, I feel a little set up! Sarah Dessen brainwashed me a little bit here. It feels kind of like the TV show The Vampire Diaries (I just saw someone rant about this the other day). Those people are supposed to be teenagers! They don’t look like teenagers. Just like here in the book. In no way do Louna and Ambrose act like just-graduating high school seniors. They mention going away to college, but they’re working this mature job, driving cars, ordering kegs for weddings, going to parties, dating without curfews or talking to parents and having parental involvement…this does not feel like a teenage-ish book. The characters go through their daily lives like way more mature beings than high school seniors/college freshman. BUT THEN the romance aspect and the actual getting together part feels so slow and lame that I wanted to throw things. The two just didn’t add up! Does not compute!! Aside from that, though, the book does have its cute moments. And definitely its funny moments. William is hilarious! Ambrose can be funny sometimes. My heart ached for Louna and what happened to Ethan, even if some aspects of their relationship were juvenile as well, they are young so that’s okay. If you like an easy, mushy romance, then this book is for you.

Listening to: “All of Me” by John Legend

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