Review: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Summary: Ever since last year’s homecoming, best-friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have done everything to avoid each other. It’s a bit hard though when you live in the same small town and your families are the modern-day Montagues and Caputlets. But when a camping trip goes a bit unexpected (besides Lennon being there, much to Zorie’s dismay), the two find themselves stranded in the wilderness alone together. As the two travel through northern California’s backcountry, with plenty of jabs and insults in tow, Zorie and Lennon’s hidden past and secrets resurface. Maybe they aren’t Romeo & Juliet after all?

 My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

My craving for summer contemporaries continued in June with Jenn Bennett’s Starry Eyes. After seeing everyone’s love for Alex Approximately, I knew that it was time to pick up Jenn Bennett’s latest book. While I am not too crazy about Alex Approximately’s synopsis, I think I’m going to have to pick it up after loving Starry Eyes!

Zorie was such a fun main protagonist because she was such a unique YA character! I loved her interst in astrology and I really need to raid her eye glasses collection! I really enjoyed her relationship with her stepmother, especially because stepparents and teens tend to be pitied against one another in most YA cases. Also, I’ve never met a character named Zorie?? And guessing by Lennon’s moms’ interest in music triva, I think it’s safe to assume that Lennon is named after a Beatle.

The book is spilt into three parts, and I admit that I was nervous that we would get both Lennon and Zorie’s perspectives. This is not to say that I disliked Lennon because I did really like him as a character and romantic interest, but I wanted to see everything from Zorie’s point-of-view. I think we wouldn’t have gotten to fully experience Zorie’s first time in the real great outdoors and her indesiveness over her relationship with Lennon.

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Can we also get more YA novels about camping trips and hiking??? While I love being outside, I never really considered hiking, but Jenn Bennett has totally inspired me to do so. Minus the camping part and having to deal with bears and mountain lions. I’ll take a day hiking with Lennon and Zorie, but let me come home to a book and a new episode of The Bold Type, please! It was fun to see Lennon, a wildnerness extraordinaire, and Zorie, a wildnerness un-extraodrinaire, jusxtaposed against one another, and I liked seeing Zorie warm up to this setting. The glamping campground was also fun, yet understandly short-lived. I especially loved when Zorie and Reagan go shopping for glamping supplies, and Zories refers to a yurt as yogurt.

Overall, I really enjoyed Starry Eyes for its unique story and setting, and yes my contemporary romance fans, there’s plenty of romance in this gem! It was more steamy than I expected, but everyone needs a fun summer romance!

Have you read Starry Eyes? Share in the comments!

Love & My Language Skills: Love & Gelato Review

Summary: Lina is living in Tuscany for the summer, but not for its fairytale landscape and one million and one gelato flavors. It was her mother’s dying wish for Lina to get to know her father. That she’s never met. All Lina wants to do is go back home. But when Lina is given her mother’s journal about her own experience in Italy, Lina is suddenly uncovering secret romances, night clubs, and hidden barkeries. Along with the boy-next-door, Ren, Lina is determine to unearth a secret that’s been kept for way too long. Maybe there’s more to Italy than love and gelato after all.

 My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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 My Thoughts:

Even as I write this review, I’m still trying to figure out how I didn’t pick up Jenna Evans Welch’s Love & Gelato before this summer. A summer contemporary that takes place in Italy and features SO MUCH FOOD that hadn’t previously been on my read list? While I’ve been slowly picking up more fantasy, my heart was craving a contemporary and I decided to give Love & Gelato a go.

I’ve read a few books this season that have fueled my wanderlust, and Love & Gelato is no exception. Jenna Evans Welch transports reader to the Tuscan countryside, with plenty of pasta, mozzarella, and gelato in store. I’m still in shock that Lina didn’t know what a cannoli was before coming to Italy. I guess I live in a somewhat Italian- area because cannolis are (thankfully) available in almost all of the bakeries. I think it was also really obvious how much research Jenna must have put into this book. For example. Ren and Howard often explain Florence’s history and landmarks to Lina.

While there is some romance, the book has a bigger focus on family. Lina is grieving from her mother’s death and moves to Tuscany to meet her father for the first time. I liked seeing Howard and Lina form a relationship, and the journal was a great way for Lina’s mom to have an ongoing role in the story. But I. just. wanted. Lina. to FINISH READING IT! THE ANSWERS ALWAYS LIE IN THE PAGES.

However, it was fun seeing Ren and Lina bond over figuring out her mother’s past, and their banter often made me laugh out loud:

“ “I want to try for another record tomorrow. What was the last kind I had? With the chocolate chunks?”
“Stracciatella.”
“I’m naming my first daughter after it.”
“Lucky her.” ” (173)

My four years of taking Italian between high school and college finally came to use because of Love & Gelato. Knowing Italian isn’t a must for this book, as it’s occasionally used by some of Lina’s friends and locals for smaller phrases. Most of the books I read that do feature other languages usually are in Spanish or French, so it was fun to not have to rely on Google Translate.

Overall, I loved Love & Gelato for its setting, humor, and focusing more on family than romance. I just put Love & Luck on hold from my library and I’ll be reading it as soon as it comes in!

 Have you read Love & Gelato? What’s your favorite ice cream/gelato flavor? Share in the comments!

Review: The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse

Summary: Best friends Aubrey and Rae have been planning their graduation trip across Europe practically since they met. It’s the perfect way to spend their last summer together before everyone heads off to university. But Aubrey and Rose’s perfect trip is a little more complicated than their past selves could have imagined. Along for the trip is Jonah, Aubrey’s boyfriend, and Gabe, the boy Aubrey may have or may not have accidentally kissed. And don’t forget Clara, the friend Rae is hardcore crushing on, but Clara must like boys, right??

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

 Cecilia Vinesse’s The Summer of Us is one of my most enjoyable reads of 2018. It was among my most anticipated summer releases,so I was super excited when Little Brown was giving out ARCs at Book Expo. One of my first YA reads was Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and since then I’ve loved books with an emphasis on travel, especially in Europe. The premise of The Summer of Us immediately sold me, as five best friends travel through Europe before they head off to college in different directions. It’s also been compared to Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Jennifer E. Smith’s books, aka some of the best contemporary and travel-inspired books in the game.

I’ve had great luck reading multi-perspective books lately because I loved reading from both Aubrey and Rae’s POVs. I loved Rae’s relationship with Lucy and I want to be her travel buddy in Australia. This could be said about both Rae and Aubrey, but I think Rae experiences a lot of personal growth within their two week expedition. She gets to explore a new relationship and begins to realize that it’s okay not to have a set plan after high school. I admit that I could relate to Aubrey a little bit more (English majors reunite!) mostly because if I trekked around Europe for 2 weeks with my friends, I’d so be in charge of our itinerary and stress out about making trains. And I’d want to see every museum and book shop ever. I appreciate that as much as Aubrey’s personality might make her to be the most perfect person ever, she isn’t. In a lot of contemporaries, the main character is often a reader, but it was cool to see Aubrey ACTUALLY READ. Her emotion while reading Virginia Woolf’s The Waves made me want to check it out.

Even though The Summer of Us only gives us Aubrey and Rae’s perspectives, we really get to know all 5 friends. Honestly, I think if Cecilia tried to include all 5, it would be a bit choppy and repetitive. I think Jonah could have received a bit more resolution, but Gabe was immediately my favorite guy. I love his chemistry with a certain someone, and I appreciate all the music and literature inspired quotes:

“Here’s my real prediction: In your freshmen year, it’ll become clear that studying literature is perfect for you. Because you love to analyze and pick things apart and figure out what you like about them, and that’s basically what the entire major is. And the thing is, you already do that with books, too. It’s like music but without the instruments” 

Overall, I really enjoyed The Summer of Us for being a story about friendship and love. This book completely refueled my wanderlust (I WILL get to you Europe, one day) and I wish I could go to so many of the same destinations as Aubrey, Rae and co.

 This review is based on a galley. By no means did being provided this galley affect my thoughts or opinion.

 Have you read The Summer of Us or Cecilia’s debut novel, Seven Days of You? What are some of your favorite travel-inspired books? Share in the comments!

New Fictional BF & A Dream Library: Strange the Dreamer Review

 Summary: Since he was five years old, junior librarian Lazlo Strange’s dream has been to travel halfway across the world to find the lost mystic city of Weep. What happened in Weep two hundred years ago that cut it off from the world? Why can’t anyone speak its true name? When the opportunity to presents itself in the form of a legend named Godslayer and his band of warriors, Lazlo has to seize on the chance or lose his dream forever. Answers and more mystery awaits in Weep, including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams.

Cover Lust? This should be classified as Cover Thoughts instead, because why are the UK editions of Strange the Dreamer so much nicer than the US editions?? Even the UK ARCs of Muse of Nightmares have sprayed pages! I bought the US paperback, which matched the UK hardcover, and I wish the hardcover US edition of MoN matched the UK edition. I don’t hate the US covers buuutttt why can’t we have Watersones or W.H. Smith here?

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

If there’s one way to define Fangirl Fury’s 2018 so far, it’s should be by all the sci-fi/dystopian books that she avoided in 2017 and ended up LOVING them in 2018. See exhibit A: Neal Shusterman’s Scythe. If we need to name an Exhibit B, it hands-down has to be Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer. Honestly, I have to first thank so many of you, especially Emily from @scytheemily, for screaming at me in the comments telling me to read Strange the Dreamer ASAP.

I have a love or like relationship with plenty of fantasy and high-fantasy books, and Strange the Dreamer is most definitely a loveeeeeeeee. While it’s not the only reason, this may have to do with my loveeeeeeeee for Lazlo. You had me at junior librarian. And librarian who then travels through the world and gains strength and a tan while doing so. In multi-perspective books or even books with one POV from a male character, I admit that I find myself relating or caring about the female(s) POVs. But Lazlo was not the case. I loved learning more about Weep for his knowledge, but getting to experience the city alongside from him. Laini Taylor really makes you feel as if you’re getting to see Weep for the first time too.

I never really thought about the title that is Strange the Dreamer until I started reading, and while we do have a full cast of characters with plenty of different third-person POVs, this is Lazlo’s story. I really couldn’t imagine a different title. I can’t wait to explore more of his past and of course present in Muse of Nightmares.

But let’s not forget about Sarai and the godspawn. Am I the only person who is literally terrified of Minya??? I really enjoyed learning about the godspawn and their horrific past. And their magic.is.so.cool. Well, maybe except Minya because the whole controlling ghosts thing is a bittttt creepy. Just a bit. If I could have one of their powers, I think I’d have to go with Sarai. Or maybe Sparrow so I could grow myself strawberries whenever I want. I think it’s so much cooler than getting to read people’s thoughts. Getting to visit people’s dreams?? LAZLO’S DREAMS?!? Minus the whole Muse of Nightmares thing.  Among this full cast, there’s plenty of interesting characters. I’m really interested in seeing Eril-Fane’s role in the next installment (will his mom also be there??) and I loved Calixte.

While I did lose track of some of the terminology and what was happening in the action sequence near the end, the ending/ last 50 pages of Strange the Dreamer left me screaming. I won’t go into it for the sake of spoilers, but holy gods, it’s time to pick of Muse of Nightmares NOW! Overall, I am so glad I read Strange the Dreamer for pushing me more into high fantasy and this unique world and story.

Have you read Strange the Dreamer? How excited are you for Muse of Nightmares? Share in the comments!

College YA Takes Texas: Emergency Contact Review

Summary: Penny Lee is more than ready to leave for college in Austin, Texas. She’s ready to leave her mom, her boyfriend, and her non-eventful high school experience. She’s set to go to college to learn how to become a writer and escape to her fictional worlds.

Sam is more than ready for a change. He’s stuck working at a local café and lives there too, sleeping on a mattress on the floor in an empty storage room. Sam dreams of becoming a famous documentary director, but right now the seventeen bucks in his bank account and an ex prevent him from doing so.

When Penny and Sam cross paths, it’s all sorts of awkward, but that doesn’t prevent the two from exchanging phone numbers. As Sam and Penny deal with their own mini crises and anxiety, the two become inseparable… well, at least over their text bubbles.

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

I’ve been bit on an epic quest to read more college YA in 2018 and up next on this TBR was Mary H.K. Choi’s Emergency Contact. The book had been on my radar for a while, but when I found out about Rainbow Rowell’s blurb, it quickly became a must-read.

Emergency Contact is told through the alternating perspectives of Penny and Sam. I actually enjoyed both perspectives. I liked Penny’s humor for the most part (I think some of it went over my head at times), and I would loveee to try one of Sam’s treats and iced coffees. How do you not love a guy who bakes pies and creates documentaries?? Like MIT’s relationship with Gloria’s Chao’s American Panda, those familiar with the University of Texas and its surroundings in Austin will have fun seeing the setting within Emergency Contact. Penny often describes classrooms and dorm halls at UT Austin, and I’m sure the various places Penny and Sam visit are reminiscent of the area.

However, neither Sam and Penny were perfect.

I really didn’t understand why Penny held so much animosity for her mom. I understand that Penny and her mom, Celeste, didn’t have the best relationship and Penny does experience trauma that she does not discuss with her mom. I guess teenage rebellion is still a thing, but in my opinion, Celeste really wasn’t that bad??

On Sam’s side of things, while this isn’t necessarily connected to his character, I feel like we missed out on a few of his experiences. For the sake of spoilers, I won’t specifically name them, but there is one scene that isn’t told through Sam’s perspective but the results are written in a message to Penny. While we do get tot his conclusion, I feel like it was important enough for us to experience it with Sam.

I did not expect some of Emergency Contact’s heaviness, as the novel deals with racism, pregnancy, drug use, and sexual assault (warning that there is a rape scene). I think Mary H.K. Choi did a nice job of delving into these topics while building Sam and Penny’s storylines.

Overall, Emergency Contact is a mature college YA novel that is perfect for quick reading and for those looking for not-so perfect protagonists.

Have you read Emergency Contact? Share in the comments!

The Accidental Bad Girl Review & Favorite Quotes

Summary: After getting caught hooking up with her best friend’s ex, Kendall Evans is no longer known as a good girl. Kicking off senior year ostracized and friendless, she counts down the days until she can escape from her Brooklyn prep school for good. But even that opportunity is threatend when Kendall discovers that her online identity has been hacked and she’s being accused of stealing a drug dealer’s stash. If Kendall wants to save her reputation and future, she’ll have to play the bad girl that everyone thinks she is. Or the one that she’s slowly turning into.

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The Accidental Bad Girl by Maxine Kaplan

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My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Maxine Kaplan’s The Accidental Bad Girl was the addicting read that I didn’t know I needed in my reading life right now. I love a good mystery/thriller-esque book every now and then, and I’m happy to report that this debut more than met my expectations.

Kendall is a kickbutt female character, and she refuses to be labeled by the gossip surrounding her online and in school. Despite being called so, she is no Barbie. In contrast, I loved how her parents called her Ken Doll. Throughout her character development, Maxine Kaplan shows that while Kendall is not a bad girl, she’s far from perfect. And there are lot of loveable, yet imperfect characters in The Accidental Bad Girl.

I really liked Gilly and Simone as Kendall’s support group, and I sided with Gilly in going to the police. But then I guess we wouldn’t have a story?? Simone was definitely my favorite, and while you can’t trust anyone, I prayed that Simone was actually who she appeared to me. And I loved her humor, exhibit 47 below:

“He’s so anxious, we actually had a sleepover, Ken. A sleepover. My mother made s’mores dip. We watched Mean Girls” (376).

The Accidental Bad Girl centers around Kendall’s involvement in drug dealing, and there were plenty of moments that were darker than I could have imagined. It was fun to see Kendall morph into the bad girl self, but even the reader will start to question where the line is between the real and fake Kendall. In addition, there’s also a lot of thoughtful discussion on rape and rape culture. It was really cool to see strong female leads like Kendall, Simone, and Kendall’s mother, who is one of the best lawyers in the city.

Overall, The Accidental Bad Girl exceeded my expectations, and this page-turning read deserves all the hype and more.

I received The Accidental Bad Girl in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the The Fantastic Flying Book Club for including me on this tour!

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Favorite Quotes:

While The Accidental Bad Girl is definitely a dark and thrilling story, it had so many humorus moments, featuring a few Harry Potter references:

“ ‘Ken Doll, did that snotty she-who-shall-not-be-named take a shot at your today?’ “(23)

“ ‘She’s got anger management issues.’

‘She should take up knitting.’ “

(44).

“ ‘Colin Creevey over there actually, finally made a move? Like… a moderately successful move?’ “

(118).

“ ‘When we were kids,’ she countered. ‘We haven’t spoken since seventh grade.’

‘Because Simi is a traitor and weak of will,’ muttered Gilly.”

(150).

About the Author

DSC00408Maxine Kaplan was born in Washington, DC. She and her twin sister spent their early childhoods trotting behind their journalist parents as they traveled around the world, eventually settling in Brooklyn, NY. Maxine graduated from Oberlin College in 2007. Following a long stint in the world of publishing, she has worked as a private investigator since 2009. She lives in her adopted hometown of Brooklyn, NY, with her lovely husband and complex cat. THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL is her debut novel. Follow Maxine on Twitter @MaxineGKaplan

Tour Schedule

June 26th

Pink Polka Dot Books– Welcome Post

June 27th

Fangirl Fury– Review & Favorite Quotes

June 28th

June 29th

Book Beach Bunny– Review & Favorite Quotes

June 30th

Bookablereads– Review

July 1st

JustAddAWord– Review

July 2nd

THE SHE REVELATION BLOG– Review & Favorite Quotes

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Have you read The Accidental Bad Girl? Share in the comments!

HELLO HIDEO: Warcross Reread & Wildcard Thoughts

Like many book nerds, Marie Lu’s Warcross was easily among my favorite 2017 reads. This new series from one of my favorite authors takes place in a futuristic society (although not far off from our own…) where people dwell in Warcross, a virtual reality game created by Hideo Tanaka. When teenage bounty hunter Emika Chen not-so accidentally glitches herself into the Warcross Championships, her life turns upside down, but maybe in the right way. Hideo offers Emika a job opportunity in Tokyo to help him solve a security issue in Warcross, and Emika finds herself in a much darker Warcross than she could have ever imagined.

I’ve been extremely fortunate enough to have the opportunity to read ARCs of Warcross and its sequel, Wildcard. I unexpectedly received Warcross from Marie Lu herself in her autographing line at Book Con 2017, and I picked up Wildcard at Book Expo 2018. If I could have only walked out at Book Expo with one book, it had to be Wildcard and I am still beyond ecstatic that I grabbed a copy at an unexpected ARC drop at Penguin (otherwise I would have gladly sat in Marie’s Wildcard line for 2+ hours that Friday). I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold off on reading Wildcard for long,so soon after Book Con, I began my Warcross reread.

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 Warcross Reread Thoughts:

Once again, I am so impressed with the world-building in Warcross. Like I said above, the Warcross world doesn’t feel too much different from our own, with there being such a reliance on technology. I think Marie Lu makes it feel even more realistic by using real brands (a small thing, but something I love seeing in books). For example, Coca-Cola is a sponsor of the Warcross pros, and they’re often gifted with some amazing designer clothes—give me all the Gucci Warcross apparel, please!

Rereading also allowed me to take a closer look at some of the relationships, which of course included Hideo and Emika. Without being too spoilery, I am still a firm believer that Hideo is a good person, but has been influenced by the unfortunate situations in his past. As we’re left seeing Emika needing to decide between Hideo and Zero, the reader is left to do the same themselves. It was also fun to delve into some of the other relationships, like Asher and his right-hand girl, Hammie (still living for the Hamilton reference) and Roshan and Tremaine.

I really enjoyed rereading Warcross because it obviously reacquainted me with this colorful world and plot, but it provided such a smooth transition into Wildcard, as the second installment picks up three days after Warcross’s ending.

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My full review for Wildcard won’t be coming until closer to release date. However, I cannot contain all of my Wildcard feels until then! Here are some of my non-spoiler, post-Wildcard thoughts:

Take this as an early warning to prepare your hearts for Wildcard because Marie Lu has plenty of twists up her sleeves! There were so many moments where my hand flew to my mouth as I gasped at the page. I’m just so fascinated by how she was able to expand this world even further in this second installment. There’s so much more to learn about Henka Games, Hideo’s past, and the algorithms and technology.

Besides the world-building and plot development, there’s so much character development, and not just for Emika and Hideo. It was cool to be introduced to the Phoenix Riders and Tremaine in Wildcard as Emika’s friends and go-to support team. I think one of my favorite aspects when it comes to character development in this series is Memory.While it can be quite intrusive, Memories allow us to explore more about our characters’ past and well, their character!

Overall, I loved Wildcard even more than I expected, and while it won’t be easy to part with this story and characters, I can say that I am more than satisfied with the book’s ending. Marie Lu did such a great job of wrapping up the plot and left our characters in a good, realistic for this future/dystopian/our world in ten years society. I can’t wait to share my full review with you this fall!

Have you read Warcross? Are you excited for Wildcard? Share in the comments!