Sunday, March 31, 2019

REVIEW: Between by Jessica Warman

Elizabeth Valchar-pretty, popular, and perfect-wakes up the morning after her eighteenth birthday party on her family's yacht, where she'd been celebrating with her six closest friends. A persistent thumping noise has roused her. When she goes to investigate, what she finds will change everything she thought she knew about her life, her friends, and everything in between. As Liz begins to unravel the circumstances surrounding her birthday night, she will find that no one around her, least of all Liz herself, was perfect-or innocent. Critically acclaimed author Jessica Warman brings readers along on a roller-coaster ride of a mystery, one that is also a heartbreaking character study, a touching romance, and ultimately a hopeful tale of redemption, love, and letting go.

For some reason, I find books about the afterlife interesting. This book isn't quite about the afterlife, but it has been sitting in the TBR pile for a long time and I'm surprised that I hadn't picked it up until now.

The book focuses on Elizabeth. On the morning of her eighteenth birthday, Elizabeth wakes to find that she's dead, her body fallen over the side of the yacht. She doesn't remember how she died or even the last few months of her life. Her death seems like an accident, but Elizabeth isn't sure. With the help of another ghost, Alex, Elizabeth tries to remember her life up until her death.

Elizabeth was a hard character to understand at first. She's pretty, popular, and rich. Her personality sometimes came out bratty and I found her a bit frustrating. As the story continued, I grew to understand Elizabeth's character and what exactly was going on in her mind leading up to her death.

This book is interesting because even though it has paranormal elements, such as having someone walk on earth after their death and entering their memories, this book was also a mystery. The mystery was also surprising for the most part. There were a few elements I guessed ahead of time, even though I wished they weren't true, but there was also enough to keep me guessing.

This book gets very dark and emotional. This was to be expected since it deals with death, but it also dealt with other tough subjects such as guilt, blackmail, mental health, etc. It was very hard reading this book as it got closer to the end because even though Elizabeth got on my nerves at first when I started to understand what she went through, I had to realize that no matter what, Elizabeth is dead and did not get a happy end in life. Alex didn't get a happy end in life either, but gosh, I can't even articulate how much change he went through.

I thought this was an interesting read. I'm not sure what prevented me from giving this book 4 stars. While I thought this was a very interesting, albeit dark, read, I think part of my misgivings with Elizabeth in the beginning, as well as parts of the end (which felt off), affected my rating. I do think that this book is worth a read. I have not read any other books by Warman, but I may need to read more from this author in the future.
I hereby give this book
3.5 Stars
Meaning: I liked it, but it wasn't quite amazing.

New Releases in YA! (April 1st-6th)

Every week I list all (or almost all) of the YA books (and the occasional MG) that are coming out within that week!
Here's what you get to look forward to this week:
P.S. Click on the book's cover for the Goodreads page!

Did I miss any books?
What books, if any, do you plan to read?

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Stacking the Shelves! (March 30th 2019)

Hosted by Tynga's ReviewsStacking the Shelves is where all the booknerds can post about the lovely (or not so lovely) books that we've read, acquired, or discovered in the past week.

Nothing really noteworthy happened this week. It was pretty ordinary and went by so quickly that now I just need to prepare for April. I want to do Camp Nanowrimo and I'm nowhere near prepared!

Here's my week in books! Click on the cover to view the book on Goodreads.

Books I've Read The Last Week

Currently Reading


How was your week?

Short and Simple Reviews: Fury's Fire & The Eternal War

This is a place for books that I didn't fully review.
Maybe I listed my likes and dislikes, had a little short paragraph, or a few sentences to convey my feelings on the book, but whatever the "review" is, all of them are short and simple. (hence the clever name)

Fury's Fire by Lisa Papademetriou
At the end of Siren's Storm, the Sirens were defeated, and now the town of Walfang is once again a peaceful beach community.

Or is it? Gretchen and Will are still haunted by the memories of the night the Sirens were destroyed—Gretchen because she can't remember what happened and Will because he doesn't know how to tell Gretchen what he saw. He doesn't even understand what he saw, but he does know now that Gretchen is more than what she seems, more than a human girl. And at the same time, he is more in love with her than ever.

Gretchen knows there's something wrong, too. She feels like an alien in her own body, but she doesn't know why. And she feels a presence stalking her at every turn. Have the Sirens returned to Walfang? Or has some other force come to claim her?
  Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository

I was wary of picking up this book because I originally read the first book, Siren's Storm, eight years ago in 2011. To be honest, I had no recollection of anything that happened in that book, just that it had something to do with sirens (and I probably got that idea from the title). Thankfully, it was not incredibly difficult to get into this book. The book does remind the reader of the events of the last book on multiple occasions. Part of this was because Gretchen did not recall the events from the end of Siren's Storm, so she is trying to remember things. Some details were still foggy for me, but I knew enough to follow the story and understand the characters. 

While this book was dual POV, there was a stronger focus on Gretchen in this book as she is trying to understand what exactly she did at the end of the last book and she has a threat against her. There is a lot more transformation for her character, which I can't go too far into detail because of spoilers. Overall, I don't have strong feelings for this book. When I finished the book all I felt was glad that I got a book off of my TBR instead of any emotions attached to the book. It was an okay read and I can say this series is complete, but there wasn't really anything more there for me. 

I hereby give this book

2.5 Stars
Meaning: It was okay

The Eternal War (TimeRiders, #4)
Liam O’Connor should have died at sea in 1912.
Maddy Carter should have died on a plane in 2010.
Sal Vikram should have died in a fire in 2026.

But all three have been given a second chance—to work for an agency that no one knows exists. Its purpose: to prevent time travel destroying history...

A time wave has struck that alters the entire history of the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln has followed Liam into the present from 1831and now the world is in a dangerous state of limbo...

If the TimeRiders can’t return Lincoln to the past, the Civil War will never end. Can Maddy persuade two colonels on either side of no man’s land to cease fire long enough to save the future?
  Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository

This is yet another book where it's been a few years since I've read the previous books in the series. This series does a really great job of catching the reader up since most of the books have a contained story. I love time travel and I find the entire concept of this series fascinating, so I was glad to get back into this world and see these characters again. I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this book though. In the beginning, I was very entertained by this book. The Time Riders find out that Abraham Lincoln has died before he was supposed to. They go back to save him, but Lincoln overhears them when they think he's unconscious and he follows them to the year 2001. I found this entire part interesting and seeing the effect this had on the time was also interesting because what would the world look without Abraham Lincon? But as the book continued the story felt a bit slow. The characters were mostly either trying to fix the time machine or traveling to get back to the time machine. Overall, I did like this book even though I felt like I had to push through the second half of the book. I would like to continue this series, but it looks like this is the last book at any library near me. It seems the rest of the series was not published in America so I may have to order the next book online if I wish to continue.

3 Stars
Meaning: I liked it

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Cover vs Cover: Trouble Is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

This week's pick is...

23354047VS.  27209370
Original                        Redesign
There's not too much of a difference between these two covers. They both have the same idea, really. This is a humorous book that also tackles serious mysteries, so both capture that odd whimsy. I like the Redesign a little bit more. To be honest, it's mainly because it has Digby on the cover. The original cover put Digby on the back cover instead. I also like that it has vibrant colors which catch my attention a lot more than the gray. By the way, I completely recommend this series.
  Final Verdict: Redesign
What do you think? Give me your thoughts on which cover is the best!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

SERIES REVIEW: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson Series by Louise Rennison

There are six things very wrong with my life:
1. I have one of those under-the-skin spots that will never come to a head but lurk in a red way for the next two years.
2. It is on my nose
3. I have a three-year-old sister who may have peed somewhere in my room.
4. In fourteen days the summer hols will be over and then it will be back to Stalag 14 and Oberfuhrer Frau Simpson and her bunch of sadistic teachers.
5. I am very ugly and need to go into an ugly home.
6. I went to a party dressed as a stuffed olive.

In this wildly funny journal of a year in the life of Georgia Nicolson, British author Louise Rennison has perfectly captured the soaring joys and bottomless angst of being a teenager. In the spirit of Bridget Jones's Diary, this fresh, irreverent, and simply hilarious book will leave you laughing out loud. As Georgia would say, it's "Fabbity fab fab!"

NOTE: This is a review for the series as a whole.

When I first picked up this series it was honestly on a whim. The books were $0.33 per book so I picked up a bunch. I wasn't sure if they were really the books for me. Even after reading the first book I wasn't sure if the series was for me, but I decided to keep going and I am glad for that.

I've had trouble before with books that try to show the teenage girl experience or a teenage girl diary and instead they felt like whiney eleven-year-olds. This series was not the case. This is such a fun series. I love Georgia's humor and how she goes about life. It took me a bit to warm up to her way of talking/writing, but I grew to love it. She has such an interesting personality and I found myself using some of her language in my thoughts after binge-reading this series. She makes a lot of mistakes in this series, some pretty embarrassing, but in all of her outrageousness, she felt like a real teenage girl. 

This series also had such an interesting cast of characters. There's Georgia's friends, the boys, her outrageous family, and her neighbors. I just loved seeing how all of the characters interacted with one another and how comfortable Georgia was with her friends. I also always looked forward to hearing about Libby's or Angus' shenanigans.

Of course, Georgia did annoy me at times, namely in the romance department. There a few different guys Georgia is interested in during the course of the series. Early on in the series, I figured out who I wanted Georgia to end up with and Georgia's denial of her interest in him frustrated me. This did make me binge-read the series, though. The ending of this series did make me desire more because it ended just as it got to where I wanted it to be, but... it was still a great end to the series.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this series. It was so much fun and it made me laugh on more than one occasion. When I picked up the first book I wasn't sure what to expect and I honestly just wanted to read a book where characters didn't die and everyone's lives were terrible. This book series succeeded in giving me feel-good reads and I can see myself picking up this series again when I need a feel-good book to read.

I hereby give this series
4 Stars!
Meaning: It was so much fun!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Remarkable Inventions of Walter Mortinson by Quinn Sosna-Spear

Waiting on Wednesday (or Can't Wait Wednesday) is a weekly meme, hosted by Wishful Endings, where you talk about whatever book you are IMPATIENTLY WAITING for!

This week I am waiting for...
The Remarkable Inventions of Walter Mortinson

In this sweeping and inventive debut novel that’s perfect for fans of Roald Dahl, Neil Gaiman, and Tim Burton, a prodigal inventor flees his home to find his destiny.

In the humdrum town of Moormouth, Walter Mortinson’s unusual inventions cause nothing but trouble. After one of his contraptions throws the town into chaos, Walter’s mother demands he cut the nonsense and join the family mortuary business.

Far off on Flaster Isle, famed inventor Horace Flasterborn plans to take Walter under his wing, just as he did Walter’s genius father decades ago. When a letter arrives by unusual means offering Walter an apprenticeship, it isn’t long before Walter decides to flee Moormouth to achieve his destiny.

Walter runs away in the family hearse along with Cordelia, the moody girl next door with one eye and plenty of secrets. Together they journey through a strange landscape of fish-people, giantess miners, and hypnotized honeybees in an adventure that will not only reveal the truth about Walter’s past, but direct his future. 
Release Date: April 2nd, 2019

Why am I waiting?
This sounds like a very strange book, but it also sounds like a really fun book and I am here for it!
What book are you waiting for this week?

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Songs That Get Stuck in My Head

Hosted each week by That Artsy Reader Girl, it's a meme for listing the top ten for everything bookish.

Good morning, folks! This week's topic is anything goes as long as it's about audio! I love to listen to music and audiobooks, but when I'm not listening to anything, my brain is playing some tunes. Today I thought it would be interesting to talk about earworms, those pesky songs that get stuck in your head!

Now, I'm not talking about when you're listening to a playlist and after you take your earphones out the last song you listened to plays around in your head. No, no, no. I'm talking about those tunes that sneak up on you. The ones that pop in whenever you are just going about your day. And today I am listing some of the songs I've found to have the pesky habit of getting stuck in my head.

1. Burning Love
Specifically the cover version from the end of Lilo & Stitch. For some reason, it is always that version that gets stuck in my head and it gets stuck in my head all the time. This is the song that my brain loves to default to whenever it can't think of another song to play on repeat in my head. This is likely a side effect from being obsessed with Lilo & Stitch when I was eight.
2. I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)
This song is just so easy to get stuck in my head. Also, if this song is stuck in my head, I'm definitely singing it out loud.
3. Anything from Schoolhouse Rock
This one is kind of cheating because I'm grouping a whole bunch of songs together, but I grew up with Schoolhouse Rock and it is so so easy for me to get Schoolhouse Rock songs stuck in my head.  Just today I had Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla stuck in my head because my Mom said a line from the song. I decided to link up Three is the Magic Number though because it is the reason I love the number three so much.
4. Ghostbusters Theme
This one is really strange because I have never seen Ghostbusters. I know, I know. I need to fix that. It's just odd that it's in my head so often, sometimes it's just the tune, other times it's with the lyrics.
5. Indiana Jones Theme
I have a habit of making nonsense tunes when I'm anxious or don't want to think about something. For a while though, it would always turn into the Indiana Jones theme which would, of course, put the song in my head for a while. By the way, I have indeed seen all the Indiana Jones movies
6. Why Should I Worry
Another song that's been stuck in my head since childhood. This one is from Oliver and Company if you didn't know. Most of the time I just get the chorus stuck in my head on repeat.
7. Macarena
Do I really need to explain this one? It is such an earworm.
8. Six Flags Theme
I associate this song as Six Flag's theme song and even though it has been a long time since I had heard this song, it still gets stuck in my head. Just the other night this popped into my head as I was trying to fall asleep.
9. Move It Move It
Part of the reason this one gets stuck in my head so often is because my middle school used to play this song every single day to warn us that the first class of the day was about to start. Needless to say, I don't exactly have positive memories towards this song because I would prefer to forget about the embarrassment that was middle school.
10. Smooth Criminal
Again, it is for some reason always a cover version, specifically the one by Alien Ant Farm and I honestly don't know why. I haven't exactly heard this song for a while, original or cover, so I don't know why this one pops up in my head or why it is always the Alien Ant Farm version.

You know when you get a song you don't like stuck in your head so you try your hardest to think of another song to get it out of your head? Well, here are two ridiculous songs that I know word for word and when I don't want a certain song stuck in my head, these are my go-tos.

I Need to Meet Richard Dreyfuss

My Name Is Nick
This song is not on Youtube but is on Bandcamp. If you click on the album cover above you can hear this ridiculous song.

Sidenote: I found these songs separately, but it turns out these guys are friends and actually perform comedy musicals together!

So, did I get any songs stuck in your head? What songs seem to be earworms for you?

Monday, March 25, 2019

REVIEW: If You're Out There by Katy Loutzenhiser

If You're Out There
After Zan’s best friend moves to California, she is baffled and crushed when Priya suddenly ghosts. Worse, Priya’s social media has turned into a stream of ungrammatical posts chronicling a sunny, vapid new life that doesn’t sound like her at all.

Everyone tells Zan not to be an idiot: Let Priya do her reinvention thing and move on. But until Zan hears Priya say it, she won’t be able to admit that their friendship is finished.

It’s only when she meets Logan, the compelling new guy in Spanish class, that Zan begins to open up about her sadness, her insecurity, her sense of total betrayal. And he’s just as willing as she is to throw himself into the investigation when everyone else thinks her suspicions are crazy.

Then a clue hidden in Priya’s latest selfie introduces a new, deeply disturbing possibility:

Maybe Priya isn’t just not answering Zan’s emails.

Maybe she can’t. 

Admittedly, the cover was the first thing that drew me into this book, but this book also seemed to focus on a normal topic that we hardly see in YA novels. This novel shows us a character whose best friend has moved and is not responding to her emails, something many readers likely have experienced. Yet, it combines the sadness of missing a friend and the ordinary life with the mystery of a friend simply wanting answers.

Zan and Priya have been best friends for years, never without each other. When Priya moves to California over the summer, they have a tearful goodbye, promising to keep in touch, but they don't. Zan sends emails and phone calls, but she receives no answer. Zan suspects that something else is going on, that Priya would not just stop talking to her, but everyone around her just tells her that she needs to move on and make some new friends. This is just what happens when friends move away. Everyone, except Logan, the new kid at school. He listens to Zan and decides to help her found out why Priya isn't talking and whether there is something else going on.

The combination of genres in this novel was very interesting and worked fairly well for the most part. While the book combines contemporary with mystery, the book has a strong contemporary feeling for a majority of the book. The main focus is on Zan as she struggles with her loneliness now that her other half has moved away, but the contemporary feeling of this book goes further.
Part of this is just by placing her in ordinary surroundings. Zan still has to go to work and go to school. She also has her mother's girlfriend moving into the house, her brother to look after, and occasionally going over to her dad's. All of these things weren't things Zan was struggling with but they were parts of her life that had become normal. I really liked seeing her interact with others in these settings. These places and relationships made me understand her character more than her lost friendship or the mystery plot.

Again, the plot of Zan missing her friend is a major part of this book. She goes through many emotions as she deals with this and the fact that Priya seems to have abandoned her. But there is a true show of friendship in this book because Zan does not want to give up on Priya. When her family or others tell her that this is just how things are, that friendships end and she needs to move on with her life, she keeps going. Zan knows Priya better than anyone and knows that Priya would not just distance herself, and from Priya's social media, Zan can tell that Priya is not acting like herself. As a reader, we see from Zan's viewpoint and are told that we have to believe Zan when she says that Priya might need help. From an outside perspective, this is crazy, but we see how much Zan believes this, so we go along. One of the things that does cause disbelief from the reader's standpoint is this: we never get to meet Priya before she moved away. We only have what Zan remembers about Priya to understand their friendship.

This goes into the mystery aspect of the book. Zan starts to suspect that something bad has happened to Priya and starts sleuthing with her new friend/love interest Logan. This mystery plays into that fantasy that when our friends stop talking to us, maybe they can't talk to us. This book turns this fantasy into reality. I thought it was interesting how the mystery tied into the contemporary storyline and I thought it was a great way to explore the narrative because this was a mystery that Zan would want to solve that most people don't get the opportunity to try to solve. I had issues with the mystery later on in the book. Seeing the characters discover the mysteries, that was great, but once the mystery was solved it felt like it went too quickly and I am still not quite sure what exactly happened. I'm not really satisfied with where the mystery went.

Overall, I did like this book. I read through it fairly quickly and thought that the author did a great job using this topic. I preferred the contemporary aspects of this book to the mystery but mainly because I was not satisfied with where the mystery went and it wasn't really clear what happened. I do think this would be a great book to read and I will keep my eyes open for the author's sophomore novel.

I hereby give this book
3.5 Stars
Meaning: I liked it, but it wasn't quite amazing.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

REVIEW: Undead by Kirsty McKay

Out of sight, out of their minds: It's a school-trip splatter fest and completely not cool when the other kids in her class go all braindead on new girl Bobby.

The day of the ski trip, when the bus comes to a stop at a roadside restaurant, everyone gets off and heads in for lunch. Everyone, that is, except Bobby, the new girl, who stays behind with rebel-without-a-clue Smitty.

Then hours pass. Snow piles up. Sun goes down. Bobby and Smitty start to flirt. Start to stress. Till finally they see the other kids stumbling back.

But they've changed. And not in a good way. Straight up, they're zombies. So the wheels on the bus better go round and round freakin' fast, because that's the only thing keeping Bobby and Smitty from becoming their classmates' next meal. It's kill or be killed in these hunger games, heads are gonna roll, and homework is most definitely gonna be late.

I read this book as part of my Cleaning Out My TBR challenge. I originally added this book to my TBR in 2012 and lately, I've been wary about those books on my TBR added in 2012 because my tastes have changed a lot since then and I haven't had a whole lot of luck with them. With this book, I'm glad to say that I actually did enjoy it. It was an entertaining and thrilling read!

Bobby has recently moved back to the UK and what better way to get to know her school classmates than to join them on a ski trip? At least, that's what Bobby's mother thinks. So far, no one seems to want to talk to her and the trip is feeling like hell. On the way back from the trip, their bus stops by a cafe. Bobby decides to stay inside the bus, but her classmates wander off for lunch, with the exception of Smitty, the trouble maker who is told to stay on the bus. Things seem normal until their classmate Alice comes running back to the bus claiming that everyone else is dead and one of their newly dead teachers tried to grab her. This can't be believed until they see for themselves that their classmates and everyone else in the cafe is dead, but is walking towards them. They have to find a way to escape, but that's easier said than done when you're in a snowstorm, in a bus running out of gas, and no way out of town to escape the surrounding zombies.

I admit that I was surprised by how entertained I was from this book. The plot sounds like it comes straight from a cheesy horror movie. The book does feel at times like you are reading a cheesy horror movie, and it does start out that way. Our main cast is isolated, in a snowstorm, with no way to get help. Bonus points that they are young people. The longer in the story, though, the more complicated the storyline gets. I just kept wanting to turn the pages in this book because I wanted to see the characters make it out of this dangerous situation. There was never a break in the action in this book and the thrill level just went up and up and up.

The story also takes the typical zombie plot into absurd directions. Sometimes the absurdity of the book was difficult for me to take in or believe (that's what makes it absurd!). Oddly enough, though, it worked for the book. For instance: <highlight to view spoiler> The carrot juice and the carrot man. I guessed early on that this was the cause of the zombie virus, but it's such an odd premise! Also, I am now going to be very distrustful whenever someone tries to give me a free food sample.<end of spoiler> The absurdity also brings some humor into the story, from the witty banter between the characters to the unconventional methods the characters use to kill the zombies.

The characters in the story seem to be, at first glance, the stereotypical characters. Smitty is the rebel, Alice is the princess, and later we also get the nerd. Bobby, our main character, is likely considered to be the average one, which works for the story because we need someone who we can relate to because we certainly can't relate to the situation, but as the story continues Bobby becomes more than just the average girl. One of the difficulties I did have with Bobby's character, though, is her history. Her history eventually becomes important, but for most of the story we don't know her history or it is vague. This is understandable since we don't want to take a break from the action to learn her story, but some parts of her history seem to affect her deeply and have changed her. Not knowing much made her feel less developed.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. I found it to be very entertaining, equal parts thrilling and absurd. I give this book a rating of three stars, which is my "I liked it" rating. While I enjoyed reading this book, the book did not make me think or make a huge connection with me, it was just a fun read. The book ended in an abrupt way that made me immediately put the next book on hold, so I will be continuing this series.

I hereby give this book
3 Stars
Meaning: I liked it.

New Releases in YA! (March 24th-31st)

Every week I list all (or almost all) of the YA books (and the occasional MG) that are coming out within that week!
Here's what you get to look forward to this week:
P.S. Click on the book's cover for the Goodreads page!

Did I miss any books?
What books, if any, do you plan to read?