ARC Book Review: Amelia Westlake Was Never Here by Erin Gough

Synopsis:

amelia westlake was never here.jpgA fiercely funny, queer romantic comedy about two girls who can’t stand each other, but join forces in a grand feminist plan to expose harassment and inequality at their elite private school.

Harriet Price is the perfect student: smart, dutiful, over-achieving. Will Everhart is a troublemaker who’s never met an injustice she didn’t fight. When their swim coach’s inappropriate behavior is swept under the rug, the unlikely duo reluctantly team up to expose his misdeeds, pulling provocative pranks and creating the instantly legendary Amelia Westlake–an imaginary student who helps right the many wrongs of their privileged institution. But as tensions burn throughout their school–who is Amelia Westlake?–and between Harriet and Will, how long can they keep their secret? How far will they go to make a difference? And when will they realize they’re falling for each other?

Award-winning author Erin Gough’s Amelia Westlake Was Never Here is a funny, smart, and all-too-timely story of girls fighting back against power and privilege–and finding love while they’re at it.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and The Novl. 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 May 21, 2019.*

In Amelia Westlake Was Never Here there is a hate-to-love story and girls teaming up to take down their problematic all-girls private school through pranks I wish I’d come up with when I was in school. This book was so hard to put down, which is why I didn’t. I loved it from start to finish and now I will work to convince you to pick it up because I know you will love it too.

The novel is told in alternating first person POVs of Will and Harriet. Will is the rebel with a lot of causes. She only has one real friend at school, Natasha, and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes is right…which is partially why she doesn’t have many friends. Harriet, on the other hand, has a group of friends and a girlfriend and is seen as the model student at her school. To Harriet her school is perfect. Sure, it may have some flaws but it’s not as problematic as Will thinks it is.

However, when Harriet tasks herself with making sure Will stays for her full time of detention after their teacher leaves the room, the two end up teaming up to draw a cartoon that calls out their gym teacher for his sexist behavior and thus the pseudonym Amelia Westlake is born. But after Natasha, the editor of the student newspaper, realizes Amelia isn’t real she scrapes Amelia’s cartoons. Thankfully, Will and Harriet aren’t easily deterred and decide to continue revealing the school’s issues through various pranks that are downright brilliant.

Together, the girls light the spark their classmates need to begin calling out the school’s problems, and as their voices get louder real change begins to happen. And the more Will and Harriet work together as Amelia the closer they become. If you love romance and books that are all about fighting the power, Amelia Westlake Was Never Here is perfect you! It’s a fun, quick read that also deals with very real issues. Definitely add this book to your TBR if you haven’t already.

Borrow or Buy: Buy!

Stars:

5 stars

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ARC Book Review: We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra

Synopsis:

WCM_FinalCover.jpgAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets I’ll Give You the Sun in an exhilarating and emotional novel about the growing relationship between two teens boys, told through the letters they write to one another.

Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam “Kurl” Kurlansky are partnered in English class, writing letters to one another in a weekly pen pal assignment. With each letter, the two begin to develop a friendship that eventually grows into love. But with homophobia, bullying, and devastating family secrets, Jonathan and Kurl struggle to overcome their conflicts and hold onto their relationship…and each other.
This rare and special novel celebrates love and life with engaging characters and stunning language, making it perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Nina LaCour, and David Levithan.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and The Novl. 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 May 14, 2019.*

I love epistolary novels and Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, so when I saw We Contain Multitudes comped to AADDTSOTU and that it was told in the form of the letters I was immediately sold. Thankfully, this novel did not disappoint.

My favorite thing about epistolary novels is that they dive pretty straight into the plot, because of course the author has to explain why the novel is being told this way and Sarah Henstra handled it perfectly. We began with Adam “Kurl” Kurlansky called Jonathan Hopkirk Little JO. If you thought JO was short for Jonathan you’d be mistaken. Instead it was short for Jerkoff, because that was how Kurl envisioned all sophomores, which JO was. The reason for their letter writing came through their English teacher, Ms. Khang. She started a project in which the students in her Grade Twelve Applied English class (Kurl) would write letters to the students in her sophomore English class (JO). I loved the concept and Kurl’s opening letter, so I was immediately hooked.

What I loved most about these pair of characters was how incredibly different they were but how they also had a number of similarities. JO was a gay student who was 100 percent out of the closest and wore what his sister’s BFF referred to as “Walt Whitman cosplay.” Unfortunately, this caused JO to be bullied in school by people whe called the “butcherboys” a term he pulled from a Whitman poem. In case it wasn’t clear, JO was a big fan of Whitman.

Differently, Kurl was a football player until he recently walked off the team. He was known around school for getting into fights and having to retake classes. For the most part, Kurl kept to himself and he was a hard person to read. Thankfully, through letters Kurl began to open up to JO and vice versa, sparking a friendship that gradually grew into something more.

However, while the two grew closer they were both still dealing with issues both at home and at school. Henstra did an excellent job of tackling a variety of heavy topics, including domestic abuse, homophobia, bullying, PTSD, and more. They way in which Henstra weaved this story together through Kurl and JO’s retelling of events, sometimes having one start the story and the other finish it, was brilliant.

My only critique, and I’m not sure I’d even say this really is one, is you have to kind of give yourself over to the story and not question it too much. There were moments when I found myself wondering how realistic it was that Kurl or JO would take a moment out of what they were doing to pen a letter to the other, especially when things became very high stakes in the present. However, I was able to push past those questions because the book was just too good for me to care much about the logistics of it all.

Thus, overall, I’d say this is a must-read novel. I absolutely loved it and would personally like to chuck it in the face of everyone I know while I yelled, “Read this book immediately, or else!” In sum, buy this book.

Borrow or Buy: See above.

Stars:

5 stars

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ARC Book Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Synopsis:

the bride test.jpgKhai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Berkley Romance 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 May 7, 2019.*

I loved The Kiss Quotient so when I learned Helen Hoang had another book coming I knew I needed it. Thus, I was incredibly excited when my request for the eARC was accepted and though I didn’t love The Bride Test as much as The Kiss Quotient I still really enjoyed it.

The Bride Test follows Khai, an autistic man who believes he can never fall in love, and Esme, a Vietnamese immigrant who’s come to America to try to woo Khai and convince him to marry her. For Esme, she believes Khai is the key to starting a new and better life for her family in America and she’ll do whatever it takes to make him interested, and it’ll take a lot.

I absolutely loved this concept. Khai’s mother literally told Khai Esme was coming to live with him and by the end of the summer he had to decide to either marry her or send her back to Vietnam. Just like that. Honestly, his mom was hilarious and I loved her. I also thought it was interesting that because autism wasn’t something Esme was familiar with she didn’t fully understand Khai’s “disorder” and didn’t even see it as one. She just thought he was different, but accepted him as he was, which is how it should be.

Their chemistry was amazing and I loved the constant missteps they took with each other until they found their rhythm. They’re vastly different, but also worked so well together and I definitely swooned a number of times while reading. The romance made my heart race and then groan in frustration every time Khai convinced himself it wasn’t real. I think that was my biggest gripe with this novel. Every time Khai denied having feelings for Esme I wanted to throw my book (Kindle) across the room, but I also understood this was a big issue for him.

Besides the romance, I really liked how this book tackled family, immigration, and the different ways people grief. I’m not autistic but like Khai I’ve definitely been accused of not handling someone’s death the right way, and to see how well Khai’s mom and his brother, Quan, helped Khai and others understand Khai’s emotions was really nice to see.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I wanted a little more from the ending because the epilogue seemed a bit rushed to me and I felt like I missed something. Otherwise though, I definitely recommend reading this book and I can’t wait to read whatever Hoang writes next.

Borrow or Buy: Buy it!

Stars:

4 stars

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ARC Book Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

the unhoneymooners 2Synopsis:

Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky twin: from inexplicable mishaps to a recent layoff, her life seems to be almost comically jinxed. By contrast, her sister Ami is an eternal champion . . . she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests. Unfortunately for Olive, the only thing worse than constant bad luck is having to spend the wedding day with the best man (and her nemesis), Ethan Thomas.

Olive braces herself for wedding hell, determined to put on a brave face, but when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. Suddenly there’s a free honeymoon up for grabs, and Olive will be damned if Ethan gets to enjoy paradise solo.

Agreeing to a temporary truce, the pair head for Maui. After all, ten days of bliss is worth having to assume the role of loving newlyweds, right? But the weird thing is . . . Olive doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, the more she pretends to be the luckiest woman alive, the more it feels like she might be.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Gallery Books via NetGalley. 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 May 14, 2019.*

I didn’t think I’d ever love a Christina Lauren book more than I loved Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating but The Unhoneymooners came pretty damn close.

I love a good hate-to-love story so I was already pretty onboard with this book when I read the synopsis. The novel follows Olive who believes she’s cursed with bad luck. While her twin sister, Ami, has a knack for winning things, Olive has always gotten the short end of the stick, until Ami’s wedding. At the reception, everyone gets food poisoning except Olive, who’s allergic to shellfish, and Ethan, Ami’s new brother-in-law, who avoids buffets at all costs. Thus, Ami enlists Olive to take her place on her honeymoon and Ami’s husband, Dane, enlists Ethan to take his and the pair are off, though they both agree they hate each other, to which I say, “Sure Jan.”

Naturally, the pair start their vacation on a rocky start but when Olive runs into her new boss at the hotel and tells him she’s there with her “new husband” Ethan and Olive have to place nice to keep up the charade, and then continue playing nice when they then run into Ethan’s ex, until suddenly they’re not playing anymore.

I loved these two. Their easy banter was hilarious and I loved how they messed with each other, especially when they called each other the wrong names. Their chemistry was there even when they “hated” each other and it was so fun seeing them figure out what was so obvious. Additionally, I loved that their romance wasn’t the major plot of this book. Besides a terrible misunderstanding, there was another major factor involved in why Ethan and Olive didn’t get together and when that’s revealed it not only affects Ethan and Olive but their siblings as well.

I read this book while on vacation and I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t sleep until I finished it because I needed to know how it would end, and it was totally worth the lost sleep. It was amazing to see Olive grow as a person and also stick to her guns even when it seemed like everything and everyone was working against her. I also loved that Ami and Olive were Mexican and came from this big family filled with cousins because I could totally relate. Their family made this book even more enjoyable and I loved how they went to the end of the Earth and back again for each other.

Overall, I highly recommend picking this book up when it comes out. It’s definitely one of, if not the best Christina Lauren book I’ve ever read (and I’ve read almost all of them!). I’ve already reread this book and I’m sure I’ll do so again before it’s released. It’s a must read!

Borrow or Buy: Buy it!

Stars:

5 stars

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ARC Book Review: The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

the princess and the fangirl.jpgSynopsis:

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.

When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom. As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Quirk Books. 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 April 2, 2019.*

Prior to receiving this ARC, I hadn’t read Geekerella though I’d heard loads of good things about it. Thanks to my library, I was able to get the audiobook and got through it pretty quickly and then dived right into The Princess and the Fangirl. Thus, you’ll have to forgive me if I can’t help but to compare the two novels.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Princess and the Fangirl. Full disclosure, I somehow got it in my head that this was a Princess and the Frog retelling and not a Prince and the Pauper retelling. Thankfully, that was cleared up pretty quickly once I started reading. Once I got past the idea that the romance wouldn’t happen between the two main characters, I was able to settle more into the book and I was pretty into it.

The novel follows Jessica “Jess” Stone who we met in Geekerella. Jess was the actress who played Princess Amara and while Darien, who played Federation Prince Carmindor, was a fanboy through and through who wanted nothing more than to play the character, Jess wanted nothing less. She didn’t get the hype of fandom and mostly only saw the dark side of it, which consisted of people harassing her online and in public. Unfortunately, this is something most women, especially women of color, face in the sci-fi/fantasy world and I was happy to see Ashley Poston address that in this book.

On the flip side, the other main character with a POV was Imogen “Monster” Lovelace who lived for fandom. The spear header of the “Save Amara” campaign, Imogen was thrilled when she got the opportunity to impersonate Jess on a panel and speak her mind about why Amara should be saved in the next Starfield movie. Though Jess was naturally furious, an unexpected situation led Jess to suggest they switch places again and Imogen jumped at the opportunity, hoping that as Jess she could get Amara in the sequel film, even if it wasn’t what Jess wanted.

The Princess and the Fangirl was filled with the same kind of fandom love that I absolutely adored in Geekerella, and it was great to see my favorite characters from the first book again as well as to meet new characters who I found to be hilarious. That said, I definitely didn’t love this book as much as Geekerella and I think that mainly boils down to the fact that in this book there were two different romances instead of just the one and I think because of that split time with each ship, I didn’t particularly care for either one of them.

The hate-to-love kind of romance that blossomed between Imogen and Jess’ assistant, Ethan, confused me quite a bit because the “hate” that started the relationship felt pretty forced to me. I just didn’t really understand where Ethan’s animosity towards Imogen came from, especially since he seemed to think Jess was a little mean to Imogen in the beginning. Still, I couldn’t help but swoon over some of their moments together and eventually I got over my issues about how it started and just focused on what it became.

I can’t say the same for Jess’ romance. While they had a number of cute scenes together, even the climatic moment at the end didn’t have me screaming, “Ugh yes finally!” It was more just like, “That was cute,” which honestly isn’t bad. It’s just when I think about Darien and Ella I immediately want to read Geekerella all over again because I love them and their journey so much, and I just didn’t make that same connection to either of the ships in The Princess and the Fangirl.

Even so, I really did enjoy this novel. Along with the awesome critiques Poston made about how fandom treats women, I also loved that she touched on how artists are often mistreated as well, with people not wanting to pay them for their art. Poston made a lot of strong points with this novel that weren’t at all heavy handed and still kept the fun times rolling until the very end.

In sum, I highly recommend picking up The Princess and the Fangirl when it hit shelves. If you loved Geekerella I think you owe it to yourself to see what happens next.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow. It’s cute, but I probably wouldn’t reread.

Stars:

3 stars

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ARC Review: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

four dead queens.jpgSynopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she’s, in fact, one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara’s most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara’s queens dead.

With no other choices and on the run from Keralie’s former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation’s four dead queens.

An enthralling fast-paced murder mystery where competing agendas collide with deadly consequences, Four Dead Queens heralds the arrival of an exciting new YA talent.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indie Bound

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Penguin Teen. 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 February 26, 2019.*

There is so much that I loved about this book, I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s just start with the world in general. Astrid Scholte gave me a fantasy world where there is no magic, and I love her for it. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good magical system, but the way Scholte was able to build this world where magic-like things happened simply because of science and technology was really awesome to me. I absolutely loved that aspect of the world building and I’m totally here for more fantastical worlds without magic.

Second, I also loved how this world was set up in general and the history behind it. In Quadara (love that “quad” is in the kingdom name), there are four quadrants: Eonia, Archia, Ludia, and Toria. These quadrants are split by walls and for the most part people do not move from one quadrant to the other, thus causing a great deal of separation between the people of each quadrant and very different ways of life. In Eonia, people grow up without emotions and they are highly focused on science and how to make the best kind of humans. Archia is all about a natural way of life. They balk at technology and are focused on agriculture. Ludia is a stress free, care free quadrant. Their focus is on the arts and entertainment. Toria is all about curiosity and exploration, but honestly, I felt like Toria was the least defined quadrant. I felt like I had a clear understanding of the other three quadrants, but Toria left me a little confused. Still, I think Scholte did a great job of explaining why the kingdom has the four quadrants and the four queens that rule them.

Third, the twists in this novel killed me! The formatting of this novel was so well done. There are alternating chapters of Keralie in first person and then each of the queens in third person. Scholte did an amazing job of playing with time in this story and a good number of bait and switches. Every time I thought I had everything figured out she pulled the rug out from under me. It is rare that I am truly surprised by a novel and I was surprised multiple times with this one. I absolutely loved it and all the twists and turns made this book so hard to put down.

Lastly, I’m a sucker for romance and look for it in every book I read, whether it’s actually there or not. Thus, I was immediately intrigued by Keralie and Varin’s team up. I love a good hate to love romance, and though I wouldn’t even go as far as to say these two actually hated each other at the start of the novel, I found Varin’s constant irritation with Keralie as they decided to work together to save the queens highly amusing. These two were polar opposites in the best way and I shipped them immediately. There were also a number of other romantic plot lines throughout the book with various disagrees of happy and not happy at all endings that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

All in all, I loved this novel. The plot was very well-written and the characters were incredibly interesting and complex, especially Keralie. I love a flawed character and Keralie certainly isn’t perfect, but at her core she’s a good person and I loved that about her. I highly recommend picking up Four Dead Queens when it hits the shelves, and I personally can’t wait to see what Scholte writes next.

Borrow or Buy: Buy it!

Stars:

4 stars

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ARC Review: The Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty

91giDZnnoyL.jpgSynopsis:

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe..

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid—the unpredictable water spirits—have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Harper Voyager. 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 today.*

Note: There will be spoilers from The City of Brass in this review.

When I first started this novel I wasn’t sure if I was ready to get back into this world. There was a lot going on here. There were different tribes of djinn, the shafit, old histories and secrets, and now three different points of view instead of just the two that were in the first book, not to mention the five year time jump. In sum, I was a bit overwhelmed and I was nervous that all the world building would leave me confused and frustrated. Thankfully, that was not the case.

I don’t know how Chakraborty does it, but even when I had questions I was still deeply enthralled in this novel. I needed to know what would happen next with Nahiri, Ali, and Dara and how their lives would come crashing back together once again. And boy was it a fun ride when they finally did. Can you say messy? But anyway.

At the start of the novel, the three main characters were separated and all dealing with their own issues. Nahiri was now married to Prince Muntadhir and had fully grown into her role as the Banu Nahida, healing many but still under the control of the king, Ghassan. Ali, the banished prince, was able to make a life for himself outside of Daevabad only to be dragged back to the city due to a ploy by his mother’s family. And then there was Dara. Brought back from the dead (again) he found himself working with Nahiri’s presumed dead mother, Manizheh, who planned to overthrow Ghassan and return Daevabad to Nahid rule, no matter the cost.

Each of the main characters were working towards what they believed was the good of Daevabad and it was so interesting to see how they all fell short in some ways and also clashed. There was a lot of animosity between the characters as well as the tribes they belonged to and honestly, I still don’t know if they can all ever really find peace amongst each other.

What I can say is this story didn’t pull back any punches. There were twists! There was murder! There were love connections that I pray come to fruition in the last book! It ended on a magnificent cliff hanger! There was a lot going on, but I was invested and the story and the characters, and more often than not when I did have questions they were answered.

In sum, while the world building can definitely feel like a lot at points, if you pay attention you get it, and once you do you’ll find yourself immersed in a world that you’ll find difficult to pull yourself out of. Trust me, I stayed up until 4 a.m. reading this book. I know.

Buy or Borrow: Buy!

Stars:

5 stars

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