What I Leave Behind by Allison McGhee

39791329Title: What I Leave Behind
Author: Allison McGhee
Pages: 208 pages; 10,000 words
Publisher: Athenium/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Release Date: May 15, 2018

What I Leave Behind is a sweet, heart-wrenching book about a young man named Will who has lost his father to suicide. Going through daily life working at the Dollar Only store, he copes with his pain by being compassionate to those around him, including his kooky boss Major Tom, Superman (the homeless man on the street corner who eats Will’s failed attempts at home made corn bread), Playa (Will’s best friend who is sexually assaulted), and the little boy down the street who loves butterflies. The book is basically a repeating cycle of Will walking, walking, walking (he only walks–no cars, bikes, etc. since his father’s passing) past the Blessings Store, over the Fourth Street Bridge, through his friends’ neighborhoods, to work at the Dollar Only Store, and back home again. The end.

The book is formatted uniquely in that there are 100 chapters, each with 100 words. As a result, I found it to be an extremely quick and simple read….almost too much so. The book felt a bit choppy to me because it was constricted to the 100 word limits. But still, Will is one of the greatest guys on the planet. If everyone treated the people around them with this much thought and care, the world would be a better place. Honestly however, the book was repetitious and, as I said, choppy, but the overall concept was worthwhile.

Book Soundtrack: Appletree by Erykah Badu

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S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett

So I was just going through my list of ‘read’ books for this year on Goodreads and I have read 25 books not including short stories and what-not. That’s pretty much on-track with my reading goals, so YAY for me! Blog-wise I have also made exactly 25 posts, but they aren’t all bookish, some of them are Tag Tuesdays or Readathons or Monthly Wrap-ups or whatever so I have a little catching up to do on my reviews! That’s what my blog is supposed to be doing, afterall! So without further ado, here is one I missed!:

Title: S.T.A.G.S.
Author: 
M.A. Bennett
Pages: 296 pages, Hardcover
Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press

35926234STAGS is a boarding school for the wealthy elite. Greer (“Grey-uh” for us Americans who are un-used to seeing this name) is admitted on a scholarship, whereas most other students at the school have had generations of attendees in their families. When Greer and two other new/outcast students are invited for a weekend of “Huntin’. Shootin’. Fishin'” with the Medievals (the elite clique of students at the school), she is warned against going by a former friend, but ultimately decides to go, seeing it as a chance to finally make friends and be accepted. What occurs instead is a weekend of veiled bullying and the thrill of the chase.

I honestly feel that this is one of the better YA thrillers I have read lately. That being said, though, the book certainly has its flaws. However, regarding the genre, I thought M.A. Bennett did a terrific job of setting up a bit of background for the Medievals by showing them flaunting their personal family lineage back to the crusades in class and even around the dinner table. Their shady words alluding to hatred of outsiders was a first clue as to their true motives. However, their talk is so flowery and conversation so natural that who would really think that there was a threat present? Nel just wants to make friends, Greer wants conversation, and Shafeen wants to stand up for himself.

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Borrowed from Alba in Bookland.

The setting in a boarding school and then a large family estate on the moors of Northumberland was also perfect. Beautiful, yet ominous and eerie…much like the Medievals themselves. I could just imagine mists and fog and these elite teenagers showing off their knowledge of “huntin’, shootin’, and fishin'” to the outcasts who had never or who had hardly been exposed to that before. It truly was another world for the three outsiders, or “Savages” as they came to be called. The author’s descriptions were just wonderful and added an extra dimension of creep factor.

Despite the good in the book, I will admit that I never felt fully invested or connected in the main characters. I cared for them, yes, but I was preoccupied with the bigger picture in the book. Greer is a teenage narrator who really reads like a teenager. She is constantly referencing movies–which I didn’t mind much, and it sort of made sense since her father makes films–and jumping around in her telling of the story (“But that was not nearly as bad as what was to happen next,” etc.). I could do without that. I felt that some of the descriptions were too drawn out and the action too underplayed. I wanted a bit more out of those.

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And of course, the ending. I like the concept and how the book wrapped up. Certain aspects I saw coming, while others were a nice touch. If ever there was a book that should be a movie, its this one. I can absolutely see this as a screenplay and I would definitely go see it.

Book Soundtrack: Danse macabre, Op. 40 by Camille Saint-Saens

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Geekerella by Ashley Poston

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Geekarella
 has been on my TBR for a long time now and I just haven’t gotten to it. Its the story of Elle, daughter of the man behind the ExcelsiCon CosPlay Convention and Costume Ball. Now living with her awful stepmother and two stepsisters, Elle lives and breathes Starfield. So when a soap opera star is cast as the male lead, she is completely skeptical. She blogs her opinion and it goes viral. When a costume contest is announced at ExcelsiCon, Elle is inspired to enter, wearing an old costume from her attic. With the help of a new friend, the old costume is made beautiful and Elle makes quite the impression at the contest.

geekerella2bquote2b2For soap star Darien Freeman, playing Carmindor in his favorite show-made-movie is a dream come true. The super-fans, however, have lowered their expectations and voiced their opposition to the teen heartthrob playing the classic role. Only Darien knows how dedicated he is to doing justice to the role, yet still, he wants to avoid the awkward meet-and-greets with fans. ExcelsiCon is the last place he wants to show his face but his father/manager gives him no choice.

Without giving away too much of the story, I will say that I do like the through-the-airwaves trope in YA fiction when its done well, and in my opinion, Geekarella was done very well. Elle, at times, did grind my nerves just a little bit. She was so insecure and stubborn that it was just too much. And then she would say “My father raised me to be brave” and bla bla bla….well, you have been failing at that, my friend. Darien, I thought was actually a great character. I thought he was a great representation of a teenage guy and he was fun to read. The secondary characters were great as well, especially Sage. And I just loved picturing the Magic Pumpkin. How creative is that idea? Hats off, Ashley Poston!!

Soundtrack: “Star Trek: Deep Space 9 – Main Title” composed by Dennis McCarthy

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Review + Happy Book Birthday: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young!

Sky in the Deep has been so highly anticipated for months upon months. I remember first hearing about it back in oh, December maybe? Someone said Norse or Vikings and I was ALL. OVER. IT!!! I requested it from NetGalley and I was SO excited that they granted me a copy!!! I finished it a couple weeks ago and I’ve been holding back the review from my blog so that I could drop it here on this very special release day. Congrats, Adrienne! I wish you all the best!! Now on to the review….

36597702I very much enjoyed this book for many reasons. First of all, its action-packed. If you are squeamish, be warned. There is blood and gut-spilling and wound infection treatment and burns and…yeah, this book has it all. Its not horror-movie gory or anything, but there is plenty of mention so just a heads up. But back to the action, this book has it. Eelyn (what a pretty name!) is a warrior. Its how she was raised; its in her soul.

So this leads into my second point: Sky in the Deep is a love story. Love for family, clansmen, and soulmates. When I read all the talk of family in the synopsis, I was a little concerned that this was going to be a mushy family saga. I am so glad I was proved wrong! The familial relationships were so realistic. There is love, yes, but there is also betrayal, hope, hatred, and kinship. As for the love interest, I don’t think I’ve ever read one so refreshing. I expected a major hate-to-love trope story. While in general that’s what this is, again, the story is so solid. Its not mushy, gushing, and crushing; it wasn’t insta-love. In fact, we hardly hear any talk about Fiske being handsome or sweet…its all there in his actions and just such an organic way. Once love is declared and things heat up, the two are just so sweet and perfect and their shared moments are so beautiful and genuine. Fabulously handled.

And my third point: You can’t talk or think about this book without mentioning the world-building. Perfect. I could play out every single moment of this Viking-esque world in my mind: what each of the villages looked like, their different settings, their armor, their leaders,everything. Another thing I was nervous about was hearing long descriptions of weapons because it just seems that most books that have extensive weaponry tend to go on about how special this sword is, or how this axe was someone’s fathers, etc. Nope, not here. The author has excellent on what is important (not ornate weaponry).

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Last but certainly not least, the characters are truly what makes this book excellent. Every single character is well-played and unique, contributing their own piece to Eelyn’s heart. From Eelyn’s father (who is a fierce man, but who is the perfect mix of gentle yet strong for his daughter) to the Tala (the ‘enemy’ clan’s spiritual leader), the characters are colored the story so vibrantly. Havard was, by far, my favorite. Aren’t we all suckers for cute, curious little kiddo’s?

I could probably sit here and continue to think up wonderful things about this book, but this review has gone on long enough. Do you see, now, why I waited until the book was actually released to publish this review? You wouldn’t be able to go to the bookstore and pick the book off the shelf and dive right in. So without further ado, just go read this. You’re welcome.

Book soundtrack: Sky in the Deep Playlist (Spotify)

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Phoenix Fire by S.D. Grimm

To open, I hereby present you with a synopsis of the book named above as written by NetGalley:

2c8b641f9eebb5ac312c04485b2c4396After spending her life in foster care, Ava has finally found home. But all it takes is a chance encounter with hot nerd Wyatt Wilcox for it to unravel. Now, things are starting to change. First, the flashes of memories slowly creeping in. Memories of other lives, lives that Wyatt is somehow in. Then, the healing. Any cut? Gone.

But when Cade and Nick show up, claiming to be her brothers, things get even weirder. They tell her she’s a Phoenix, sent to protect the world from monsters—monsters she never knew existed. It’s a little hard to accept. Especially when they tell her she has to end the life of a Phoenix turned rogue, or Cade will die.

With Wyatt’s increasingly suspicious behavior, Ava’s determined to figure out what he’s hiding. Unless she can discover Wyatt’s secret in time and complete her Phoenix training, she’ll lose the life, love, and family she never thought she could have.

38492055Definitely not the best summary, but the NG ones never are. Here is what I can tell you about the book: After reading it, I was pleasantly surprised. I went into Phoenix Fire not really knowing what to expect because all I got was….well, what NetGalley told me. Being completely honest, I saw a cool phoenix on the cover, I saw the YA fantasy genre, and I said “let’s give it a shot!”. I’m glad that I did!

So in the beginning of the book, things were a little cliche. Our main character, Ava, is in a foster house and never feels like she belongs, and doesn’t really want to belong. Then she starts to experience memories and maybe come into certain “powers.” *Eyeroll* and I’m thinking “crap, is this a middle grade book?” because it really seemed way to juvenile early on. Enter: new guys. New guys with secrets about her past, her powers, and what she has to do with said powers.

635811964343779843-thinkstockphotos-490635524When it came down to it, I really enjoyed the uniqueness of the phoenix life cycles, as well as the familial ties and how all of that came into play. Also, the romance in the book came was really sweet but also had its bitterness as well. Wyatt, at times, got a little whiny but I really liked seeing his character and his relationship with Ava and the two brothers unfold. Plus I think it will be really interesting to see what further role Yuki will play in things. I am very intrigued to read the next book in the series!!

Book Soundtrack: A Crime to Remember by Pop Evil

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#blogmas day 22: The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Its almost Christmas, people! Only a few more sleeps! I am not done shopping, not done wrapping…but somehow I managed to finish a book and write about it! So here is a little bit about Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s The Beautiful Ones.

33574143The description of this book gives absolutely nothing away…probably because there really is nothing to give away. Honestly, I don’t mean that in a bad way, but I admit that I kept looking for hints! The Beautiful Ones is an extremely character-driven book with a sprinkling of magical fantasy woven throughout, and really, it doesn’t drive the plot at all. Looking at the cover and reading the summary, I thought maybe it would be a bit like “The Originals,” because it talks so much about family magic and relationships (minus the vampirism, obviously), and I expected that there would be a lot more talk about Hector performing and maybe Nina would even be drawn into it a little but I was wrong on all counts. The book is all about the drama, drama, drama of finding a suitable husband for young Antonina Beaulieu.

Without giving away much, I will say that I felt the book moved a little slow, but the excellent writing made up for it. The author made me feel exactly as I was supposed to toward each character. I absolutely hated crazy, psycho cousin Valerie. I enjoyed and cheered for the young and whimsical Nina. And then there was handsome, conflicted Hector. Plus all of the secondary characters. So if you’re looking for a story of magic, well-defined characters, societal courting, and of course, romance!

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On the eleventh day of #blogmas … Kiss Me in New York by Catherine Rider

34220850 I would call this book a cute, sweet, but relatively forgettable YA holiday romance. Charlotte is on her way back to London with a broken heart when her flight is cancelled due to a blizzard. Anthony is planning on surprising his girlfriend at the airport, but he is the one who is surprised when she breaks up with him after she gets off the plane and runs into the arms of another guy. Together, Charlotte and Anthony make their way through a book called (something like) Ten Ways To Get Over Your Ex, all the while–you guessed it–falling for each other.

Of course, this is all set in New York and occurs on Christmas Eve. The book seems to not mean much because these are high schoolers so how long can a relationship like this really last? The two promise to reunite, as Charlotte is trying to decide what college to attend.

So like I said, the book was super-cute. It was easy to read–I sat down and read the entire thing in a day. It was quotable and cliche, but that’s what Christmas is all about isn’t it? ;P

Book soundtrack: “A New York Christmas” Rob Christmas

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On the fourth day of blogmas …The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle

34058936Goblins, fae, and gold – oh my! Plus, new adult contemporary. So if you like these genres like I do, you’re in for an awesome read. I really, really enjoyed The Goblins of Bellwater. Like, 4.5/5 stars enjoyed it. From the very beginning I was swept up in the story and because the writing is so easy to read, and all of the characters are interesting, and its told from alternating POV’s, I was engaged throughout the entire book. Also, please take just one second to look at that cover!!!! *drool*

The story goes like this: Kit’s family is cursed. For generations now, one member of their family must bring the goblins of the forest a tribute of gold each month or else the goblins will attack a member or members of the local town. Kit is the current liason. Now, he’s a good guy and he hates stealing from people to give to the goblins but he hates having people attacked more. Lately Kit has been coming up a little short. The goblins aren’t always honest and well-behaved either. Enter: the Darwen sisters.

clarisse-meyer-184329Livy Darwen is a local environmental scientist and Skye is a barista. They both love the forests and have grown up believing in “teeny tinies” living in the woods. Well, to shorten the synopsis, there is a goblin curse on one of the sisters. The curse must be broken. Kit’s cousin, Grady, who is a chef, steps in to help. Relationships blossom. The curse gets worse before it gets better. There is adventure, there is an alliance with local fae (the good guys), there’s a battle, there’s minor drama, there’s an ending. Ta-daaa!!

So put this one on your Christmas lists, folks! I really liked this one! It started off maybe a little slow but everything else was just perfect for me. The perfect mix of a bit of paranormal, twenty-something adults, romance, adventure/action, and not mind-numbingly difficult to read.

Book soundtrack: “Vanilla Pines” by Tow’rs

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones

23113602So this is a NetGalley ARC I have had on my shelf for a while now. A few things about this book right off the bat: first of all, it took me a long time to read. My attention just wasn’t held the way I hoped it would have been. Especially because it felt rather like it was going to be a YA historical/almost-cozy mystery, which would have been right up my alley. Still overall regardless of exact genre, the plot moved very slowly.

Secondly, the magic in this book was not very exciting, widespread, nor well explained. Was it unique? Yes. You will never find Harry, Ron, and Hermione sewing glamours. However, that is the only magic in the book and its not shiny magic, its really not magic that Annis is really confident in or that she learns from some great wizard or a secret family recipe or anything like that…she hardly practices in any big, adventurous, fun way except for exhausting herself to save herself from bankruptcy. It was a bummer.

daniel-garcia-418370Third, the characters were unextraordinary to me mainly because I never trusted any of them. I never felt like we got a good enough glimpse into any of them because there was just too much going on with Annis and her cherades.

So those are my criticisms. All of that being said, I did enjoy other aspects of the books. I did like the setting of the book and the genre in general. There are not many YA historical mysteries out there. I would LOVE to read more books like this! Especially with young women at the center. The Jackaby books are good as well! I also thought the ending and the resolution in general saved the book in general. I wish the pacing would have been better throughout the book, but I have to say that I thought the ending was well done and I hope there is another book because I would pick it up.

Book soundtrack: “Skyfall” by Adele

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Grave Errors by Carol J. Perry

33871472I love my cozy reads. From the cover I was hoping this would be a Halloween book but in stead, I got a post-Halloween dia de los Muertes book, which was okay too. The book is set in Salem, Mass. and centers around Lee Barrett and her TV production class, which is working on a project to extend the Halloween season. One of Lee’s pupils, Dorothy, wants to learn about investigative reporting by looking into her sister’s suspicious death and asks Lee to help. Lee pulls out all the stops and together with her boyfriend, aunt, cat, and best friend, they discover a link to another case and of course, ultimately crack the case.

I think I have been reading a few too many short cozies on Amazon prime lately because all of a sudden, this 364 page cozy seemed dragged out and long. The plot barely unfolded until about a quarter of the way in and by a third of the way I had things figured out. That said though, I did enjoy the book. There are plenty of twists and turns, kooky characters encountered along the way, Salem cemetery tours, suspicious suspects, death threats, and so much more.

Allow me to throw out that Grave Errors is the fifth book in the Witch City Mystery series and I have read none of the books before this. With that being said, I didn’t feel like I was missing any pieces or like I needed to go back or anything like that. There was a romance that had been established and family background dynamics which obviously had been talked about but I felt that there was just enough information to fill me in and keep the story moving. Oh, and there is a touch of paranormal-ness in the book but really not much. This is NOT really a witch-y book so don’t expect a ton of witchcraft or anything. Just a heads up. 🙂

Book soundtrack: “Mercy” by Shawn Mendes

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