Blogmas Day #21: The Brittany Awards Part Three (Young Adult)

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For the past two Saturdays, I have held my annual Brittany Awards where I name the top books that I have read this year in several categories. Today, I will list my top young adult books of the year. This is my most read category of the year, and as a result, the most competitive. Here are my top four favorite young adult books:

  • Maybe This Time by Kasie West

Maybe This Time

I read three new-to-me Kasie West books in 2019 and Maybe This Time was definitely my favorite. I loved the holiday aspects of the novel and enjoyed the characters. I can see myself rereading this many times in the future, like many other Kasie West books that I enjoyed.

  • The Wicked King by Holly Black

The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air, #2)

I read the second and third book in the Folk of the Air series and the second ranks as my favorite. There were so many twists and turns in The Wicked King and I finally found myself enjoying the characters in this series. Second books in series usually suffer a slump, but this book is an exception.

  • Serious Moonlight by Jean Bennett

Serious Moonlight

I read Alex, Approximately when it first debuted and I was disappointed. I didn’t expect to pick up another Jenn Bennett book, but this one sounded cute and I’m all for trying to read another book by an author that didn’t work for me the first time if the plot sounds interesting. I’m glad that I did because I really enjoyed Serious Moonlight and it makes me want to pick up more books by Jenn Bennett in 2020.

  • There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

There's Something About Sweetie (Dimple and Rishi, #2)

Sandhya Menon’s books have been hit-or-miss for me. There’s Something About Sweetie has definitely been my favorite book by this author! I thought this was a cute contemporary book, which is right up my alley.

 

What have been your favorite contemporary books in 2019?

 

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Blogmas Day #20: The Christmas Joy Book Tag

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On the twentieth day of Christmas, a book reviewer gave to me… the Christmas Joy Book Tag!

  • Anticipation: The Christmas excitement is real, what book release(s) are you most anticipating?

Of Curses and Kisses (St. Rosetta's Academy, #1)

I really enjoyed There’s Something About Sweetie in 2019, so I’m excited for Sandhya Menon’s next book to be released in March 2020, Of Curses and Kisses. This book is the first in a fairytale retelling series and takes places at an international boarding school. In Of Curses and Kisses, the story retells Beauty and the Beast.

  • Christmas Songs & Carols: What book or author can you not help but want to sing about?

Daisy Jones & The Six

Daisy Jones and the Six was one of the most unique books that I read this year due to its interesting format, which is a series of interviews of band members. I rated this book as five stars and recommended it to several friends.

  • Gingerbread Houses: What book or series has wonderful world building?

10 Blind Dates

While this book takes place in the real world, it does a nice job describing each date as well as describing Christmas in the south. As someone who lives in the cold North, it was interesting to read about different traditions and experiences that take place in a different part of the country.

  • A Christmas Carol: Favorite classic or one that you want to read

Peter Pan

One of the units that I teach in school is in Peter Pan. It is always a fun unit because students are excited that they get to read their first “big book” in school.

 

  • Christmas Sweets: What book would you love to receive for Christmas

This year, I have no books on my wish list! I do not have any physical space for books, so I would rather receive an Amazon gift card in order to purchase books on my Kindle.

 

  • Candles in the Window: What book gives you that warm fuzzy feeling

Maybe This Time

Kasie West’s books always make me feel warm and fuzzy and one of her latest books did not disappoint this year! Maybe This Time is one of my new Kasie West’s favorites. With an emphasis on holidays throughout the year, it is the perfect book to pick up right before Christmas!

 

  • Christmas Trees & Decorations: What are some of your favorite book covers?

Snow in Love (Point Paperbacks)

I always love covers with Kasie West’s name tied on them. I love the pajamas in front of a fireplace. It is so warm and cozy for Christmas!

  • Christmas Joy: What are some of your favorite things about Christmas and/or some of your favorite Christmas memories?

Person Baking Cookies on Tray

One of my favorite traditions is baking cookies with my sister and grandma on Christmas Eve!

 

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Blogmas Day #12: Three Gifts for Three Young Adult Books

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If you’re a huge fan of books, often times you’re a huge fan of bookish merchandize. Below, I found three gifts for three series in young adult fiction that would make great gifts any time of the year for fans of these series.

If they’re a fan of… The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

I love merchandise that looks like it could easily fit into a room’s decor without people knowing right away where it comes from. This scroll map of Elfhame on Etsy would be the perfect gift to decorate your room without sticking out among other decor.

If they’re a fan of… To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before 

Another interesting piece of merchandise that I found online was a hoodie that mimics Peter Kavinsky’s from the Netflix adaption on Etsy. This hoodie features a school logo on the front, as well as Kavinsky’s name and number on the back. I think this would be perfect for a fan of the books as well as someone who is a huge fan of Noah Centineo, who plays Peter Kavinsky in the movie.

If they’re a fan of… Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Candles are a popular gift in subscription boxes, and these candles inspired by the Renegades series would be a great gift for a fan of the series. This set of two candles includes a blue candle named Renegades and a red candle named Anarchists.

 

What are your favorite bookish gifts?

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Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein Review

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Unfortunately, this book did not hit all the right notes for me.

Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein follows high school senior June who hitches a ride with a family friend’s son on the way to school every day. After a few awkward interactions, June and Oliver decide to play music on the way to school to fill the silence. The deal? June adds a song every time that she convinces Oliver that high school does not matter, but Oliver adds a song to the playlist every time he convinces June otherwise.

I was interested in Shuffle, Repeat because the plot sounded like a cute contemporary. The music sharing part of the story reminded me of Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, which is my favorite YA contemporary book. However, this book failed to meet several of my expectations and came across as another bland, standard YA contemporary to me.

I think my biggest issue in this book was the main character, June. This main character definitely suffers from not-like-other-girls syndrome. Even though she berates high school for its hierarchy, she is the one who stereotypes all of the other characters in this book. For example, she is surprised whenever Oliver uses advanced vocabulary because she believes she is much smarter than him because he plays football. While June does develop friendships with people outside her clique as the story progresses, her maturity never reaches that point as she expresses many of those same stereotypes (like her surprise at Oliver’s intelligence) through the end of the book. I never connected with June because not only did her voice feel inauthentic for a high school student, but her actions rarely matched what she preached. Here a few quotes that highlight June’s inauthenticity and inconsistencies for me:

Belatedly, I remember that Oliver might not follow my advanced vocabulary, and I dial it back so he’ll understand. “It’s too much.”

“Underneath?” I practically explode. “There’s nothing underneath. Your music is overly produced and overly cliché!” I point a finger at him. “It totally makes sense.” “How’s that?” Oliver still doesn’t seem mad. Only amused. “That you would be into that. It’s manufactured and it’s fake!”

It’s not because we’re geeks and it’s not because we buy into some sort of outdated hierarchy of popularity.” “I never said—” “It’s because we’re better than it.”

“You’re kind of like an extra gay boyfriend, except you’re straight.” Oliver frowns. “Or I can be your straight guy friend…since that’s what I actually am.” “It’s just that it so rarely works.”

As for the other characters in the novel, they are not developed past the stereotypes in which June describes them. Besides the love interest, Oliver, which the most complex and interesting character in the novel, the rest of the characters missed the mark. I do not like leaving a book where I can summarize a character with one word or trope. However, that’s how I can describe most of June’s acquaintances in this story. There’s Theo, the dumb and sexist jock. There’s Ainsley, who while I had high hopes that the author would change the conniving cheerleader stereotype, fulfilled that role by the end of the novel. There’s Itch (yes, that really was his name), with the same “nothing matters” philosophy as June. Finally, there are June’s other friends only known for their respective sexualities. It confused me that a book that sought to dismantle many high school stereotypes actually managed to reinforce every single one.

As for the plot, the story plays out like many other young adult books that I’ve read. However, this book was not as successful for me. While this is an easy read that you can finish in one day, you have probably read this story and enjoyed it more in another book. Since this book is based on supporting or refuting the importance of the high school experience, you get a loose connection of football games, senior pranks, and proms. I think in a few months I will probably forget a lot about this book.

Overall, Shuffle, Repeat is an easy and quick read. If you really enjoy contemporary, this may be a book to check out. However, I would skip this one if contemporary really isn’t your thing because it probably contains all the tropes you like to avoid in the genre. I give this book two out of four stars.

 

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April TBR

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So about last month… it was not my best reading month. As a result, I finished 0 books on my TBR. I started each of these books, but did not finish any of them. Right now, these stories aren’t grabbing me and I may need to pick them up at a later time to fully enjoy them. Here were my picks for March:

  • A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely

  • Bookish Boyfriends: The Boy Next Story by Tiffany Schmidt

The Boy Next Story: A Bookish Boyfriends Novel

  • You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn

You'd Be Mine

 

Now… onto my choices for April!

  • Bookish Boyfriends: The Boy Next Story by Tiffany Schmidt

The Boy Next Story: A Bookish Boyfriends NovelI do want to finish this book before May, when it is released. I am very close to finishing this book. Fingers crossed that I finish it this month!

  • You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn

You'd Be Mine

I’m not too far into this book, but it was recently released. I want to read this book ASAP!

  • Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

Don't Date Rosa Santos

This book will also be released in May, so I want to finish it during April. This book sounds right up my alley, so I hope that I enjoy it!

 

What do you plan to read in April?

 

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March Reading Wrap-Up

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March ended up being a month of ARCs! I was approved on NetGalley for a few releases that I’ve been excited for this year. While I enjoyed all of them, I was slightly disappointed in one book from a contemporary author that I loved last year. Here’s what I read (each book on this list was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review):

  • Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett (★ ★ ★ ★)

Serious Moonlight

I enjoyed Serious Moonlight much more than Alex, Approximately which is another book that I have read by this author.

  • There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon (★ ★ ★ ★)

There's Something About Sweetie

This is definitely my favorite book by Sandhya Menon yet. I found When Dimple Met Rishi slightly average and did not enjoy From Twinkle, With Love, so I’m excited to find a book by this author that I really loved.

  • Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer (★ ★ ★)

Call It What You Want

While I still enjoyed reading this book, the story itself never captured me like the other two contemporary books that I have read by Brigid Kemmerer.

 

 

What was the best book that you read in March?

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Make Me Pick Up a Book

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is things that make me pick up a book. There are so many new releases every year, it is hard to choose what books to bring to the front of my TBR. However, I do notice a common theme in books that I read. Generally, I will pick up a book if…

  • It is a contemporary book

My favorite genre is contemporary, so I find myself more drawn to books in this genre than other books.

  • It is a light-hearted book

I tend to prefer books that make me smile, laugh, or feel happy. While I do like the occasional more “serious” book, I prefer more light-hearted stories that guarantee a happy ending.

  • It is written by a favorite author

Even if the plot does not sound as interesting to me as their other books, I will still pick up books by my favorite authors. While this does not always work in my favor, for example 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne, I still typically find the book an okay read.

  • It has an interesting or unique premise

I love books that offer something different or unique, even if it isn’t in my preferred genre. For example, I picked up Sadie by Courtney Summers this year because the podcast element sounded unique and interesting to me. When I browsed the book aisle in middle school many years ago, I picked up The Hunger Games because it sounded interesting even though I really only read Sarah Dessen books at the time. The Hunger Games ended up being one of my favorite book series for a long time!

  • It is a hyped book

Sometimes, I feel like I wait too long after new books are released and I miss out on the initial excitement. Recently, I have picked up more and more “hyped” books to see my own opinion. While I tend to find most hyped books average, I have found quite a few books that I really enjoyed this way. I ended up really liking Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and The Wicked King by Holly Black (although the first book in this series did not live up to the hype for me).

  • It is a stand-alone book

I definitely prefer stand-alones as opposed to series, which translates into a lot of areas of my life. I prefer reality competition shows, like Project Runway or The Bachelor, where I only need to track the story for one season as opposed to shows like Pretty Little Liars or Game of Thrones. I always drop off somewhere in the middle and never pick it back up. Likewise, it takes a lot for me to become invested in a series. As a result, I am more likely to pick up a stand-alone than something that could spin off into multiple books.

  • It has a good synopsis

Even if it isn’t my typical book pick, a book can really pull me in with a good synopsis on the back cover. Like I mentioned earlier, I picked up The Hunger Games on a whim at a bookstore because of what I found on the back cover. Additionally,

  • It has a cute cover

You should never judge a book by its cover, or so they say, but a good cover definitely pulls me in. If I see a book with a cute font and happy stock photo (think Kasie West), I can sense if a book is up my alley. Book covers are supposed to market themselves to the right people and something cute and happy definitely draws me in.

  • It is recommended by someone I trust

If my sister enjoys a book, then I will probably read it since we have similar tastes. For example, she introduced me to Sarah Dessen’s books in middle school and she quickly became one of my favorite authors. Just Listen still remains my favorite YA book about ten years later.

  • It has fan art.

If I see a lot of fan art depicting characters in a book or series, it motivates me to pick up the book. Characters make or break a book for me. If a see a lot of people enjoy the characters in a series so much that they create artwork of the characters, it makes me want to pick up the book.

 

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Book Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

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Unfortunately, too many aspects of this book did not add up.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang follows Stella Lane, a successful mathThe Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient, #1)ematician with Asperger’s. While advancing in her career, Stella becomes frustrated to see now advances in her dating life. As a result, Stella hires Michael Phan to help make her relationship ready. However, the business agreement grows complicated when Stella develops feelings for Michael.

I want to read more adult books, so I am always looking for more recommendations online. I saw many recommendations for The Kiss Quotient with many comparisons to The Hating Game and other adult books considered great stepping stones from people wanting to explore outside of the YA realm. Personally, The Kiss Quotient left me feeling unsatisfied and I find myself not buying into its hype.

After looking more into the thought behind this book, the concept still sounds interesting. The author wanted to create a story similar to Pretty Woman where the roles are reversed between the two main characters. I adore Pretty Woman, however, I think this story failed to capture what made that story so successful. For me, this book focused too heavily on the physical relationship between the two main characters. Yes, the synopsis emphasizes this aspect of the story, but I was still caught off guard that this seemed to be the only sense of the relationship between the two main characters. For me, I needed to see a stronger emotional connection between Stella and Michael to really buy into their relationship.

As for the characters, themselves they never really stood out to me and I never really connected with them. While I enjoyed that the author included a main character with autism and infused her own cultural background into the story, the characters never seemed fully developed or three dimensional. Additionally, I found Michael’s overprotectiveness a little off-putting and unhealthy. Overall, their personalities appeared very similar to countless other characters that I’ve read in books that I enjoyed a lot more. Characters are a huge factor that determines whether or not I love a story and I just never connected with these two characters.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed with this read. However, I can see why other people may enjoy this story, especially if they are huge romances fans. For me, this book fell a little flat. I give The Kiss Quotient three out of five stars.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Music I Listen to on my Way to Work

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is an audio freebie. I love listening to music, especially upbeat songs as we moved deeper into spring and into summer. I have developed a greater appreciation since my commute to work is forty minutes each way, which makes my total time on the road almost an hour and thirty minutes each day. Typically, I listen to K-Love, a Christian radio station, or put in one of the CDs in my car. Here are some of the songs that I have been listening to on my way to work (you’ll notice that my Zach Williams CD has definitely been a favorite this past month!):

  • Chainbreaker by Zach Williams
  • Rolling Stones by Lauren Daigle 
  • Best News Ever by MercyMe
  • Summer Nights from the Grease Soundtrack
  • Old Church Choir by Zach Williams
  • Born to Hand Jive from the Grease Soundtrack
  • 7 Rings by Ariana Grande
  • Survivor by Zach Williams
  • Greased Lightning by the Grease Live Cast
  • Thank U, Next by Ariana Grande 

 

What songs do you listen to on the way to work, school, etc.?

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