arc review: i have lost my way by gayle forman

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goodreads summary:

Around the time that Freya loses her voice while recording her debut album, Harun is making plans to run away from everyone he has ever loved, and Nathaniel is arriving in New York City with a backpack, a desperate plan, and nothing left to lose. When a fateful accident draws these three strangers together, their secrets start to unravel as they begin to understand that the way out of their own loss might just lie in help­ing the others out of theirs.

my thoughts:

Sometimes a book comes into your life at the exact time that you are in need of it, and that’s exactly what I Have Lost My Way ended up being for me.  I am currently going through something in my life that is incredibly difficult for me to handle, and I am struggling to regain a sense of normality and find my way back to wherever it is that I need to be. In a nutshell: I have lost my way.

I was originally drawn to this book when I first heard about it due to the fact that it was penned by Gayle Forman. I have read all of her previous books, and while I didn’t love all of them, I have so far at least liked all of them.  She writes about some incredibly deep topics, and I have definitely cried some tears over her books, specifically the If I Stay duology. (I’m still recovering from those books tbh.)

Admittedly, despite the fact that I felt that I Have Lost My Way was a book that I needed to read, and I am glad that I read it, as it did impact me in some ways, it also didn’t quite pack the emotional punch that I was expecting, and I didn’t find it to be quite on par with some of Gayle’s previous books.  Although I can’t pinpoint the exact reason, I just didn’t connect with the story or the characters as much as I had hoped to. But on the other hand, the overall theme of the story (aka losing one’s way) is something that I was able to connect to, and is the reason that I am glad that I read this book at this point in time.

This book takes place over the course of one day, and tells the story of three very different and diverse characters, Freya (an up and coming singer who has lost her voice), Nathaniel (a boy haunted by his past), and Harun (a closeted muslim teen who is afraid of disappointing his deeply religious parents). True to the title of the book, each of the characters has lost their way, and are struggling to make sense of their pain and in need of someone to help them find hope in life again.

Due to a chance meeting in Central Park in NYC, their stories become intertwined, and through their unlikely and sudden friendship with each other, they help each other to heal and feel alive again.  Despite the fact that this story takes place over the course of a day, we are also given a glimpse into the backgrounds of each character, and because of this, we as readers are able to gain a better understanding of their struggles and how they came to be at the point that they are in their lives when they meet.

This book was a haunting and moving story about life, loss, friendship, family, and finding your way back in a world that no longer makes sense the way it once did. Although I didn’t quite connect with this story as much as I had hoped to, I still found hope within the pages of this book and I feel that many others will too.

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

***an early copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via First to Read in exchange for an honest review

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arc review: nothing left to burn by heather ezell

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goodreads summary:

The autumn morning after sixteen-year-old Audrey Harper loses her virginity, she wakes to a loud, persistent knocking at her front door. Waiting for her are two firemen, there to let her know that the moment she’s been dreading has arrived: the enormous wildfire sweeping through Orange County, California, is now dangerously close to her idyllic gated community of Coto de Caza, and it’s time to evacuate.

Over the course of the next twenty-four hours, as Audrey wrestles with the possibility of losing her family home, she also recalls her early, easy summer days with Brooks, the charming, passionate, but troubled volunteer firefighter who enchants Audrey–and who is just as enthralled by her. But as secrets from Brooks’s dark past come to light, Audrey can’t help but wonder if there’s danger in the pull she feels–both toward this boy, and toward the fire burning in the distance.

my thoughts:

Heather Ezell’s stunning debut novel, Nothing Left To Burn, is a fiery coming of age story that will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.  It’s a raw, complex story about love, grief, forgiveness, and everything in between.

Although I read the synopsis of this book before diving in, I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and I found myself completely taken by surprise by many of the events that took place throughout the story.

This book is filled with intrigue and suspense from the very first page.  I found it to be so compelling that I had a hard time putting it down, and even snuck in reading snippets of it at work every chance I got.

This book has all of the makings of a compelling psychological read.  It’s dark and complicated and is packed full of twists and turns.  It’s emotional and full of depth, and will wreak havoc on your emotions and mess with your mind. This is a story that blurs the lines between what is right and what is wrong, and will make you ponder the choices that people make.

At the beginning of the book, we are introduced to sixteen year old Audrey Harper, who is having one hell of a morning.  Not only did she lose her virginity the previous night, but she is awakened to a fireman knocking at her door, telling her that the community in which she lives is being evacuated due to an oncoming wildfire.

This story is told in an alternating timeline, as it jumps back and forth between the present, in which Audrey is dealing with being evacuated from her home due to the fire and a whole slew of other things, and then goes back to the past, in which we learn about her relationship with Brooks, the boy she lost her virginity to.  Brooks is mysterious and shady and  I was eagerly turning the pages in anticipation after his introduction, as I wanted to learn more about him and his relationship with Autumn in the chapters that flashed back to the past.

Audrey’s inner turmoil, combined with her complicated relationship with Brooks and the fire raging in the background, made for such an entertaining, unputdownable read.

I am hesitant to say anything more in this review, as I feel that going into this book blind makes for the best reading experience possible when it comes to this kind of story.

This book was one hell of an impressive debut, and I will definitely be checking out more of Heather Ezell’s work in the future!

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2’s

***an early copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via First to Read in exchange for an honest review

arc review: jane seymour: the haunted queen (six tudor queens #3) by alison weir

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goodreads summary:

Acclaimed author and historian Alison Weir continues her epic Six Tudor Queens series with this third captivating novel, which brings to life Jane Seymour, King Henry VIII’s most cherished bride and mother of his only male heir.

Ever since she was a child, Jane has longed for a cloistered life as a nun. But her large noble family has other plans, and, as an adult, Jane is invited to the King’s court to serve as lady-in-waiting for Queen Katherine of Aragon. The devout Katherine shows kindness to all her ladies, almost like a second mother, which makes rumors of Henry’s lustful pursuit of Anne Boleyn—who is also lady-in-waiting to the queen—all the more shocking. For Jane, the betrayal triggers memories of a painful incident that shaped her beliefs about marriage.

But once Henry disavows Katherine and secures his new queen—altering the religious landscape of England—he turns his eye to another: Jane herself. Urged to return the King’s affection and earn favor for her family, Jane is drawn into a dangerous political game that pits her conscience against her desires. Can Jane be the one to give the King his long-sought-after son or will she meet a fate similar to the women who came before her?

Bringing new insight to this compelling story, Weir marries meticulous research with gripping historical fiction to re-create the dramas and intrigues of the most renown court in English history. At its center is a loving and compassionate woman who captures the heart of a king, and whose life will hang in the balance for it.

expected release date: May 3rd 2018

my thoughts:

Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen , is the third book in Alison Weir’s Six Tudor Queens series, and focuses on Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour.  Told from first person perspective, we are given a glimpse into what life was like at the Tudor court during Henry VIII’s reign from the perspective of Jane.

Alison Weir never fails to amaze me with her astounding ability to bring 16th century England to life.  Each time I open up one of her books, I feel as if I have been transported to a different time and place.  Her writing is so rich and vivid, and I always feel as if I am right there in the midst of court life, feeling and seeing everything alongside all of the characters.

I really loved the first two books in the Six Tudor Queen series, and this third installment did not disappoint either.  Although I didn’t love this one quite as much as the first two books in the series, it was still an amazing read. Jane Seymour is not my favorite of King Henry’s six wives, but I still have a certain fascination with her, as there is so much about her life that remains truly unknown, aside from the fact that she was the queen that finally gave Henry what he desired above all else: a son. Because of the fact that so little is known about Jane before she became Henry’s wife, I was eager to see what Alison Weir had to say about her, and as usual, Ms. Weir did not disappoint.

Using her vast knowledge of Tudor history, combined with her imagination, Alison Weir managed to weave together a vivid and richly detailed portrait of Jane Seymour’s life.  Although I found this book to be a bit slower than the previous two, I still managed to be thoroughly engaged from start to finish.  I really felt as if I got to know Jane and the innermost workings of her mind as I was reading, and I feel that I am now more knowledgeable about her, despite the fact that this book is a work of fiction.

The story opens when Jane is ten years old, and jumps forward to when she is eighteen years old.  During Jane’s early years, she is adamant to become a nun, but decides that she doesn’t desire that path in life after all, and instead she goes to London to live at court, where she is first a lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon, and then later on, to Anne Boleyn.

Jane was very fond of Katherine of Aragon, as well as devout in her Catholic faith and very against the religious reforms taking place at that time, and it is because of those things that she was not so fond of Anne Boleyn, and this grudge continued, even when Anne Boleyn became queen.

As an avid Anne Boleyn fan and supporter, I have to admit that at times my bias got the best of me, and I found myself annoyed at Jane and her thoughts towards Anne throughout the book.  But at the same time, I could see why Jane felt the way she did about Anne, given the circumstances.

This book did drag a bit at times, mostly during during the middle of it.  Still, I continued to be absorbed in the story as Jane tried to fit in and find her place in the intriguing and malicious court life.  It was especially fascinating to read about how Jane, who is so often described as meek and plain, was able to gain the affections of King Henry and ascend to the throne.

Something that has always interested me about Jane is that, despite the fact that she was the queen that gave Henry his most desired wish (a son) and is said to be his favorite wife because of this, she is so often overshadowed by his other wives.  I myself am guilty of not paying much attention to Jane Seymour, but because of this book, I was given the opportunity to gain insight into the life of the queen that I so often overlook.

This book was extremely well written and researched, and I was once again left in awe by Alison Weir’s work.  This was not only a delightful glimpse into the life of Jane Seymour, but yet another remarkable tale of life in the Tudor era.

I truly enjoyed this book, and am very much looking forward to the next book in this series!

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2’s

***I was given an arc of this book by the publisher via edelweiss/netgalley in exchange for an honest review

 

 

 

arc review: top ten by katie cotugno

***a copy of this book was provided to me via the publisher in exchange for an honest review

top ten

goodreads summary:

Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship:

10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?

my thoughts:

As someone who has read and loved all of Katie Cotugno’s previous books, I naturally had a lot of high hopes for this book and expected to love it. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed by this one. The premise of the book seemed promising and right up my alley, but did not at all end up meeting my expectations. While there were some things that I did like about this book, I was ultimately left feeling underwhelmed by it as a whole.

This book tells the story of Ryan and Gabby, two best friends who formed an unlikely friendship after meeting at a party during their freshmen year of high school. The lines of their friendship become blurred when they decide to sleep together one night after leaving a high school graduation party.  This decision leads to a fight between them, as they wonder whether sleeping together meant anything.  The timeline then jumps back and forth between the past and the present, as they count down the top ten moments of their friendship.

While I liked the idea of the whole top ten moments countdown, I still had a hard time connecting with the story and didn’t feel any kind of spark between Ryan and Gabby.  I am a sucker for the whole best friends falling in love with each other trope when done right, but I just wasn’t feeling the connection in this particular story.  I found the relationship between Gabby and Ryan to be very bland, and I had a hard time caring about their relationship in general.

All of that aside, there were some important topics included in this book, as well as diversity, that I really appreciated, and which is what made me give this book more than two stars.  Gabby identifies as bisexual, and suffers from severe social anxiety. While I can’t speak for the sexuality representation, I am someone who suffers from anxiety, and I really struggle with it in social situations, just as Gabby does, and I really appreciate how her anxiety was portrayed in this story, as I could deeply relate to her on that level.

Ryan also dealt with some heavy-handed issues in this story, including struggling with some serious injuries, such as concussions and headaches, as a direct result of playing hockey.  There are many books that include jocks as the lead character, but often times the serious and all too real injuries that come with playing sports are overlooked, and I appreciate that Katie Cotugno included the serious repercussions that can come with playing sports that not many other authors think to write about. Student athletes are risking a lot by participating in sports, and I think that this is something that needs to be talked about a lot more in YA books.

Important topics aside, I thought that this book was just okay.  It definitely wasn’t the worst YA book that I have ever read, but I didn’t find it to be on par with Katie Cotugno’s previous books.  Even though this book was a letdown for me, I am still a big fan of Katie Cotugno’s writing, and I am looking forward to her next release!

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2 ‘s

 

arc review: they both die at the end by adam silvera

***thank you to harpercollins for providing me with a copy of this book via edelweiss in exchange for a review

theybothdieattheend

goodreads summary:

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

expected release date: september 5th 2017

my thoughts:

They both Die At The End was as heartbreaking as it was phenomenal. It’s one of those books that reminds me of why I love reading so much, and one that will definitely haunt me.

This book is an emotional roller coaster of a read that will have you tearing up more than once throughout the entirety of the novel. The title alone, for obvious reasons, is enough to make you want to cry, especially after being introduced to the characters, as you already know what lies ahead for them.

Before picking up this book I had been in a major reading slump, but leave it to Adam Silvera to not only get me out of that slump, but to get me to read almost the entire book in one sitting.

This, in my opinion, is Adam Silvera’s best book to date. Although I have enjoyed all of his previous works, I feel that his writing continuously improves. It was such a powerfully thought provoking novel, and I found myself immersed into the world and the lives (although short) of the characters from the very first page. The way in which Silvera writes is compelling, and the voices he gives his characters are so authentic, it makes them that much more real and relatable.

The concept of They Both Die At The End is one of the most unique concepts I have ever read. Even now, after having finished the book, I am left questioning what it would be like to live in a world where people are informed that they are going to die via phone call in the next 24 hours. It caused me to wonder what I would personally do if I were to be on the receiving end of a call from Death-Cast informing me of my impending death. What choices would I make during my final hours? Would I be filled with regret by some of the things I would never get a chance to do, and also be remorseful about some of the choices I had already made in my life before receiving the call? How would I inform my loved ones that i’m dying? It’s questions like this that make this book so haunting, as I am sure that I am not the first, nor will I be the last, reader to be questioning these very things both while reading the book, and after finishing it.

These very questions are the same questions that our two main characters, Mateo and Rufus, are faced with on the day that they are both on the receiving end of the life-changing phone calls from Death-Cast. Although they are both strangers to one another before learning that they are about to die, it is because of the fact that they are both going to die that they ultimately end up crossing paths with each other. The way in which they meet is through yet another interesting concept introduced in this world, and that is through an app called the last friend app. This app is there to aid those in need of a friend to keep them company on their last day on earth, so that they don’t have to be alone in their final hours.

Mateo and Rufus couldn’t be more different from each other, but they are both so precious and special in their own ways, and the relationship that they develop with each other during the short time they have left, and the ways in which they change each other on their journey to make their lives more meaningful to them in some way before they are gone, is absolutely beautiful and makes their fates that much more heartbreaking to read about.

This is very much a character driven novel, and it works very well with this story. I felt like I was right there alongside Mateo and Rufus on their one last great adventure, and after finishing the book I was filled with a deep sense of loss that continues to linger with me because of how much these two characters have come to mean to me.

Not only is this book one of my favorite reads of 2017, but also one of my favorite ya contemporary books, period. Even if you have never read an Adam Silvera book, or are not a fan of his previous works, I highly recommend that you pick this one up and give it a chance. This is one of those rare, remarkable reads that will continue to resonate with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

book review: sweet tea and spirits by angie fox

***an eARC of this book was provided to me by season publishing via netgalley in exchange for an honest review

angie fox

goodreads summary:

Southern girl Verity Long is about as high society as her pet skunk. Which is why she’s surprised as anyone when the new head of the Sugarland social set invites her to join the “it” girls. But this is no social call. Verity’s new client needs her to go in undercover and investigate strange happenings at the group’s historic headquarters.

But while spirits are whispering hints of murder, the socialites are more focused on Verity’s 1978, avocado-green Cadillac. And when Verity stumbles upon a fresh body, she’s going to need the long-dead citizens of Sugarland to help her solve the crime. Good thing she has the handsome deputy sheriff Ellis Wydell on hand, as well as her ghostly sidekick Frankie. The bad thing is, the ghosts are now whispering about the end of a certain ghost hunter.

my thoughts:

this book was such a delight to read and i’m so grateful that i was given the opportunity to read it! when i came across this book on netgalley i was in the mood to read something light and fun & this was exactly what i was looking for! it was funny, charming, and thoroughly engaging the entire way through; i can honestly say that i was entertained from start to finish. the mystery within the book was a lot of fun, and i found myself eagerly turning the pages in order to find out what happened next. this book is part of a series called the southern ghost hunter mysteries, and although i admittedly had never heard of this series prior to this one, nor had i heard of the author, i am now definitely interested in reading the previous books in the series, as well as any others that may come out in the future! although this book is the fifth and newest in the series, it was easy enough to get into without being confused, as background information was given about the characters, as well as some plot points (without actually spoiling the plots) from the previous books.

this book is jam packed with humorous, quirky characters (some of whom were ghosts, how awesome is that???) that i thoroughly enjoyed reading about. verity long, the main character of the series, is a charmingly endearing heroine.  i especially loved her interactions and antics with frank, her ghostly sidekick who aides her in her ghost hunting investigations.

this series is set in a small, southern town called sugarland, which i found added to the charm and appeal of the book. a small, cozy, southern gothic town filled with buildings that may or may not be haunted by a ghost or two? yes please!

if you love lighthearted, but engaging mysteries, with ghosts and endearingly fun characters thrown into the mix, then i would definitely recommend reading this book. i am very much looking forward to the next installment in the series, and i’ve already got the previous books in the series downloaded onto my kindle so that i can get caught up while i’m waiting!

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

 

book review: aftercare instructions by bonnie pipkin

***thank you to netgalley for providing me with an early digital copy of this book!

aftercare instruct

goodreads summary:

“Troubled.” That’s seventeen-year-old Genesis according to her small New Jersey town. She finds refuge and stability in her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter—until he abandons her at a Planned Parenthood clinic during their appointment to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The betrayal causes Gen to question everything.

As Gen pushes herself forward to find her new identity without Peter, she must also confront her most painful memories. Through the lens of an ongoing four act play within the novel, the fantasy of their undying love unravels line by line, scene by scene. Digging deeper into her past while exploring the underground theater world of New York City, she rediscovers a long-forgotten dream. But it’s when Gen lets go of her history, the one she thinks she knows, that she’s finally able to embrace the complicated, chaotic true story of her life, and take center stage.

This powerfully immersive and format-crushing debut follows Gen from dorm rooms to diners to house parties to auditions—and ultimately, right into readers’ hearts.

my thoughts:

i loved this book. in fact, i loved it so much that not only would it have been a book that i finished in one sitting had i not fallen asleep (contrary to popular belief i do actually sleep sometimes) but it also managed to completely tear me away from my most recent gilmore girls marathon (the fact that i marathon gilmore girls on a regular basis is beside the point).  this was a book about love, heartbreak, friendship, loss, & everything in between.

this book starts off with the main character, genesis, discovering that her boyfriend, peter, has abandoned her at a planned parenthood clinic after she gets an abortion.  both the abortion, and peter’s decision to leave her stranded, leads genesis down a painful, yet eye-opening & ultimately fulfilling path of self discovery that she may not have gone down otherwise.  this story takes place over the span of one week, & what a hell of a week it is.  as you delve deeper into the story, it becomes apparent that there is even more going on in genesis’ life than first meets the eye, & that both her abortion experience, as well as her breakup with peter, weren’t her first experiences with grief & loss.  this was such a heartbreaking book, but it was also brave & hopeful & inspiring.  genesis went through so much for someone who was so young & i found myself rooting for her throughout the book. despite her painful circumstances, she still managed to have such a strong & capable head on her shoulders, & even when she thought she would never be okay again, she perservered, & i really admired her for it.

despite the bleak picture i may have painted, this was also a really fun book to read. i loved genesis’s friendships with her best friend, rose, & her cousin delilah, & i really enjoyed watching (or reading, rather) the development of her friendship/relationship with seth, a boy she meets one night at a random party in new york city. speaking of new york city: i also loved how a good chunk of it took place in new york city! (i love NYC even though i haven’t been there in a very long time) and that we got a glimpse into NYC’s underground theatre life.

i really loved & connected with the author’s writing style & it was easily one of my favorite things about this book.  at first i wasn’t so sure about the fact that the flashback scenes in the story are written in script format, but i actually didn’t mind it, and the further i got into the story, the more i understood why it was written that way.

this was an absolutely stunning debut of a book, & i am SO glad i happened to stumble upon it on netgalley.  i can’t wait for it to be officially released this summer, and i will definitely be picking up a hard copy when it is!

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️