Thursday, March 30, 2017

Title: Alex, Approximately
Author: Jenn Bennett
Series: n/a
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

Do you ever get a book and then put off reading it for eons because you're so afraid it won't live up to your expectations? That was me with this book. I adored Jenn Bennett's YA debut The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, going so far as to name it as my favorite contemporary of 2015. So, to say I had high expectation for Alex, Approximately would not be an exaggeration.

But I just couldn't hold out any longer, and you know what? I absolutely loved it. It was quirky and adorable and just all around clever. I really related to Bailey and her status as an evader, her way of avoiding uncomfortable situations by running away or simply pretending it's not happening. But even when she did find herself in an awkward situation -- and Bailey herself was being incredibly awkward -- I didn't find the scenario cringe-worthy. Instead, there was this sense of solidarity because I could easily have found myself in the same situations.

This book was sooo sex positive, too, much like Bennett's last novel. Sex wasn't presented as this insurmountable obstacle, nor was it glossed over in some fade-to-black scene. The awkwardness of first experiences is there but also the open discussion that needs to happen between two consenting adults. Self-pleasure is even presented as a normal, healthy thing. I truly wish there had been books like this when I was a teenager so that I wouldn't have felt so woefully unprepared in those days.

And the relationship that develops between Porter and Bailey is just so genuine and honest. Sure, it has its ups and downs and things aren't perfect 100% of the time, but what relationship is? They have frank discussions about trust and their pasts and how to handle going public with their relationship, and I think it's just such a great portrayal of how a healthy relationship progresses.

This take on You've Got Mail is so unbelievably charming, with the classic movie references and the movie quotes at the beginning of each chapter. But what I especially adored were the forum messages between "Mink" and "Alex". They reminded me of how me and my best friend met online, how we synchronize watching shows together and how well we've gotten to know each other through email and text and miracle of miracles, via chatting on the phone every weekend for hours on end. We're even planning a meet-up this summer. So, I get the sense of camaraderie that Mink and Alex share online but also the anxiety of finally meeting face-to-face.

The only thing I'd change about this book is that summary. It hints at too much. I was constantly waiting to see proof that Porter had discovered the truth; I think it would have been less stressful if I didn't know beforehand that he figures out Bailey's online alias...or even that he was Alex, at least not from the beginning. That's something I like to learn as I read, not know from the get-go.

Even with that looming over my head, this book still managed to be everything I wanted it to be...and more. Bennett easily balances the depth of her characters' pasts with the frivolity of a summer job in a weird museum in a tourist town, along with a swoony romance that is aces above what I usually find in contemporary YA. I already can't wait to read it again. I just hope there's not so long of a wait between this book and her next. ;0)


GIF it to me straight:

About the Author:

Jenn Bennett is an artist and RITA-nominated author of the Arcadia Bell urban fantasy series (Kindling the Moon) and the Roaring Twenties romance series, including Bitter Spirits, which was chosen as one of Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2014 and winner of RT Book Reviews Paranormal Romance Book of the Year, and Grave Phantoms—which was awarded RT's May Seal of Excellence for 2015. The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, (aka Night Owls in the U.K.) is her first YA contemporary romance. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two evil pugs.

Find Jenn:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | FacebookInstagram | Tumblr

Monday, March 13, 2017

Title: Hunted
Author: Meagan Spooner
Series: n/a
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Source: galley received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

So many Beauty and the Beast retellings, so little time. But I made time for this one. Just like I'll make time to take Katie to see the movie on Friday. Because Beauty and the Beast has been my absolute favorite story since childhood...and because Meagan Spooner has already proven her writing chops to me by way of the Starbound series she co-authored with Amie Kaufman.

I loved the chapters from the Beast's perspective, showing his gradual return to humanity the longer Yeva was in his presence. It was kind of like those thrillers where you get to read from the serial killer's point-of-view and get in his head a little. Except not quite as creepy. And it helps to garner compassion for his plight rather than just seeing him as the Beast holding Yeva captive.

Hunted definitely has that fairy tale feel to it: lush imagery, snowy woods, hidden castle. Spooner's writing really transports you there to the middle of those woods, slowly but surely. I was tracking alongside Yeva, captivated and wary, in turns. There is nothing overtly scary or different about this telling, but it is so atmospheric that I couldn't help but be pulled into the story. Not only has Spooner borrowed from the tale of Beauty and the Beast, but she's also woven into the story the tale of The Golden Bird and how the two stories collide is rather magnificent.

There's also this underlying subtext of be careful what you wish for, a definite theme of wanting and yearning and not knowing what you're yearning for. The story felt like heartbreak upon heartbreak but it's also so unforgiving and romantic. And I mean that in the truest sense of the word. This world is so idyllic but also so lovely and so full of love, familial and otherwise.

I've read a lot of Beauty and the Beast retellings over the years, and I definitely have my favorites. And I would have to include Hunted among them. It's a slow build to an increasingly beautiful story, one that I know I'll be reading again.

GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

New York Times bestselling author Meagan Spooner grew up reading and writing every spare moment of the day, while dreaming about life as an archaeologist, a marine biologist, an astronaut. She graduated from Hamilton College in New York with a degree in playwriting, and has spent several years since then living in Australia. She's traveled with her family all over the world to places like Egypt, South Africa, the Arctic, Greece, Antarctica, and the Galapagos, and there's a bit of every trip in every story she writes.

She currently lives and writes in Asheville, North Carolina, but the siren call of travel is hard to resist, and there's no telling how long she'll stay there. She's the author of the award-winning Starbound trilogy (These Broken Stars, This Shattered World, Their Fractured Light) and the Skylark Trilogy (Skylark, Shadowlark, Lark Ascending) as well as the upcoming Beauty and the Beast retelling Hunted.

In her spare time she plays guitar, plays video games, plays with her cat, and reads.

Find Meagan:

WebsiteGoodreads | Twitter | Tumblr | Facebook | Pinterest

Friday, March 10, 2017

Title: The Beast is an Animal
Author: Peternelle van Arsdale
Narrator(s): Candace Thaxton
Series: stand-alone
Length: 8 hrs 48 mins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Source: galley & audio received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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A girl with a secret talent must save her village from the encroaching darkness in this haunting and deeply satisfying tale.

Alys was seven when the soul eaters came to her village.

These soul eaters, twin sisters who were abandoned by their father and slowly morphed into something not quite human, devour human souls. Alys, and all the other children, were spared—and they were sent to live in a neighboring village. There the devout people created a strict world where good and evil are as fundamental as the nursery rhymes children sing. Fear of the soul eaters—and of the Beast they believe guides them—rule village life. But the Beast is not what they think it is. And neither is Alys.

Inside, Alys feels connected to the soul eaters, and maybe even to the Beast itself. As she grows from a child to a teenager, she longs for the freedom of the forest. And she has a gift she can tell no one, for fear they will call her a witch. When disaster strikes, Alys finds herself on a journey to heal herself and her world. A journey that will take her through the darkest parts of the forest, where danger threatens her from the outside—and from within her own heart and soul.

I was so sure I was going to love this story. I even featured it as a Waiting on Wednesday pick, back when I was still doing those. But despite all signs pointing to this being a "Jen" book, I just didn't click with it.

It's perfectly eerie and odd and something I totally should have loved, but when I attempted to read the galley I was provided, I only got to about 10% before setting it aside. I thought I'd come back to it eventually, but I just never felt compelled to keep reading. But then I was offered a copy of the audio for review, and my curiosity was renewed. Surely, someone reading this creepy, folksy tale would make all the difference.

To some extent, it did. As the narrator was reading, I felt the pull to the supernatural that Alys did. There was always something there at the edge of my subconscious, niggling and gnawing for notice. Like there was some greater knowledge I was chasing as I listened. And I think that's the thing that kept me listening, even as I wondered if anything truly interesting was ever going to happen.

There's plenty of weirdness and awfulness that does occur in the book and yet I was numb to it. Probably because that's how Alys seemed. Like the shell of a girl. And maybe that's the point of the story, too, but I just wanted...more. I wanted Alys to be more. I wanted the Beast to be more. The soul-eating sisters...they were perfectly creepy, but they were the only aspect that really felt the way it was supposed to, I think.

I'm usually all for a slow, disturbing story, but I just couldn't connect with this one, despite the atmospheric writing. I feel like there are probably loads of people who will enjoy it for what it is, but I think I was expecting a story not unlike Hunted by Meagan Spooner, which I am reviewing next week, and incidentally I read after this book, and so it had no bearing on my opinion of this particular story.

GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

Peternelle van Arsdale is a book editor who never thought she'd write a book. She lives in New York City, where she is at work on her second novel.

Find Peternelle:

WebsiteTwitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Tumblr

Thursday, March 9, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately {3.9.17}

Thursday, March 9, 2017 with 6 comments

As of today, I've read 61 books so far this year, which is roughly 25% of  my goal of 250 for the year. I'm ahead of schedule, which is always a nice feeling. As always, audio is a big contributing factor in being able to get through so many books, but it also helps that my desire to read is back. There for awhile, Netflix was the only thing that really appealed once I got home in the evenings.

We've got a slumber party this weekend for Katie's 9th -- holy wow! -- birthday, so I'll be painting nails and doing makeup and won't have much time for reading. But we're on Spring Break next week so I plan to do a ton of reading then. Hopefully outdoors if this beautiful spring-like weather holds.

And without further ado, here's what I've been reading lately...

(More on why I've gone to this format here in lieu of traditional reviews.)

Y O U N G   A D U L T

The Dark Days Pact (Lady Helen, #2)Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1)Starfall (Starflight, #2)

The Dark Days Pact - Such a great sequel! I might have even liked this one MORE than The Dark Days Club. In fact, I know I did. I also kinda maybe sorta think my theory about the Grand Deceiver is wrong now, which I'm kind of glad of because that would've taken the story in a direction that I didn't like. And I really do love the pickle that Lady Helen finds herself in at the end of the book, though I have all the hope that it'll work out in her favor. She is the Grand Reclaimer, after all... 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Stalking Jack the Ripper - I'll be honest: I went into this audiobook expecting not to like it. And I can't even say why because I know so many who've loved it, but there was just something that told me this book was not for me. I can see the appeal of a novel like this, as it reminded me of Victor Frankenstein and included a very Sherlock-esque love interest. And I'm all for a heroine who flouts decorum and society's ideals, but I felt that the feminist agenda was just a bit too heavy-handed for the time period of the wasn't at all fitting. Also, I knew Jack the Ripper's identity from almost the beginning, so it was difficult to listen as Audrey Rose kept going down the wrong avenues with a theory that she did not like but nonetheless could not be objective about. This book just ended up making me depressed. 🌟🌟

Starfall - I loved Starflight. Loved it! So much that I think I've already read it something like three times. ;) And this sequel/companion is every bit as fun, though I had my doubts it would be since I wasn't a big fan of Kane's - or even Cassia's - in the first book. Still not the biggest Kane/Cassia shipper, but I think other developments in the book made up for their lack of chemistry. Much can be overlooked when a sequel takes the campy humor and Firefly-esque antics of the previous book and ramps them up a notch...or ten.  🌟🌟🌟

R E - R E A D S

By Your SideAngelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)World After (Penryn & the End of Days, #2)End of Days (Penryn & the End of Days, #3)

By Your Side - Often when I need a feel-good book, I turn to Kasie West, and I never regret it. I read this one last month, but my library had it on audio when I was trying to decide on my next listen. And it was just as cute the second time around. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Penryn & the End of Days - I was looking at the list of books I read from last year and realized that I didn't re-read Angelfall at all in 2016. Which is kind of unbelievable since I've re-read it twice in previous years...and nine times altogether now. So, I had to rectify that by re-reading the entire series. And I feel much better now. =) Also, I still think that sentient sword is so fucking cool. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Bone Season (The Bone Season, #1)The Mime Order (The Bone Season, #2)Act Like It (London Celebrities, #1)

The Bone Season & The Mime Order - Prep for The Song Rising. Also, kinda just wanted more time with Paige and Warden. :) 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Act Like It - Discovered my library had this on audio, so I wanted to check that out before I started the second book. The performance was good but the quality was not. Still, enjoyed it as much the second time around.  🌟🌟🌟🌟


Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between - "Does anyone else notice that the ending is really more of a cliffhanger?"

Bahaha. This was hilarious, as expected. I bought a copy of this for my best friend for Christmas, as Gilmore Girls was just one of the things we've bonded over, but then I wanted to read it, too. So, I checked my library and they had the audio but I was on hold forever. Like, seriously, something like 50 people on hold for 12 copies. I didn't even check to see how long the wait was for the ebook copy. :) But it was worth it. Because not only do you get Lauren Graham reading the book and proving what we all assumed - that she IS Lorelai Gilmore - but the audio version comes with a downloadable .pdf version of all the photos mentioned in the book. Of course, it requires the use of an Adobe program that my computer at work does not have and I'm not about to ask IT to install it, so I'll have to check it out later. Or wait for my friend to send me pics from her edition, which she has already graciously promised to do. At any rate, I don't usually read memoirs - I think the last one was Anthony Kiedis' Scar Tissue WAY back when - but I'm glad I read this one because it was seriously funny and thoughtful and it left me weirdly optimistic. 🌟🌟🌟🌟


The Heiress (Madison Sisters, #2)The Husband Hunt (Madison Sisters, #3)Taming the Highland Bride (Devil of the Highlands, #2)A Kiss at Midnight (Fairy Tales, #1)When Beauty Tamed the Beast (Fairy Tales, #2)

The Heiress - As I said in my assessment of The Heiress, it was obvious where this series was headed and whom would end up with whom. The fun would be in figuring out what crazy shenanigans befell them before they made it to the altar. However. This book honestly wasn't very much fun at all, as over half of it was retelling the events of the previous book, only from the perspectives of Suzette and Daniel. I'm not really one for reading the same story from a different point-of-view. It's rather tedious. And the second half, which could have been more interesting, was bogged down by a kidnapping plot I saw coming from a mile away. I have the third book from the library, so I'll listen to it to see how Lisa and Robert come together since we don't really see much of them in the previous two books, but if it's the same story all over again, I may have to give up. 🌟🌟

The Husband Hunt - Oh, thank goodness this book wasn't like the previous, which was basically a repeat of the book that came before it, only from a different perspective. But again with the kidnapping plot...and still related to the one in The Countess. I understand the reasoning behind it, but it was no less tedious the third time around. The romantic pairing in this one was rather fun, though: from friends to enemies to lovers, although the thing that came between them long ago was a little ridiculous but also kind of hilarious. ;) 🌟🌟🌟

Taming the Highland Bride - I liked this one, but it reminded me too much of another Lynsay Sands novel, and so it was obvious to me very early on who the culprit in this story was. Also, I accidentally picked up in the middle of a series again, and therefore know how the first book ends now. But had I read the first book prior to this one, I undoubtedly would have guessed the attacker's identity even earlier. Ah, well...probably best to stop while I'm ahead with this series... 🌟🌟

A Kiss at Midnight - This story was a retelling of Cinderella of sorts and also my first Eloisa James novel...and I absolutely adored it. The romance was lovely and heartbreaking and utterly romantic. And the retelling aspects were superbly done. I'm excited to continue the series and see how the author handles other fairy tales, especially Beauty and the Beast, which I believe is up next. This one's narrated by Susan Duerdan, who narrated such YA favorites as Chime and The Falconer - I wish they'd finish the rest of that series on audio, I'm dying for it! - and I thought she did a brilliant job with Kate and Gabriel's story. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

When Beauty Tamed the Beast - Beauty and the Beast is my absolute favorite fairy tale. Naturally, I read every retelling I can get my hands on, but I've never read one quite like this. The beast's transformation in this story was less magical and more a general healing of the soul, but it was just as lovely. Especially since he was based on the character House from the show of the same name, whom I loved for his gruff demeanor and practical outlook. The beauty in this retelling is every bit the reader that you'd expect, and it is definitely her love for the beast that makes this story so grand. I love the aspects that the author kept and those that she changed, and I can't wait to read more of her Fairy Tales series. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Ugly Duchess (Fairy Tales, #4)The Duke Is Mine (Fairy Tales, #3)The Chocolate Thief (Amour et Chocolat, #1)Pretty Face (London Celebrities, #2)Devil in Winter (Wallflowers, #3)

The Ugly Duchess - I did not really enjoy this one. I'm not a fan of infidelity or loooong estrangements, especially when they're due to misunderstandings that could easily have been avoided. The pirate situation was the only aspect that really appealed to me, and that was simply a plot device used to further the separation. I should have expected not to love this story since I've never really liked the ugly duckling story in general, but I thought I'd give this book a chance since I've enjoyed the other novels in this series. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 🌟🌟

The Duke is Mine - Meh. I think my enjoyment of a companion series like this always wanes after the second book, but definitely after the third. Since this isn't even a true companion series - in that the books don't follow the same group of characters, only the "fairy tale" aspect - I ended up reading the fourth book (see above) before this one, and I nearly gave up on the series then. Maybe I should have. The Duke is Mine wasn't terrible, it just wasn't as captivating as earlier books in the series had been. And it only half-heartedly tried to be a Princess and the Pea retelling. I think there's only one more book in this series, and I've already got it checked out from the library, so I'm going to give it one more chance. Especially since it's based on Rapunzel. Though the fact that a separation is mentioned in the summary does not bode well. Changed my mind, lol. 🌟🌟🌟

The Chocolate Thief - Oh, this story was so cute! I legit cannot believe I started reading it right after I started trying to eat healthier, though, and prohibited all chocolate from passing my lips. Why would I torture myself like that? Also, HO-LY HELL! THAT SCENE ON THE STAIRS!!! That has got to be the hottest scene I've ever read, and I've been reading quite a bit of romance recently. Loved this was perfectly awkward and perfectly adorable. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Pretty Face - Everyone in my Goodreads feed said this one was even better than Act Like It. I thought it was just on par with the first book. I preferred the love interest in this book a bit more but I also connected with the heroine a bit less. So, I liked them about the same in the end, I guess. I think I actually liked the awkward situations more in Act Like It, though, to all of the sad ones the characters face in Pretty Face. Still, a fun, romantic read when all is said and done. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Devil in Winter - I decided to read Devil in Winter before diving into Devil in Spring since I discovered that the love interest in Spring, the third book in The Ravenels series, is the son of the couple featured in Winter, which is the third book in the Wallflowers series. I tend to not read books in HR series in order for whatever reason, and so I often find myself confused about characters who pop up later in the story and are familiar to everyone but me. But I'm actually reading The Ravenels series in order for a change, and I didn't want that same "who are you again?" situation to rear its ugly head, so I caved and actually read - read, not listened to, as I normally do with HR - Devil in Winter. And I really enjoyed it. My favorite HRs are almost always about reformed rakes and how they desperately cling to their rake status. Even better when it's a wallflower who brings them to their knees. After reading this book and the first two books in the new series, I can't wait to read Devil in Spring, especially since I'll have more of an idea of who all these characters are and who they know and maybe a little of why they are the way they are...especially in Gabriel's case. ;0) 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Find any new titles to check out? ;0)

Until next time! Happy reading!

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