Friday, June 30, 2017

Review: Windfall

Windfall Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Alice bought her best friend, Teddy, a lottery tick for his 18th birthday, she never thought that it would actually be a winning ticket! She just picked numbers that meant something to her and gave him a gag gift.

But when they check the numbers (after they had to find the missing ticket...which ended up in the garbage...) Teddy's life dramatically changed. Then Teddy wanted to give Alice some of the money - especially since she is the whole reason he became a multi-millionaire!

Alice, though, has already lived through enough change in her life - especially when her mother and father passed away 13 months apart from one another. So when she had to move from California to Chicago to live with her aunt, uncle and cousin Leo, Alice knew she wasn't very lucky in life. So to take some of that money from the lottery, Alice knew that it would change her life dramatically again, and she just can't handle that much change again.

She is also having a hard time watching Teddy go through his change as well, especially since she has had a huge crush on Teddy for the longest time.

But another change is happening in Alice's life: college. Where is she going to go? Standford where her mother was going to go back for more school? Where she used to live? Or Western where her aunt went to undergraduate college? Where she would be closer to the family she has had for the past 9 years?

One thing is for sure: things are about to change for Alice.

This was a cute book. Very full of suspense and change and decisions. The one thing I kept thinking of was "If I was Alice, would I have taken the money Teddy offered me?" And the honest answer is: yeah. Which makes me feel less noble than Alice, but she had her reasons and I have my reasons. I wouldn't take anything though, just enough to be able to pay off my debt in life.

But Alice and Teddy have a lot of hard decisions to make and that is very real-like to me because everyone goes through a lot of terrible times and has to make the smallest little decisions. Teddy just had to make an entirely big decision that the whole world knew about.

There were some things that made me roll my eyes about, but overall I enjoyed this book and it definitely made me think!

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review: Heartless

Heartless Heartless by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Catherine is the daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove in Kingdom of Hearts. She is of the higher class in town, but Catherine doesn't care about any of that. Instead, she wants to be a baker and have the whole kingdom come to her bakery shop to buy her delicious tarts and cakes and pies - everything!

And Catherine even makes the most delicious treats for the King himself! He adores her scrumptious creations - but apparently he adores Catherine herself as well. When they go to a ball hosted by the King, Catherine's mother makes her wear a bold red dress - only to find out that it's a black-and-white ball and Catherine is the only one who didn't follow the dress code. But it is only fitting for the future Queen of Hearts to be wearing red - the King's favorite color - right?

Only Catherine isn't sure she wants to be the Queen. She just wants to be a baker! Her passion is making treats - not being a Queen of an entire kingdom.

When Catherine flees from the ball before the King can make his proposal to Catherine about being his wife, she stumbles upon the King's new joker: Jest. And from that moment on, Catherine knew she was done for. Jest is magical and wondrous and has so many secrets and hidden talents. She's feared that she is entrapped by one of his acts.

With the pressure from her parents to her best friend and maid, but also being pulled by the other side by her attraction to Jest and her love for baking, Catherine needs to figure out what her choice will be.

Before the choice is made and she is too late to decide anything for herself.

I really liked this novel! I knew going in that this was the story about how the Queen of Hearts became the Queen of Hearts and why she was so bitter and mean and evil, so I wasn't surprised by the ending in the least.

The thing about books about the "evil" character of a beloved story is that you come to pity and understand why the "evil" character became evil. And then you want to feel for them and try to understand that they aren't really "evil" but more they have no more choices in their life. And then it ruins the beloved story because you feel sorry for the "evil" character instead of hating that character like you are supposed to.

So yeah, that has happened to me now. Catherine was such a kind, good-hearted girl at the beginning and she only wanted to be happy and be loved. The two things that could do that (Jest and baking) were taken away from her and she had no more reason to love or be happy.

The adventure that Catherine went through during this novel was a roller coaster of emotions, and she lived completely through each one until she didn't want to live anymore because of the results.

I seriously want to spoil everything, because the best things about this novel are the spoilery part, but I won't do it! You'll have to read it for yourself to find out what amazing things happen!

I'm glad this is a standalone novel because it completely ties in to the beginning of Alice in Wonderland and why the Queen of Hearts is the way she is.

Marissa Meyer did a wonderful job making the main story of Catherine, but also all of the side stories of the side characters that ties nicely into Alice in Wonderland, to make it a complete novel full of adventures and mysteries.

I'm so glad that I finally got around to reading this and I am looking forward to more by Marissa Meyer in the future!

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Review: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe by Ryan North
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Squirrel Girl is in for another adventure when Tony Stark finds a machine that CLONES living things! And Doreen accidentally gets locked in this machine which makes a clone of herself! At first it was great having two Squirrel Girls - one is Doreen and the other is Allene - to be able to help with school work and stopping crime and just to hangout with someone who thinks exactly the same way.

But after one disagreement about the human race, Doreen is finding that she may not agree with everything Allene is thinking. And when Allene decides to beat up the entire Marvel Universe with both the good side and the bad side, sending them to the Negative Space she and her squirrel comrades could run Earth, Doreen realizes that she needs to figure out how to stop Allene.

And so starts another epic tale of just how unbeatable Squirrel Girl really is!

I seriously love reading Squirrel Girl. She is quirky, fun, smart, entertaining, and her love for squirrels makes me the happiest girl on Earth. Finally, another person who loves those little guys as much as I do!!

I really enjoyed seeing the chart that Allene created in how to defeat every character of the Marvel Universe by making a chart and starting with the weakest and working her way up by using their fancy shields, toys, or whatever. I'm not a huge Marvel comic book fan (I'm more into the movies...sorry!), but it was really neat being able to see how it could potentially work out to defeat everyone!

The moment with Tippy was very emotional and I cried right along with Doreen. Their friendship is very close and I love seeing that so much! One of these days I might be able to get my very own Tippy.

Loved this and I am totally looking forward to getting the rest of the comics in my hand so I can read and experience them :)

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Review: Crooked Kingdom

Crooked Kingdom Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kaz and his group were thrown for a loop when they completed their mission (with flying colors, they might add) only to get jipped when it came time for them to get their hefty award. And on top of that, with one of the members taken hostage to make an exchange in 7 days, Kaz is now scheming and planning a new plan of action to get Inej back in their circle of crows.

Each time Kaz plans a new action of attack, another group in Ketterdam decides they want to go against the Crows and get their money's worth while they all have a price on their head. And each member of the group is going through a lot of internally issues that they have to deal with in order to help with the plan to get everyone safely out of Ketterdam in one piece - and with their millions of kruges as well.

And so begins a series of many adventures, many plans, many backstabbing members, and many deep conversations that each member (Kaz, Inej, Wylen, Matthias, Nina, Jesper) must have in order to have a clear mind when the biggest battle of all happens to save their reputation and money.

I. Love. This. Book! Seriously! I didn't think it could get any better, but it did! There is A LOT of things that happen in this book.

I mean, I think Kaz came up with 10ish different plans? Which mean that 9ish didn't work out so well, but that is a lot of scheming for one mind to do in a novel! Kaz has such a brilliant mind and he is always planning a plan B and C and D, etc, etc. And he is almost never fazed when his first plan doesn't work out. He just takes a moment, composes his thoughts, and then voila! Another idea. It's amazing to think of what goes on in his mind.

I love all of the characters in this book. If I had to say which one was my favorite.... I might pick Inej... Maybe... Or maybe Nina? Gah, they are all such great characters, it's very hard to pick!

Inej is a fighter, a survivor, and she is so steathly it's crazy madness. She is cunning and brave and I loved watching her and Kaz struggle through their issues with skin-on-skin contact for their own reasons.

But then Nina is just as much of a fighter, survivor, cunning and brave as all of the other characters too. And she had to struggle through the addiction of the drug she took to save everyone's lives, and that changed her entire self when it affected her Grisha abilities.

I will say, there were 6 members of the group in "Six of Crows" and by the end there are 5... so yes, one was defeated and it was sad and terrible and I wish it wouldn't have happened. But with the amount of battles and missions these people went on, I'm not really surprised that all of them didn't make it. And no, I'm not telling who it is. You'll have to read it to find out :)

Love, love, loved this book, this series, the Grisha series - just ALL of it!! I'm definitely going to be getting my own copies of these two series and owning them so I can re-read them whenever I want to because I seriously loved so much about these series. Leigh Bardugo is on my list of favorite authors and I am going to be snatching up her upcoming novels when they come out :)

Read them. You won't be disappointed!

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Six of Crows

Six of Crows Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kaz Bakker has been dealt a crappy life since he was 9, and at 16 he's learned to make the best of what he's been given and has become a professional in everything he's set out to achieve in his life. So when an opportunity to make some money - LOTS OF MONEY - is offered to him, Kaz knows he has to jump on it immediately. But he can't do this mission by himself and sets out to get a talented crew under his belt.

He has his Wraith - Inej - who can move without making a sound, moving the air, or have anyone notice her. She is his secret weapon and Inej is already making plans for her future when she gets her share of the reward money.

Jesper is a talented sharpshooter and his aim is almost always true. With the bad gambling games he's been having, his money will be getting him out of the debt that he has created for himself.

Wylan is useful at making bombs, but his use for Kaz is that he is related to a certain someone that Kaz can leverage if things hit the fan.

Nina is a heartrender, a talented Grisha, and she is the only one who can get another member to join the crew. She is willing to do anything to get Matthias out of the prison she put him in, even if he hates her because of what she is.

Matthias is Fjerdian and wants nothing to do with this mission. But when Kaz holds the only thing to pardon him from a crime he did not commit, he has no choice but to go with them so he can go home a free man and move on with his life.

But Matthias is torn because he is going to have to betray his people. Because the crew is going to break into the Ice Court and get to the prison. Which is Matthias' home and he has to tell everyone what the security is, how to avoid certain areas, and what's the best way to get to the place they need to go to break out a scientist and deliver him to the man who hired Kaz.

And Kaz's biggest incentive is that he knows a secret about everyone. If at first they don't want to help, Kaz will tell them what he knows and how he will use it against them.

But there are twists and turns around every corner of their mission. So many, that Kaz and his crew may not be able to succeed in the end...

I seriously loved this book! I really liked the Grisha trilogy and didn't know if I would be able to enjoy this book as much since it's not about the original characters, but somehow Leigh Bardugo made an even better storyline with amazing characters for me to fall in love with! I think I love this book even more than the Grisha series, and that's saying a lot!

I loved all of the characters and how the reader got to experience all of their different viewpoints throughout the story. And I loved the subtle romance that was popping up between all different kinds of characters. So far there isn't a love triangle (like the Grisha series. Or was it a love square?).

I also loved how talented all of the characters are and how different they all are from each other. Each person has a different gift or talent and they know how to use them to their advantage.

I'm so excited that I got my hands on this book and I cannot wait to read the second book to see what happens after the cliffhanger Bardugo left us in!

I am definitely recommending this series (and the Grisha series) to all of my friends who love YA :)

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Review: The Pregnancy Project

The Pregnancy Project The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gaby's mom got pregnant when she was just 14 years old. She wasn't able to finish school, but instead got married to the father of her child and worked many part time jobs to make money. Life was hard for Gaby's mother, and when Gaby came along as child #8, she was already making decisions about her future long before any kid ever does.

Because as much as Gaby loves her family, and all of her nieces and nephews, Gaby is going to finish high school and go to college. She wants to make a change in her life that doesn't follow the same path that the rest of her family did.

During her senior year in high school, every student needs to do a year long project of a subject that means something to them and how to impact the community as a whole. In Gaby's sophomore year, she came up with the perfect project: pretend to be pregnant and report back on how society has treated her differently as a whole. Gaby is a honors student, works hard and is in the top 5% of her class, so being pregnant may or may not changed people's perspective of Gaby. There are many teenage pregnant girls in school, so this project is near and dear to her heart - especially because all of her siblings had children either out of wedlock or during high school.

Throughout this project, Gaby came across a lot of different reactions from the people in her community and Gaby was actually going through a lot of emotions that she didn't expect to go through. It was a very emotional project for Gaby that she will not be able to forget in her lifetime.

I loved this book! I don't read nonfiction novels, but I was so intrigued by this story and that it really happened that I had to read it, and I'm so glad that I did!

Gaby is a brave girl for doing this project. Because of her family history, she got a lot of negative comments from her siblings because they expected more from her than they did when they were growing up. It was good that Gaby had her mom, boyfriend, and her friend Sonja to talk to about things because being ostracized by everyone else was terrible for her. And that made her realize just how important this project was because teenage girls who ARE pregnant go through this treatment everyday by people who used to respect them.

I'm so glad that I didn't let this being a non-fiction novel deter me away from reading it because what Gaby did was so brave and admirable to others who go through this situation. It makes me realize that I don't do nearly as much as I could for people in need and that I should try to do better. Whether that happens, I have no idea, but it does make me think more outside of myself than I have before, and these books are meant to inspire readers and viewers (since there was a Lifetime movie made as well).

I will definitely be recommending this book to other people and maybe even try to read it for my book club to discuss the project that Gaby implemented!

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Review: My Sister Rosa

My Sister Rosa My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Che is terrified of his 10 year old sister Rosa. Che is convinced that Rosa is a psychopath, and no one around him is willing to do anything about it. Instead, Che's parents David and Sally think that Rosa is a cute 10 year old with blonde ringlets and baby blue eyes.

Rosa is learning pretty quickly what is acceptable and what is not based on people's reactions. But she knows how to manipulate adults into giving her what she wants most of the time. Rosa doesn't act around Che, though. Instead, she tells Che her deepest, darkest secrets and Che is trying to figure out how to stop her from doing terrible things.

Now that Che's family has moved to New York to be with his parents friends and work with them, Che realizes that New York is a harder place to watch Rosa. And now that Rosa has attached herself to Seimone, a daughter of the friend his parents are working with, Che is not only scared of Rosa but terrified for Seimone.

Because Rosa is not like normal 10 year old girls. There is a darkness in her. She has no empathy, no emotions, no feelings whatsoever. She doesn't love anyone - she just needs people around because they are USEFUL to her. Once their use runs out, though, who knows what she would do to the people in her life...

But as more secrets are untold, the more that Che is not sure of anymore. Because he thinks he knows all of the information that he needs to know, but Che is not aware that the answers to his questions may affect himself as well...

I read that this book is horrifying, chilling, terrifying, and a thriller, but I didn't really get that from this book. For the first part, I was pretty bored following around a 17 year old boy in New York doing his everyday stuff - which isn't much besides going to the gym and lusting after a girl who keeps saying no when she wants to say yes to Che.

Then the last half is when the action happens, but nothing that really surprised me. I didn't guess everything correctly, but I did guess that it wasn't just Rosa that had a creepy way of life because what 10 year old would learn that all on her own? I mean, I guess some do, but I just didn't get that feeling from Rosa.

But I do have to say, what I thought was going to happen never did come to prediction. But I think because I was expecting something more that the "big reveal" wasn't that surprising or creepy to me. I just expected it and would have been disappointed if it hadn't happened.

Rosa is a creepy girl. I will give you that. But I got pretty annoyed with Che and his repetitiveness about how Rosa was wrong. He was doing something about it, but not enough in my opinion. And in the back of my mind I kept thinking that he was 17 and had the right to go back to his family in Australia if he didn't feel comfortable being with Rosa.

I think I was too level headed for this book to creep me out, which is a shame because I was looking forward to something that would make me think about it long and hard way after I read it.

One thing I do want to note, like all of the other reviews on Goodreads that I've seen, is the diversity in this novel. I loved that it had such a wide variety of characters. From white boy Australian, to African American girlfriend who has 2 moms (one of whom is sick and in a wheelchair), a lesbian rich, popular fashion blogger, and a person who was neither a boy or a girl or both, but was just themselves and didn't need a label. Having the diversity didn't make me think that the author was forcing these different characters into a novel, but that they were supposed to be there. Maybe because it's in New York and that is common, or maybe because the author is just that good, but all of the authors characters belonged in this novel.

I'm glad that I got a chance to read this, even though it didn't hit me like most readers out there. Maybe after I ponder about it some more it may have the creep factor for me, but either way I loved the overall message of the novel and will be recommending this to other readers who love this genre!

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Review: Wonderful Feels Like This

Wonderful Feels Like This Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lövestam
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Steffi hates going to school. She lives in a small town with just a handful of people in her class, who all pick on her and make fun of her, spread lies, and are just downright mean to Steffi. She is just waiting until the end of the year so she can graduate and go to University for music. As long as she can survive until then, Steffi knows that the harassment she is getting at school won't matter anymore, because she will be at a school that she loves and all of the other kids will love the same thing as her: music.

When Steffi was walking home from school one day, her music's batteries died and she was left with silence to listen to. But then she heard jazz music coming from the distance. Since jazz music is her all time favorite genre, she went to investigate, and found the person playing the music: Alvar.

Alvar is at the nursing home and after he hollered at her from his window, Steffi made an instant best friend. Turns out, Alvar was a famous jazz guitarist/bassist player during the WWII. He traveled to Stockholm by train and was on a mission to be the best jazz player around town. And he just so happened did become one of the best players in the jazz industry.

Steffi is amazed by Alvar's life and how he overcame many issues to get his dream come true in the end. The more Steffi hears Alvar's life story, the more confident she becomes about her own life. Sure, things suck right now, but in a year? Who knows what Steffi can achieve.

As Steffi is getting ready to perform at a music university, she is worried about the present and the future, depending on what the outcome of her audition is. But one thing is for certain: she was a lucky girl to have found Alvar at the right time in her life.

I found out about this book because it was in the Kirkus top 10 books for young adult bookclub books for adult readers. Since I am in charge of such a bookclub at my library, I thought I'd give it a whirl beforehand and see if I like it or not. I'm not much of a history, different country, or a music fan, so this book was very out there for me, but I was up for giving it a try.

And overall, I did enjoy the book. There were a few times when I thought the book was pretty slow going and that nothing was really getting done in the book, but this isn't an adventure book and I was liking the overall message the author was giving the reader: never give up hope.

I mean, Alvar was a brave man to go live with a distant relative and try to achieve his dream. That is so scary to me - I need to have a plan with detailed information for me to feel comfortable to do something. But Alvar was loving the life he was creating for himself and that is admirable. Especially for Steffi since she was an artist being crammed into a nonmusical box.

I felt so much for Steffi. She is one tough cookie and doesn't let the main bully, Karro, bring down her spirits. And when Steffi got lost in her music and other students made on comment on how great she was on the guitar in front of Karro? That was amazing.

As much negativity Steffi got from her classmates and her older sister, I admire her for not stooping to their level and blackmailing them with deep dark secrets. Seriously, if I was Steffi I would be holding leverage over everyone negative in my life to make them feel just a smidgen of what they made her feel, but Steffi is a better person than I am. She didn't throw secrets into the world and watch chaos happen. She kept the secrets deep inside of her and didn't let that affect how she treated these terrible people.

I love the relationship and friendship between Alvar and Steffi. Seriously, how many 16 year old girls go hangout at a nursing home and spend all of their free time with an old man? Not that many, I can tell you that.

They have a special connection between the two of them and that is because of the music they both love. Having just one thing in common will bring two of the most opposite people together, and that is what happened to these two characters.

I think this book can touch a lot of readers even if they have no common interests with the main themes of this book, because in the end it's about friendship. And I think everyone can relate to that!

Really enjoyed this book! I'll have to debate if I will use it for bookclub, but I'm glad I read it overall!

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review: Almost Autumn

Almost Autumn Almost Autumn by Marianne Kaurin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The last normal day for Isle Stern was when the boy she has had a crush on for forever, the boy next door, Hermann Rod, asked her to go to the movies with him, but then he never showed. Isle waited for over 2 hours to make sure she had the right movie time, but Hermann didn't show up at all. That day was the last normal day for Isle.

Because after that, the Germans came and took her father away. He was under arrest because he was Jewish. And this begins the very trying life that will happen for the next few years for Isle's family.

There are many different stories that are told throughout this novel including Isle, Hermann, Isle's older sister Sonja, Isle's neighbor Ole Rustard, and Isle's father Isak. Each character has a different story to tell, because they have been through completely different experiences during this terrible time in their life.

Isle ran out of her house mad at her mother the night that the policemen came to take the Jewish women and children away. She was left alone, not knowing where the rest of her family was, but knowing that the Germans were looking for her. Chance had her gone from the house that night, but was she really so lucky to be left in the dark when everyone she knew was in danger?

Hermann's family was safe, since they weren't Jewish, but Hermann was putting himself in danger - he was helping Jewish families escape to Sweden - the closest country that was neutral and a safe haven for the people who were being hunted. And he was trying to protect the girl who lived next door and who was always on his mind, even when he knew she shouldn't be.

Sonja was trying to get a better seamstress job to start her own life and career when everything happened. Then she was the one taking care of her family when she was traveling with the other Jews by boat and train, since her mother checked out when her father was arrested. She was in charge of her mother and her 5 year old sister Miriam, but was constantly worrying about Isle since she was missing.

Ole Rustad lived on the floor above the Sterns. He was also safe since he was Jewish, but he was put into a compromising situation: he was taking the Jewish families from point A to point B in a taxi. He didn't know where there were going or what was going to happen to them, but he knew that it wasn't good. But Ole Rustad needed the money because his wife and him are expecting another child by Christmas.

Isak has been trying to hide from his family the negative reaction his shop was getting because he is Jewish, but once he was arrested, he had a lot more important things to worry about. When he sees his family at the camp where all Jews were taken to, he became paranoid about what was going to happen to his family.

All of these characters have a different story to tell, and have to deal with terrible inner struggles during a terrible time in history. Marianne Kaurin created a novel that will be sure to bring emotion to all readers who pick up her novel.

I'm not much into historical fiction - especially about WWII or any war. I just can't relate well to these kinds of novels and it makes for a tough read for me. But one of my friends recommended me this novel and I wanted to try something different for me. Even though it took me a little longer than it should have for me to read this short book, I'm glad I did read it because it was very touching.

I can't even imagine going through a period like this. Seriously, thinking about what all of these people had to go through because they were Jewish is terrible and it makes me sad. Being able to get an idea of what each character went through sent chills through me, because all of it was horrifying, no matter if the character was Jewish or not.

The most chilling and saddest line of the book is this:

"Sonja catches sight of a sign hanging over the platform: Auschwitz. It means nothing to her." (page 222)

Since readers would know what the Auschwitz Camp was, we all know the fate of these Jewish people. And to know that they were just regular people trying to raise their family and live their lives, to go through that fate? It breaks my heart.

I gave this 3 stars because I found myself drifting from the book often. Maybe it was the subject rather than the novel, but I do tend to read books faster when there is dialogue, rather than large paragraphs like this book.

I did enjoy this novel. I think Marianne Kaurin did a fantastic job with this book, and for it being her debut novel as well! I think history buffs will really enjoy this book and know a lot of the significance that is in here - more than I did.

I will definitely be adding this as a book to read if you like WWII topics in the teen collection!

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