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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Stefanie's Thoughts: My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff





Charlotte Charlie Donovan knows exactly what she wants for Christmas: Teo Ortiz. He s the school s star athlete, in the National Honor Society, invited to every party, contributes to the school paper (where Charlie is co-editor), and is about to be featured as One to Watch in a teen magazine basically, he's exactly the type of guy Charlie s meant to be with. The only problem he barely knows she exists.

But Charlie is determined to be Teo's date to the Christmas ball. And she has a plan: To rig the paper s Secret Santa so that she can win his heart with five perfect gifts. But to do that she needs help. Enter J.D. Ortiz Teo s cousin, and possibly the most annoying person on the planet. He s easy going, laid back, unorganized, spontaneous, and makes a joke out of everything the exact opposite of Charlie (and Teo). But he's willing to provide insight into what Teo wants, so she's stuck with him.

Yet, the more time Charlie spends with J.D., the more she starts to wonder: does she really know what, or rather who, she wants for Christmas?


Review copy provided by Swoon Reads (all thoughts are my own)




Hello everyone, 

Today I'm reviewing what might be one of my favorite holiday themed reads ever: My New Crush Gave to Me. I'm such a fan of cute, fluffy stories where you know it'll end happily and you just can't help but gush over the characters; plus it's holiday themed, so bigger bonus.

Not only have I been full out watching Christmas movies, I love reading holiday themed books as well; I just find it's harder to find holiday reads than movies, so naturally when this popped up in my mailbox I was ecstatic. I'm not sure about you but it seems like holiday YA books are a rare treat; I've read a bunch of holiday mysteries but it seems like not as common in YA.

I hadn't read any other books by this author before, but based on the cover I knew I'd enjoy this one; her other book Romeo and What's Her Name is currently on my to-be-read list and I can't wait to dive into it.

Charlie was such a fun main character; she had the greatest lines and I enjoyed her panicking over everything, because that's what I do! She loves lists, so do I! She plans everything. so do I! It was like this book was almost written for me (I mean, I know it wasn't but it would be pretty cool to think about). I, unlike Charlie, tend to be late or on time for things and Charlie loves being early for everything.

Charlie has the greatest best friend in Morgan. I loved how Morgan was totally in Charlie's corner when it came to the shenanigans of Secret Santa. I imagined their friendship like something my best friend and I would have gotten into in high school. Morgan was also at times the voice of reason and noticed things before Charlie did, such as Charlie probably spending her time thinking about the wrong guy. Morgan herself is in a relationship, but isn't boy crazy, which was a good opposite to Charlie.

Best bonus: no love-triangle! I liked how Charlie spent all her time thinking about Teo and being with JD on her quest to get the perfect presents for Teo. I will admit, I was a tad hesitant because I was worried about a love triangle, but nope not here.

If I found one negative it would be that I guess I'm tired that in almost every YA it seems to be the main girl always crushes over the most popular boy in school; I know this goes back forever because this is the same plot of every 80s/90s teen movie, but I mean what's wrong with falling for the normal guy (and yes I do know that a bunch of the plots also deal with girl falling for boy next door, say Drive me Crazy). I guess though, if they wouldn't fall for the popular boy then they;d never crush on the normal guy. 

The whole setting and feel of this book made me crave Christmas; we actually just picked our Secret Santa's at work and I can't wait to start shopping for mine (it'll basically be like shopping for myself!). The atmosphere brought me back to high school and to that magical joy of Christmas and falling for your first crush.

4.5 happy fluffy snowflakes for this one.

Until my next review,

Stefanie

Thursday, November 16, 2017

My Thoughts: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green


Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.






So, John Green wrote another book.

I didn't think I was going to read Turtles All the Way Down (never mind review it) as quickly as I did. I mean as of writing this review, this book has been on the shelves for five weeks, and I don't generally read new releases so soon after release date (Aaaaaaaand I got it from the library), so I am kind of impressed with myself.

Turtles All the Way Down was HUGELY anticipated and the hype surrounding it's release was off the charts. I get it, John Green is a big seller, The Fault in Our Stars was something else, and that was five years ago. That right there, five years since readers have had anything new from their beloved author. There was much excitement surrounding this book. As of right now, this book has over 30,000 ratings on Goodreads with an average rating of 4.23 stars. That's huge!

So, I read Turtles All the Way Down. Is it worth the hype? Is it worth all the five star ratings and all the love it's been getting? I will tell you all, Turtles All the Way Down is the best book I have read by John Green, and I have read all of them with the exception of An Abundance of Katherines and the Christmas anthology. 

What did I love about this book- 

First off, I want to talk about Aza- our protagonist. I adored her. I was completely charmed by her, and my heart broke for her and her struggle. Aza is fighting a war that is OCD. Not just OCD, but OCD of intrusive thoughts, and they often completely consume her and can be incredibly disruptive to her life. This is something Green himself is also battling and you can really tell that Aza is written from a place of knowing. This aspect of the novel was just breath taking. As a person who does not have OCD, I can't even imagine having to navigate life with this constant form of anxiety.

Turtles All the Way Down, was just incredible (in case you didn't get that already), I am still thinking about this book and I can't wait to reread it. I feel like when Green takes his time and writes about something important to him (this is me making assumptions about his previous works and what they meant- I just am familiar with the reasons he wrote TFiOS and Turtles and feel like this was very present in the final product of both books), the outcome is something magical, and inspiring. I am not sure how to explain it, but I feel like I was experiencing a dramatic realization- that doesn't make sense, I just feel like I got the point, like REALLY got the point - whatever it was.

This story certainly had the typical Green elements. It features intelligent (maybe above average intelligent) teenagers, who use big words and speak in philosophical metaphors that I, as a 30 year old woman, wouldn't even think to use. But I give Green kudos for this. Teens aren't stupid, they aren't unintelligent and I think a lot of YA novels don't give them enough credit. I find this "mature" language used by Green's characters very refreshing. And I think for any teen reading this, it's good to see that language can be expanded, even when you're young. In the same vein, there has been some criticism regarding the end of Turtles and how it's gets pretty lofty in it's philosophical jargon, I didn't notice it, but maybe that's cause I didn't get it. Who knows?

Overall, Turtles All the Way Down was amazing. I should really stop underestimating John Green and what he brings to the table. This novel blew me away and I can't stop talking about it. If you want an own voices account of OCD and how disruptive it is, read this book.

~Happy Reading Everyone

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Stefanie's October Wrap Up


Hello everyone,

I'm always bittersweet when October ends; not only is it my favorite month, but sadly we typically get snow, cold weather and all those pretty autumn colors and leaves disappear. 

I had my birthday, attended my work's Halloween activity night (basically a dance, but with more stations), had another epic work costume; this year it was Wizard of Oz. I got to be Dorothy and watching the students faces when they'd spot another character in a different classroom (it was like a huge. The best was having the students guess the day before what the costume was going to be. A couple suggestions from the clues I gave them (it's a big group, something you will know, it's a movie or TV show) were Loud House, Addams Family, Beauty and the Beast and something I had never heard of. 

October was another great month for reading; I got most of the books on my fall TBR list actually read! 

Books I read: 

Hello, Sunshine by Leila Howland
Pressed to Death by Kirsten Weiss
Midnight at Madame Leota's by Amicus Arcane
One Hundred Candles by Mara Purnhagen
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
Bean Stalker by Kirsten White
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Illustrated edition by J.K. Rowling
Bad Housekeeping by Maia Chance
Royal Crush by Meg Cabot
Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn
Stirring the Plot by Daryl Wood Gerber

Total: 11

Books of the Month:

  

I watched a whole bunch of Halloween movies from Halloweentown, Casper, Hocus Pocus to my attempt at watching horror movies. I'm not a fan of horror, but something about October just asks for horor movies. The ones I watched were mostly from the 30s and 40s on TCM, but I did try to watch a few modern ones, like The Grudge, When a Stranger Calls and The Skeleton Key. After this I can say horror really isn't my thing, unless its from the 30s-60s when horror was more about the movie atmosphere than gore and jump scares. 


That was basically my month; filed with movies and books, just the way I like it. I've now gone full-out Christmas movie crazy. I just love those cheesy Hallmark made-for-TV movies. I can't commit to Christmas music until after Remembrance Day, but I've already started Christmas present shopping!

Hope everyone had a great October!

Until my next review,

Stefanie 

 


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Sara's October Wrap Up






Hello Friends,

Happy second last month of the year. I literally cannot believe it is November, that we have someone whipped through 10 months of the year in a blink of an eye.  October was whirlwind of a month,  I have much to share with you, and I hope you stick with me.

So, On October 3rd, myself and a group of my greatest friends got up at 4:45am packed ourselves into a 15 passenger van and began what would be a 20+ hour journey to Detroit, Michigan (with a quick 14 hour pit stop in Chicago, Illinois).  We went to a conference in Detroit on community development. It was an incredible trip- driving with my friends was fantastic and fun, the conference was challenging and inspiring. I really love learning about community development and seeing that other people are also choosing to live in community.  It was an incredible experience.  Like always, I immediately got sick when I got home, but it was worth it.

Shortly after I got home, I applied for a seasonal position at Chapters/Indigo. I have ALWAYS wanted to work for Indigo and I was SUPER excited when I got the interview and was offered the position- I am now a Customer Service Representative- I am SO excited about this, and while I haven't actually worked the floor yet (just orientation and training), I am keeping my fingers crossed that this position will extend past the holiday season.  And yes, I continue to maintain my full time employment. I just thought working two jobs would be a good idea.





In all of that, I have also somehow managed to complete the whole first season of This Is Us which appeared on Netflix this past month.  I have a few thoughts on this show. I, at no point, felt the need to binge the show- I mean it took me all month to watch the 18 episodes.  It's really a show about nothing, but it's SO good at the same time. I quite enjoyed it.



The Books

So because October was a bit life busy.  I did not read very much. I am actually kind of embarrassed with the amount I actually read. I had a fair number of audiobooks, but actually read- pitiful.


Total Books 
8
Physical Books
2
Audiobooks
6

Physical Books

1) Hers to Take by Talia Ellison (1 Star)
2) Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (4.5 Stars) 

Favourite Read




This book was SO fun. I really really enjoyed it. I plowed through the first half while on my drive home, but as soon as I got home, I put it down and didn't read another work for a week and half. When I finally picked it up again, I finished it almost immediately. It was well written and a really fun story. I was very impressed. 


Audiobooks

1) The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by McKenzi Lee (4 1/2 Stars)
2) Wicked Wish by Sawyer Bennett (3 1/2 Stars)
3) Duke of Manhattan by Louise Bay (3 1/2 Stars)
4) A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (1 1/2 Stars)
5) Burn for You by J.T. Geissinger (4 Stars)
6) Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones (4 1/2 Stars) -- Reread

Favourite Listen 


Are you surprised? This books has been getting a lot of hype, and rightfully so. This little book was so great. I found myself laughing often, Monty was completely selfish and endearing. He had absolutely no clue. If you have no read this book, I would suggest you do so immediately.  


So I physically read TWO books last month, which is abysmal. I plan on changing that in the next couple months. I took a count to see how many physical books I've read versus how many audiobooks I've listened to, and the numbers aren't to far apart.To date I have read 40 physical books and listened to 43 books. My hope it to get to 55 physical books, this may seem a bit ambitious, but I am hopeful (I would like to get to 52 at least). 

That's it for me and the month of October. What were your favourite reads of the month? Was there a particular book you hated? I would love to hear all about them. 

~Happy Reading Everyone.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Stefanie's Thoughts: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Illustrated Edition



For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.
Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter's defeat of You-Know-Who was Black's downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, "He's at Hogwarts... he's at Hogwarts."

Harry Potter isn't safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.



Hi everyone,

We all know that I'm obsessed with Harry Potter and when my sister got the latest illustrated edition for me for my birthday I couldn't have been more happy (I mean I specifically asked for it, but still!). I immediately dove into it and read it slower than I expected, but I think that's because I did just read the series, therefore I was able to spend more time looking at the illustrations.



Jim Kay does another wonderful job with this one and the illustrations really do give the story a whole new layer. The illustrations really went well with the overall tone and feel of the third adventure; darker, but still has the innocence of our characters.





My one negative would be that the entire Quidditch final wasn't illustrated! Come on; it's like the best part of the entire book (well in my opinion) and it's nothing. Kay has the pages illustrated with background patters, but that's it. I saw on Pottermore there was an image of Harry holding the Quidditch cup, and I thought maybe something like that would make the book.


What's different in this edition than the previous two would be less full page illustrations and more background patterns on the pages. I wonder if this is because of the length of the text and the hope of not having this book be five-hundred pages. I think I kind of missed the overall amount of illustrations, but was still fully in love with the book, because really how many series get an illustrated line!


The sample images that were posted online do a really good job at showcasing the different tones this book takes; the colors go from vibrant reds to the moody/ sullen grey sketches, which really does a perfect job of illustrating growing up.

My favorite illustration was the full page one when Harry, Ron and Hermoine go into the Magical Menagerie and Hermoine buys Crookshanks. I think I liked it the best because it was a full page one and really captured the magic of Diagon Alley and the whole Wizarding world. The lion in The Firebolt chapter was my second one, because I can't help but love Luna and I think it's because I feel we all have a little bit on Luna is us; curious about the world and always learning and growing.



I'm not anxiously waiting for the Goblet of Fire Illustrated edition, but wonder how long the book will be, since Azkaban was a lot longer than I had expected. I read online that it's in the works and if we're going to be treated yearly like we have been the past three years 2018 can't come soon enough!

Until my next review,

Stefanie

                             

 


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My Thoughts: A Million Junes by Emily Henry


For as long as Jack “June” O’Donnell has been alive, her parents have had only one rule: stay away from the Angert family. But when June collides—quite literally—with Saul Angert, sparks fly, and everything June has known is thrown into chaos.

Who exactly is this gruff, sarcastic, but seemingly harmless boy who has returned to their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, after three mysterious years away? And why has June—an O’Donnell to her core—never questioned her late father’s deep hatred of the Angert family? After all, the O’Donnells and the Angerts may have mythic legacies, but for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them.

As Saul and June’s connection grows deeper, they find that the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers seem to be conspiring to reveal the truth about the harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations. Now June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored, and she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

As some of you may or may not remember. I loved Emily Henry's debut novel The Love That Split the World which I read last year. I enjoyed that book so much that when I heard she was writer A Million Junes and it would out this year, I knew I needed to read it as soon as I could. It was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017.  It took me a couple months to finally get to it, but once I did, I fell in love and have determined that Henry is absolutely one of my auto-buy authors.

I should preface the remainder of this review with a bit of a disclaimer- A Million Junes is not going to be for everyone. This story contains a large amount of magical realism and requires a reader to really suspend belief. Not everyone can do this, but if you can, you're really in for a treat.  Henry has this amazing way of writing a beautifully whimsical tale that readers can just sink into and enjoy.

Ugh- her writing. I don't know what to say- it's beautiful. I got so much joy from reading this book. The writing flows so beautifully, and it's almost lyrical, poetic even.  This kind of writing is needed in this story. Particularly since the blend between magic and real life were seamless and just incredible. In the same vein, A Million Junes is very much a story about loss and grief, and what that looks like for our protagonist, June.

June is a stunningly complicated character. She is grieving the death of her father. Although it has been a number of years, his absence came at a very pivotal moment in her young life. She misses their special relationship and with the reappearance of family nemesis Saul Angert, shes struggling with this sense of loyalty. Her father's one rule was to stay away from all things Angert.  No matter how drawn she is to all things Angert.


I could go on and on about A Million Junes and how enamoured I was with this story. The writing is beautiful the characters are amazing, I haven't even mentioned Saul, which is a crime, really. He was incredible, I loved him and June together, it really was like they couldn't help their relationship. I loved June's mother and step father, I appreciated their presence in the story. It was so good guys.


Overall, A Million Junes was such a joyful experience for me. I loved every minute of my reading experience. If you are a fan of magical realism and you enjoy poetic writing I think you will love this book. Emily Henry is for sure on my auto-buy list. Easily one of my favourite reads this year.


~Happy Reading Everyone.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Stefanie's Thoughts: Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore



 
For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.


The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

ARC provided by Raincoast Books/ Feiwel and Friends
(all thoughts are my own)

This book is a thing of pure beauty.

I haven't read the authors previous books, but Wild Beauty really stands on its own for uniqueness. I can honestly say I haven't read anything like it before; it was a great ride of a book! From the opening pages I knew I was in for a treat; McLemore creates this brand new universe that feels so magical and filled with the most atmospheric descriptions I have ever read (I should point out that I typically struggle when an author gets to 'flowery' as one of my English professors called it, so I thought I'd find McLemore's prose a bit distracting; nope). Magical realism, as well, can be a hit or miss for me. I've read a couple in the past that dragged on, but not here/ I felt this book moved so quickly; the pace was perfect for me. I liked that at times it did go a little slower, because my brain needed to process this beautiful world that was created as the setting.

 Family relationships were one of my favorite aspects of this book. I really enjoyed how close the five sisters were and how their family always had five daughters, that was a cool concept and made me think of this as a fairy-tale. I liked how the daughters names were all of flowers; I think I enjoyed this more because I like flowers myself and my mom is a really big gardener and this made me feel more connected to the family.

This book also talked about the importance of family; I know a lot of books now involve broken/ dysfunctional families, but I don't always enjoy reading about ones that aren't perfect, but that's life. Families in real life aren't perfect, but you know at the end of the day you come home to them and they are there for you no matter what.

I first heard of this book through Goodreads when a friend added it on their to-read shelf and all I needed was to see the cover and knew I wanted to read this; thank you for adding it, because I'm not sure if I hadn't spotted it if I would have requested an ARC. Thank you, even if I don't remember who it was. This was a beautifully well-written book that I'm so glad I got to read! If you are a fan (or even if you aren't) I recommend this book if you are looking for something different. I think I'll be looking out for more books by this author in the future.

4 out of 5 stars.

Until my next review, Stefanie
"So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall."
— Roald Dahl