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Book Review: The Vine Witch by Luanne G Smith

The Vine Witch

 

First: that cover? Soooooo pretty. I like the font they used and the little pops of colour with the gold and purple berries. It’s very eye-catching

On to the review…

I will be upfront, I am not a wine person. Or an alcohol person in any way. Nothing against it, I just don’t care for it. So going in to a book where the main character and plot seemed so heavily invested in wine and a vineyard, I wondered if I would be able to connect with this story. Not only did I find myself completely drawn into the story, it ended up being a perfect week-ish before Halloween read. The world building that centered around the different witches and their abilities, the atmosphere that was created by the vivid descriptions of the vineyard, everything worked together. Elena’s connection with the vines, soil, and the vineyard reminded me of another favourite series of mine, The Circle of Magic by Tamora Pierce.

 

The book blended a few styles together that really had me turning the pages. I wanted to see Elena save the vineyard, find the person who’d cursed her, maybe get together with the guy who’d bought the vineyard after she was cursed. I wasn’t completely sold on the romance yet but it has a lot of potential. I liked the dynamic between Elena and Jean-Paul, her believing in her powers and a more natural approach while he was all scientific.

 

There was definitely a lot to like about this book. It pulled me in, gave me characters I liked, gave me a wonderful setting, and I will be picking up the sequel.

 

*I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review.

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Book Review: What If It’s Us? by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

What If It’s Us?

Release date: October 9th 2018

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.
Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.
But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?
Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.
Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.
But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?
What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?
What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?
But what if it is?

This was one of my most highly anticipated releases for all of 2018. Two of my favourite authors teaming up for a rom-com style book that sounded cute, but also potentially devastating because Adam Silvera is involved and he always make me cry. It was great to see so many pop culture references through the book, through it could get a little repetitive for someone who might not enjoy those things.

I liked both characters pretty equally. Both Arthur and Ben were interesting, had some side drama happening outside of their romance with each other, and I liked seeing the interactions with their friends. Their romance was cute but also had understandable obstacles in an ex-boyfriend, Arthur interning only for the summer, and more.

The whole time I was reading, and thoroughly enjoying this book, I was also nervous because who was going to win the ending. The queen of love and happiness Becky Albertalli or the king of heartbreak and tears Adam Silvera? I’m not telling. I know this is short but it’s so hard to describe without giving something away. Definitely a contender for favourite book of the year!

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The War Outside by Monica Hesse

War outside

The War Outside

Release date: September 25th 2018

4 stars

It’s 1944, and World War II is raging across Europe and the Pacific. The war seemed far away from Margot in Iowa and Haruko in Colorado–until they were uprooted to dusty Texas, all because of the places their parents once called home: Germany and Japan.
Haruko and Margot meet at the high school in Crystal City, a “family internment camp” for those accused of colluding with the enemy. The teens discover that they are polar opposites in so many ways, except for one that seems to override all the others: the camp is changing them, day by day and piece by piece. Haruko finds herself consumed by fear for her soldier brother and distrust of her father, who she knows is keeping something from her. And Margot is doing everything she can to keep her family whole as her mother’s health deteriorates and her rational, patriotic father becomes a man who distrusts America and fraternizes with Nazis.
With everything around them falling apart, Margot and Haruko find solace in their growing, secret friendship. But in a prison the government has deemed full of spies, can they trust anyone–even each other?

I was really excited about this book and it didn’t take me long to get sucked into this story. I love historical fiction but it seems like it’s been quite a while since I read one so picking this one up was amazing. It was told in dual POVs from two girls, one German and one Japanese, who’d ended up in the same internment camp in America. Along with the telling of each girl’s story, there were interjections from both girls throughout the book as each of them tried to convince the reader that they were the one telling the truth. It added another level to the story because you knew something must be coming.

The girls’ friendship was the main part of the story. We saw a brief part of Haruko and her family being brought to the camp and Margot was already there, but the story really started when the girls met in school. They weren’t supposed to be friends, cross that imaginary line that divided the German side of the camp from the Japanese, but they felt drawn to each other even when they tried to stay away. As they got to know each other, we got to know them. They were both going through so much and it helped to have a friend, someone to listen as they talked about the changes happening within their families.

The last part of the book had so many twists it was a little hard to keep up, but it didn’t feel like it was too much. I had plenty of theories about what could have happened between the girls, the fight or the betrayal they kept mentioning in their interjections, and the revelations happening so fast made it harder to predict.

Both the story and the afterword by the author showed how much research went into the book. It definitely is an afterword I recommend reading. This is a book I recommend reading, especially if historical fiction is your thing.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen

Release date: October 9th 2018

4.5 stars

Dear Evan Hansen,
Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.
Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?
No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.
A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

I am a huge fan of the Dear Evan Hansen musical so a novelization of it seemed like a dream come true. It was slightly different from the musical as a lot of the storytelling doesn’t come from songs in the book but it stayed very close to the musical version. I also felt the book stood well on its own, for anyone uninterested in seeing or listening to the musical.

The biggest change was that we got to see a lot of more Connor Murphy’s thoughts as himself, not as Evan’s conscience or imagination. I loved this because it meant we got more insight into Connor, more backstory. The book took everything from the musical and just added to it, shaped it into something more while still respecting the source material.

For anyone not interested in the musical, the book is still a full story on its own. The characters were well developed, the plot was complete, and it was still a huge roller coaster of emotions. It dealt with issues very relevant to today with anxiety, suicide, and depression. I know this review is short but if you know the musical, you know most of the story in his book, and if you don’t know the musical, anything more I say could be a spoiler. I’ll leave it with, this book is definitely worth reading.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie

Sadie

Release date: September 4th 2018

4 stars

A gripping novel about the depth of a sister’s love; poised to be the next book you won’t be able to stop talking about.
A missing girl on a journey of revenge and a Serial-like podcast following the clues she’s left behind.
Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.
But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.
When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Sadie was one of those books that completely took me by surprise. I thought I knew what I was getting into when I began reading, but it turned into something much more than I was expecting. I loved the dual timelines, with one being Sadie’s POV and one being the podcast interview. I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts so I was unsure of how I would enjoy a book where half of it was written as a podcast but it was a great way to make the two timelines feel connected and there was still plenty of emotion through the podcast parts.

Sadie was one of those characters who made me hurt. She lived her life for her sister pretty much since the moment Mattie was born. She never truly got to be a child. Her POV was in the timeline of the past, showing her trying to find the man she thought responsible for her sister’s murder. Through her, we get to know more about Mattie as well and we see just how much Sadie loved her. It was hard to see Sadie getting more and more reckless as she was desperate to find her sister’s murderer.

The other half of the book was West McCray’s investigation as a podcast. He was interviewing people who knew Sadie and Mattie, tracking down the people who Sadie had talked to months earlier, and following all the clues she’d left behind, which wasn’t many. It was interesting to see how he went from completely uninterested in the story of Sadie to completely invested by the time he was finished. His section, with his more detached investigator voice, balanced Sadie’s passion and anger, and both sections worked together to create a dark, disturbing story that will stay with its reader long after the last page has been read.

It’s been about five days since I finished this book and it hasn’t left my thoughts yet.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele

Truth Lies Here

The Truth Lies Here

Release date: August 21st 2018

3.5 stars

In small town Michigan, Penny, an aspiring journalist, teams up with the nerdy boy-next-door and the town’s star quarterback to find her conspiracy theorist father after he goes missing and several other townspeople turn up dead in the woods.
The deeper she digs, the weirder things start to get. Townspeople repeat the same phrases—verbatim. Men in black suits stroll around Main Street. Chunks of her memory go missing. Pretty soon, Penny’s research leads her to the long-ago meteorite crash in Bone Lake’s woods, and she’s going to have to reconsider her definition of “real” if she wants answers. . . .

This is a great pick for a rainy, dark night when you want a book that has a bit of a creepy factor to it. Or at any time, but it has that definite feel of a dark night read. It was fairly quick to read, fast paced, it kept my interest through the whole book. It did have some twists I found predictable but that could be because it reminded me of Supernatural or The X-Files, two shows I’ve watched so many times I question everything when a book reminds me of them.

The whole book was through Penny’s POV, an aspiring journalist student hoping to use her childhood hometown as the backdrop to a human interest piece that she was sure would put her application over the top. Except her dad never showed to get her at the airport. I could understand her lack of concern at first, she was used to her father putting his work above everything else and they were on complete opposite sides of the journalism spectrum. It made for an interesting relationship even with her father being absent.

There was a bit of a love triangle between Penny, her childhood best friend Dex, and her childhood crush Micah, but it never overtook the story. Both boys added something different to the plot but I was leaning more toward Dex, the geeky best friend who loved conspiracy theories and The X-Files and who was by Penny’s side through her whole investigation, believing in the impossible even when she didn’t. I thought Micah was a good way to show how much Penny had changed from the girl who lived in Bone Lake as a child.

The plot focused on Penny’s father’s disappearance and her and Dex’s investigation. It was fast paced and there was a lot of back and forth as they argued over a realistic explanation vs a paranormal one. The more they investigated, the more strange things they uncovered, which led to more questions. Some of the twists were predictable, as mentioned, but they were still enjoyable.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

Grace and Fury

Grace and Fury

Release date: July 31st 2018

4 stars

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.
Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace–someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir’s eye, it’s Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.
Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.

This one caught my attention when it was compared to The Handmaid’s Tale and I was really intrigued by the concept. There were some tropes and similarities to other books that made certain twists feel predictably but overall, I loved the girl power vibe and I loved the relationship between the sisters even though they were in separate areas. They couldn’t have been more different from each other but they had each other’s backs no matter what.

Serina was the older sister, the one who’d been training to be a Grace her whole life, the one who was supposed to be chosen by the prince to serve him and save her family from poverty. Nomi was the younger and serving as Serina’s handmaiden, which meant leaving her twin brother behind. Nomi was rebellious and everything a Grace shouldn’t be but she ended up catching the attention of the prince. The author didn’t waste any time setting up the stakes of the book with Nomi chosen as a Grace and Serina taking the fall for a secret her sister was hiding very early on in the book.

With the sisters separated, it gave the book the chance to show other female characters and gave the sisters other people to turn to besides family. This was especially true of Serina, who was imprisoned on an island with many other women and I enjoyed seeing the survival aspect while also seeing that these women took care of each other, even though they were forced to fight each other for food. Nomi had less female influence in her corner. She had her handmaiden to help her with dressing and daily tasks but they other two girls she spent the most time with her other Graces, who would likely go running to the King or Prince if they caught wind of Nomi doing anything wrong. It was really interesting to see each sister have to transform into someone they’d spent their whole life trying not to be: polite and submissive Serina had to learn to fight while rebellious Nomi had to learn how to fit in with the demure Graces.

The story caught my attention right away and didn’t let go. It was a very addictive read with lots of twists, some predictable and others more surprising. I definitely cannot wait for the next book.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch

These Rebel Waves

These Rebel Waves

Release date: August 7th 2018

4 stars

Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Argrid, a country ruled by religion. But adjusting to postwar life has not been easy. When an Argridian delegate vanishes during peace talks with Grace Loray’s new Council, Argrid demands brutal justice—but Lu suspects something more dangerous is at work.
Devereux is a pirate. As one of the outlaws called stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he pirates the island’s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But after Argrid accuses raiders of the diplomat’s abduction, Vex becomes a target. An expert navigator, he agrees to help Lu find the Argridian—but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war.
Benat is a heretic. The crown prince of Argrid, he harbors a secret obsession with Grace Loray’s forbidden magic. When Ben’s father, the king, gives him the shocking task of reversing Argrid’s fear of magic, Ben has to decide if one prince can change a devout country—or if he’s building his own pyre.
As conspiracies arise, Lu, Vex, and Ben will have to decide who they really are . . . and what they are willing to become for peace.

Sara Raasch has done it again. I loved the Snow Like Ashes trilogy, completely flew through each book and didn’t want to put it down. This was more of the same. Great characters, plenty of world-building within political fighting happening, plenty of twists. It was the type of book that makes me feel like it will be a long read because there’s so much detail, the plot can move slowly at times, and there are plenty of supporting characters to keep track of, but with Sara Raasch’s books I never seem to have a problem with that. I could keep all the characters in order, I understood the political fighting that was happening, and the plot didn’t seem slow to me because I was so absorbed into the book.

There were three main POV’s. We had Lu, a child soldier trying to put that life behind her as her parents were now important leaders on the island of Grace Loray; Dex, a feared pirate(or Stream Raiders as they were called) who smuggled the magical plants of Grace Loray into Argrid; and Ben, the prince or Argrid who was fascinated by the forbidden magic of Grace Loray. All three of their lives are tangled together before they even knew it and it was interesting to see how it all came together. There were some twists I didn’t see coming, and I love looking for clues. They all had interesting relationships with the people by their sides and I enjoyed seeing how those relationships changed over the course of the book.

The plot was pretty politically heavy. There weren’t many fight scenes or chase scenes but instead it focused on scheming and outsmarting opponents. Ben’s storyline centered on how magic was forbidden in Argrid and people could be put to death for working with it, but he must work with it as his father, the king, ordered. Lu and Dex’s were more focused on Grace Loray, the island that Argrid had failed to conquer but was attempting peace talks when a representative of Argrid went missing. To prevent war, and the Stream Raiders being blamed, they had to find out who was behind the kidnapping.

The last quarter or so really picked up the pace with so much happening. It didn’t feel like too much to keep up with, just a lot of action and a lot of twists. And the ending…well I need the next book right away!

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Losing the Field by Abbi Glines

Losing the Field

Losing the Field

Release date: August 21 2018

3.5 stars

Losing his dream, his ultimate plan, and his future- Nash Lee never expected to be facing a life without football. One wrong move and it had all changed. Going back to school for his senior year no longer appealed to him. He’d rather not leave his house. Walking back into Lawton High School, seeing pity in everyone’s eyes was just another reality in his nightmare. Revenge wasn’t a pretty thing. Tallulah Liddell had found it was rather controlling. The way you looked at life changed completely when you clung to the ugly notion. But she’d done it anyway. From the last day of her junior year when Ryker Lee had made a fat joke about her and Nash laughed with him, she’d been driven by pain. It wasn’t like no one had made fun of her weight before. She was used to that. What had hurt so deeply was Nash’s laughter. He’d always been the one person to notice her, include her, not treat her differently. But that one moment had changed it all. From the time she walked out of the school building to the moment she returned for her senior year Tallulah had been determined to lose weight and finally be the size her peers considered acceptable. What she wasn’t expecting on her return was to find a broken Nash Lee who no longer smiled, rarely spoke, and didn’t care about anything or anyone around him. He was just existing. But the pain in his eyes she understood all too well. He was alone. He no longer fit into the perfect package.

I’ve been enjoying the Field Party series so I was excited for a new one. It tackled a lot, from Nash dealing with his injury and dreams of football being over, to Tallulah going from an outcast to popular, to a new football coach who I didn’t trust right away. I did miss the characters from the first three books who have graduated but Nash and his crew seem very able to carry on the football team and the series.

The book had the typical Abbi Glines feel to it. Quick to read, perfect to grab and head outside or to the beach. It had a dual POV, misunderstandings between the two main characters that kept them apart, small issues that seemed huge to them, larger issues that were a theme through the whole book. I liked what she did with Nash’s story, focusing on him having to come to terms with what his injury meant for his future and how hard it was to see all his friends still playing the sport he loved. I thought I would be less invested in Tallulah’s story since I’m not usually a fan of someone coming back “hot” to get revenge, and her plan seemed a little naive.

I did like Nash and Tallulah together. He was overprotective and she was naive and innocent, both were stubborn and it led to a lot of fights and misunderstandings that could have been avoided if they just talked to each other. Of the supporting characters, Nash’s cousin Ryker played the biggest role with their friend Asa also hanging around quite a bit. Either of them would be my guess for the next book. Hopefully there is one.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Now is Everything by Amy Giles

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Now is Everything

4 stars

The McCauleys look perfect on the outside. But nothing is ever as it seems, and this family is hiding a dark secret.
Hadley McCauley will do anything to keep her sister safe from their father. But when Hadley’s forbidden relationship with Charlie Simmons deepens, the violence at home escalates, culminating in an explosive accident that will leave everyone changed.
When Hadley attempts to take her own life at the hospital post-accident, her friends, doctors, family, and the investigator on the case want to know why. Only Hadley knows what really happened that day, and she’s not talking.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect from this book but I’m very glad that I decided to pick it up. It used non-linnear storytelling to show Hadley before a tragedy and after, along with police interviews with her friends and teachers as the detectives attempted to figure out what happened that day. I loved the way we slowly got hints in the present to what happened and in the past, we got the lead up and Hadley’s thoughts.

Hadley’s life seemed perfect on the outside and she put up a good front for most everyone. Even her grandmother and closest friends, though they had suspicions, had no idea what went on in that home. The bond between Hadley and her younger sister was strong as Hadley tried to protect her from the worst of their father’s abuse and their mother’s inaction. When Hadley started dating Charlie, a boy she’d had a crush on forever, their relationship was fast and intense, but it also made sense for those two to latch on so strongly to each other. Their relationship had to be a secret from Hadley’s parents and as they became more serious, it got harder to hide.

There were definitely parts of this that were hard to read. Hadley’s father was a bad man and it hurt seeing him manipulate her, beat her, and controlled so much of her life. It hurt to see Hadley try so fiercely to protect Lila, who was feisty and precocious and Hadley knew their father would ruin that if he started in on her. Hadley was prepared to do whatever it took to keep their father away from Lila.

I liked how everything came together at the end as the cause of the plane crash was investigated. And questions about the cause and that day were answered. The wrap up of everything was great, fitting for the tone of the book, and it added to the overall feel that this is a memorable read.

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