Monday, March 30, 2020

REVIEW: Moment of Truth by Kasie West

Moment of Truth by Kasie West

At sixteen, Hadley Moore knows exactly who she is—a swimmer who will earn a scholarship to college. Totally worth all the hard work, even if her aching shoulders don’t agree. So when a guy dressed as Hollywood’s latest action hero, Heath Hall, crashes her swim meet, she isn’t amused. Instead, she’s determined to make sure he doesn’t bother her again. Only she’s not sure exactly who he is.

The swim meet isn’t the first event the imposter has interrupted, but a little digging turns up a surprising number of people who could be Heath Hall, including Hadley's ex-boyfriend and her best friend’s crush. She soon finds herself getting caught up in the mysterious world of the fake Heath Hall.

As Hadley gets closer to uncovering the masked boy’s identity she also discovers some uncomfortable truths about herself—like she might resent the long shadow her late brother has cast over her family, that she isn’t as happy as she pretends to be with her life choices… and that she is falling for the last guy she ever thought she would like. 
Kasie West is usually an auto-buy author for me, ever since her debut novel Pivot Point. I don't think she can be an auto-buy author for me anymore since she hasn't written a five-star book for me since Pivot Point. Did I like this book? Yes, but I think this is just a predictable YA romance and I was hoping for more.

Hadley loves to swim but when swim meet is interrupted by the 'Heath Hall', she vows to find out who he is. For the last few years, someone has been putting on a Heath Hall mask and interrupting events, and Hadley thinks it's someone from her school. She ropes her friend into solving the mystery, stalking Heath Hall events and his social media pages, but she can't ignore what is really bothering her. The feeling that no matter how much she swims, she cannot live up to the memory of her brother, at least in her parents' eyes.

This book has two main components, the mystery and Hadley's family. The mystery has an interesting concept. There's someone running around town in costume, interrupting events and creating their own events. This 'Heath Hall' (which is the name of a fictional TV character who the mask depicts) has become a celebrity in this town. This could be a fun concept to play with, and it was fun at times, but I figured out who 'Heath Hall' was really early on which made me frustrated because Hadley wastes so much time on this. [highlight to view spoiler] That it was more than one person. I thought it was obvious based on how different 'Heath Hall' acted at each event [end of spoiler] I do think the idea of Heath Hall and how it was presented at the end of the book was interesting.

I found the family and self-discovery more interesting in the book. Hadley's brother died before Hadley was even born and her parents have immortalized him in such a way that Hadley feels like she cannot compare to this perfect boy that died too soon. Yet, she never discusses this with her family and feels guilty for even thinking about herself when her brother is dead. This was another interesting concept and the way it was written, we really could feel for Hadley and understand her. I wanted to shake her at times because she was bottling all of this up, but I do think this was dealt with well in the book.

As for romance, I really didn't care for it. It wasn't bad, but it was just there. I knew who Hadley was going to end up with from get-go and I just expected it to happen. I didn't really care about him and I didn't get any strong feelings from the romance.

Overall, I did like this book but it was a bit too predictable for me. I don't know if I will read more from Kasie West or not. All of her recent books have just been 3-star reads for me. Maybe if she writes another book like Pivot Point.

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

Sunday, March 29, 2020

New Releases in YA! (March 29th-31st)

Every week I list all (or almost all) of the YA books (and the occasional MG) that are coming out within that 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 28, 2020

The DNF List: January & February 2020

Hello! I've been trying to do better about giving up on books I'm not enjoying, so I've been DNFing a lot more books lately. I decided to start doing monthly posts on what I have given up on. This first one is a little strange because I'm going to start with January and February! At the start of April, I'll have my March post up, and then it should be one DNF post per month.

Without further ado, here are the books I decided not to finish in January and February.

Happy Birthday to Me (Birthday Trilogy, #1)
Seventeen-year-old Cameron Martin has a huge problem: he’s aging a whole year of his life with each passing day!

High school is hard enough; imagine rapidly aging from seventeen to seventy in a matter of weeks, with no logical explanation, and with prom, graduation, and the state championship basketball game all on the horizon. That’s what happens to Cameron, a popular pretty boy who's never had to face a day looking anything but perfect.

All Cameron wants to do is go back to normal, but no one, not even the best doctors, can diagnose his condition. When he finds love with a mysterious young woman, however, he realizes his only hope for survival might be with the one person who started his condition in the first place...

How long did I last? 78%
DNF "Review"
I tried, I really tried to read this, but I couldn't keep going.

I like the idea behind the book, that a teenager starts aging a year every day, and I was actually intrigued in the beginning. Sure, the MC was unlikeable, but I thought that was the point. I thought the MC was going to learn his lesson and turn into a better person, that's what usually happens in these books, right? But, no, he doesn't change at all. Granted, I didn't finish the book, but I made it 78% into the book. I MADE IT THAT FAR! But I still did not see the MC growing as a person. He claims that he is different, he has a heart-to-heart with a girl who he used to ignore. He actually reads books now which is supposed to be character growth. But he still is very immature. I know the book is going to end with him being fine, getting the ignored girl, and claiming to be a better person. Reading the synopsis of the next book, and the book after that, I can tell that he will not grow and the same things will happen again. There were so many times that I wanted to give up on the book, like when the MC or his friends used to word "retarded" or when his dad kidnaps him to force him to get plastic surgery or when the MC is called a monster because he looks "old" (by the way, this book just did not have a good grasp on age. When he is in his thirties, others call him a senior citizen. Being in your thirties is not "old"), but I was past the halfway mark and thought I could stick it out.

But nope, I just can't. You know what my breaking point was? When the 58-year-old librarian kidnaps the MC from prom (he is approximately 60 here) and tries to have sex with him. I wish I were joking.

Well, this book was a waste of my time.

The Changelings (War of the Fae, #1)

Jayne Sparks, a potty-mouthed, rebellious seventeen-year-old and her best friend, shy and bookish Tony Green, have a pretty typical high school existence, until several seemingly unrelated incidents converge, causing a cascade of events that change their lives forever. Jayne and Tony, together with a group of runaway teens, are hijacked and sent into a forest, where nothing and no one are as they seem. Who will emerge triumphant? And what will they be when they do?

How long did I last? 43%
DNF "Review"

I really wanted to like this book. It has so many positive reviews so I was trying to push through to the end, in hopes that it would get better, but this book just wasn't working for me.

Right away I had trouble connecting with the MC. She lets us know on the first page that she is "different" which mainly means that she is outspoken and doesn't give a crap. To show how "different" she is, the book over-generalizes and weakens the rest of her peers, which is a trope I hate. The MC, Jayne, does certainly have a voice, but it never felt authentic to me. We are told that she has a hard home life, but that is barely touched on. I did like her friendship with Tony, even though it had a strange start. I mainly liked how easily they could communicate with one another and that Tony was just a friend.

The plot is pretty slow and is one of the main reasons why I lasted so long as I was waiting for the plot to pick up. I was expecting faeries in the book, but I didn't see anything in the 43% that I read. Instead, the plot was more runaway teens forced to fight in a forest. It actually read more science experiment gone wrong than paranormal. The progression between plot points was also strange. There were also a few things that I just found problematic, such as a villainous monster being described as having a "flamingly gay" voice.

There is a hint of romance before I stopped reading and it was basically Jayne fawning over a boy because he has good teeth. He barely says or does anything interesting. Reading the reviews, supposedly this turns into a love triangle and all the girl characters are kicked off so the MC has all the boys to herself. In that case, I'm glad I gave up.

Overall, I wasn't a fan and I have decided to not waste time on books I'm not enjoying. I can tell this series has a lot of fans, and if you did enjoy this book that is perfectly fine. In fact, I'm glad that you loved this book. I didn't, but it just wasn't for me.

Ashes to Ashes (Ashes, #1)

If I Stay meets the movie Ghost in this first book in a teen duology about a teenage-girl-turned-ghost who must cling to the echoes of her former life to save the people she left behind.
Ashes to Ashes is author Melissa Walker's sweeping, romantic, and emotionally rich story about the things that torment and tempt us, even from the Great Beyond. This book is perfect for fans of Die for Me and Imaginary Girls, and its breathtaking ending will leave readers anxiously awaiting the series conclusion, Dust to Dust.
When Callie's life is cut short by a tragic accident, she expects to find nothingness, or maybe some version of heaven.
Instead, her spirit travels to the Prism, an ethereal plane populated by the ghosts she thought were fictional. Here she meets a striking and mysterious ghost named Thatcher, who is meant to guide her as she learns to haunt and bring peace to the loved ones she left behind.
However, Callie uncovers a dark secret about the spirit world: The angry souls who always populate ghost stories are real, dangerous, and willing to do whatever it takes to stay on Earth, threatening the existence of everyone she ever cared about.
As she fights to save them, Callie will learn that while it may no longer beat, her heart can still love-and break.

How long did I last? 76 pages

DNF "Review"
This wasn't a bad book, but it just couldn't keep my attention. I love reading books about the afterlife so I thought this would be up my alley. The afterlife shown in this book has some interesting ideas but it is mostly ghosts stalking the living which I have seen done many times before in books. The book also seems to revolve more around romance, there's even a hint of a love triangle, and that's not what I'm looking for. I kept wanting to read other things instead so I'm DNFing this. Again, not a bad book, and if I picked it up back in 2013 when I added it I might've continued, but I want to read books that I enjoy reading now. 

Illusions of Fate
I did my best to keep you from crossing paths with this world. And I shall do my best to protect you now that you have.
Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, a gorgeous, enigmatic young lord who introduces her to the secret world of Albion’s nobility, a world that has everything Jessamin doesn’t—power, money, status…and magic. But Finn has secrets of his own, dangerous secrets that the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess. Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits and her determination, can stop him. 

How long did I last? 74 pages

DNF "Review"
I added this to my TBR in 2014 and if I read it then maybe I would have enjoyed it, but when I started this book all I could think was "this is okay". There are too many other books for me to read to waste time on an "okay" book. I waited a little longer because I wanted to see the magic come into play, but once the magic came in it didn't feel that developed and I didn't really understand what was going on. There was also insta-love, which I'm not a fan of, especially since the guy seemed kind of creepy and shady. Other reviews claim that this book is fun with witty banter, but I didn't care for the banter in this book. Also, where I left off the MC was just kidnapped, then tortured by some mysterious villain, so I wouldn't call this a fun book.

Overall, I don't want to spend time reading a book I'm not enjoying.

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Everyone knows how those fairy tales go. The princess gets beautiful, nabs her prince and leaves her evil stepsisters in the dust.
But what happens when you’re the ugly stepsister and your obnoxiously perfect—pretty, smart, and, worst of all, nice—stepsister is dating the charming, devastatingly handsome guy you’ve had a thing for since you were nine?
Quirky, artistic and snarky Mattie Lowe does not lead a charmed life. Her mother is constantly belittling her online. The school mean girl has made it her mission to torment Mattie. But worst of all? Her stepsister is the most popular girl in school and is dating Mattie’s secret crush, Jake Kingston.
Tired of being left out and done with waiting for her own fairy godmother to show up, Mattie decides to change her life. She’ll start by running for senior class president against Jake.
Ella can keep her Prince Annoying. Mattie's going to rule the school.
And no one, not even a cute and suddenly flirty Jake, is going to stop her.
How long did I last? 10%

DNF "Review"
This sounds like it could be a cute book but I just could not stand the MC, Mattie. Mattie is supposed to be quirky and snarky, but I found her whiny and annoying. She certainly has a voice in the text, but I did not find her sarcasm funny, I found it cringey. She spends most of the beginning complaining about her stepsister Ella and how she is The Worst. Her crimes? Basically that Ella is a Good Person which makes Mattie look bad. Instead of feeling bad for Mattie, it made her out to be a brat. Mattie has a crush on a boy named Jake (who happens to be popular and dating Ella) and she monologues about how awesome he is. What bothered me was that she says she loves Jake for being nice and charitable, when she hates Ella for the exact same reason. (although looking at the reviews, it seems that Jake is not such a nice guy which makes Mattie's reasoning even more ridiculous). My "not like other girls" alarm bells were also ringing. Mattie is an outsider at school and she makes it seem like she is an outsider because she wears black and draws manga and she's different. Overall, I did not feel inclined to read the rest of the book.

The Forgotten Ones (The Danaan Trilogy, #1)
Allison O'Malley's plan is to go to grad school so she can get a good job and take care of her schizophrenic mother. She has carefully closed herself off from everything else, including a relationship with Ethan, who she's been in love with for as long as she can remember.
What is definitely not part of the plan is the return of her long-lost father, who claims he can bring Allison's mother back from the dark place her mind has gone. Allison doesn't trust her father, so why would she believe his stories about a long forgotten Irish people, the Tuatha de Danaan? But truths have a way of revealing themselves. Secrets will eventually surface. And Allison must learn to set aside her plan and work with her father if there is even a small chance it could restore her mother's sanity.
How long did I last? 30%

DNF "Review"
I didn't have any major issues with the book, it just wasn't keeping my interest. The book is fairly short but I felt like it was taking an awfully long time for the book to get to the point. I gave up around 30% in and at this point very little paranormal elements were coming into play. None actually. They were being hinted at, but the contemporary elements were taking up the plot. I was interested in this book because it was based on Irish folklore, but instead it was mainly about the MC and her crush on a guy. I put the book aside for a little bit and realized that I just didn't want to go back because I did not care about the MC's relationship with the guy. I was curious about the folklore hinted at and the MC's dad coming into the story, but that wasn't where the focus was. Maybe it gets more interesting but I have decided recently that I cannot waste time on books that I am not interested in, and this one could not keep my interest.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Short and Simple Printz Reviews: Dig, Skellig, & Damsel

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)

Today I have some short reviews for Printz award winners (including honor books)! I have made it a goal of mine to read every Printz award winner. The main reason why I decided to do this is because the Printz award is for literary excellence in YA literature, which I am familiar with, but it also pushes me a little bit out of my comfort zone to books I would not normally pick up. 

So far I have read 48 Printz books. These three books are some of the ones I've read recently.

Dig. by A.S. King

The Shoveler, the Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. These are the five teenagers lost in the Hemmings family's maze of tangled secrets. Only a generation removed from being simple Pennsylvania potato farmers, Gottfried and Marla Hemmings managed to trade digging spuds for developing subdivisions and now sit atop a seven-figure bank account, wealth they've declined to pass on to their adult children or their teenage grand children.

"Because we want them to thrive," Marla always says.

What does thriving look like? Like carrying a snow shovel everywhere. Like selling pot at the Arby's drive-thru window. Like a first class ticket to Jamaica between cancer treatments. Like a flea-circus in a doublewide. Like the GPS coordinates to a mound of dirt in a New Jersey forest.

As the rot just beneath the surface of the Hemmings precious white suburban respectability begins to spread, the far flung grand children gradually find their ways back to each other, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name.

I have mixed feelings for this book. It took me a while to even get into this book. We follow multiple characters, some of which without names, and we only see bits and pieces of their lives. I was confused and I just couldn't fully get into the writing. Once I got into the book, I did start to appreciate the writing style. I loved how each character had their own distinct voice, I loved the different imagery throughout, and I loved the weirdness. I was just waiting for everything to come together and when it did I was slightly disappointed. I think it came down to the ending being a little too preachy. There are literal capital letters spelling things out for us and for a book full of interesting symbols to spell things out instead of simply hinting, it just read oddly.

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

Skellig by David Almond

Ten-year-old Michael was looking forward to moving into a new house. But now his baby sister is ill, his parents are frantic, and Doctor Death has come to call. Michael feels helpless. Then he steps into the crumbling garage. . . . What is this thing beneath the spiders' webs and dead flies? A human being, or a strange kind of beast never before seen? The only person Michael can confide in is his new friend, Mina. Together, they carry the creature out into the light, and Michael's world changes forever. . . 

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository / IndieBound

I mostly read this one audio, although I finished this by ebook. I liked that the audiobook was narrated by the author, although I sometimes felt lost because he does have a thick accent (at least to me). The writing was beautiful and I loved the touches of magical realism. Not much seemed to happen in the story at times, which is one of the reasons why I couldn't rate this a full four stars. Even now, as I am writing this review, I cannot recall much of the story and it's only been two months since I've read the book. Still, I can see why this book was nominated for the Printz Award (unlike other books *cough* Why We Broke Up *cough*). The book itself was also highly creative and different from many other books I've read. There is a sort of prequel, My Name is Mina, but I don't think I will be reading that one. Though the author has written another book on the Printz list, so I will be reading more from him.

I hereby give this book
3.5 Stars
Meaning: It was almost amazing, but not quite


The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.

When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court.

However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her.
  Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository / IndieBound

I have conflicting feelings towards this book. It really belongs in the "I don't know what to think of this" category.
This book has an interesting plot, but I guessed a major plot-point within the first chapter [highlight to view spoiler]that the girls are dragons [end of spoiler], but that was never resolved until the second to last page. So, I spent so much of the book just waiting for the reveal. This book doesn't pull punches and discusses a lot of difficult subjects, within a fantasy setting. I think this was a different way to talk about these subjects, but I felt like I was forcing myself to read this book. To put it lightly, this is not a fun book, and I knew that going in.
The ending was a bit of a let-down. The climax is the second to last page, so there is really no falling action. It is just a REALLY HUGE MOMENT WITH LOTS OF REVEALS then its THE END.
Overall, I do think this book has an interesting premise. The writing was fantastic and there were many well-written scenes, but there were also scenes that pulled me out of the book and I often felt like the book was going nowhere.
I hereby give this book
Meaning: I'm not sure how to rate this one

REVIEW: Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter

Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor

“A fast-paced thrill ride of a book. . . it’s Batman meets Annie.” —Stuart Gibbs, New York Times best-selling author of the Spy School series

“An adventure-filled read with a twisty mystery and spunky friendships. I loved it!” –Melissa de la Cruz, New York Times best-selling author of The Descendants series

April didn't mean to start the fire. She wasn’t the one who broke the vase. April didn’t ask to go live in a big, creepy mansion with a bunch of orphans who just don't understand that April isn’t like them. After all, April’s mother is coming back for her someday very soon.

All April has to do is find the clues her mother left inside the massive mansion. But Winterborne House is hiding more than one secret, so April and her friends are going to have to work together to unravel the riddle of a missing heir, a creepy legend, and a mysterious key before the only home they’ve ever known is lost to them forever. 
I love Ally Carter's books and I adore reading middle grade, so I was definitely excited for this book! I didn't enjoy this book as much as I expected, but it was still a fun read.

April doesn't have parents. Years ago, when she was a baby, her mother left her only with a key and a claim that she would come back. April still holds onto that hope, and when a museum trip leads her to a chest that seems to match her key, she thinks she may find her answers. But, instead, she accidentally sets the museum on fire. And that somehow sends her to the Winterborne House and under their care. The house is great, and the other children are nice, but April can't help but wonder if her key, and her mother, are connected to the Winterbornes, but she ends up stumbling on an even bigger mystery.

I'll start off with some positives: I loved the mystery. That's what drew me to this story in the first place. The book has plenty of mysterious elements. There's April's past, the mysterious key, and the supposedly dead heir. The Winterbornes themselves are really a mystery! There is even an almost superhero/villain vibe to the book, which is even more evident further into the book. The mystery really reminded me a little of the earlier Gallagher Girls books, and it carries a little bit of that nostalgia. Still, the mystery is new and it's own story. Some things felt predictable to me, as an adult, but there are many things that I just don't know how they will be resolved.

I loved the characters and I thought that their interactions with each other in the house were fantastic, although it takes a while for the characters to team-up together. I did have issues with their characterizations. I felt like most of the characters weren't that well-developed. They were known for doing one thing and that was their one thing. Sadie, for example, is a smart inventor and that's really all she does in the book. When the child characters were all together, I would sometimes mix-up their dialogue. April, our MC, was really hard to read at times and I felt like I couldn't always connect with her. Usually, I feel like characters grow and change throughout a book and I guess we get that with April, but the book felt like an introduction to the cast without me really getting to know who they are besides surface-level interests.

I found the setting to be fantastic, creepy mansions are always fun in middlegrade, but it wasn't quite what I expected from the synopsis. I think I expected this to take place at a school/orphanage, but it wasn't really either. It could technically be an orphanage, but there are only five kids (and all five are on the cover). The cover really made me think it was a school because of the matching outfits. I kind of understand why it wasn't a school-esqe setting, since Ally Carter already has the Gapagher Girls series, but it took me by surprise. Although, having a small cast of characters was better for this book and made the mansion feel that much more vast.

As for pacing, there were plenty of moments where I couldn't wait to read what would happen next, but there were also moments where I felt like the plot was moving slowly. We have intense action scenes, along with scenes of characters just wandering around the mansion. As for the ending, the ending was very intriguing. I don't think I fully understand what happened and I won't until book two (I hope there is a book two), but I wasn't really expecting the connection between the two [highlight to view spoiler] The Sentinal and the Winterbornes. I honestly did not expect the Sentinal to be such a big part of the book.[end of spoiler]

Overall, I have mixed feelings. I liked the mystery and despite my issues with the characterization, I do think there are some great characters in this book. It is a fun middlegrade book and I think middle schoolers will enjoy this book. I think this book felt like an introduction to a series rather than the actual first book. I didn't really get enough answers, even for a first book, and the characters weren't developed enough. Still, I hope to read more in this series.
I hereby give this book
3 Stars
Meaning: I liked it

Thursday, March 26, 2020

REVIEW: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

The Kingdom of Back

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she'll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl's hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.
This was one of my most anticipated books of the year! Everything about this book just sounded fascinating! Little known history + magical realism + Marie Lu, it seemed like a recipe for a great book. I don't know if I over-hyped this in my mind or what, but I was disappointed by this book. Don't get me wrong, I did like the book and it gets a solid three stars, but I was expecting to love this book and I just didn't.

This book has two main components: the historical side, and the fantasy side. One was done well, one not so much. The historical storyline follows Nannerl Mozart, who is the lesser-known of the Mozart siblings, but also incredibly talented. We see her grow up from a young girl to a teenager as she tours with her brother. She is overshadowed by her brother and resents the fact that, as a boy, her brother is able to openly compose and Nannerl is not. Still, she has lots of love for her brother and has to handle the conflicting emotions. I loved how this book focused on Nannerl. I remember learning a little about her in my Music Appreciation class, but many people never learn about her. But even the focus on the Mozarts themselves was interesting as I have never read a YA book, or any fiction book, about the Mozarts!

Now, as for the fantasy aspect, I felt that it was really lackluster. It started out interesting enough, we have the magical world blurred into the real world slowly. Nannerl's interactions with the Kingdom of Back at first felt unreal, in a good way. As the book progressed, though, I noticed that we never really got worldbuilding for the Kingdom of Back, which made me less intrigued by the realm. Instead of seamlessly blending with the real world, it felt jarring whenever we traveled there because I never felt like I had enough information to understand it or its connection to our world. What disappoints me is that there were so many opportunities to show us this wonderful world but instead, we were told about things, or everything was just meant to be an obvious allegory. I did like Marie Lu's author's note where she mentions that the Kingdom of Back was a story the real Nannerl and Wolfgang (or Wolferl as he is called in the book) told each other while they were on tour. I found that to be incredibly interesting, but it made me wish I really connected with the world.

As for characters, I do feel like both Nannerl and Wolferl were well-developed characters. I especially loved how the book showed their relationship. Despite the gap in ages, they are incredibly close from traveling together. Nannerl does resent Wolferl, but it less because of him and more because he has more freedom than she does. This is difficult for Wolferl to understand and throughout the book he seems to be closer to Nannerl than she to him, which made some of Nannerl's decisions frustrating. I did feel like the gender elements were heavy-handed in the book because it was understood the struggles that Nannerl had as a girl in the 18 century the first few times she thought it. It did frustrate me that for a book that was discussed gender, Nannerl often goes off with a guy in the Kingdom of Back but I don't think this was romantic? I have a question mark there because it wasn't all that clear.

The book does have a middle grade feel throughout, namely because Nannerl is a pre-teen/young teen for most of the book. The atmosphere also reminded me of middlegrade. I was surprised by this, as the book is marketed as YA, but I adore reading middlegrade so I actually loved that it had that feeling to the story.

Overall, I did like the book but I really wish there was more worldbuilding in the fantasy sections. It was a fairly interesting read overall, and a highly creative story at that, even if I wasn't fully engaged in the story. I really liked the historical inspiration. This book did make me wonder if I am outgrowing Marie Lu's books. She used to be an auto-buy author for me, but both this book and Rebel have kind of let me down.

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday: Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

Waiting on Wednesday (or Can't Wait Wednesday) is a weekly meme, hosted by Wishful Endings, where we talk about the books we're waiting (a bit impatiently) for!

This week I am waiting for...
Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes (Pandava Quartet, #3)

War between the devas and the demons is imminent, and the Otherworld is on high alert. When intelligence from the human world reveals that the Sleeper is holding a powerful clairvoyant and her sister captive, 14-year-old Aru and her friends launch a search-and-rescue mission. The captives, a pair of twins, turn out to be the newest Pandava sisters, though, according to a prophecy, one sister is not true.
During the celebration of Holi, the heavenly attendants stage a massage PR rebranding campaign to convince everyone that the Pandavas are to be trusted. As much as Aru relishes the attention, she fears that she is destined to bring destruction to her sisters, as the Sleeper has predicted. Aru believes that the only way to prove her reputation is to find the Kalpavriksha, the wish-granting tree that came out of the Ocean of Milk when it was churned. If she can reach it before the Sleeper, perhaps she can turn everything around with one wish.
Careful what you wish for, Aru . . .
Release Date: April 7th, 2020

Why am I waiting?
I really enjoy this series so I look forward to reading this book!
What book are you waiting for this week?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

New Releases in YA! (March 22nd-28th)

Every week I list all (or almost all) of the YA books (and the occasional MG) that are coming out within that 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 21, 2020

Short and Simple Reviews: Goldie Vance Series

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)

Today I'm reviewing volumes 1-4 in the Goldie Vance series!

Goldie Vance Vol. 1

Sixteen-year-old Marigold "Goldie" Vance has an insatiable curiosity. She lives at a Florida resort with her dad, who manages the place, and it's her dream to one day be the hotel's in-house detective. When Walter, the current detective, encounters a case he can't crack, together they utilize her smarts, skills, and connections to solve the mystery...even if it means getting into a drag race, solving puzzles, or chasing a helicopter to do it!   Goodreads / Amazon  / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository / IndieBound

Lately, I have been wanting to read more graphic novels and comic books and this one popped up on my radar. I enjoyed reading this volume but I didn't love it as much as I expected to. This is a fun book and I loved the cast of characters. The art was also great. What I wasn't as wowed by was the mystery. I didn't feel like I was solving the mystery with Goldie, and that's what I normally look for in mystery books. The book also went a strange direction in the last half and some parts weren't as believable. I did like how it included the space race. Overall, this was a fun read. 

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

Goldie Vance Vol. 2

Nancy who? Goldie Vance is on the case! The adventures of the teen sleuth continue in this second volume of the hit comic book series.

The adventures of Goldie Vance, teen super sleuth, continue in the second volume of this hit comic adventure. Collects issues #5-8 of the series.

Sixteen-year-old Marigold “Goldie” Vance lives at a Florida resort with her dad, who manages the place. Her mom, who divorced her dad years ago, works as a live mermaid at a club downtown. Goldie has an insatiable curiosity, which explains her dream to one day become the hotel’s in-house detective. When Charles, the current detective, encounters a case he can’t crack, he agrees to mentor Goldie in exchange for her help solving the mystery.

Eisner Award-winning writer Hope Larson (A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel) and artist Brittney Williams (Patsy Walker, A.K.A Hellcat!) present the newest gal sleuth on the block with Goldie Vance, an exciting, whodunnit adventure.

  Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository / IndieBound

My feelings toward this book is pretty similar to volume one, that while I liked it, I didn't love it. This is again a fun book with a fantastic cast of characters, but the direction the volume went was, again, a little far-fetched. The mystery was very unique, but it didn't fully keep my attention. Like the last book, I like how it features the space race a little and how it both feels anchored in the past, but in a whole new timeline. Overall, it was still a fun read.
I hereby give this book
3 Stars
Meaning: I liked it

Goldie Vance, Vol. 3
Catch up with the coolest new girl detective on the block, Goldie Vance.

Sixteen-year-old Marigold “Goldie” Vance has an insatiable curiosity with dreams of one day becoming a detective. Luckily, she lives at a Florida resort with her dad, who manages the place, and with a rotating roster of guests and events, there’s bound to be some mystery afoot! With the Prescription One race in town, Goldie and her biggest rival, Sugar Maple, find themselves in an unlikely alliance to find who is sabotaging the drivers before the big event.

Eisner Award-winning writer Hope Larson (A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel) and artist Brittney Williams (Patsy Walker, A.K.A Hellcat!) are joined by writer Jackie Ball and introducing artist Noah Hayes in another exciting whodunnit adventure!

This is my favorite of the series so far. There was so much more character development in this book than in previous books and the mystery felt classic and not as far-fetched as the previous two volumes. Goldie and Diane's relationship showed up a little more too, though it still feels like it is in the background. I overall enjoyed this one. I want to read volume four but it's currently "missing" from my library! Well, I'll just have to see when I'll get the chance to read it.
I hereby give this book
3.5 Stars
Meaning: I liked it, but it wasn't quite amazing

Goldie Vance Vol. 4

The adventures of precocious teen sleuth Goldie Vance continue!

Sixteen-year-old Marigold “Goldie” Vance has an insatiable curiosity and dreams of one day becoming a detective. Luckily for Goldie, with the St. Pascal Rockin’ the Beach Music Festival coming to town, there’s plenty of inexplicable shenanigans keeping her gumshoe brain busy, from mysterious power outages, to missing musicians, to Russian spies hiding in the shadows.

New York Times bestselling and Eisner Award-winning writer Hope Larson (A Wrinkle in Time: the Graphic Novel) along with co-writer Jackie Ball, and artist Elle Power bring you a rockin’ new mystery!

  Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository / IndieBound

I did finally get this book from my library, though this is probably my least favorite volume in the series. It's still fun, the artwork is colorful, and the characters are adorable, but the story just lost me. Like the other books in the series, it was a little far-fetched, but I think I also didn't enjoy it much because I didn't quite understand the stakes and when the tension was meant to be high, the dialogue explained what was going on rather than the images. I found myself lost on more than one occasion. I did like that this book showed Diane and Goldie more. Granted, they were fighting most of the book, but Diane isn't included in the books as much as she should. I like how the plot mainly revolved around music and I like the overall '50s, almost pulp, vibe the whole series has (but with more diversity and without the sexism, racism, and any other -isms! So, much better than the actual '50s). The ending has a bit of a cliffhanger, but I have no clue when the next volume will be released. 
I hereby give this book
3 Stars
Meaning: I liked it