WINTER MOOD READ: Winterwood Review

Summary (from the publisher): Be careful of the dark, dark wood . . .

51kGgJIqgeL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago

 

 My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

 My Thoughts:

During the latter half of the fall season and beginning of winter, my bookish soul especially craves books whose atmosphere matches the weather – and makes for the perfect blanket and tea companion. Enter Shea Ernshaw’s recent release, Winterwood. The book follows Nora Walker, whose family is rumored to be composed of witches, when she finds Oliver stranded in the woods after a bad snow storm. Nora is set to determine what led to Oliver being lost and her feelings for this lost boy.

Ordinarily, I feel like Winterwood is the type of book that I wouldn’t like. I often have a love-hate relationship with spooky books set in the woods (it’s a trope, okay?) , but I fell in love with Winterwood. Told primarily from Nora’s perspective, with a few chapters from Oliver’s perspective, I really loved Shea Ernshaw’s writing style. There was such a nice balance between the plot and action, but also Nora’s looking back on her family’s past and the nature setting in general.

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My favorite part of the book was learning more about Nora’s family and their magical history. Nora is both comforted and haunted by memories of her grandmother, who encouraged Nora to understand her family history. On the other hand, Nora’s mother wishes that her daughter would leave their secrets behind. I could never put the book  down when I came to one of the many excerpts from the Walker family spell book. I found the spells to be so clever in how they connected to the described witch’s power, but I also wonder if Shea Ernshaw tested out any! Nora is the only witch in her family whose nightshade, or power, has not come to light just yet. I loved her connection to the woods, the Wicker Woods, and nature overall. I loved learning about the lost items that pop up in the woods.

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When the Stars Lead to You Review & Favorite Quotes

Summary (from the publisher):
Eighteen-year-old Devon longs for two things. starscov

The stars.
And the boy she fell in love with last summer.

When Ashton breaks Devon’s heart at the end of the most romantic and magical summer ever, she thinks her heart will never heal again. But over the course of the following year, Devon finds herself slowly putting the broken pieces back together.

Now it’s senior year, and she’s determined to enjoy every moment of it as she prepares for a future studying the galaxies. That is, until Ashton shows up on the first day of school. Can she forgive him and open her heart again? Or are they doomed to repeat history?

From debut author, Ronni Davis, comes a stunning novel about passion, loss, and the power of first love.

 

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Kobo | iBooks | IndieBound 

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My Rating: 3/5 Stars

My Thoughts:
I’m always up for contemporary romance, not to mention one where the romance begins at the beach. When the Stars Lead to You starts with Devon and Ashton’s summer romance at the shore. The two spend many summer nights under the stars- Devon is a budding astrophysicist after all. But when Ashton breaks Devon’s heart at the very end of the summer, it takes a long time for her heart to heal. After the next summer, Devon enters her senior year ready to enjoy every moment with her best friend and compete for a spot in her #1 college’s astrophysics program—until Ashton shows up on the first day of school.

When the Stars Lead to You starts off with a very sweet romance, as Ashton and Devon spend the summer together. As someone who is trying to brace herself for the upcoming winter weather, I loved being transported to warm summer days at the beach. I didn’t mind the insta-love too much because I knew based off the synopsis that Aston and Devon wouldn’t be starting the school year together. However, that’s where my love for the insta-love ended.

Between their summer romance and the development of their relationship during the school year, Ashton and Devon’s relationship moves very fast. While I don’t mind insta-love sometimes, their relationship moved too far too fast. While I’ll get into their relationship more, I also found some of their dialogue a bit cringe-worthy. Although I guess it was somewhat predictable, I didn’t even understand why Devon decided to rush into another relationship with Ashton. However, I do understand why Ashton decided to end things to the first place because of his struggles with depression.

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ALL-FAVORITE READ: All-American Muslim Girl Review

Summary (from the publisher):Allie Abraham has it all going for her—she’s a 91AwIiYLSnL.jpgstraight-A student, with good friends and a close-knit family, and she’s dating cute, popular, and sweet Wells Henderson. One problem: Wells’s father is Jack Henderson, America’s most famous conservative shock jock…and Allie hasn’t told Wells that her family is Muslim. It’s not like Allie’s religion is a secret, exactly. It’s just that her parents don’t practice and raised her to keep her Islamic heritage to herself. But as Allie witnesses ever-growing Islamophobia in her small town and across the nation, she begins to embrace her faith—studying it, practicing it, and facing hatred and misunderstanding for it. Who is Allie, if she sheds the façade of the “perfect” all-American girl? What does it mean to be a “Good Muslim?” And can a Muslim girl in America ever truly fit in?

 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

 It’s safe to say that we’ve all read books that we’d know we love from the get-go. But I think what’s even better than that feeling sometimes is when you pick up a book and it transforms from something you think you’d enjoy to something that you absolutely love. Enter Nadine Jolie Courtney’s upcoming release All-American Muslim Girl, a book that I all of a sudden couldn’t part ways from. This book so would’ve been a binge read for me if my first full draft of my senior English research paper hadn’t been due the same week. Luckily for me, I was still able to eat it up over the course of three sittings.

All-American Muslim Girl follows high school sophomore Allie, who on the outside appears to be your average American girl. She has red hair and a white complexion, a great relationship with her parents, good grades, and a budding relationship with the cutest boy in the school. What most people don’t realize about Allie is that she is Muslim. Since her parents don’t practice and tend to keep Allie away from faith, Allie doesn’t think her secret is too big of a deal. However, as Allie witnesses Islamophobia more and more, including from her boyfriend’s dad, she wants to learn about her faith and finds herself practicing and studying it while trying to understand the hatred and misunderstanding.

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I admit that it took me the first seventy pages or so to fully get into All-American Muslim Girl. Allie talks to her mom about what it was like for her when she decided to convert to Islam when she married Allie’s dad and why the two don’t really practice religion. It was Allie’s interest in learning more about her faith that really gets the plot going on. Allie decides to practice and makes many discoveries about her religion, her family, the way people treat her, and most importantly, herself. It’s been a while since I read a book that involved religion so much. It was really refreshing to see Allie transform from someone who feared about outsiders learning about her background to someone who freely practices and has much reverence for her religion.

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HOLIDAY MOOD: 10 Blind Dates Review & Most Anticipated Christmas Movies 2019

Summary (from the publisher): Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation.10

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.

This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever… or is it? 

 

 My Rating: 4/5 Stars

 My Thoughts:

 Ashley Elston’s 10 Blind Dates made my TBR radar earlier in 2019 thanks to its holidays-inspired premise. As many as you know, I love when books incorporate one of my non-bookish faves. And Christmas is definitely a favorite interest of mine. I am proud to admit though that I have been fully embracing fall and Halloween this year by decorating my dorm room and purposely buying a Halloween costume. But never fear, my Christmas decorations are at the ready. Anyway, I also wanted to read 10 Blind Dates because I wanted to read more of Ashley Elston’s work. Although I enjoyed it, I wasn’t a super fan of her This Is Our Story as much as I hoped to be given the hype. However, I was really excited to embrace her first true contemporary story.

10 Blind Dates follows Sophie’s holiday break at her grandparents’ house in the next town over, after deciding to stay home while her parents visit her very pregnant sister three hours away in South Louisiana. Sophie couldn’t wait to get some alone time with her long-time boyfriend, Griffin- until she’s overhears him talking at a party about breaking up with her. With a big family who wants nothing but happiness for Sophie, her cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles set Sophie set her up on ten blind dates.

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One of my favorite parts of 10 Blind Dates was of course Sophie’s crazy extended family. There are a lot of family members, but Ashley Elston does a really nice job of reminding readers who is who and focusing on the ones who are most central to the plot. Sophie’s Nonna was my favorite family member, creating the blind date idea and having homemade cannolis ready at the go. Living with her grandparents also allows Sophie to reconnect with her childhood best friends and cousins Charlie and Olivia (not to mention their best friend and neighbor, Wes).

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A 2019 FAVORITE FANTASY: Crier’s War Review

Summary (from the publisher): Set in a universe after the War of Kinds destroyed criers warthe land of Old Zulla, the man-made beings known as the Automa species have risen to power, forcing their inferior human counterparts into living lives of service and suffering. When Ayla’s family is murdered under Sovereign Hesod’s reign, she vows to seek revenge by killing his daughter, Lady Crier. However, once Ayla and Crier start spending more time together, Ayla’s blood-thirsty rage and burning desire to kill Crier quickly shifts into a different kind of desire. Turns out, the feelings are mutual and Crier is just as confused and curious about her attraction to Ayla when unexpected feelings of love and longing begin to surface. While their seemingly inconvenient, romantic feelings for one another continue to grow stronger, so do the intense political divisions and tensions throughout the land.

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Blame it on the fact that I haven’t been reading as much as I usually do this fall, but lately I haven’t been head-over-heels in love with my past few reads. That soon changed when I picked up Nina Varela’s debut novel, Crier’s War. I didn’t think I’d be adding too many more fantasy books to my favorites list year, but Crier’s War is hands-down one of the best books and best debuts I’ve read this year!

Crier’s War takes place in a world where people are divided into two categories, humans and Automae, or humans that are ‘Made.’ The daughter of the kingdom’s sovereign, Crier is an Automa. Although she looks human and acts like one, Crier isn’t supposed to have human feelings like passion- until she sees her blue prints and discovers that she isn’t the flawless creation she is meant to be. Meanwhile, ever since her family was murdered during one of the sovereign’s raids, Ayla has always had vengeance on her mind. Her goal? Murder Lady Crier. However, Ayla’s plans are complicated when she begins to work for Crier and her feelings of hatred turn into something more.

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The book has received much attention for featuring a female/female romance, Crier and Ayla. The execution of their relationship, as well as the enemies to lovers trope, was done really well. While their relationship was well-developed, Crier’s War is so much more than the romance. Crier’s War is told both from Ayla and Crier’s perspectives, which allowed Nina Varela to expand upon the world of Zulla and all the political inner-workings even further. Out of the two, I’d argue that Crier experiences the most character development and while I want book #2 for a ton of reasons, I’m especially excited to see her grow in the next installment. I would’ve loved to see Crier’s War go even further, but nevertheless, I’m really excited to see this story expand into a series.

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BEST NERDY ROMANCE: Comics Will Break Your Heart Review

91rMd4ffzqLSummary (from the publisher):

Miriam’s family should be rich. After all, her grandfather was the co-creator of smash-hit comics series The TomorrowMen. But he sold his rights to the series to his co-creator in the 1960s for practically nothing, and now that’s what Miriam has: practically nothing. And practically nothing to look forward to either-how can she afford college when her family can barely keep a roof above their heads? As if she didn’t have enough to worry about, Miriam’s life gets much more complicated when a cute boy shows up in town . . . and turns out to be the grandson of the man who defrauded Miriam’s grandfather, and heir to the TomorrowMen fortune.

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Everyone knows that I absolute love contemporary books having anything to do with characters who love nerdy and fangirl things. Enter Faith Erin Hick’s Comics Will Break Your Heart, one of my most anticipated contemporary releases of 2019. Miriam’s grandfather was the co-creator of the hit comic series, TomorrowMen. But after selling his rights to the comic for practically nothing, Mir’s family is left with practically nothing, stressing Mir even more as she thinks about paying for university. Things in Mir’s life get even more complicated when a cute boy shows up in her town for the summer. It might not sound so complicated, except that Weldon Warrick happens to be the grandson of the other TomorrowMen co-creator. The book is told from the third person perspectives of Mir and Weldon.

Comics Will Break Your Heart has almost all of the things I crave in YA contemporary: romance, self-discovery, family, and in this book’s case, fandom. On that first element, I really enjoyed Mir and Weldon’s relationship. There are some slight Romeo and Juliet vibes, as Mir and Weldon’s family history gets in the way of them being friends, let alone having feelings for one another. Mir and Weldon’s families are complicated as it is, with Mir’s family having financial struggles and Weldon’s family torn apart over the massive success of the TomorrowMen franchise. While their family struggles added to the characters’ individual story arc, I was really invested in how the TomorrowMen past affected Weldon and Mir. In light of the family tension, I really liked the progress of their relationship. There are plenty of swoon-worthy and nerdy moments between the pair.

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STAR-CROSSED SWOON: Twice in a Blue Moon Review

Summary (from the publisher):
During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in 45186670only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.

 

 My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

 My Thoughts:

 Many of my fellow bloggers absolutely love Christina Lauren’s books. This author duo is much loved by both YA and adult book audiences. That being said, I knew it was time to finally pick up one of their books when I was able to get their latest release, Twice in a Blue Moon, at Book Expo 2019.

Twice in a Blue Moon has the perfect crossover appeal for YA and adult readers. This book is all about the love-to-hate-to-maybe-back-to-love trope (watching out for spoilers as always). During a vacation abroad in London, Sam and Tate experience first love.  Tate is one of the first people Sam feels that she can share all her hopes, dreams, and secrets with- including that her estranged father is one of the world’s most famous movie stars. When it is clear that Tate’s trust has been betrayed, her world and first love fall apart. The book then transports readers fourteen years later, when now up-and-coming movie star Tate runs into Sam on a movie set.

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