As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen’s thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.
Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.
This book is all about weddings, so having a subtle person throwing flowers into the air was certainly a nice touch. It’s a simple cover, yet it tells a lot about what the book may entail. I especially love the background color and, like all of Dessen’s books, the title, and author name pop out nicely and are large enough to be seen.
While I haven’t read all of Dessen’s books like most people, I’m trying to catch up. This is the author’s latest book and I grabbed it as soon as I could to keep up with the times. It didn’t disappoint.
I felt as though this plot was a bit cliche. Louna works with her mother planning and working weddings but she doesn’t date herself. She doesn’t really believe in love. Then her mother hires Ambrose, an interesting character. Of course, Louna is distant toward him but Ambrose keeps trying. I’m sure you can already tell what’s going to happen.
Still, Dessen did it right. Louna carries baggage from a past boyfriend which heats things up a bit.
I enjoyed all the characters. Louna made a great female lead and while Ambrose was annoying at first, he grew on me.
Louna’s mother was also a great character. She was the perfect mother figure but she and Louna had a good relationship with each other which made me feel good.
This book is a decent length with some lengthy chapters. It all flows well and reads easily. It’s got a good pace and can be a quick read but you want to take your time with it.
Dessen didn’t disappoint. If you enjoy a little romance, but not over-the-top romance, and like young adult, check out this book. Or any of Dessen’s books.
Once and for All by Sarah Dessen gets… 5 out of 5 stars
“Everyone’s always in their own world, when it’s still an option.” –Sarah Dessen, Once and for All
Her story is a phenomenon. Her life is a disaster.
In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.
Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.
But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.
The book cover is what caught my attention. It matches perfectly with the contents of the story. The cover shows a pair of hands, assuming to be Eliza’s, holding onto a pair of characters. The font of the title suggests something artsy as well. I love the design overall.
I had seen this book making its way around the WordPress book world. I had heard a lot of great things. I do enjoy storytellings and creating characters, of course, so when I went to Barnes & Noble I picked it up.
Eliza Mirk is a creative writer who publishes a comic online. She has created a brand new world with amazing characters and wonderful settings. Her username, Lady Constellation, is practically famous on the internet. However, she doesn’t want anyone to know it’s actually her.
This plot is unique as it relates so well to today. Everyone “knows” who everyone is on the internet and a lot of people make their living online now. Eliza was making money off of merch and that was going to help pay for her college. She was doing what she loved to do but didn’t want the fame attached to it. I found myself really into the plot, especially when she met a real-life fan because I knew what was coming.
I enjoyed reading Eliza’s story. Eliza and Lady Constellation differ so much from each other which I thought was spot on. We’re all a little different on the internet. She made a great protagonist and developed well throughout the story.
Wallace was a great male lead. I was able to predict what was going to happen when he came into the picture, but I still enjoyed him and the dynamic between him and Eliza.
Eliza had two mods online, both varied in ages and they lived in different parts of the world. They only communicated online and through text but I loved their relationship with each other. They met through Monstruous Sea, but they were great friends.
The story flowed well overall. It bounced back and forth between narrative to text layout to brief drawings and blurbs of Monstrous Sea. I never felt jarred out of the story and it was easy to read. In fact, I read half the book late at night because I couldn’t stop reading.
This was a wonderful story. I think most of us can relate to it. The storytelling overall is great and I would love to see more.
Eliza And Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia gets… 4 out of 5 cups of coffee
“It’s stupid because that’s what I like about the internet – that it gives you time to think about what you want to say before you say it.” –Francesca Zappia, Eliza And Her Monsters
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
The cover for Green’s latest novel is simple. I like the orange coloring of the spiral as it’s not too bright and doesn’t take away from the actual title. The title and Green’s name takes up a lot of space on the cover is in a semi-messy font which goes well with the premise of the story as well. I like it.
I’ve hopped on the John Green train late. Before picking this up, I’ve only ever read Paper Towns by him. His books have always been on my list so when this one was announced, I preordered it right away.
This plot did not turn out the way I had expected it to. I expected more of a mystery, but it turned out to be more about finding yourself and being true to yourself and your friends. It was about being there for one another. While it wasn’t what I expected it to be, it was still a fun read with a cool mystery in the background.
Part of the reason I enjoyed this novel so much was that Aza is just like me. She’s more extreme than me, but she has anxiety and some of the things she did and said are some things I can relate to. She made a great protagonist and was good fodder to through into a mystery.
Daisy, Aza’s best friend, was a good character to balance Aza out. She was supportive of her friend but got annoyed with her at times. Still, she was a fun character and I would love to see her in another story.
Davis, their other friend who wasn’t their friend in the beginning, was interesting. It was his father who went missing, his money that Aza and Daisy – mostly Daisy – wanted. Aza and Davis related to each other on so many levels and I found it to be a great dynamic.
John Green’s writing is always phenomenal. The story was nicely paced and flowed well. There were no stones unturned. The plot was enjoyable enough that it was a quick read and kept me wanting more. While this is a standalone novel, I’d be interested to see these characters in a sequel.
John Green didn’t disappoint. The plot was intriguing, I fell in love with the characters, and I couldn’t put it down. I would highly recommend this.
Turtles All The Way Down by John Green gets… 5 out of 5
“I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battled you won. Illness is a story told in the past.” –John Green, Turtles All The Way Down
Title: Eleanor and the Impossible Author: M. Miles
Published: October 30, 2017 Genre: Young adult How I got the book: I received a free digital ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review
Eleanor’s world is confined by the hedge around my guardian’s estate, but her imagination knows no boundaries.
Applying her scientific spirit to her favorite fairy tales, Eleanor devotes years to designing experiments that she hopes will attract fairies to her garden. But when a skeptical boy, instead of a fairy, appears in the garden, Eleanor’s concept of magic is shaken to the core.
The beauty of innocence, the perils of devotion, and the power of imagination are illuminated in a story that sings to the inner child: Eleanor’s story.
When the author approached me about this book, I was happy to see the imaginative elements in the story. From the summary alone, I had a feeling the story would be magical. Needless to say, I was intrigued.
Eleanor is an orphan adopted by Lady Fitzopul, a mysterious woman. She hires a nanny, Clara Abbey, to care for the child in every way possible. Eleanor grows up happily, but isolated and unaware of the outside world. Mr. von Due, the man who took care of Eleanor’s adoption, forbids her to go out as she had speech delays and is a peculiar girl. However, he has another plan up his sleeve.
While I found the beginning of the novel to be a bit slow, the more I read the more I was intrigued. I was thrown into Eleanor’s magical world through her best friend, Maggie, who made up stories and lies to share with Eleanor, who naively thought they were real.
Along comes Theo, a boy Eleanor’s age who Mr. von Due adopted himself. Theo’s goal is to woo Eleanor to gain her fortune. Theo is naturally kind at heart and realizes pretty quickly what a bad idea it is.
In a way, this plot is like a real fairy tale. Eleanor is waiting for her prince to come, not knowing that he doesn’t exist – or, not in the way she thinks.
This plot was cleverly crafted and told a wonderful story. While I was confused by Maggie’s words at first (even I wasn’t sure what was real and what wasn’t), I was soon sucked in.
Eleanor is a naive, sweet young lady. She was adopted at a young age not knowing what happened to her parents or why until Maggie threw ideas into her head. She grew up believing in a magical world where fairies were hiding somewhere. She was the perfect protagonist for such a story and her character developed very nicely.
Maggie, however, was probably my favorite character. Eleanor took a liking to Maggie at a young age and Maggie found that as an opportunity. Maggie wasn’t happy with her life and, wanting to tell stories for a living, she spun a web of tales for Eleanor who believed every word. You could argue Maggie was an antagonist in some way, but she was lonely. I think it got to a point where she wanted to tell Eleanor the truth but was afraid to.
Theo was a wonderful character as well. All he wanted to do was make the others around him happy. He wanted to make his new father, Mr. von Due happy, but when he met Eleanor he realized there was much more to her. He was sweet even to Maggie.
Clara Abbey, Lady Fitozpul, Mr. von Due, Mrs. von Due, and Edward (Mr. and Mrs. von Due’s biological son) were all great supporting characters as well. I could go on about them, but for the sake of the length of this review, I won’t.
This book was written in third-person omniscient. This isn’t my favorite because I feel as though there’s more telling than showing. We see everyone’s points of views and thoughts and I don’t care to know about everyone. I’d rather know the protagonist and then infer about everyone else.
The author had such a way with words though that it didn’t bother me as much as it usually does. The description was spot on and the way Maggie told her stories, her voice, was mesmerizing.
I wasn’t too sure about the novel when I first started reading, but the author surprised me in more ways than one. This kind of plot isn’t something I would normally pick up myself if I found it at the bookstore, but I’m glad I gave it a chance. I look forward to any other work M. Miles puts out there.
Eleanor and the Impossible by M. Miles gets… 5 out of 5 stars
“Maybe, then, magic is just the unexplained. And if you hang on to your curiosity, and you hang on to your sense of wonder, maybe there will always be magic in the world for you.” –M. Miles, Eleanor and the Impossible
About M. Miles
M. Miles is a young writer from the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Like Eleanor, she enjoys the beauty of the natural world and the grandeur of a story well told.
Despite having studied biology in college, Miles has gone on to work as an English teacher, a content writer, and a novel editor. Eleanor and the Impossible is her debut novel. To keep up with new works in progress, visit mmilesblog.wordpress.com.
Title: Keepers (The Eden East #1) Author: Sacha de Black
Published: November 17, 2017 Genre: Young adult, science fiction How I got the book: I received a free digital review copy in exchange for an honest review
Eden’s life is balanced…
…until her soul is bound to her enemy.
When her parents are murdered, the realm of Trutinor is threatened. Then a mysterious human arrives and changes everything.
As Eden’s world spirals out of control, she doesn’t need a charismatic Siren from her past returning to complicate life.
Now, saving Trutinor is the last thing on Eden’s mind.
Two murdered parents.
One deadly choice.
I have been following Sacha on her blog and social media for some time now. I’ve read and followed her through every update this book and I can’t believe the time has finally come – it is out in the world. Sacha approached me to advance read this book and I was more than happy to accept.
Keepers has the most unique plot I’ve seen in a while. The world is fleshed out to the max and the characters are super important in their own way.
We follow Eden East as she tries to do right in her world, Trutinor. Everything changes when her parents are murdered, her soul is bound to not one, but two boys. One of those boys being her enemy and neither of them being the man she truly loves. Then it’s a race against time to fix their binding and Balance their souls once more.
It’s hard to explain only because this world was so cleverly crafted and the rules are complicated (but they’re easy to understand within the pages). A lot of worldbuilding went into this book and it certainly shows. The plot revolves around Keepers, Fallons, Shifters, etc., with the occasional human sprinkled in. While I would not want to be in Eden’s shoes, the world of Trutinor seems like an interesting place.
There was a good amount of romance thrown in, as once you’re Bound your soulmates. You may not be Bound to who you love. That called for a perfect opportunity for a love triangle. I’m not a big fan of romance or love triangles, but it was well done in this story and I found rooting for one guy over the other.
I loved each and every character. They all fulfilled a certain role and no talent was wasted.
Eden made a great protagonist. I loved her voice and her strong will. I felt that she had a nice balance of being “tough” and “vulnerable” at the same time.
Victor made a nice antagonist. Though I have to admit, even though we were meant to hate him, I actually liked his character in the beginning… then I hated him.
Trey made a great supporting character as did Bo, Kato, and everyone else in the story. It was a great cast of characters.
This book was written in the third person limited through Eden. I felt that was a good choice for the narrator for this kind of novel.
The pace was smooth, yet it was action-packed. It sped up and slowed down at the right moments. I never got lost in the reading as it was easy to understand and it flowed well.
There’s a lot of learning as you read this novel. It’s a big world with many new terms, but it’s easy enough to stay caught up.
I don’t read a lot of science fiction or even this kind of fantasy for that matter, but I can very easily see myself getting sucked up in this world. The ending had a great twist. I’m really looking forward to the sequel.
Keepers (The Eden East #1) by Sacha de Black gets… 5 out of 5 stars
“Scars are memories. They’re real. Moments we shouldn’t forget.” –Sacha de Black, Keepers
Title: Warcross Author: Marie Lu
Published: September 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers Genre: Young adult, science fiction How I got the book: I bought it
For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.
If I remember correctly, this book was recommended to me by Nthato long before the book was released. It intrigued me and I put it on my Goodreads wish eventually forgetting about it. But I saw it in the bookstore the other day and I immediately remembered the book because of the cover. So I grabbed it. And I have to say, I haven’t read a book this fast in a while, it was that good.
Emika Chen is an 18-year-old bounty hunter. She is also an excellent hacker and certainly knows her way around computers and technology. So, when she accidentally hacks into one of the biggest virtual reality games, Warcross, during a live match, she assumes she’s in big trouble.
However, Hideo Tanaka, the 21-year-old creator of Warcross, offers her a job instead.
Emi is hired as a bounty hunter to go undercover in the games and hack into it to find and catch another hacker, only known as Zero. Between her skills and Hideo’s, they work together to catch the unknown man… or woman.
Books about hacking into video games are not uncommon. However, this plot was woven so intricately that it really made it its own. There’s hacking, there’s video game playing, there’s romance (eh), there’s humor, there are dangerous moments… it’s a roller coaster.
While I did figure out who Zero was fairly easily before Zero’s real identity was revealed, there was a twist at the end that I certainly didn’t see coming. And it was the best twist I’ve ever seen in a book.
But I’ll stop talking about the plot now. I could talk about it all day and I know I’ll spoil something…
I found all the characters to be likable in some way or another. Emi was a great protagonist and had a humorous personality. I could relate to her a lot.
Hideo was a great character as well. However, he was just okay for me. He was nice, smart, polite, but I don’t know. Something was off for me, but I did still enjoy him as a character. And I think he was the perfect fit to play the “21-year-old genius.”
The side characters, such as Emi’s Warcross team, Asher, Ren, Roshan, and Hammie, were cool as well. They each had their own unique personalities and contributed in one way or another. It showed their friendship with one another and they each had one goal in mind – to win Warcross. Still, they considered Emi a friend and was willing to help her own in any way they could.
Then there’s Keira. And here’s my only complaint about this book. Keira was Emi’s roommate back in New York, when they were poor and about to get evicted, before Emi accidentally hacked into the game. Once Emi is hired, she flies to Tokyo leaving Keira behind. She’s never heard from again.
I know she was a minor character, but I did like her, and I would assume that she would at least text Emi to see how things were going. Especially since Emi was blasted all over the news a couple of times. There seemed close enough friends that I was hoping they’d keep in touch. If Keira really wasn’t needed, she shouldn’t have been in the book at all.
The book is written in Emi’s first-person point of view. We see everything she sees and knows everything she knows, especially her thoughts. She had a humorous personality which definitely made her a fun character to follow around. It made the narration easier to read.
There was a lot of description in this book mostly of the Warcross game and overall world and all the technology that came with it. It was interesting and it honestly makes me wonder if we’re going to have something similar to that in real life at some point. It reminded me of VR Super Smash Brothers.
But it wasn’t just a came. It was a way people communicated with each other as well. It was very well done.
Can you tell I liked the book? I could gush about it all day if you’d let me. It was well written with a twisty plot and fun characters. I’m looking forward to book two.
Warcross by Marie Lu gets… 5 out of 5 stars
“Death has a terrible habit of cutting straight through every careful line you’ve drawn between your present and your future.” –Marie Lu, Warcross
Title: Beauty’s Curse (Once Upon A Princess book 1) Author: C.S. Johnson
Published: January 2016 by Dire Wolf Books Genre: Young adult, fantasy, retelling How I got the book: I received a free digital copy from the author for the blog tour in exchange for an honest review. However, the book was free on Amazon, so I downloaded it onto my Kindle.
For four years, Princess Aurora of Rhone—Rose to her friends—has searched the world for a way to break the curse placed on her by Magdalina, the wicked ruler of the fairies at war with her kingdom. Under the curse, Rose is doomed to die on her eighteenth birthday after pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel. And time is running out.
On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Rose makes the journey home with her friends—Theo, a priest with a penchant for revenge; Mary, a young and talented fairy; and Ethan and Sophia, siblings with a troubled past–as pressure from her father, King Stefanos, leaves her with two equally unsatisfying options: Abdicate the throne, or get married.
When I was approached to read this book (and the three books that follow it), I was intrigued by the summary. If you know me, you know I love retellings and oddly enough, I have yet to read any Sleeping Beauty retellings.
Time is running out for Rose. Her 17th birthday is approaching which means she only has one year left before her curse of pricking her finger on the spinning wheel on her 18th birthday is fulfilled. On a journey with a few friends, Rose returns back to her kingdom as she spends every waking moment trying to find a way to break the curse.
And that’s about it.
Being the first book in a series of four this felt more like an introduction. Not too much happened as Rose and her companions made their way back to the kingdom before they set out on their next adventure. There seemed to be a lot of build-up, especially where the king wants Rose to get married, but not much came from it. While they came to an agreement, it was swift and a bit anti-climactic.
The book ended on a cliff-hanger setting up the second book, but nothing from the first book, other than introducing the characters, seemed to be a big deal.
I’m not sure how I feel about Rose as a protagonist. Yes, this is a Sleeping Beauty retelling so it’s only natural she would be the center of attention, but she just seemed a little flat to me.
Theo, Rose’s priest companion and friend, was a wonderful character. He seemed fleshed out and was kind putting Rose’s needs before his own and he really seemed to know what he was doing.
Mary, Sophia, Ethan, and later Prince Philip, were good characters as well. They all have good personalities which made them fun to read.
This seems to be told in third-person omniscient, which isn’t my favorite POV at all. There were times when a character would state the obvious or mention something that I wanted to figure out on my own or wait and see what happened.
Despite this, Rose is the main focus. Yet, sometimes we would switch to someone else for a moment just for the sake of them talking about Rose behind her back or thinking about her. I didn’t care too much for that.
I liked this book, though it’s not my favorite. I wish there were more high stakes against Rose and her friends. Still, it was enjoyable enough that I kept reading on.
Beauty’s Curse (Once Upon A Princess book 1) by C.S. Johnson gets… 3 out of 5 stars
“He was not fooled by the calm look on her face; there would be a battle in getting her to agree.” -C.S. Johnson, Beauty’s Curse
Buy the book – Beauty’s Curse is FREE on all platforms!
Title: Beauty’s Quest (Once Upon A Princess book 2) Author: C.S. Johnson
Published: June 2016 by Dire Wolf Books Genre: Young adult, fantasy, retelling How I got the book: I received a free digital copy from the author for the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.
In order to defeat the sorceress Magdalina, and free herself from her curse, Rose, the Princess of Rhone, has set out to find dragon’s blood. As she travels toward the Romani territory, where the Serpent’s Garden resides, she is accompanied by her faithful group of friends, including their newest member, Prince Philip of Einish.
But when the group ends up shipwrecked on the small island of Maltia, they find themselves trapped without supplies and a way off the island. With time, money, and new enemies working against them, Rose remains determined despite her despair to rise to each challenge. But can she face the growing fear—and longing—inside herself?
Sweet, suspenseful, and full of surprises, Beauty’s Quest is the second book in the Once Upon a Princess series from C. S. Johnson.
Rose, Philip, Theo, Mary, Sophia, and Ethan set out on another journey to slay a dragon for its blood. However, their adventure takes some twists and turns once they’re shipwrecked and they become stranded on an island. Now they have to get back their money and supplies in order to continue their quest.
There was more action in this book than the last as Rose enters a tournament. She ends up making rivals with the champion and that tends to be the forcing drive behind most things she does in this book. Rose has a temper and she’s not afraid to use it.
Still, they’re trying to make it to the dragon. Once they do make it, it’s the very end of the book (one or two chapters) and it’s anti-clamactic again.
I’m still enjoying all the characters. My respect for Theo and Philip have especially gone up. I don’t care much for love triangles, but this one between them and Rose is working quite nicely.
However, I don’t like Rose. She was mean in this book. She’s stressed and worried about her curse, but she doesn’t treat others well and nearly kills two men. This is okay some of the time, of course, but it was constant in this book. I no longer have any sympathy for her and it’s hard to root for her to overcome the curse.
The writing style is the same as the first book. It’s still not my favorite, but that’s just my preference and I’ve gotten used to it since that happens to just be the style of this series.
However, there were a few typos here and there and the “thoughts” weren’t consistent. Sometimes they were in italics and something they weren’t.
Other than that, it was pretty easy to read and flowed well.
I liked this book better than the first one. There was more of a plot to it, but I still felt the need to give it only three stars because I couldn’t care for Rose. And, for me, characters are everything in a book.
Beauty’s Quest (Once Upon A Princess book 2) by C.S. Johnson gets… 3 out of 5 stars
“Your arguing skills are as sharp as ever.” -C.S. Johnson, Beauty’s Quest
C.S. Johnson is the author of several young adult novels, including sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles series, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at http://www.csjohnson.me.
At the end of each book in this series is a special collectible clue. Collect all four books, and get all four special prizes, FREE!
Love reading fairytales? Enter to the world of C.S. Johnson’s Once Upon A Princess Saga by entering to win a paperback of Beauty’s Curse, the entire saga in ebook format, four specially designed t-shirts of a quote from the series, and two handy mugs for your favorite drink.
Calling all book readers! Join us as we celebrate C.S.Johnson’s ONCE UPON A PRINCESS SAGA on October 6th from 8:30PM to 10:30PM EST (7:30PM CDT and 5:30PM PST).
Grab your favorite drink and snack and be prepared for a fun night of chatting with the author and special guests, games, and giveaways.
Special guests Chandler Brett, Jeff Sartini, and Disney Princess Addict will also be sharing their books and joining in the fun.
As a note: The giveaways held on this event page are in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. Any questions or comments regarding the party will be directed to the host (Laura A. Grace), not Facebook.
Title: Everland Author: Wendy Spinale
Published: May 2016 by Scholastic Press Genre: Young adult | Fantasy | Fairytale retelling How I got the book: I downloaded it onto my Kindle
The only way to grow up is to survive.
London has been destroyed in a blitz of bombs and disease. The only ones who have survived the destruction and the outbreak of a deadly virus are children, among them sixteen-year-old Gwen Darling and her younger siblings, Joanna and Mikey. They spend their nights scavenging and their days avoiding the deadly Marauders—the German army led by the cutthroat Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer.
Unsure if the virus has spread past England’s borders but desperate to leave, Captain Hook is on the hunt for a cure, which he thinks can be found in one of the surviving children. He and his Marauders stalk the streets snatching children for experimentation. None ever return.
Until one day when they grab Joanna. Gwen will stop at nothing to get her sister back, but as she sets out, she crosses paths with a daredevil named Pete. Pete offers the assistance of his gang of Lost Boys and the fierce sharpshooter Bella, who have all been living in a city hidden underground. But in a place where help has a steep price and every promise is bound by blood, it might cost Gwen more than she bargained for. And are Gwen, Pete, the Lost Boys, and Bella enough to outsmart the ruthless Captain Hook?
I love a good fairy tale retelling and Peter Pan is my favorite. So, naturally, I have to read all the Peter Pan retellings there are out there.
This was by far the most unique Peter Pan twist I’ve read. Instead of a lost girl or boy finding their way into Neverland, children are all around England orphaned from the war and a deadly disease that took their parents.
We go back and forth between Gwen’s first-person and Hook’s first-person. Gwen is trying to keep her younger brother and sister safe and they’re all trying to survive. Meanwhile, Hook wants his hands on the “cure” for the disease for the Queen who started the war in the first place.
When Gwen’s sister is taken by Hook’s crew, she comes across Pete and the Lost Boys. After a rough start, they decide to help one another out and go after Gwen’s sister and Hook.
This was certainly a different kind of plot than I’m used to reading, especially for a Peter Pan retelling. I enjoyed it though.
I didn’t fall in love with any of the characters. I found Gwen to be annoying at times. She flip-flopped a lot on her decisions and feeling. For a 15-year-old who has parented her younger siblings all the while trying to stay alive, I get why she was iffy at times. Still, there were times when I felt like she played the “I’m only 15” card and sometimes she seemed to play the “I’m older, therefore I’m in charge” card.
Pete was okay. He had a sad backstory, but there wasn’t much feeling behind it. Doc, one of the lost boys, explains Pete’s backstory to Gwen, but that’s about it. It’s just an explanation. Peter mentioned it once or twice to Gwen later on, but again, I couldn’t feel anything for it.
The supporting characters weren’t much better. I didn’t feel like I had enough time with any of them to really feel sorry or happy for them. Due to spoilers, I won’t say much, but I didn’t feel sorry for what happened to Jack or Pyro. I barely knew either one of them, so I didn’t care too much about what happened to them.
Overall, the characters didn’t really do it for me. And, to me, the characters are what makes a story.
The actual story was easy to read and to follow along. Each chapter alternated (for the most part) between Gwen and Hook. So, we knew his motives as well as hers.
Other than that, there wasn’t too much special about the writing. I thought it was pretty simple and straight-forward.
This book was just okay for me. The plot was interesting, but I don’t know if it worked well as a Peter Pan retelling. The characters were a little too bland for me. Also, there’s a quote in the book that’s in the original Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. It’s a wonderful quote, but for some reason that didn’t sit well with me. I feel like if the author wanted to add that in, she should have changed it a bit and made it more her own.
This is the first of a series. I may read the next book, but I don’t know if it would be anytime soon.
Everland by Wendy Spinale gets… 3 out of 5 stars
“Oh, aren’t you cute? It’s absolutely… darling.” –Wendy Spinale, Everland
Title: The Hidden Staircase (Nancy Drew #2) Author: Carolyn Keene
Published:1959 by Grosset and Dunlap Genre: Young adult mystery How I got the book: It was being donated and I took it
Nancy resolves to help Helen Corning’s relatives solve the mystery of the ghost haunting their old mansion. A mysterious man appears at the Drew home to warn Nancy that her father, Carson Drew is in danger. This warning prompts a search for the missing Willie Wharton, a land owner, who can prove he signed away his land to the railroad and save the railroad from a lawsuit. Meanwhile, the disappearance of Mr. Drew, thefts and mysterious goings on at Twin Elms, and the discovery of a hidden staircase lead Nancy to solve these baffling mysteries.
This second mystery was back-to-back the first one. I enjoyed the first one, so I figured I’d read this second one right away.
Nancy’s father, a lawyer, is kidnapped due to real estate issues about the railroad. Meanwhile, there’s a ghost inside a mansion that Nancy has to get rid of.
I found this plot to be a lot more in depth and suspenseful than the first book and I enjoyed it more. Nancy stays at the haunted mansion to figure out the “ghost” in the house all the while trying to find her father and solve that mystery.
Between the two mysteries, the plot moved along nicely and kept my attention.
With the help of Helen, Nancy explores the haunted mansion which is inhabited by Miss Flora and Aunt Rosemary. The four of them wander the house and investigate any happenings. They were all a great help to Nancy and I enjoyed following the four of them on the investigation together.
There weren’t too many other characters involved up until the very end as Nancy got closer to the truth, but I enjoyed the four main girls.
As a children’s story, the writing is pretty simple. The POV breaks a couple of times and there’s a lot of inner monologue from Nancy in which she states the obvious a lot.
Still, it’s easy to read and it’s relaxing in a way because even though you’re trying to help solve the case, you don’t have to think too much.
This was a fun read. It’s a nice, simple mystery with a few twists here and there.
The Hidden Staircase by Carolyn Keene gets… 4 out of 5 stars
“It sounded as if Helen had picked the squeakiest spot on each step!” –Carolyn Keene, The Hidden Staircase
Title: The Secret of the Old Clock Author: Carolyn Keene
Published:1987 by Grosset and Dunlap Genre: Young adult mystery How I got the book: The book got donated and I took it
Nancy, unaided, seeks to find a missing will, and the search not only tests her keen mind but also leads her into a thrilling adventure.
Nancy Drew was a big thing went I was younger. Did I hop on that train? No. So, when my dad brought home some books from his work that they were getting rid of, I picked out this Nancy Drew story and thought I’d give it a read.
Nancy Drew is an 18-year-old young lady whose father is a lawyer. She by no means is an actual detective, but she certainly acts like it and actually gets the job done.
When a man named Josiah Crowley passes away, Nancy meets all sorts of people who were supposed to get money from his will, people who actually need the money. But of course, the only will that came to light was a will that gave one snobby family everything.
Nancy knows there’s a second will out there, an updated one, and goes on the hunt to find it. At the same time, she stops a band of robbers.
It’s a simple plot, but it worked. It certainly isn’t a “hardcore” mystery and there’s no murder involved. I honestly think this is the first mystery I’ve read without murder being involved. It was a simple search, almost like a race against time, and it was refreshing to read.
Honestly, Nancy wasn’t who I thought she’d be. She was a great character, especially as a protagonist, but there were definitely times I thought she was younger than 18. Still, I enjoyed reading in her voice.
Her father was an awesome character as well. He was kind and supported Nancy in anything she did all the while doing his job and helping other people.
There were various other characters in the book that all had a purpose and kept the story going. It was well done.
This is a short book being 180 pages. And, while it’s classified as young adult, I see it more as middle grade. There was a lot of inner monologue for Nancy, yet the third-person limited was broken a couple of times.
Still, it was an easy read. There were a handful of illustrations throughout the story and even though they were simple, they were fun to look at.
This was a fun read. I can’t believe I missed out on reading Nancy Drew as a kid, but I’m sure I’ll be reading the rest of the series in time.
The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew 1) by Carolyn Keene gets… 4 out of 5 stars
“I promise to be as careful as a pussycat walking up a slippery roof.” –Carolyn Keene, The Secret of the Old Clock
Title: Perfect Author: Sara Shepard
Published: September 2007 by HarperTeen Genre: YA Mystery How I got the book: I bought it
IN ROSEWOOD, PENNSYLVANIA, FOUR PERFECT-LOOKING GIRLS AREN’T NEARLY AS PERFECT AS THEY SEEM.
Aria can’t resist her forbidden ex. Hanna is on the verge of losing her BFF. Emily is freaking out over a simple kiss. And Spencer can’t keep her hands off anything that belongs to her sister.
Lucky me. I know these pretty little liars better than they know themselves. But it’s hard keeping all of their secrets to myself. They better do as I say… or else!
I bought this book a long time ago when I first decided to read the Pretty Little Liars series before the series had ended. Needless to say, this was my first time reading it.
We continue to follow the four girls individually as they continue on with their lives after the death of their ring leader, Ali. They all put on an act as though they’re perfect and that they’re okay, but none of them really are. They all have secrets that they’re keeping from each other and only one person knows them all: A.
As far as plot goes, not too much happens. We learn a little more about the characters as their secrets are told, but that’s about it. Despite it being new secrets, this book was very similar to the previous one.
Hanna loses her best friend, Mona, as Mona begins to feel left out. Aria cheats on her boyfriend to try things out with her English teacher. Spencer is in the Golden Orchid essay contest, something very prestigious, but she plagiarized the essay from her sister. And Emily’s parents threaten to ship her away to her aunt and uncle’s house if she doesn’t “stop” being gay.
Naturally, the girls get in trouble with their secrets. They don’t interact at all with each other in this one other than one scene where the police talk to them. It was just like reading four different stories, which got a little boring after a while.
Each chapter alternated between the girls just like the other books. It wasn’t until the last two chapters that something big happened, and those last two chapters was a grand total of 7 pages combined.
There was a prologue in the beginning that was well done since prologues can be iffy. It was something that was brought up throughout the story. However, every time it was brought up, the scene was rewritten as though it was my first time reading it. So you can imagine how quickly it became redundant.
This wasn’t a bad book. We learn more about the girls, but that’s about it. I wish more plot happened.
Perfect by Sara Shepard gets… 3 out of 5 stars
“We don’t always love our friends every minute.” –Sara Shepard, Perfect
Title: Wink Poppy Midnight Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Published: March 2016 by Dial Books Genre: Young Adult Mystery/Fantasy How I got the book: I bought it
Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.
Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.
What really happened?
Someone is lying.
The cover was what first caught my attention. When I read the inside of the jacket I was intrigued. I love a good mystery where you have to figure out the liar of the group.
What is the plot, exactly? Now that I’ve read the book and I look back at the summary, I realize there isn’t much of a plot to the story. We follow three characters, Poppy, Wink, and Midnight, as they tell their side of the story in their own first-person point of view.
Not much happens the first half of the book. Then Wink and Midnight decide to prank Poppy (because she was going to prank Wink) and it doesn’t go as well as planned.
Then what happens?
Honestly, I feel like I can’t say too much on it. I don’t understand what happened and the things I do understand, I’d spoil the book.
Poppy is the mean girl. Wink is the shy girl. Midnight is a sweet boy who crushes on Poppy. However, when he gets tired of her pushing him around, he begins to crush on Wink, forming a love triangle between the three.
I didn’t care too much about any of the characters. Poppy was a jerk, Wink was very bizarre, thus confusing me, and Midnight was kind of a pushover who didn’t know what he wanted.
I can’t say I have a favorite character and I didn’t care what happened to any of them. And, if you know me, then you know that the characters are everything in a book for me.
The writing was lovely, I’ll give the book that. There were some parts where the book felt poetic of some sorts, which I enjoy.
But… each character spoke that way. The chapters flipped-flopped between the three main characters in their own first person point of views. They didn’t have distinct voices from one another. The chapters were short (some being only half a page long), yet I sometimes I had to flip over to the previous page because I couldn’t remember which character I was currently reading from.
I was pretty disappointed with this book. I was excited to read it, excited to get to the heart of the “mystery,” but… it wasn’t that at all. I guessed who the “liar” was pretty easy. The thing is, I was only half-right. Confused? So am I.
Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke gets… 2 out of 5 stars
“Revenge. Justice. Love. They are the three stories that all other stories are made up of.” –April Genevieve Tucholke, Wink, Poppy, Midnight
Title: Flawless Author: Sara Shepard Published: March 2007 by HarperTeen Genre: Young Adult How I got the book: I bought it
In the exclusive town of Rosewood, Pennsylvania, where the sweetest smiles hide the darkest secrets, four pretty little liars–Spencer, Aria, Emily, and Hanna–have been very bad girls. . . .
Spencer stole her sister’s boyfriend. Aria is brokenhearted over her English teacher. Emily likes her new friend Maya . . . as much more than a friend. And Hanna’s obsession with looking flawless is literally making her sick. But the most horrible secret of all is something so scandalous it could destroy their perfect little lives.
And someone named “A” is threatening to do just that.
At first they thought A was Alison, their friend who vanished three years ago . . . but then Alison turned up dead. So could A be Melissa, Spencer’s ultracompetitive sister? Or Maya, who wants Emily all to herself? What about Toby, the mysterious guy who left town right after Alison went missing?
One thing’s for certain: A’s got the dirt to bury them all alive, and with every crumpled note, wicked IM, and vindictive text message A sends, the girls get a little closer to losing it all.
This is book two of the Pretty Little Liars series. I’ve read it before though I’ve forgotten most of it. After rereading the first book, I wasn’t that impressed, so I didn’t get my hopes up for this one.
We learn a lot more about the four main girls, Emily, Aria, Spencer, and Hanna. We learn that Emily is struggling with her sexuality and doesn’t want anyone to know about it. Aria is dating her English teacher, though she knows it’s wrong. Spencer steals her sister’s boyfriend and Hanna makes herself sick in an attempt to look beautiful.
The girls try to take the easy way out with everything they do as they lie and keep secrets. They all have one thing in common and that’s “A.” A is threatening them and wants to reveal all their secrets. They assume it’s Toby, a boy who had a grudge against Alison. They all seen to think he’s A, as well as Ali’s killer.
Like the first book not much seems to happen in this one. We learn a lot more about the girls and A’s messages get more and more threatening, but nothing happens about it. The girls are scared as they try to figure things out, but they continue to do what they shouldn’t. It’s not that suspenseful and, at times, is a bit anti-clamactic.
This book is very similar to the first book. The girls continue to get threats from the mysterious A, but they continue to do what they shouldn’t. Each one is dealing with their own problems and secrets and while they’re all trying to figure out who A is together, they don’t really explain to each other what their secrets are.
They fell out of touch when Alison went missing and A is slowly bringing them back together. So far, my favorite character is Toby, even though they suspect him of being A.
The book flows well and it’s easy to read. It’s written in third-person, each chapter following a different character (Emily, Spencer, Aria, or Hanna). We get to know them each very well this way and I thought it was a good choice on the author’s part.
I did enjoy this book, but I didn’t find it overly exciting. Still, I enjoyed it more than the first since more stuff happened to the girls. I’m hoping the third book (and beyond) picks up.
Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard gets… 4 out of 5 stars
“The sweetest smiles hold the darkest secrets.” -Sara Shepard, Flawless
Title: Pretty Little Liars Author: Sara Shepard Published: October 2006 by HarperTeen Genre: Young Adult How I got the book: I bought it
Three years ago, Alison disappeared after a slumber party, not to be seen since. Her friends at the elite Pennsylvania school mourned her, but they also breathed secret sighs of relief. Each of them guarded a secret that only Alison had known. Now they have other dirty little secrets, secrets that could sink them in their gossip-hungry world. When each of them begins receiving anonymous emails and text messages, panic sets in. Are they being betrayed by some one in their circle? Worse yet: Is Alison back?
I have read this book before. According to my Goodreads account, it was way back in 2012. I’ve been getting into the show again now that it’s ended. I’ve decided to finally get around to reading the books since I have most of the series sitting on my bookshelves.
We get to know five high school girls: Alison, Aria, Spencer, Emily, and Hanna. They’re the best of friends, each with their own dirty secret(s). They are the most popular girls in school, Alison being the ring leader of the group.
On the summer before high school begins, they have a slumber party. When the girls wake up, Alison is gone. She was never found. This book takes place three years later. Aria, Spencer, Emily, and Hanna have moved on and aren’t really friends anymore. But once they start receiving odd messages that not only sound like Alison, but are also threatening, that they come together to figure out who is doing this to them.
That’s about it. Even though this is just book one nothing really happened. I felt as though this was more of an introduction to the series. We learned a lot about the main characters, but that was about it. Nothing really happened until there were about 20-30 pages left in the novel. Because of that, it was a bit boring.
I enjoy all the characters in the book. Aria comes home from living abroad with her family in Iceland for two years and winds up crushing on her new English teacher. Hanna had transformed her chubby self over the summer before high school along with Mona, who was a “loser” when Ali ran the school. Hanna and Mona are the new “It” girls. Spencer is just as overachieving as ever while she tries to hook up with her sister’s boyfriend. Emily is the star swimmer for their school’s team. And when new girl Maya moves into Ali’s old house, Emily begins to question her sexuality.
Ali was most certainly the alpha dog and practically ran the whole school. A lot of people are glad she’s gone and they feel safe again. Still, even though she’s a total mean girl, I think Ali is one of my favorite characters. She seems to have it all together, even though I don’t agree with her tactics on how to get people to do the right thing.
This book is written like any other general novel. It’s a typical young adult “high school drama” type story. Still, nothing was really special about the writing style. I didn’t fall in love with the author’s words and some of the characters just felt like supporting cast (that includes the main girls in some parts). It’s not bad and certainly easy to read, but I’m not excited about it.
When I first read this in 2012, I had given it a five-star rating. I changed it to three. One, I think I’ve martured a lot in five years and this whole high school drama is a bit overrated to me. Two, because nothing really happened in this book. This is book one in a long suspense series, but we got more background than anything else, which is a pretty slow start in my opinion.
Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard gets… 3 out of 5 stars
“They felt kind of like dolls, with Ali arraigning their every move.” -Sara Shepard, Pretty Little Liars
Title: The Leaving Author: Tara Altebrando
Published: June 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens Genre: Young adult mystery How I got the book: I bought it
Six were taken. Eleven years later, five come back–with no idea of where they’ve been.
Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.
Until today. Today five of those kids return. They’re sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn’t really recognize the person she’s supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they’re entirely unable to recall where they’ve been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn’t come back. Everyone wants answers. Most of all Max’s sister Avery, who needs to find her brother–dead or alive–and isn’t buying this whole memory-loss story.
This was sort of an impulse buy. If you know me, I love a good suspense story. The cover was what originally caught my eye. I read the summary on the back and I thought I’d give it a try. Then I thumbed through the pages, saw the fancy writing style on the inside, and decided that I definitely had to give it a try.
Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing. They went to school on the first day and the busy never took them home. The own searched high and low, but no traces of them were found. Eleven years later, five return home not remembering where they had been, what happened, or for how long they were gone. Still, they remember basic skills they learned throughout the years, such as driving a car. One even knowing how to load a gun. Everyone is shaken up by their return and when they ask about Max, the sixth child, the other five have no idea who they’re talking about. Now the question is, are they lying?
This novel is written in the third person limited, but we follow three POV characters. Lucas and Scarlett, two of the stolen children, and Avery, Max’s little sister. Between the three of them, they start piecing together what might have happened and where Max could be.
It was an interesting tale of amnesia and a race against the clock as they try to find Max. The ending was certainly something I didn’t see coming. I even had a prediction and was completely wrong. It was certainly a cool twist on the “missing persons” plotline. However, with all the twists and turns and with two out of the three main POV characters, there wasn’t much room to try to figure things out for myself.
The person who was behind “The Leaving” was an interesting twist. I never would have guessed that person. It made sense, but the way they figured it out was out of left field. For the sake of spoilers, I won’t say any more on it, but I felt as though them figuring it out was kind of a cop-out.
Six went missing: Lucas, Scarlett, Max, Kristen, Sarah, and Adam. Max never came home and we follow Lucas and Scarlett. They talk to Kristen, Sarah, and Adam every once in a while, but for the most part, we don’t really see them.
Lucas and Scarlett were great POV characters. They had a lot of depth even though they couldn’t remember eleven years of their lives. Still, they slowly pieced everything together and it was fun to go through the motions with them. Plus, I liked both characters.
Then there’s Avery. I’m not entirely sure her story was needed. As Max’s little sister, she wanted answers. Great concept, great plot, but as the story went on she seemed to be more focused on wanting a relationship with Lucas and being jealous of Scarlett. I also didn’t think her story was complete. She breaks up with her boyfriend and then the chapter ends. Then we never see Sam again and never talk about that he ever existed again. She didn’t even care, she just wanted Lucas.
Avery had a little depth because while she wanted to find Max, a part of her wanted to find him dead. She thought it would be weird if he came home, her whole life would change. It’s sad and I totally understand her feelings on that. Still, since they were so young, we didn’t know anything about Max. And, as stated, Avery was more focused on her love life so I couldn’t sympathize her confliction about finding Max.
This was a thick book being at 421 pages. Each chapter alternated between the three POVs and the book was broken up into parts labeling the days. The book takes place in just 15 days total. The chapters were short and quick reads, especially with the way it was written.
Avery’s chapters were written as a typical novel. Scarlett’s were written almost poetically, the words sometimes literally flying off the page or making shapes. Lucas’s chapters were written as a regular novel, but a lot of his thoughts and memories were highlighted in black and written in white ink.
Despite its length, it made it for a quick and easy read. It was interesting and fun. And, even though the chapters were labeled with the POV character, I really didn’t need that confirmation. I was able to tell each voice just by reading and that was great.
This was a great read. I definitely think it would have been better without Avery’s story, or maybe less of her story. I think I would have enjoyed it more if the third POV was from Kristen. As the story goes on, we learn she and Scarlett have a history, but, since I didn’t know anything about Kristen I didn’t really care about it. And I would have liked to.
If you’re looking for a quick, fancy-written mystery, consider checking out this book. I think I’ll pick up Altebrando’s next book.
The Leaving by Tara Altebrando gets… 4 out of 5 stars
“People aren’t shaped by conscious memories so much as they are by their overall life experience and bonds.” –Tara Altebrando, The Leaving