October 1, 2018

Book Review | The Cheerleaders

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Hey there, Literature Lovers!

For the month of October I decided to check out a few thriller/spooky books in order to get the mood for Halloween. I’m not normally someone who gravitates toward these types of stories because I am easily scared, but thought it would be worth stepping out of the comfort zone and giving a new genre a try. The first book I decided to test out was The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas.
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The Cheerleaders is a young adult thriller that follows Monica, a high school junior who is on her school’s dance team. The school is planning a memorial to honor the cheerleaders who died five years before, including Monica’s older sister Jen who committed suicide after the murder of her two best friends. While searching for something in her stepfather’s desk, Monica stumbles across some letters that question whether the police really caught the man who killed her sister’s best friends. The rest of the novel focuses on Monica and her friend Ginny piecing together the story of what happened five years ago.
The overall concept of the cheerleaders dying was interesting and kept me intrigued, although I did feel like the ending was a bit obvious. I’ve never seen the Pretty Little Liars show, but it felt like this was a story that could have happened on that show. Alongside the murder mystery, the author was trying to tackle some very serious topics, but I don’t think in the end that they were handled the right way.
Spoilers Below: (trigger warning for statutory rape and abortion)
 
Monica hooked up with an older guy named Brandon over the summer and got pregnant. She does not tell anyone about this except her mom, although she excludes the identity of the father, and gets an abortion. This is never explictly said, but most of the early chapters heavily allude to this. Brandon is suddenly employed by the school as the track and field coach and Monica is left wrestling with her lingering feelings for him and knowing that it was wrong. In the very end it is discovered that she is not the first high school girl Brandon has taken advantage of. What annoyed me was that this was an important storyline throughout the book and a pretty defining thing for Monica, and in the end she does not blame him for being a monster who used her. Instead she says that she used him too. No, Monica. Just no. I think that the author had shown some great growth for this character and then did not follow through.
 
My favorite character was Ginny. She was nice, helpful, and just seemed like the kind of character you would want to give a big hug. Everyone else felt flat for me, including our main character Monica. I also enjoyed the scenes that were flashbacks of Jen from five years ago. It was interesting to see what was actually happening with her and getting a better understanding of who she was at the time of the deaths.
This was just an okay book to me.
 
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars.
 
Have you read The Cheerleaders? What did you think? Sound off in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!
September 18, 2018

Comic Review | Welcome to Wanderland #1

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Welcome to Wanderland is a new four-issue series set at the Wanderland theme park. We follow a girl named Bellamy who spends most of her time at the park, searching for the Easter Eggs and secrets that are around the park. She accidentally stumbles across a door marked Staff Only that holds a portal to the real Wanderland. There she meets the evil Princess Syla and the fearless Princess Lark Meadowstone, who is now known as Riot, both of whom mistakenly think that Bel is a mage.

I just finished reading the latest volume of I Hate Fairyland and was so happy I found another comic that features portal transportation and bright, fantastical worlds.

As this is still the first issue, we obviously haven’t gotten into the real meat of the story yet. However, the characters are all very charming and make me want to keep reading. The witty retorts and casual banter that Bel shares with her brother and Riot is very funny. The artwork is great and reminds me of some of the older Disney Channel shows, like Dave the Barbarian, that were subverting some of the ideas we have of medieval times.

I can’t wait to see how the story continues in Issue #2, which is coming out on October 16th.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars.

Have you read Welcome to Wanderland? Are you going to continue the series? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

September 18, 2018

Book Review | Sing

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Hey there, Literature Lovers! This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the Taylor Swift reputation Stadium Tour with my sister in Indianapolis, and what an incredible show it was! We haven been to a lot of concerts, but you could tell during this show that it was flawless!

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To get myself in the mood for the show, I decide to read Sing by Vivi Green, which you can tell by the cover art is loosely based on Taylor’s Swift.

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Sing follows international pop sensation Lily Ross, who is 92 days away from starting her Forever tour, which features songs about her boyfriend and fellow celeb, Jed. The thing is, Jed doesn’t see their relationship as forever. He ends things with Lily with very little explanation, leaving her crush and unmotivated about her music. Her best friends decide she needs to escape and whisk her away to a small island in Maine where she can be normal. And one perk of being normal is finding small town romance. Lily must find balance between the star she is and the quiet town she has fallen in love with.

This was a short, easy read for me. The descriptions of the island town really made me feel like I was there. Overall, Lily was a pretty good and empathetic character. While she was upset about her boyfriend

If you are a Taylor Swift fan or love fictional books about celebrities, I recommend you give this one a shot.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars.

Have you read Sing what were your thoughts? Have you been to any concerts before? I would leave hear about it in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

August 16, 2018

Book Review | Gilded Ashes

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gilded ashesGilded Ashes is a novella from Rosamund Hodge, author of Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bond. This Cinderella retelling is set within the same universe as Cruel Beauty, where there are demons and Gentle Lords who barter with the common folk to achieve their own ends. Cinderella, known as Maia in this retelling, has been living with a haunting secret for years: her mother is a demon, and she must constantly lie about her happiness to save the people around her from this ghost.

I was surprised how quickly I fell into this story. I liked Cruel Beauty for the most part, but I found the continuous descriptions of the horrible demons monotonous at times. I think 80 pages was the perfect length for this. It definitely gave me Ella Enchanted vibes during all the scenes with Maia and Lord Anax (the prince in this version). They had an easy back and forth and felt like they were real people getting to know each other.

It was also refreshing to see the stepsisters in a different way. In every version of this story the stepsisters are mean to Cinderella simply because they can be. In this version the younger stepsister Thea was actively trying to be friends with Maia while Kore was mean to Maia because she thought that was her mother wanted her to do. All three girls were simply looking for happiness in this dark world and were trying to do whatever it took to reach that happy end.

Overall, I really enjoyed Gilded Ashes and would highly recommend picking this up for your e-reader.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars.

Have you read any of the Cruel Beauty books? Which was your favorite? Share in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

May 22, 2018

Book Review | Once and For All

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Once and For All is the thirteenth book by Sarah Dessen, who has always been one of my favorite authors. This book, like almost all of her previous works, is set during the summer and follows Louna, the daughter of a wedding planner. Growing up in this industry has made Louna cynical about love, or maybe it was the tragedy of her first love that made her that way. But all that changes when she meets the confident Ambrose and she wonders if there is a second chance at true love.

I have read every Sarah Dessen novel and thought I knew what I was expecting: a cute novel with realistic characters and a ethereal summer feeling. Instead we were given a flat story complete with flat characters. I finished this book so sad that I didn’t enjoy it, and now I’m left wondering if I have romanticized Sarah’s previous books or if I have simply outgrown her work.

While Sarah does focus on the day-to-day details of her character’s lives, it is usually presented in an interesting way, and there is usually some sort of conflict that is the driving force of the story and keeps you holding out for the next chapter. She is able to tacitly handle writing about more difficult topics that are unfortunately a very real part of life (Dreamland and Just Listen are the best examples). The romance she incorporates is also handle well, with a steady build-up and a cute resolution. This book fell short in all these respects.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Our main character, Louna, is not a great character or terrible character. She is barely a character, which is almost worse than being an annoying character. Her main story is that she still mourning her first love, Ethan. They met at a wedding and had one magical night together where, at the end, they profess their love for each other…after only a few hours of meeting (ugh Insta-Love). They then spend the next few months texting back and forth and make plans to see each other during an upcoming break. That is until there is a shooting at Ethan’s school and he is killed. I feel for Louna in this situation, as well as anyone who has ever been caused any harm by a shooter. It is a relevant topic to discuss, but while I applaud Sarah for trying to touch on this subject, I’m not sure it totally worked. Ethan’s death is heavily foreshadowed throughout the entire book, including the flashbacks where Louna reminisces about their one night. However, it sometimes felt like Ethan would be brought up randomly to further the not-really-there plot of this book. I did enjoy all of these flashback scenes. I think if those had been this book, with a bit more build-up of the romance between Ethan and Louna, I would have preferred it, because honestly, it sounds super cute. Oh, Ethan sounded way better than Ambrose.

Our love interest Ambrose was super annoying and selfish. He held up his own mother’s wedding because he was flirting with a girl in the parking lot. He steals someone’s dog (granted it was a dog from a potentially abusive owner) and receives no repercussions of this. He also tries way too hard to be funny and seems to think he is the most charming person to ever grace the planet. I have met people like this in real life and there is not a single person I know who finds this attitude attractive.

My favorite characters in this book was William, the gay godfather, and Crawford, Jilly’s younger brother who reminded me of Klaus Baudelaire. The rest of the characters left much to be desired.

I purchased the Barnes and Noble edition that included an extra scene set one year later, and I personally think it is so much better. Those thirteen pages held the familiar Sarah Dessen magic, with characters from previous books making an appearance and some cute moments between Ambrose and Louna. I really wish this had been incorporated into the main story.

Sadly, this was a disappointing read for me. I still loves Sarah’s work and am looking forward to what she brings out next. But right now all I can say is: Why do meh stories have to come with the prettiest covers?

Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars.

Do you have a favorite Sarah Dessen book, or simply a favorite summer read? Please share in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

March 10, 2018

Book Review | Bridget Jones’s Diary

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Bridget Jones’s Diary is one of the more widely recognized titles in the romantic-comedy genre. A modern re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice, we follow a year of Bridget’s life as a woman in her mid-thirties looking for love and a fulfilling career in London in the early 2000s.

I first saw the movie last year and thought that, while not my favorite rom-com, it certainly lived up to its reputation of being a cute and lighthearted film. After watching I was eager to read the book and get a better feel for Bridget’s character and her adventures as an adult during a time period when I was still a child. Unfortunately, I was a little let down.

Much like Legally Blonde, all the charm of the story came from the performance of the actress who portrayed the main character. Renee Zellwegger gave Bridget so much more personality than Helen Felding did. As is the case with most novels told in a diary format, we are only able to learn about the things that are happening through the limited viewpoint of the main character. That’s not always a bad thing. Obviously you are going to see things as the character sees it. However, most authors take this to mean they can make their main characters moan like children. Bridget sometimes felt like a teenager and not an independent woman in her mid-thirties. She was constantly complaining about minute details about her relationship with every person she interacted with and obsessively calculating how much she weighed.

If I had not seen the movie beforehand I would not have been able to tell this was a Pride and Prejudice retelling. The only true indication that this story is a retelling of the classic is there being a character named Mr. Darcy, who is basically non-existent during this book. He appears at the very beginning when Bridget is home for Christmas and disappears for roughly 120 pages, only to appear briefly at an event her work is hosting and resurface close to the end of the book. The fact that he likes Bridget is obvious, but she does not seem to even pay him any attention until she suddenly falls in love in the final third of the book. I really feel like the book did not have enough build-up for Mark Darcy and Bridget’s romance to have a believable payoff.

Overall, I didn’t hate this book and I can sort of appreciate what Helen Felding was trying to do, but I was expecting more. I have seen and enjoyed the other movies in this series, but as to the question on if I will continue reading the other books, I would have to say I’ll be giving them a pass for now.

Rating: 2.75 out 5 Stars.

If you have read this book or seen the movies, please share your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading!

January 29, 2018

Book Review | Eligible

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Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is an updated take on the Jane Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice. The story follows the five Bennet sisters as they are introduced to Chip Bingley, the recent star of a ‘Bachelor’-style show called ‘Eligible.’ Chip ended up closing out his season without finding a potential bride and decides a move to Cincinnati will help clear his head. There he meets the eldest Bennet sister, Jane, while her sister Liz is introduced to Darcy, the unpleasant best friend of Bingley. The story follows the familiar tale, with Darcy and Liz’s dislike of one another gradually turning into something more.

I remembered seeing this book everywhere when it first came out and flip-flopping over wanting to read it. On the one hand, I love Pride and Prejudice and ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’ web series. But I had read a few other P&P re-tellings that had fallen short and was worried this would have the same effect on me. I decided to take a chance and get the free sample on my Kindle app. Once I started reading I was immediately hooked and went back to purchase the full version.

I thought the take of having the girls be closer to middle age was great. We were given lots of backstory for each of the characters, especially for Liz and Jane who are the most important characters in each iteration. I honesty could not put this story down. The only part of the book that dragged for me was the last third of the book, specifically the Lydia storyline. I understood what the author was going for in this updated take of Lydia elopement and that not all parents are accepting of different lifestyles, but it was missing something for me. I think what bothered me was that it didn’t seem to take the family very long to find Lydia once she ran away, which is crazy given how big the country (or even the state) is. I also kept wondering how exactly Darcy’s role would play into this. In the original he forced Wickham to marry Lydia, but Wickham had nothing to do with this situation at all.

Overall, this was a good read. However, while I did find myself enjoying this , I’m more likely to recommend ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.’

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars.

Have you read Eligible? Share your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading!

January 24, 2018

Book Review | Dancing Shoes

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dancing shoesDancing Shoes is the 9th book in the Shoes series by British author Noel Streatfeild, which follows different English children as they enter the show business world. This particular installment follows Rachel and Hilary, adopted sisters who move into the home of Rachel’s aunt and uncle after losing their mother. Rachel is plain and quiet where Hilary is outgoing and charming. Before the move Hilary, who was the biological daughter of a dancer, was going to attend the Royal Ballet School. However, Rachel’s Aunt Cora runs a dance school where she trains her “Little Wonders,” troupes of girls who do gymnastics and tap, and insists that both girls join the dance school alongside her own daughter, Dulcie. The story centers mostly on Hilary’s blooming career as a dancer and Rachel learning to come out of her shell.

I first read this book in the fifth grade. It was the third Noel Streatfeild story I had read that focused on the dance community of London around World War II. Unlike Ballet Shoes and Theater Shoes, the dancing was focused less on classical training and more on the kind I used to watch my sister do at her recitals, specifically jazz and tap. I really enjoy reading books that are about classical ballet or feature ballet corps, but I loved seeing this new side of the dance world. The Little Wonders sounded really cute and the idea of a school being run inside of the house sounded both chaotic and fun.

This was one of my favorite books growing up and I am glad to say that it holds up even now. I highly recommend all of the Shoe books, but I would start with Ballet Shoes first (like Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail, “It’s my favorite.”).

Rating: 4.75 out of 5 Stars.

Have you ever read Dancing Shoes or any of the other Shoe books? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

August 15, 2017

Book Review | Anne of Green Gables

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Hey there, Literature Lovers! I recently watched the new Anne with an E series on Netflix and it reawakened my love for Anne of Green Gables! I first read Anne the summer before sixth grade for summer reading and really enjoyed it. I ended up continuing the series up until Anne of the Island. I don’t know if I didn’t realize there were more books or if I just forgot to look for them at the bookstore, but I didn’t continue the rest of the series after book three. Now I am wanting to finish it out and read other L.M.Montgomery works as well.

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I just finished rereading Anne of Green Gables and loved it. I actually rotated between the physical book (this gorgeous Puffin in Bloom with illustrations by Anna Bond) and the audiobook read by Rachel McAdams. Avonlea is such a dreamy place to think of. I was a big Little House fan when I was younger so while reading/listening I kept switching the scenery between the Avonlea from the AWAE series and the town from Little House.

If you are unfamiliar with this classic, we follow Anne Shirley, an orphan girl who is brought to Prince Edward Island to assist the elderly Cuthburt siblings, Matthew and Marilla. Her arrival turns out to have been a mistake, as they had wanted to adopt a boy to help Matthew with the farm work. They (especially Matthew) take a shine to Anne, who is very talkative and imaginative, and decide to adopt her. The rest of the story follows Anne as she goes to school for the first time, becomes bosom friends with a kindred spirit name Diana Berry, and all the misadventures her imagination and fiery temper get her into.

This is easily one of my favorite classic books and I am really looking forward to reading the rest of this series!

Have you read any of the Anne books or seen any of the adaptations? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

May 26, 2017

Book Review | Lost in a Book

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IMG_7441Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly is a new Young Adult novel that ties into the world of the new live-action Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast. The story follows Belle after she has already switched places with her father and started to become friendly with the Beast. One day while cleaning and exploring the Beast’s enormous library Belle stumbles upon a magic book called Nevermore that literally pulls her into the story. There she is presented with everything her heart has ever desired: adventure and interesting new people, and she must decide if she should keep her promise to the Beast or stay in this beautiful world that seems to be created just for her.

This is already one of my favorite books of the year. The cover is beautiful, the characters matched the personalities of their on-screen counterparts, and the overall worlds of both Belle’s reality and the world within Nevermore were intriguing. This was one of those books where part of me wanted to fly through the story in an afternoon, while another part wanted to take it slowly so I could live in this story for as long as I could.

I really enjoyed the expansion on Belle and Beast’s relationship. In both the animated movie and the new live-action film we see them become friends almost automatically after the battle with the wolves and the Beast giving Belle the library. While this does happen in the book, we are given more insight into what is going on in both their minds, showing that, although he saved her and gave her a nice gift, Belle is still a little hesitant to truly like Beast, and that the Beast is trying not to lose hope in breaking the curse.

There are a few scenes where the Beast is allowed to show his gentle side. He has a meaningful conversation with Lumiere and plays with Chip in the library. I sort of wish more of that had been incorporated into the movie as well, but I’m glad to have it here.

The world of the Nevermore book itself is quite amazing. I think most book lovers out there would jump at the chance to actually be teleported into their favorite story. As the story progressed Nevermore started to remind me of Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Some of the characters, particularly the Duchess, reminded me of the Other Mother and we are slowly shown how a picturesque world can have its own set of dangers.

I give this a 4.5 out 5 stars. If you are a fan of Beauty and the Beast, Disney, or the idea of books that can teleport you to new and magical places, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Lost in a Book.

Thanks for reading!