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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Tag Tuesday: Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

Hi, everyone! Its Tuesday again. We made it through Monday and are one step closer to Friday. I don’t really mind the weekdays too much but I know some people are constantly counting them down. Well, participating in tags always helps pass the time, doesn’t it? I was tagged by my friend Sarah at Book Hooked Nook to do the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag. Now, I realize we’re just a bit past mid-year at this point but too bad! Never too late to have a bit of fun! 😉

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2017. I have two candidates for this but I’m doing my best to choose one for each category. I choose The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana. Here is why: first off, it was a pleasant surprise. I was chosen to read an ARC from Penguin’s First to Read site and I didn’t have very high expectations because her first book didn’t have that high of a Goodreads rating (I think it was at a 3.7 or something, which to me is a take-it-or-leave-it rating). Secondly, I liked it because I was hooked from the very beginning with a fable about trees. I love trees and fables and mythologies. The whole story was beautiful and I devoured it. Third, I was given a free copy to read and I ended up buying a hard copy for myself. I can’t say that about the other book I was considering. So this one wins the prize.

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2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2017. Again, another book more or less involving Middle-Eastern settings, fables, and adventures. My enjoyment of this book is more character-driven, as Khalid is definitely among my book boyfriends (yum!) but the writing is definitely beautiful and it put Renee Ahdieh on my watchlist of authors.

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3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to. Ok, first off, looking at the cover on a screen does it no justice. There are little stars in the tree and they sparkle (I mentioned before that I love trees? I wasn’t kidding).  Second, it’s a novel revolving around summer camp. I pretty much grew up at summer camp and my heart still lives there. And third, all the feels. I am a sucker for this type of book. This will be my jam. And Emery Lord? I have heard all the things. This book must be read by me while the crickets are still a-chirping outside my window.

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4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year. Beautiful cover. Intriguing synopsis. This is screaming Interstellar to me. It probably will be nothing like that, but still….super cool.

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5. Biggest disappointment. Ugh. I don’t even want to talk about this.

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6. Biggest surprise. See #1.

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7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you) This book was amazing. Read it.

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8. Newest fictional crush. 2 words: Oakley. Ford.

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9. Newest favourite character. 2 words: Oakley. Ford. Am I having de ja vu??

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10. Book that made you cry. Again with the de ja vu. READ THIS BOOK. Seriously. I will now reveal that this was my second contender for best book so far of 2017. It was so good. I haven’t gotten around to buying a copy yet, but its mainly because I am currently unemployed and I just don’t have the funds. But I know that as soon as I do, I am going to practically sleep with it. I will probably re-read it as soon as I get it, and I will cry all over again. Seriously, this book is so beautiful. Read it and love it and lose your soul in it. So worth it.

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11. Book that made you happy. OMG. Iko. Just….Iko. She is the best character. If I didn’t already enjoy this series, I love it all the more now that I read this graphic novel. And let me just say that this was my first graphic novel, and I really enjoyed it! I literally laughed out loud multiple times. It was really great.

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12. Favourite book to film adaptation you saw this year. I have been absolutely slacking in this department. I did see “Beauty and the Beast” and no, that is not my answer. Yes, I liked it and no, that is still not my answer. Maybe I am biased but Anne of Green Gables/Anne with an ‘E’ just holds such a special place in my heart. I loved the show!

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13. Favourite review you’ve written this year. I just really like this cover, the fact that it has the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel (can you tell I’m from Chicagoland?), and I got to put milkshakes in it!

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14. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received). Umm, do I really need to explain this cover buy?? ….didn’t think so.

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15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year? So these are my literal need to reads, as in, obligated for Netgalley or other review websites. Of course there are more and I have many other ARCs sitting around, AND I have a TBR of my own but I know you all know how all of this goes.

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As I mentioned before, I know its late in the year so if, by this point in the year you have NOT done this mid-year tag, consider yourself officially TAGGED!

Today’s Listening: “Charlie Boy” by The Lumineers

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“The Best Kind of Magic” by Crystal Cestari

There is so much that I loved about this book!! ‘Windy City Magic #1’ felt like a cozy mystery for teens and it was my JAM!!! Or you could look at it as Urban Fantasy/Romance for teens just the same. A couple of my little pet peeves showed up and made my eyeballs twitch a bit, but overall, I can’t wait for the second book! Or third or fourth! Let me first give a brief synopsis, and then I’ll cover my opinions:

25436641The Best Kind of Magic gives us a tour of all kinds of magic in the Windy City of Chicago. We see goblins, fairies, leprechauns, werewolves, vampires, sirens, and of course, witches. Amber Sand is a not a witch. Her mother is, but Amber is a matchmaker, meaning that she can look into people’s eyes and see their true love. One day, the mayor’s son (who is also the most talked-about boy in school) comes in to visit Amber at her mother’s shop, Windy City Magic, and requesting her help in finding his father’s missing girlfriend. Thus begins an adventure with romance, humor, bad guys, a twist and a turn and a to be continued in book 2!! (not a cliffhanger! This book wraps up nicely…..mostly.)

The first thing I liked about this book was the genre feel. I am a sucker for a cozy mystery, I enjoy paranormal romances, and then put those things in a YA format….have I died and gone to heaven?! Almost too good to be true. I loved it. I wish there was more of this writing out there. So with this genre comes the characters. There was a good mix of humans and paranormals. I liked how Amber and her mother, and even their coven, had a certain struggle with Amber’s matchmaking talents. It was a very different and clever spin on the traditional “coming of age story” that you usually get in YA books and I really liked that. Amani (Amber’s best friend) has her own struggles with her magical gifts of being a precog. Their friendship in the book is wonderful, by the way. I just saw a meme the other day that went something like this:

Friend: Oh, I’m so sorry, what can I do?
Best friend: 1/2 price shakes at Sonic. Get your butt in the car, I’m driving!
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That’s the kind of friends Amber and Amani are. Partially because of their mystic powers and partially because they are comfortable and secure in their own selves (which other high school students find “weird” and “different” of course), the two friends are outcasts and have a very close friendship. Back on track. Charlie is a human and he does a great job taking in everything in the PRN world. You almost wonder every once in a while if he and his father have trace amounts of supernatural in their blood somewhere. Of course, the biggest wrench in the story comes when Amber sees that Charlie’s match is not her, but could she be wrong? That’s why we’re eagerly awaiting book 2!

Ok, I will speak of my one biggest pet peeves that occurred in this book: immature language. I hate when authors frequently use immature language. If you want to call it that. To me, its almost Valley Girl…rich snob…Pretty Little Liars…I barely hear kids talking like that and I work in a private high school myself. Granted, not in Chicago, but in Northern Illinois within 60 miles of Chicago. I do not hear students commonly using the words “natch” instead of natural (I’ve never heard that), or “cas” for casual (I have heard this, but not frequently). In the first 100 pages of the book when we are first meeting the characters, this kind of abbreviated language is EVERYWHERE. It DEFINES Amber’s personality and sense of humor. Toward the middle, it fades out and she is more just sarcastic and witty with Charlie but in the beginning, we are NOT talking to a lowly girl. I just didn’t see her as having that much of a consistent attitude. Ivy, the blonde cheerleader mean girl? For sure. But Amber? No. I hated that. I like to read full English words and sentences. Maybe that’s the adult in me reading a YA novel so excuse this paragraph if so. But I’m just saying. I HATE abbreviated teen-speak. Ugh! Not appropriate for books, IMO.

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Soundtrack: “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas

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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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“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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“All Things New” by Lauren Miller

Title: All Things New

Author: Lauren Miller

Publication Date: August 1, 2017

Publisher: Three Saints Press

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Lesson learned: Never judge a freebie book based on its “freebie” status! So not only did I receive a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, it was also a ‘download now’ free copy, meaning that I didn’t have to be approved or anything in order to read it. I usually equate these books–in my mind–to the freebies of the ARC world. That aside, I thought that this book was a really good read and I very much enjoyed it.

Jessa has suffered from an anxiety disorder since her father left her mother when she was just twelve years old. Now, at 17, she is barely getting through school living with her mom in L.A. and clinging to her prepster boyfriend. Until one night at a party changes everything. A near-fatal car accident leaves Jessa’s face scar-ridden, and her brain nearly as damaged, she decides to leave everything behind to live with her dad in Colorado. Here she meets new people, reconciles with her father, and learns about the true measure of healing both inside and out.

On to the nitty-gritty opinionated part of my review. First off, I was surprised at the intelligence level of this book. Now, I am no doctor, psychologist, or philosopher and I have no idea what an actual practicing physician or thinker would say about the topics in this book, but for someone at my level of knowledge, it was awesome! I mean, we got deep about Dorian Gray and van Gough! We were talking about heart surgery and brain surgery and the reflections of the soul! Plus, that ending though!! Secondly, I did feel that the book had a bit of a rough start and sometimes it is difficult and not for everyone to read books from the POV of a main character who has a panic disorder. But guess what? Having a panic disorder is rough. This book deals with a tough issue. In all honesty, this book deals with a LOT of tough issues. Jessa isn’t the only person who goes through trials. She has her panic disorder and gets in a car accident, but then she meets Marshall who has a heart defect, and Hannah who isn’t perfect, and she is basically in a community of not perfect people and this is basically her new life. So the final point I will make: a lot of the reviews I have read talk about how much people like Marshall. Yes, I really like Marshall as well. But who really comes through as an amazing character is Super Dad. My favorite moment is when Dad is encouraging Jessa to drive to school again because she can’t live in fear forever; can’t let the fear control her life and he says:

“Because there’s something I want for you even more than safety. I want you to be free. Free from the panic and worry, free from all that terrible self-doubt I see in your eyes and blame myself for. But you have to want it too, Jessa. You have to decide not to let fear win.”

So yeah. I loved this book. I tend to like books where characters have to find their light. I love strong, powerful moments of tenderness and strength. They all still have their scars but they have found some consolation or some way through them and I think that this book did a good job of doing that. I recommend.

Listening to: “Numb” by Max Jury

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Day 4 Blogger Challenge ~ Biannual Bibliothon

How did we make it to day 4 already?! We’re basically halfway through the week!! Yikes! For today we’re talking about a book or books that we gave less than 3 stars. I want to back up to a book I read before I had a blog for this because I think its a bit redundant to reblog about a book I already blogged about. So I’m consulting my Goodreads reviews (thank heavens for Goodreads, right??) for some juicy negative reviews…

28962906Book: Stalking Jack the Ripper

Read: November 22, 2016

Rating: 2 stars

My Review: Please don’t hate me. I was really looking forward to this one and then to me, this was just a flop. “Audrey Rose”/”Wadsworth” was so snobby and easily offended it just drove me insane. Thomas was okay but his character seemed shallow to me. It took me forever to read this book because I was BORED. See also: predictable. I got into the ending a little bit, and the asylum visit was exciting. But otherwise…meh. If this was just a first in series, I really, really, really, REALLY hope this picks up. I like the premise and the setting but MAN did I dislike this first installment!! I’m so bummed!

15748293Book: Eighty Days Yellow

Read: March 25, 2017

Rating: 1 star

My review: There are not many books that I have given 1 or 2 stars to but this is one of those few. Even though I saw that this book had relatively poor ratings, I still had a bit of hope for it because it was a “steamy romance” and the main characters were a) a professor so he should be smart, right? and b) a musician so she should be interesting, right? Well, yes, that was sort of true. But it just wasn’t true enough to float the book and save the rating. The music part in the beginning was interesting for me as a musician myself. I enjoyed that. Then of course its all sex, sex, sex and drama, drama, drama for the other 65% of the book. Now speaking of the drama, it happens…..and then it drops dead. Nothing really resolves. Charlotte just sort of disappears after Dominick gives her her “scene”…there isn’t a big hissy fit and “we’re done forever” big breakup resolution moment. Whatever happens with Victor? Summer and Dominick find each other and then leave each other and the book ends and then that’s it? Uhhhh……yeah. NO connection. NO romance. NO nothing. 1 star.

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So there you have it, folks. My day 4 post. If you are curious, I am currently listening to When its Real by Erin Watt and reading First We Were IV by Alexandra Sirowy for the Bibliothon. I also just started When I Am Through With You on my iPad. 

♫ Listening to: “Stone Cold” by Demi Levato

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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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Hook’s Tale by John Leonard Pielmeier

Full Title: Hook’s Tale: Being the Account of an Unjustly Villainized Pirate Written by Himself

Release Date: 7/18/17

Publisher: Scribner

“Hook’s Tale…” is probably my new favorite Pan retelling. In fact, it might just be my new favorite retelling. And its a debut novel!! Seriously, the writing is captivating, the perspective is unique, and overall the reading is pretty easy. In the Introduction, the book proclaims itself to be the Peter Pan/Hook version of The Wizard of Oz/Wicked Witch tale and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. I actually am not a big fan of the Gregory Maguire books, but this was much easier to read.

James Cook (aka the character “the Scotsman” JM Barrie writes as Captain Hook) basically writes his own autobiography from his life as a young boy in school, to his voyage to Neverland, to his quest for a full life. It was really fun to hear the “real truth” behind James’ family, how aging/not aging in Neverland works, what all of the pirates are like (hint: they’re hilarious), how Hook really got his hook, the story of the crocodile, and several other Hook-isms.

This was a great fantasy read. Just a heads up, though: every time I started to think that this book could be for younger (middle grade?) readers, something violent or mildly gory would happen. So just be warned that there are a few descriptive scenes in the book and some very mild swearing. Overall if you like Peter Pan, if you are a fan of retellings, if you enjoy fantasy books, or just need a quick and fun read, give this book a go. I definitely recommend it!

Listening to: “Perfect Places” by Lorde

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Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin

32452313So I admit that I was drawn to the beautiful colors on the cover of this one. And its quite fitting because the plot centers around two teens who were raised “in a commune full of hippies and mountain folk.” That being said, just like hippies and mountain folk, the book is very laid back and pretty slow moving so don’t expect much action or quick pacing or even very much angst. Things just happen, and the characters deal with them. Mitchell (athletic, funny, good-looking, ready for college away from the commune) and Josie (sunshine-loving, overall-wearing, community lifestyle proud) grew up together and slowly develop a relationship after Mitchell’s mom admits to having an affair.

For me, this book never took off as much as I hoped. I always appreciate books with diversity and books that have new and different settings, which this certainly did (I mean, an old woman who does naked yoga every morning? Show me another book that has that!). But I found it to stretch far wider than it did deep. I like depth as well. For being so different, Josie and Mitchell actually sounded pretty similar to me in their reactions. And then for liking each other, they were so judgemental of each other. What gives?? Oh well. By the time their romance was in bloom, it was cute and sweet and well written. Which was a huge plus. Not only was the romance writing great, but the writing of the scenery and the community was wonderful as well. I really enjoyed that.

** Thank you to Blaze Publishing for providing me with an eARC in exchange for a honest review **Book release date: July 11, 2018**

Listening to: “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison

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