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.

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