Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: Who's That Girl - Blair Thornburgh

Who's That Girl
Blair Thornburgh
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Junior Nattie McCullough is totally OK with her place in life: Latin whiz. Member of the school’s gay-straight alliance. Joni Mitchell superfan. Seventeen-year-old who has never been kissed. So when last summer’s crush and her former classmate—Young Lungs lead singer Sebastian Delacroix—comes back to town with his new hit single “Natalie,” she can’t bring herself to believe it could possibly be about her…could it?

As Nattie sorts through the evidence (the lyrics, Sebastian’s elusive text messages, and their brief romantic encounter last year), the song’s popularity skyrockets, and everyone starts speculating about “Natalie’s” identity. If that wasn’t mortifying enough, Nattie runs into another problem: her confusing, flirtation-packed feelings for her good friend Zach. With her once-average life upended, Nattie is determined to figure out once and for all if her short-lived past with Sebastian was something love songs are made of—or just a one-hit wonder.
This was a super-cute rom-com that had me laughing out loud and often. I am pretty sure I wore a smile from the beginning until the end of this book. I am of lover of all things fun and cute and this one really delivered.

Things I loved:

  • Nattie was adorable, quirky, a little nerdy, and a bit awkward. I really enjoyed her Lucy-esq antics, and that she was just so normal. Her emotions, fears, and joys were so commonplace. It was easy to relate to her. 
  • Nattie's friends were such a wonderful, eclectic group. I adored listening in on their conversations. There was some great banter going on here, and it was often very amusing. Her squad was very special and as Nattie was dealing with all these emotions, I was glad she had her squad there to support her. They were all special, but Tess stood out, because she played such a huge role in the secondary plot. I liked that Thornburgh made her a little more than a sidekick, and I had a mile-wide smile when her big plot line was fulfilled. 
  • Another wonderful group of people in Nattie's world was her family. The quirky apple didn't fall far from the tree here. We get lots of laughs with each visit to her parents and her "brother", foreign exchange student, Sam. They were all very warm and open, and their home seemed like a lovely place to grow up. I really liked that her relationship with Sam evolved a little over the course of the book, and that it may have been stronger than she had anticipated. Lots of warm and fuzzy feels on the family front here. 
  • The romance was adorable. It was a total slow burn, with one party being totally oblivious to its existence! There were so many times that I wanted to shake some sense into Nattie and tell her to open her eyes. But alas, these things take time, and that just made it so much sweeter when it finally happened. 
I will not lie, the main plot hardly mattered to me, as I was enraptured by this lovely group of people that Thornburgh assembled. Who's That Girl was a fun story of love, friendship, family, and being oneself, which kept me jolly and fully entertained. 

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book.

There is a lot of baking while doing Latin homework in this book. All the baking sort of made me hungry. I don't really like to bake, but I do like to eat home-baked goods.

Do you like to bake?
Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Post - June 25, 2017

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where I can share my wrap up of the past week, as well as plans for the current week.

My Week in Review

My current location is North Carolina. Today is the day that my daughter can finally move into her dorm room. I am going to miss the hotel life, but I knew I would have to eventually return to reality. And I cannot lie, I was pretty giddy when I saw this:

On the blog:

What I Read Last Week

With the long driving, packing, and unpacking, I did not read as much as I would have liked to, but I read some good books. I sort of changed up my planned books for a few different reasons. I put Today Will Be Different aside, because of a combination of not stellar reviews, and because I really wanted to read Wild Beauty, and Kiersten wanted to bring it to school with her, so I had to act quickly. I am glad I did. Wild Beauty was my top read of the week. Between the beautiful prose and the great storytelling, I was totally captivated by this book.

What I Am Currently Reading

I am really excited to read the new Kasie West book. I love her so much, and I did not think I was going to get a review copy of this one. When I saw the approval, I almost cried. I started listening to Rules of Contact, and will probably listen to it as I drive from North Carolina back to New Jersey.

What I Plan to Read

I have the drive home on Monday. It took 10 hours to get here, so I don't think there will be much reading, but I may get through an audiobook. 

How was your week?
Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Discussion: How Do You Know It's a Spoiler?

Confession: I struggle with writing reviews. I am always worried about trying to do the book justice or of properly trying to express my feelings and opinions of this work, but I also struggle because I strive to keep my reviews spoiler free.

I very rarely read reviews prior to reading the book. I will go to GoodReads and check the overall rating, maybe see if anyone I am following it has shelved the book, but I tend to stay away from reviews. I do, however, love to read reviews after I finish a book. I like to see what we agree or disagree on, or to see if they gleaned any addition meaning from the text than I had. Often I find myself shaking my head, because I see spoiler after spoiler in the reviews. At first I was frustrated. How dare they spoil the story for the next person. Then I took a step back, and thought, perhaps, they don't think that is a spoiler.

For instance, I read Lessons in Falling, and after I finished the book, I reviewed the synopsis and was shocked to find a plot point revealed, which I felt was sort of spoiler-like. I then took it upon myself to research spoilers, and I found this great poll on WIRED  discussing possible indicators of spoilers.

I also had what I considered a spoiler, revealed to me during the Cassandra Clare panel at BookCon. When the moderator let this one loose, you heard a collective gasp from over half the room. Now, this is not necessarily a plot point, but it was something major about a character in the book. I felt betrayed, angry, and as if I was robbed of the experience.

When I write a review, I always re-read the synopsis to try and gauge if what I want to say could possible be construed as a spoiler. It is therefore obvious that I consider information beyond the synopsis to be in the spoiler zone. I also asked myself, if this "thing" was surprising, an important catalyst for events that transpired in the book. This bit of information could be something that contributes to the shape the story takes or expose too much about the ending. I try really hard  not to reveal too much, and that is the biggest challenge for me when I try to formulate my thoughts in a review.

I want to know what you, readers and bloggers, think about spoilers.

How do you classify a spoiler? 
Let us know in the comments!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Mini Review: Empire of Storms - Sarah J. Maas

Empire of Storms
Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass, #5
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I feel like at this point there's no reason to write reviews for the Throne of Glass series - by now, pretty much everyone has decided whether or not they want to read the series. But while reading Empire of Storms, I felt compelled to write a little bit about it.

One thing that Sarah J. Maas never fails to include in her books is strong female characters, and these strong female characters come in many different forms. There's Aelin, who I can't even really begin to explain her strength because it's on all kinds of levels; there's Manon, who is a ferocious, wyvern-riding witch; there's Elide, who isn't ferocious or magically powerful, but is decisive, smart, independent, and fiercely loyal; there's Lysandra, who can shapeshift and who throws herself into danger to protect her friends; and there's, a fairly new character, Ansel, who is a trained assassin.

Sure, it's impressive in and of itself that Sarah J. Maas is able to build these strong characters, but what's more noteworthy to me is that all these powerful women support each other - rather than being pit head to head (although there's been a little bit of that throughout the series because of obvious plot reasons), we get to see these women banding together. Paired with how territorial and ridiculously some of the men behave in the books, and it's just wonderful.

Anyway, I am definitely a lover of the Throne of Glass series, and if you haven't decided if you want to read it or not yet, I'm Team Read TOG because these characters are so fierce and wonderful. And, I mean, the rest of it is good too.

Who's your favorite strong female character?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: Trusting You & Other Lies - Nicole Williams

Trusting You & Other Lies
Nicole Williams
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Nicole Williams delivers a seductive summer romance worth swooning over. Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Stephanie Perkins.

Phoenix can't imagine anything worse than being shipped off to family summer camp. Her parents have been fighting for the past two years--do they seriously think being crammed in a cabin with Phoenix and her little brother, Harry, will make things better?

On top of that, Phoenix is stuck training with Callum--the head counselor who is seriously cute but a complete know-it-all. His hot-cold attitude means he's impossible to figure out--and even harder to rely on. But despite her better judgment, Phoenix is attracted to Callum. And he's promising Phoenix a summer she'll never forget. Can she trust him? Or is this just another lie?

This one really ticked off all the right boxes for me. It was such a sweet romance/coming-of-age story, and there were so many things I loved about this story.

  • I was sort of won over with the whole family summer camp thing. It was a great setting for this story, and I thought Williams used it brilliantly. This was a story of a broken family in need of healing. Phoenix's father had lost his job two years prior, and had not been able to get his mojo back. That, coupled with her parents constant bickering, and both of them being so closed off from the rest of the family really warranted this off-site setting. The family was forced to spend more time together, and this proximity was bound to result in them actually talking and working through their issues. 
  • Harrison, aka Harry was a little packet of awesome. This kid played true to age, but he was also so astute and often the voice of reason. I loved the bond he shared with Phoenix, and could not help but cheer for him with each small success he enjoyed. 
  • Callum, *sigh*. I wore a smile on my face almost every time he was on page. I adored this rugged, manly-man, who was trying to rise above his circumstances. He had a good heart, even if some of his decisions were not always right. 
  • You knew it was coming, the romance! Callum and Phoenix were great together. Their relationship was so honest, and they were able to connect and share things with each other, that they had previously not shared with anyone else. They listened to each other, had some really mature discussions (Bravo Ms. Williams!), and most of all, forgave each other when they made mistakes. 
  • Speaking of forgiveness, there are a lot of characters in this book, who needed forgiving. I love that this theme was explored, because it's realistic. People make mistakes and disappoint us, but because we love them, we will forgive them. 
  • Another HUGE theme in this book is lying. Williams puts the characters in several different types of situations, where they omit facts or lie. Sometimes the lies are for a good reason, sometimes they aren't. I liked the way she explored this grey area in this story, because it really worked in this case. We lie to protect someone, we lie so as not to hurt their feelings, we lie because we don't accept the truth. There are so many reasons why we lie, and Williams really gave me a lot to think about with respect to this issue. 
  • This book is about heavy things, but it's a rather light read. I am a fan of the fluff. This one is not too fluffy, it has plenty of depth, and angst. Phoenix is angsty, but it's just the right amount of drama for me. Williams balanced out the happy with the sad, the deep with the shallow. I felt plenty of emotions without falling into the emotional abyss. 
  • Growth, there is so much growth. I don't know if there were any main players who left Camp Kismet as the same person they were at the beginning of the summer. Phoenix, Callum, Harry, heck, even mom and dad all grew and changed. I always find it a positive thing, that when a character must suffer some pain in their life, they are made better from the experience. 
  • A good epilogue goes a long way. Williams wrapped this one up in a bow with a lovely epilogue, which left me feeling happy and satisfied. 
Overall: This was lovely story of love, family, and forgiveness. 

**Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.

This book takes place at a family summer camp. The characters engage in running, hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting, and of course, arts and crafts. 

What is your favorite summer camp activity?
Let us know in the comments!