Monday, May 17, 2021

Books I Read in March and April

A bit late, but here are my thoughts on all of the books I read in March and April! I was really surprised by how many books I read, but I think the Elle Kennedy series helped by being so good and so easy to read.
Time of Our Lives by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
As someone from Massachusetts I have to be annoying for one moment: There's a part in this novel where Juniper says that she's driven through Boston on her way to Springfield from New York. Incorrect. If you're driving to Springfield from New York and you end up in Boston, you missed a turn. 
Moving on, I loved this book. It was fun to read about high schoolers exploring colleges for the first time because it's such an exciting time. I didn't do a full college tour road trip like Fitz and Juniper, but I remember touring campuses and trying to picture myself sitting in the classrooms and making friends in the dorms. It's also a little scary. It's a big change, which is definitely something Fitz and Juniper learn along the way. Fitz learns that being away from home doesn't mean abandoning the people there and Juniper learns that she doesn't need to be too far away to get the space and freedom she craves. The road trip also impacts the personal relationships of the characters. Fitz discovers that his brother isn't as self-centered as he originally thought and has in fact made sacrifices for their mother, just like Fitz is trying to do. On the other side of that spectrum, Juniper and Matt realize that their relationship wasn't meant to last past high school, and in fact staying together would hold both of them back. And of course, Fitz and Juniper grow closer and closer as their interest align and they get to know each other.  
The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary
I had no idea going into this that it was a one bed situation. Typically, I like the one bed trope, when it happens to an enemies to lovers at a hotel or a fake dating couple at a wedding, but the idea of renting a room knowing that you're sharing a bed with your roommate is so bizarre to me. And sure, they weren't in the bed at the same time, but it was still so odd, and it took me a long to time to get past that. Also, it took me a minute to get used to how Leon's mind worked and his chapters were written. Once I did get past those things I did enjoy the novel. The communication via notes was cute as anything and the two of them were such a good couple. Watching them get to know each other through their stuff and then through notes and then finally in person was unlike anything I've really read before and it was interesting to see how their perceptive of each other changed as time went on,
The Lake by Natasha Preston
Esme knows something is up from the very beginning of this novel, and I love it. She's immediately on guard and once bad things start happening she's not surprised. However, because this is a Natasha Preston YA Thriller, being prepared means nothing. All of the counselors have secrets that they're not willing to part with which means it takes them longer to figure out all of the connections between everyone and what exactly is going on. Not going to lie, I thought Kayla was kinda annoying. She was so scared of the truth getting out, but it was an accident that happened years before. It just seemed like they would have gotten through whatever repercussions came from telling the truth. And if they came clean, they would have been able to give more information to Andy. The final scene was really sad, and I wasn't expecting so much death, but there was one thing that made me a little more hopeful than most Preston Novels. Esme is left sitting with a bunch of dead teenagers and the gun that killed them, but she never actually touched the gun, so I think the police will believe that she didn't do anything.
Elle Kennedy
TikTok made me buy it! These Elle Kennedy books were all over my TikTok so I decided to buy The Off-Campus Series and then I quickly bought the Briar U Series. They're considered two different series, but they don't really need to be. They all follow Briar U hockey players (except Jake, who plays for Harvard) as they fall in love. Instead of giving overviews on all of them, I'm just going to share my favorite aspects of each one.

I quickly became obsessed with these books. I love new adult romances because the characters are typically in college so they're a bit more mature than those in YA, but they also tend to have more freedoms and responsibilities because they're living on a college campus, which can lead to more serious drama.  

All of these books cover serious topics including insecurities, sexual assault, strained family relationships, drugs, pregnancy, and death. However they do so while also being absolutely hysterical. The conversations they have are so realistic and ridiculous that I couldn't help but laugh to myself as I read.  
The Off-Campus Series
This series follows the four boys who live in the off-campus apartment. 
The Deal  
Garrett and Hannah: the couple that started it all. The hands-off law is great for a number of reasons. 1) It's hilarious that everyone took it so seriously. 2) I loved that Garrett did it not because he was being possessive, but because he knew there was something Hannah wasn't telling him. He was willing to give her space and time to come clean, but he wasn't willing to give up on their relationship.
The Mistake 
Logan is scared to go after what he wants because of his father. He doesn't pursue the NHL because he knows he has to work at his dad's auto body shop, so there's no point. He expects Grace will break up with him because when his dad falls down the stairs drunk Logan is the one who has to help pick him up. However, Grace knows that Logan is up for a challenge and isn't willing to give up that easily, which results in an amazing declaration of love that proves that just because you love someone doesn't mean you always like them. 
The Score 
Everyone told Dean and Allie not to get involved, but Dean isn't going to say no when Allie wants rebound sex and somehow it snowballed from there. The comfort scene is the best moment in this book. Dean's sole focus is on making Allie feel better, but it's combatted with his "I'll deal with you two later" attitude towards a shocked Garrett and Hannah. This book also has a terribly sad and unexpected death in it that turns Dean's whole world upside down, but sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to decide what's important.
The Goal 
A lot of people don't like this book (at least compared with the others) because it involves a pregnancy trope. However, the only issue I have with it is whether or not it was realistic. The way they got pregnant seemed like such a long shot, but obviously still possible. And then I just don't know if Sabrina would have been able to handle the Harvard Law workload and a newborn. I feel like she would have needed to defer for a year, but she made it work which was awesome to see. Other than that though I didn't mind the pregnancy trope. Especially because Tucker and Sabrina already had feelings for each other before they found out about the pregnancy. In fact they held back their feelings after that because they were afraid the other would think they were saying it for the sake of the baby. I think John Tucker is a stand up guy and Sabrina is a GirlBoss we should all be afraid of.
Briar U Series
This series include Fitz and Hunter, who took over the off-campus apartment lease, and also Jake and Conor who don't live there. The only complaint I have about this series is that there should have been a bonus Mike Hollis novella because he's nuts in the best possible way. Then again, maybe we wouldn't be able to handle getting a look inside his, or Rupi's minds.
The Chase
Fitz tried so hard not to like Summer. It was adorable to watch, but we all knew that they belonged together. And for a couple who tries to keep their relationship under wraps they get walked in on quite a few times. The greatest part was at the end when Dean finds out. 
The Risk
Jake and Brenna, the star-crossed lovers. One is the Briar coach's daughter. The other is a player for the rival team. Sounds dramatic, right? That's because it is, and people do not take kindly to the revelation. Thankfully, they eventually get over it and no one dies unnecessarily.  Also the good luck bracelet is the cutest thing.
The Play
I didn't love that Demi basically forced Hunter to have sex with her. Don't get me wrong, I like them as a couple, and I didn't mind that Demi and Conor were flirting to make him jealous, but I wish Hunter saw that as more of a joke than a real threat. It felt like their first time was more of something Hunter felt like he had to do than how he really wanted to do it. Obviously they were both interested in each other and it was only a matter of time until they got together, but how it happened wasn't great. 
The Dare 
It killed me that Taylor broke up with Conor for the same reason she got mad at him for breaking up with her. And she knows it! She calls herself out on it, but she rationalizes that his secret was about something in his past that could easily be fixed, while her's could effect her entire future. Which was true, but it still came down to miscommunication - typical!   


Sunday, March 7, 2021

Books I read in January & February

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab 
This was a Book of the Month pick for me, but it was also all over my instagram feed. People were in love with it and I couldn't wait to read it, although I was a little skeptical because whenever books get the amount of hype that this one got, I tend to feel like the only person who doesn't understand. I understood it for this book. However, I did think it was a little slow. The writing and story was amazing, but it wasn't until Henry's revelation that I felt like I couldn't put it down. 

This novel goes back and forth in time, but I've also read Dr. Faustus a few times, so whenever it was a young Addie chapter, even though I already knew she makes the deal, I couldn't help warning her against it. Devils are like genies, there's always a catch and it's never good. I did respect that Addie caught on to this after her first mistake and was able to make sure her wording was more precise the second time she made a deal.

This story was heartbreaking from the very beginning, but there were plenty of times where it was lingering on the back burner so that Addie and Henry were able to have their time together and focus on each other. Sometimes you were able to forget that while one of them had all the time in the world, the other was trying to savor every minute. 

Ten Rules for Faking It by Sophie Sullivan
I've been anxious - we all have - but I'd never go as far as to say that I have anxiety. Sure parking in new locations can make me panic like nothing else, but that's become more of a funny understanding between my friends and me. What I'm trying to say is that I am no expert, and I don't know how much my opinion matter on this subject, but this novel has a main character with anxiety and I really liked how it was handled. 

I felt like I could really relate to Evelyn's anxiety, just on a lesser scale. And I loved how the people who care about her understood her anxiety, but also knew when to push her to try things out of her comfort zone. Chris, of course, was amazing with her, especially as a new comer in her life. He was quick to recognize when she needed someone to talk to or someone to just be around. 

Of course, the whole premise of the novel gets Evelyn out of her comfort zone as she's dating strangers bachelorette style for the radio show she produces. Take that cheating ex. Except, she does face the small problem that the person she wants to date isn't a contestant, but her boss who's hiding the fact that his dad owns the studio and is planning on closing it and firing everyone. So it's complicated, but eventually they're able to figure something out.

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco
I was excited for this one. Stalking Jack the Ripper is one of my favorite series, so I was PUMPED to read Maniscalco's newest book. Again, deals with devils. 

The world of witches and devils and creatures from hell is confusing to say the least and Emilia just wants answers about her sister's death. But when she starts to get them she learns that she's getting responses to questions she didn't even ask. She's learning that some of things she knew as truths are wrong or more complicated than she could have ever imagined. The rug has been pulled out from under her and the only person she can rely on is a devil that she doesn't want to trust.

I will say that the ending made me wish I didn't read this book until the second one was released so that I could keep going immediately. I have a ton of questions, but mostly I have high hopes for Emilia and Wrath, and while I think that will work itself out in the end, a lot needs to happen before that and I'm impatient to see what that will be. 

Marrying Mr. Wrong by Claire Kingsley
I love a Vegas wedding trope. They're just so fun to me because they're so unbelievable, but always seem so easy in novels. The characters are so surprised when their relationship falls apart, as if they were starting on such a strong foundation.

Camden Cox and Sophia aren't complete strangers, though, which is new for this trope. They actually lived on the same street for some time when they were little, but that was years ago. Now Cox is a multi-millionaire and Sophia is a klutzy assistant to her best friend's husband.  When they wake up married, Cox sees it as a PR dream come true to give himself a wholesome marriage image, and all it's going to cost is a new house for Sophia's father. Easy.

As they get closer, Cox and Sophia both find that there's little they wouldn't do for the other. However, when they realize they don't really know each other and questions of character imply mistrust, they have to decide if doing everything backwards was really the best option.

Hold Me Tight by Kate J. Blake*
Kate J Blake books are fun because they're quick. They take about an hour to read and everything happens so fast that it gives you whiplash. Because of this, they're perfect for getting out of a reading slump because you don't have chapters of characters being apart because of a fight.

Hold me Tight has Tyler and Emily, who were both crushing on each other before Emily moved for her mom's work. On the day she comes home, Tyler decides to make a move, but it doesn't go as planned. In fact, it actually sets them back a little bit and Emily decides to go on a date with someone else. Tyler, unable to accept this, decides to try again. 

It's cute and it's quick.

by Mist@ke by Signal Ehrlich*
Anna and Liam are both doing completely fine in life. Goal oriented and hard working, they both assume they'll settle down when life calms down. However, it seems fate has other ideas when Liam, who has completely written off serious relationships for the time being while his career falls into place, accidentally sends Anna an email meant for a friend and the two start getting to know each other. Intentions are made clear from the very beginning, but when feelings don't want to play by the rules both of them need to rethink their priorities.

I really liked Anna and Liam's characters. I thought their dedication to their careers was relatable. They both had goals before they met each other and they struggled to find the balance between work and a personal life. 

The one "negative" thing I will say about this book is that I couldn't figure out where it took place. I think it was in America, maybe the Pacific Northwest, but they said a few British things, like A4 paper, which confused me.
*This book was gifted. Opinions are my own


Monday, January 4, 2021

Books I read in November & December

The Christmas Thief by Kate J Blake
Kate J Blake books move fast to say the least. The entirety of this one takes place over about three days. It is a quick, enjoyable romance about a woman named Crystal who lies on her application to get a better job within her company. Her boss, Jack, quickly figures out the lie and tries to call her on it by giving her a chance at the job. The first test he throws her way is making her work with him over Christmas. She ends up agreeing and then proving that she can do the job.

There were a few things about this book that didn't sit well with me. (SPOILER ALERT) 
One was that they both had teenage children, but acted like they didn't. They constantly talked about how much they loved their kids, but they just left town on Christmas Eve. It was explained that the kids didn't seem to mind, but it was so confusing to me. They also never meet each other's kids. They're engaged by the end of the week, but they don't even think of trying to blend the families beforehand. 

There is also no need to travel for work on Chritsmas. Even if Jack made her work on Christmas day they wouldn't be going to meetings. It didn't make sense that they had to do that.  

The speed of this novel is also ridiculous. It makes no sense that so much can happen in a few days. Sure they could have hooked up and gotten in a fight, but the engagement at the end really threw it over the edge for me. 

Finally, on her resume Crystal didn't put her full name because she didn't think she'd be considered if Jack knew she was a woman straightaway, which she tells him. Then, later in the book he says that he avoided working with women because he didn't want to get his heart broken. Which means Crystal isn't special in the slightest. Jack potentially could have fallen in love with any woman he hired. As a boss, that's not a good look.
Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins
Edie is starting over, although it's not completely by choice. Her aunt and uncle decided that a family feud wasn't a good enough excuse to keep their niece in the foster care system, especially when taking her out made the neighbors see how generous they could be. But there are a few perks to moving in with her cousins in a huge house in Mansfield. The neighbor is just as cute as she remembered, and while she harbors a huge crush for him, his girlfriend's brother is willing to drop the asshole act for her. 

I found myself really liking Henry's character. His decision to fake date Edie to keep his sister at bay, even though he made it clear he'd be more than happy to do more than fake makeout, was kind, which totally went against his normal womanizing attitude. And it worked out for him, so that was great. When he and Edie do break up, I found myself conflicted. I wanted her to end up with Sebastian because they both clearly liked each other in a way that could last longer than the summer, but I didn't want Henry to get hurt. Thankfully, he took it like a champ and refused to be someone a girl settles for because her first choice was unavailable. He made it clear that he was sad, but he didn't become vindictive or angry. 

Edie herself was also a fascinating character. She spent the novel keeping her cousins from bickering, crushing on her neighbor, caring for her boyfriend, saving for college, and trying to rebuild a friendship she left behind. It was a lot, but she was able to take everything and learn a lot about herself. I loved how she was able to look at her friendship with Sebastian and understand why Clare was jealous. Clare was mean, but Edie understood her position, which led to her forcing herself to temporarily distance herself from Sebastian even though she didn't want to. The tricky part was that Edie and Sebastian were constantly drawn to each other, so even when she tried to stay away, she couldn't. She knew to do this because it's what she should have done when her best friend's boyfriend kissed her. No, she wasn't responsible for the kiss, but she didn't push him away, and she ignored a few signs that might have kept her from the situation in the first place. When Edie stops using excuses as crutches (no matter how valid they may be), she becomes a force to be reckoned with.

The Twin by Natasha Preston
This was not my first Natasha Preston novel, so I started it knowing that there was a high probability that the ending would be...frustrating. What I wasn’t prepared for was the entire book making me want to rip my hair out. Don’t get me wrong, the book is great, and I think I reacted just how Preston wanted me to. 

One person. That’s all I wanted—one person to trust Ivy. I had high hopes for the boyfriend, but he let me down. Then I thought of the therapist, but nope—another disappointment. My Hail Mary was a recording device at the very end, a hopeful cliffhanger. Nothing. Everyone was the worst. The swim coach really ticked me off because she knew Ivy didn’t want her sister on the team, and she let her on anyway. It’s not like she was good. 

It also baffled me that Ivy was like, “I don’t want to be around my sister in school,” and everyone was like, “That’s not an option.” What?! No matter what you think of Ivy, she clearly started having issues once her sister arrived, so give her some space and see what happens. It seemed like a simple solution to me. 

Poor Ivy loses her mother, and then her twin sister turns her entire life upside down, and nobody is there for her. Everyone writes it off as grief, and even when Ivy tries to tell people what’s wrong, they refuse to believe her but have no issue listening to the twin sister that just appeared out of nowhere. Like I said, rip your hair out frustrating. 

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens 
Timing is key. That’s the theme of this novel. Minnie and Quinn’s lives are constantly intersecting on New Year’s Eve, and they have no idea. Starting the day they were born: Quinn becomes the baby new year, and Minnie is just a minute too late.  

When they finally meet on their thirteenth birthday, it begins a year of random encounters and growing affections. But it also brings a year of change for both characters as they finally sit down with themselves and decide what kind of life they each want to lead and who they want in it. 

I liked this book a lot. It was an easy read that made me laugh and wonder if there was anyone I had unknowingly crossed paths with more than once. The entire time I read Taylor Swift’s song, “invisible string” seemed to play in the background. 

Atomic Love by Jennie Fields
I loved this one! Rosalind is awesome. I want to be her. I'm terrible at science, but she makes it sound awesome. Except for the fact that she lost her job after the war because the men came back and she had to start working in a jewelry store. But that's what happened after WWII and it's annoying.

I loved her relationship with Szydlo. Especially at the beginning when it was clear they got along well and liked being in each other's company, but it wasn't totally clear whether or not anything would happen between them. And then when things do progress, but she's still kind of dating Weaver to get information out of him, which was Szydlo's idea and quickly became a regret. 

I didn't want Weaver to stick around, but I wasn't expecting the way he left either, or the last few chapters of the novel. They truly showed how dangerous Rosalind's task was of finding out about what Weaver told the Russians.

The characters and story of this novel were so well written. I would definitely recommend adding this one to your TBR pile.

Well Played by Jen DeLuca
The sequel to Well Met this novel follows fellow tavern wrench Stacey as she begins an online relationship with someone the faire hires every year. The only catch is she thinks she's talking to the lead singer, Dex, whom she's slept with for the past two summers, when in reality she's talking to his cousin and band manager, Daniel.

Their emails and texts let them get to know each other in a very intimate way, which is why Stacey is so shocked when she finds out that the person she's talking to isn't the person she's imagining. However, she shakes it off quickly and realizes that Dex would never be able to write as well as Daniel. 

I found Stacey extremely relatable. She's happy but also just kinda going through the motions of life. My favorite scene is at the end when she's in the bar and Mitch is calling her out on how easy it would be for her to live on the road. She wants to and is willing to change, but there always seems to be something holding her back. Mainly, her fear about her mother's health, which made her pass up on her dreams years before.

I loved Daniel too. I felt bad that he always feels like he come sin second to his performer cousins. I thought it was sweet when Stacey realized she would have to be the one to make a grand gesture because Daniel thinks his chances with her are over.

I love this world that Jen DeLuca has created and I can't wait for the third novel this fall!


Friday, January 1, 2021

Plans for 2021

It doesn't seem like many people are sad to be saying goodbye to 2020. And while I agree that the pandemic really messed with a lot of my plans, there was still a lot of things that happened in 2020 that were exciting and fun. 

The biggest thing from this year was that I got my Master's Degree in Creative Writing! Between the strikes and the pandemic I wasn't in class a lot of the time, but I still completed plenty of assignments and I met amazing people. I became a published writer when our anthology was released. Most importantly, I got to do all of it in Edinburgh, Scotland, which was beautiful and so fun to explore.

When I got home from Scotland in June I was reunited with my family and childhood friends. We spent plenty of time together and shared a ton of laughs.

Now for 2021 goals...

I always set a Goodreads challenge. In 2020 I started with a goal of 50 but dropped it to 40. I completed the 40 books, but this year I'm going to try for the 50. I still have my Book of the Month subscription, which I love and motivates me to try new genres every once in a while. 
I am hoping to get more into classic novels this year. I started collecting the Chiltern Publishing editions and now I have to read them! 

So many of my friends moved out of state after college and now I want to visit them all! I at least want to see all of them in person at least once this year, whether I go to them or they come to me. There are also the friends I made in Scotland that I would like to keep in contact with. I don't know what travel is going to look like this year, but I'm going to do as much as I can. 

My biggest life goal for 2021 is to get a full-time job. I've been doing a ton of tutoring, which has been great, but hopefully, the kids are back in school next fall, so at the end of this school year I would like to have something lined up for myself. I still want to work in publishing somehow, and I'm trying to make connections in the field, but the pandemic has been making it challenging.

This year I also want to make better habits for myself. Specifically, I want to create better writing and exercising routines for myself. 

What are your goals for 2021?


Monday, December 7, 2020

NaNoWriMo WrapUp

NaNoWriMo finished on Monday, and when I checked my word count at 11:59pm, I was at 50,018! 

I had heard of NaNoWriMo before and even tried it once when I was in college, but I only made it to about 14,000 words. I was super proud of myself for completing it this year, especially when Thanksgiving hit during the last week, and I thought I would come in 4000 words short. 

Like any exercise, NaNoWriMo is one of those things that you love once you finish, but the process includes a lot of aggravation. I could never keep this pace up year-round, but it was a fun challenge for the one month. 

I wanted to share a few things this experience taught me:

A Lot of Words:
I am fully capable of writing 50000 words in 30 days. In fact, I can write 50000 words in 24 days, but not continuously. That is not something that I thought I would do, and proving that I could do it was really satisfying. However, some days I wrote a lot of words that I knew weren't very good. However, because NaNo is about the word count and not editing, I left them on the page. Hopefully, I'll be able to salvage some parts of those passages.

Writing isn’t always fun:
Some days stunk. I didn’t feel like writing. I didn’t know what to write. I just wanted to watch TV, but I pushed myself to write. Even if I stopped before meeting my word goal, I wrote almost every day that I could. 

Time limits vs. Word limits: 
To write 50000 words in 30 days, you have to write about 1667 words a day or 11667 words a week. I wasn’t very good at that. I would stop early one day and feel like I had to spend all the next day catching up. I learned that I did my best when I had a 2-hour mostly-focused two-hour “writing shift.” Whether I wrote 600 words or 2000 words in that 2-hours, that was pretty much all I was good for. Thankfully, 2-hours a day isn’t that hard for me to find in my schedule, so I’m hopeful that I can continue writing as part of my everyday routine.

Weekends are for fun:
My least motivated days were Saturday and Sunday. They were also the days that I had the freest time, so you would think I’d be able to write most of my words those days. Sometimes I did, but what would have taken three hours to get done on Thursday took about five. I would have my word document open but be watching TikTok videos on my phone. Weekends should be about hanging out with friends and family or going to Target, not locking yourself in your room, and writing three pages of garbage.

Giving up other joys:
Because I was writing/trying to write during my free time at home, I gave up many other joys. Mostly reading and watching TV. Now, I’m sure most people can do with less TV in their lives, but some days I really wanted to watch a movie or show before bed, but I couldn’t because I had 2000 words to write. I would feel guilty if I spent my free time doing anything but writing, which took the enjoyment out of it. Obviously, that's not what I want, which is why I think time limits are more productive for me. 

Did you try NaNoWriMo? Did you reach your word count? Will you bring doing it again next year? 


Sunday, November 1, 2020

Books I read in September & October

I feel like I need to make an apology before you get into these reviews. Many of these books were mysteries or had some type of big revelation that I didn't want to spoil, which meant I couldn't write too much about them. Also, I always tell myself to write my reviews once I finish a book, but I never do, and then it's one week before the post goes live, and I'm trying to remember the book I read three weeks ago. 

Stand-In Saturday by Kirsty Moseley
Read that HERE
If I'm Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Cameron is mean, but she's not dumb. In fact, I don't even know if mean is the right word. She's blunt and honest, and she always makes sure that she can present herself in a certain way. This means everyone she chooses to hang out with has to fit a certain mold she's decided determines value. And she certainly proves that she's capable of owning up to her actions, but her parents have definitely influenced her mindset. Her mother is pretty useless for most of the novel and seems to be living in a fantasy world. Cameron doesn't understand her lack of drive and can't help but resent her. On the other hand, Cameron's father is probably one of the worst human's on the planet, but she wants nothing more than to impress him. However, with only her mom as a reference, Cameron can't help but be impressed by his successful professional life.

And then there's Andrew, Cameron's secret crush that she won't own up to until after he's made the varsity soccer team. When he calls her out on her actions, she decides to prove that she can change. To do that, she has to be forgiven by Brendan, the boy with an awful nickname she's responsible for. Brendan isn't quick to forgive, but Cameron isn't a quitter, and she's willing to do whatever it takes to make his torment stop and apologize. However, she didn't expect to actually enjoy spending time with him...
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
Resentments and secrets, that's what everyone in the Keegan and Slater wedding party has. Every single one of them has something going on behind the scenes that could drive anyone to murder. However, what they don't realize is how interconnected they all are. Sure, they're all at the same wedding, so they have at least one mutual connection, but it goes so much deeper than that. While all of their issues are a big deal, I definitely felt more sorry for some of the characters than others, making reading certain points of view a little slow, but every detail revealed was important to the entire story.

As a reader who often flips to the back of the book to see the ending (I know...) I was able to refrain from doing so with this novel, but it was hard. This novel kept the killer and the victim a secret, and there were points where I wanted it to move faster and get to at least one revelation. I was proud of myself for figuring out who the killer was, but I didn't do so until a chapter or two before it was revealed, and I wasn't 100% correct about the killer's reasoning. I pride myself on guessing the killer because I watch way too much Criminal Minds to not be good at it, so whenever it takes me a while to guess, I consider that an aspect of a good mystery novel. I want the hints to be hard to register.  
Pleasant Grove by Jason Price*
This novel reminded me of Divergent. A town isolated from everything else by a dome and told there is no reason to ever go outside of it. However, when something gets in, Agnes and her friends decide it's time to figure out whatever secrets the adults have been trying to keep from them. Soon enough, they realize that there's more to whatever's outside the dome than even their parents know.

Sy-Fy isn't my favorite genre, and this novel is definitely for middle-grade readers, but I knew both of these things before I started reading, and I still enjoyed this novel. I liked that the adults in town remember life before the dome. I feel like usually, generations have passed by the time the story starts, but in this one, it's only been a little over a decade. 

I found Agnes to be a very well-written main character, especially for middle-grade readers. Her protective instincts are clearly very strong, but she's also a kid and gets herself into situations that she might be able to avoid if she was a little older. I don't like it when an author tries to make characters more mature than they need to be, and I thought Agnes was the perfect mix of leader and kid. If I was twelve, I could definitely see Agnes being the cool character I wanted to be like.
Hocus Pocus & The All-New Sequel by A.W. Jantha
Hocus Pocus has to be one of my favorite Halloween movies, so I was excited to read the book and get a sequel. The first part is basically the screenplay of the movie. A few inner monologue moments foreshadow the sequel, but other than that, it's the movie. 

The sequel follows Max and Allison's daughter, Poppy. Like a true Dennison, she and her friends accidentally bring the witches back to Salem, but this time it comes at the cost of sending Max, Allison, and Dani to hell. The witches are willing to trade all of Salem's souls to form a coven of their own, but to do so, they need their family's moonstone before sunrise.

This novel introduces another Sanderson Sister, Elizabeth. She was also killed for being a witch, but not before making sure her husband and daughter were safe, which allowed the Sanderson bloodline to continue. She does her best to help Poppy and her friends, but she's only a ghost. When it comes to it, Poppy and her crush, Isabella, are the only two who can stop the Sanderson Sisters.

This book was fun to read. Incorporating 2018 technology into the story was interesting. Considering the paved road threw the Sisters for a loop when they faced off against Max, their ability to figure out a cell phone is very impressive. Learning how Max and Allison treat Halloween after their experience was also intriguing. They've told Poppy the story, but she doesn't believe it and instead has learned to resent Halloween.
In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
WARNING: There are some spoilers in this review, which is true for many of my reviews, but because this book is so new, I wanted to give you a heads up.

I'm not going to lie: I was a little skeptical about this book when I originally read the synopsis. The magical Groundhog Day element was different from everything Christina Lauren has done in their adult novels before (Sublime and House are YA, and both involve magical elements). However, I did really enjoy this book and ended up reading it wicked fast.

Mae's life is the epitome of "good, not great." Has a job, doesn't like it. Has a huge crush she's never acted on. It's like she can't make too many complaints but wants to complain anyway, which I think is a situation many of us have been in. We know in the grand scheme of things we're doing fine, but we wish we were doing better. However, when Mae really feels at the bottom of the barrel, she makes a wish and is rewarded with restarting the week. 

It takes Mae a few tries to get the hang of time travel, but she eventually accepts it. Something is freeing for her about knowing her choices may not be permanent. She doesn't take advantage, but she stops caring so much about what other people think and makes decisions she was previously afraid of. However, the one thing that she struggles with is that on the original Christmas Day, she kissed Theo, not his brother/her crush Andrew. And although it doesn't happen again and Theo doesn't even know it ever happened, Mae can't help but look at him differently, which results in her spending less time with him and Theo being very confused.   

I will say that I was waiting for her to go back one more time and wake up in the hospital or at the car crash. I expected there to be an explanation for what was going on, but she never did. Time travel was real in this novel, and it was just something Mae had to deal with. If that was me, I'd be afraid of getting send back like she was during the scavenger hunt, but I guess once she started doing things for herself, the universe decided she could handle the rest on her own.

Although the story takes place over Christmas, it's not really a Christmassy book. I was kind of expecting a Hallmark-style, true meaning of Christmas thing, but it's not, which I liked. 

*This book was gifted to me by the author. Opinions are my own.


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Have you signed up for NaNoWriMo 2020?

Have you ever heard of NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it encourages people to write 50,000 words within the 30 days of November.

Writing an average of 1,667 words a day can be challenging, which is why NaNoWriMo focuses on the draft. Get the words on the paper and worry about editing in December. Now for me, that's a really tricky thing to do because when I write, I often go back and reread what I've already done. My plan is to use that to my advantage, and if there's a day where I feel like I don't know what to write, I'll go back and try to fit in more words. However, I'm also going to try to use it as motivation to not get stuck on a scene that isn't working out the way I want it to. Instead of getting frustrated, I'll move on.

Although NaNoWriMo's challenge is to write an entire 50,000-word novel draft, you can totally make it your own. In 2015 I tried to do it starting at 0 (I failed; only got to about 14000 words), but this year I'm going to continue a story I already started. In fact, I'm hoping this month will be the push I need to finish the first draft. This will help me succeed in this year's challenge because I already did some of the world and character building, and I have an idea of where I want the story to go. However, I do not currently have very good self-discipline when it comes to writing every day, so that's my biggest goal for November.

Plenty of well-known novels have started as NaNoWriMo challenges. Their published versions may look different than their NaNoWriMo drafts, but this is where the authors started, and it's where you can too! Some of the books that stood out to me were The Night Circus (you guys know that's one of my all-time favorite novels), Water for Elephants, Fangirl, and Cinder, but you can learn about more on Goodreads.

If you're interested in challenging yourself to NaNoWriMo, you can sign up HERE. And you can friend me HERE.

I've designed a simple NaNoWriMo Tracker for you to print out. I already have mine taped to the wall next to my bed since that's where I write. Putting it up where others may see it, even if they don't comment on what it is, will be an extra motivating tool to make sure I'm writing every day.

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