Book Review: Seriously… I’m Kidding

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Synopsis:

Seriously… I’m Kidding is a lively, hilarious, and often sweetly poignant look at the life of the much-loved entertainer as she opens up about her personal life, her talk show, and joining the judges table of American Idol.

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Review

According to Goodreads, I started this book in September 2016. As much as I love Ellen this book just didn’t hook me and it was a book I definitely didn’t have a problem putting down, multiple times. Even so, Ellen’s wit and natural humor definitely made me laugh a few times and I highly recommend listening to the audiobook, rather than just reading the book.

One of my favorite parts about listening to this book five years after it was first published is remembering all the things Ellen has done and been through. She discusses her coming out and her brief stint as an American Idol judge, which I totally forgot about. She also jokes about her frustration with Pixar making sequels to just about every movie except Finding Nemo, which was extra funny now that the sequel has been made (and was very good).

Ellen also dropped some words of wisdom and advice that were so ridiculous I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, even while I was doing a run. This book just reminded me how incredibly kind and amazing Ellen is and I was happy to learn a little bit more about her by listening to this audiobook. I just wouldn’t listen to it again.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow

Stars:

3 stars

Favorite Line:

“When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.”

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ARC Book Review: Lucky in Love

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Synopsis:

Maddie’s not impulsive. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment —

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun… until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

With tons of humor and heart, Kasie West delivers a million-dollar tale of winning, losing, and falling in love.

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Review

*I received a free digital advanced reader’s copy of this book from Scholastic via Edelweiss. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on July 25, 2017.*

Kasie West has become my go to author for YA contemporary romance novels. Her books are always so cute, fun, and quick to read, and Lucky in Love was no exception. This novel is told in the first person point of view of Maddie, a high school senior who’s very focused on school. She’s so focused that she and her best friends, Blair and Elise, have a pact that they’re not allowed to date in high school.

Maddie believes nothing comes easy and you have to work hard for what you want, which is why she’s not interested in entering the lottery at first. However, when her friends bail on her birthday party Maddie decides to spend the rest of her money on a lottery ticket and surprisingly she actually wins.

Suddenly, her life goes from kind of boring to very exciting. Everyone wants to be her friend and every one wants her money. Her friends and family start acting differently and Maddie soon questions who she can and can’t trust. Except for Seth, her cute coworker at the zoo. Seth was grounded when the news of Maddie’s lottery win broke and rather than tell him about it, Maddie likes that there’s someone in her life who presumably doesn’t know about her lottery win, so she keeps it to herself.

My favorite part of this book was definitely Seth. First, I loved that he’s Vietnamese American. As far as I can tell this is the first time the love interest has been a person of color in West’s novels and I thought that was great, especially because Seth opened up to Maddie about what it’s like to be Asian in America. There were multiple points where he and Maddie had open conversations about race and I really liked that a lot because while it wasn’t the main topic of the book, West also didn’t shy away from it.

I also really liked Maddie as a character. Though I was frustrated that she wasn’t handling her new wealth very responsibly I also acknowledged the fact that she was 18 and truthfully she did win $50 million ($30 million once you take out the taxes). It wasn’t like she was actually going to use up all her money but it still stressed me out every time she bought something extravagant, especially because it was so out of character for her. Overall though, I was more upset with her parents for not stepping in when they saw how much she was spending.

That small frustration aside, I really enjoyed this novel. It was a quick read and I loved Seth from the moment he was first introduced. I highly recommend picking up Lucky in Love once it hits stores. It’s definitely worth a read.

Borrow or Buy: Buy!

Stars:

4 stars

Favorite Line:

“Magic cannot be explained. It can only be experienced.”

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Book Review: History Is All You Left Me

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Synopsis:

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

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Review

I saw this book a lot on Instagram but the only reason I finally decided to give it a read was because I applied for a job at the publishing house that published this book. Anyway, I say this all to say while I may not have picked this one up on my own, I’m so glad I did because it was an incredible read.

The novel is told by Griffin but jumps between the present (Today), after his ex-boyfriend, Theo, died, and the past (History), which shows how Griffin’s relationship with Theo began and what led to their break-up. I really liked the shifting of perspective, especially because in the Today portions Griffin is talking to Theo in second person narration, which I found really interesting, whereas in History it was just your regular first person narration.

In the Today portions you really got to see how Griffin was such a mess of emotions. He was obviously sad, but also angry at Theo for dying, especially because Theo once made the impossible promise that he wouldn’t die. Additionally, the appearance of Jackson, Theo’s boyfriend at the time of his death, was so interesting as well. At first I didn’t know if I should like Jackson or not. I wanted to be on Griffin’s side and hate him on principal but that’s obviously not fair, especially because Jackson loved Theo too, which is something Griffin begrudgingly has to realize.

What I loved most about this novel was the level of mystery to it. In the Today portions, Griffin is kind of an unreliable narrator because he’s talking to Theo and there’s some things Griffin didn’t get to tell Theo before he died that he doesn’t know how to tell him now. I really liked that because this book was able to surprise me, especially in the last 100 pages. I loved the whole book but that back end literally made me put the book down and take a step back and just reevaluate everything I thought I knew. I honestly wanted to go back to the beginning right there and start rereading, but I wanted to know how it ended so I didn’t actually do that.

The point is, this book was really good. I loved the characters even though they were all far from perfect. I also liked seeing how Griffin dealt with his OCD compulsions (he likes thing in even numbers, he always has to be on someone’s left side, etc.) and how they related to his relationship with Theo. And I loved that Theo was this complicated character, even in death. It becomes clear Griffin’s love for Theo turned into Griffin putting Theo on this kind of pedestal, something Griffin has to learn for himself in the novel.

Honestly, if you haven’t read this book yet you definitely need to. It’s a great LGBTQ novel with some diversity that deals with grief in a way that’s heartbreaking but somehow also filled with laughs and swoonworthy moments. All in all, this is definitely at the top of my list for best books of 2017.

Borrow or Buy: Buy it, immediately!

Stars:

5 stars

Favorite Line:

“History remains with the people who will appreciate it most.”

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Book Review: The Rose & the Dagger

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Synopsis:

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid’s empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn’t yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.

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Review

*Warning: There will be spoilers from The Wrath & the Dawn in this read. Read at your own risk!*

I wanted to love this duology but overall it was overhyped to me. The first book got better, so I was able to look past my issues with it but The Rose and the Dagger was just such a huge disappointment.

This novel pretty much begins where the first book left off. Shazi now has to figure out how she can break the curse on her husband, Khalid, so they can be together. However, she, along with her family, are now living in the desert with Khalid’s enemies, which includes Shazi’s first love, Tariq. Needless to say, the situation is complicated.

My biggest issue with this book was how big magic ended up coming to play in the story. In the first novel, Shazi and her father’s ability with magic was briefly mentioned but not in such a way that I thought it would be such a huge part of solving basically every issue in this novel. The magic that basically took over the story just seemed like such a cop out to me, especially with the introduction of Artan, a skilled magician, and his whole backstory.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Artan has a character but we just met him and all of sudden he becomes this big player in the story. His addition to the story, along with Shazi’s magical carpet, changed this series from A Thousand Nights retelling to an Aladdin retelling and I didn’t really like the shift.

Additionally, how the issue of the curse was resolved just seemed very anticlimactic to me. The curse was made out to be the worst possible thing every so I was expecting something crazy to happen and I just kind of felt meh when everything was resolved. I’m not sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t that. I felt that way about pretty much all the conflicts in this book. I just expected the stakes to feel higher or something crazier to go down and it didn’t play out that way.

There were some deaths that did shock me so that was a nice surprise. This book really dragged for me and I didn’t start getting into until the last 100 pages when there was more action and everything starts coming together. Even so, I just did not love this novel overall.

My favorite part about this novel was probably seeing more of Irsa and her relationship with Rahim. Besides that though, I was majorly disappointed with how this story played out and I thought about not finishing it multiple times but decided to push through since I was doing a buddy read.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be reading more of Renée Ahdieh’s books. I didn’t love this duology and most of the issues I had with it were the same issues I had with Flame in the Mist. I just found that in her storytelling she doesn’t explain things. She throws out these ideas and solutions and you’re just supposed to be like, “Yeah sure that makes sense,” when it actually does not, in fact, back sense. It drove me crazy with this book as it did with her others.

However, I will say she definitely knows how to write romance and that’s what kept these books interesting for me. If you’ve read The Rose and the Dagger let me know your thoughts about it below!

Borrow or Buy: Borrow

Stars:

3 stars

Favorite Line:

“True strength isn’t about sovereignty. It’s about knowing when you need help and having the courage to accept it.”

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Book Review: The Wrath & the Dawn

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Synopsis:

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

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Review

I’ve had The Wrath and the Dawn duology on my to-be-read list for at least a year now, so when my friend asked if I wanted to do a buddy read of it I decided to go for it and I’m glad I did.

The story, which is loosely based on A Thousand and One Nights, started a bit slow for me. Told in the third person point of view, we follow Shazi as she embarks on her path of revenge to kill the Caliph, Khalid, who killed her best friend, Shiva, and all his other wives.

Of course, things are much more complicated than Shazi realized and somehow she ends up finding herself falling for Khalid. Honestly, I can’t blame her, because I started to fall for him too. While Shazi’s dealing with her confusing feelings for Khalid, her first love Tariq and her father, Jahandar, are determined to save her. However, their means of trying to save Shazi may cause more problems than they resolve. Also, Shazi may not want to be saved.

I really liked almost all the characters in this. I really liked Shazi and Khalid, especially their romance. It was surprisingly super cute for a story about a guy who kills all his wives. I also really liked Shazi’s handmaiden, Despina, and Khalid’s cousin, Jalal. They brought some necessary humor to the story.

The only characters that irritated me were Tariq and Jahandar. Tariq, because he gave me serious Tamlin (from A Court of Thorns and Roses) vibes, and Jahandar, because while he definitely had good intentions he was totally going about it the wrong way. Besides them, though, I really enjoyed all the characters, and find the villains to be interesting.

I only had a few real issues with this novel, besides the slow beginning. First, we barely saw Shazi’s sister, Irsa. I know nothing about her and I felt like I’d like her if she was in the story more. I also kind of shipped her with Shazi’s friend, Rahim, for no reason, honestly. I just kind of hope that happens.

Second, I was a little uncomfortable with Shazi and Khalid having sex in the beginning. On the one hand, I get that they have to consummate the marriage but it just felt wrong to me, especially because obviously neither of them were really into it. However, I was able to move past it and truly enjoyed this novel and the romance that inevitable blossomed between Shazi and Khalid.

Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot and I can’t wait to read the sequel and see what happens next for Shazi and Khalid. If you’ve read The Wrath and the Dawn, let me know your thoughts about it below.

Borrow or Buy: Buy!

Stars:

4 stars

Favorite Line:

“For nothing, not the sun, not the rain, not even the brightest star in the darkest sky, could begin to compare to the wonder of you.”

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Book Review: Insta-Hate

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Synopsis:

When Alexandria Ray’s romance series becomes an overnight sensation, the world and its demands close in on her. After years of struggling to maintain the pace her publisher, agent and the world expects, she needs a break. Enrolling as a student at Columbia University is step one to finding herself again. Finding Arsen Daniel was not on her list.

Arsen Daniel, along with his best friend, built an empire in the form of an exclusive, psychology-based dating service. When an old friend invites him to teach a course at Columbia, he accepts. The course? The Psychology of Love. Sounds simple enough and the publicity alone will make it worth his time.

Arsen didn’t expect to meet his match in the form of a sarcastic blonde, hell bent on holding to her belief that true love doesn’t actually exist. After all, what woman, especially a world-renowned romance writer, doesn’t believe in happily ever after?

Something in Alexandria’s eyes tortures him. She reminds him of someone from his past and that is a very bad thing.

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Review

Honestly, I was thoroughly surprised by how much I ended up enjoying this novel. I discovered Insta-Hate through my daily BookBub ebook deals email and books I’ve discovered on there have really been hit or miss. I’ve been burned by the past two books I got from there so I was hesitant to give this book a try but I am so glad I did.

Insta-Hate is told in alternating point of views of Arsen and Alexandria (Lex), and I loved both of these characters pretty much as soon as they were introduced. Lex is a best selling author who’s agent is the worst. When Lex is offered this huge book deal that will basically make her insanely wealthy, she decides to pass it up, realizing she needs a break to figure out what she really wants. Since Lex never went to college she decides to take a class at Columbia where her best friend just happens to work in admissions. It’s always good to have a friend on the inside when you’re trying to start college in your mid-twenties.

Anyway, it’s at Columbia, specifically at a frat party, where Arsen and Lex bump into each other. Arsen runs this site called Instant Gratification, which is basically eHarmony but better somehow. The point is, Arsen’s pretty well off as the company is incredibly successful, which is why he let his friend convince him to be a guest lecturer at Columbia, teaching a class about love. Of course, that’s the class Lex is taking. However, they don’t know this at first when they bump into each other.

Instead, Arsen mistakes Lex for someone else and thus begins their love story and it’s pretty great. Even though the novel is titled Insta-Hate, it’s not a hate turned into love story. Sure, Lex definitely isn’t Arsen’s biggest fan at first (she threatens to tase him), but that’s not really what this novel is about. In fact, the novel took a turn that I kind of suspected but was also very surprised by, which I loved.

My only issue with this novel was some things went unexplained and I wasn’t sure why. For example, Lex ends up getting into this writing groove later on in the novel and writes this book that is supposedly amazing and yet I could not tell you what this book is about. I’m assuming it’s about her life story but that was never explicitly said and that confused me. Also, there’s one point in the novel when Arsen starts acting really stupid and on the one hand I could kind of understand why but the whole time I just wanted to shake him and say, “Stop being this way!” Thankfully, he did, in fact, stop being that way.

Overall though, this book really surprised. I was pretty hooked from the very beginning and I think I read the whole book in a day. Insta-Hate is definitely a quick romantic read that does have a few steamy scenes but it’s definitely not erotica. It includes a love of funny characters. In particular, I loved Lex and her friends Ave and Jillian. They were hilarious.

Definitely give this book a chance if you’re looking for a cute and quick read. I highly recommend it.

Borrow or Buy: Buy!

Stars:

4 stars

Favorite Line:

“Lust was a liar and I couldn’t afford to trust that slut.”

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Book Review: Trusting You & Other Lies

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Synopsis:

Phoenix can’t imagine anything worse than being shipped off to family summer camp. Her parents have been fighting for the past two years—do they seriously think being crammed in a cabin with Phoenix and her little brother, Harry, will make things better?

On top of that, Phoenix is stuck training with Callum—the head counselor who is seriously cute but a complete know-it-all. His hot-cold attitude means he’s impossible to figure out—and even harder to rely on. But despite her better judgment, Phoenix is attracted to Callum. And he’s promising Phoenix a summer she’ll never forget. Can she trust him? Or is this just another lie?

Purchase From:

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Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from First in Line and B-Fest. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel was released on June 20.*

It’s officially summer, which means it’s time to pull out those contemporaries and get into a summer time vibe and Trusting You & Other Lies is the perfect book for that. Set at a family summer camp that was giving me serious Dirty Dancing vibes (the original, not the remake), we find Phoenix, her little brother, Harry, and their parents trying to pretend their family is way more functional than it actually is.

Phoenix is pissed at her parents because they’re in dire financial straits, but rather than tell Phoenix and Harry the truth they’ve been hiding it, though Phoenix has discovered their dirty little secret. Of course, rather than confront them she decides to be passive aggressive and has decided from the get go that she will not like this camp she’s being forced to attend.

Of course, that’s when Callum steps in. Callum is cute, mysterious, and everything you’re looking for in a summer fling. While Callum trains Phoenix to be a counselor it becomes more and more obvious that there’s an attraction between them, but Phoenix has serious trust issues, and not just because of her parents; her ex cheated on her right before she went to camp. As Phoenix tries to figure out her feelings for Callum (and his feelings for her), she also has to decide if she’s willing to forgive the ones who’ve betrayed her trust and learn to trust again.

While there were definitely some cute and swoonworthy scenes in this novel, I wasn’t all that impressed with Phoenix and Callum’s romance. Honestly, I wasn’t a big fan of Phoenix or Callum. They both annoyed me a lot throughout the novel and I just wanted to shake them and ask, “Why are you like this?” Harry was honestly my favorite character.

I was also kind of annoyed about some things that were mentioned and then never explained, mainly about Callum’s brother. I know Callum’s supposed to be mysterious but he’d just drop these tiny bombshells about his brother and then never say another else about it, which I found so irritating.

Besides that though, this was a decent romance and it was a pretty quick read. I probably wouldn’t read again but I didn’t hate it. Basically, it was meh.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow

Stars:

3 stars

Favorite Line:

“You are the porterhouse [steak]. The best. All those other girls, any other girl, they’re packing popcorn.”

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