Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Charmed by Chocolate (Love at the Chocolate Shop #6)Charmed by Chocolate by Steena Holmes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[actual rating 2.75]

If you want a fluffy romance, this may be right up your alley. It just wasn't exactly what I was looking for.

We follow Leah, a tv figure on "Charmed" (similar to Bachelor), who is just getting over an overblown scandal. She returns back to Marietta for a break, and there gets reunited with her childhood best friend and her fierce grandmother. Obviously from the cover you can see that this book does have to do with baking and chocolates, which play a big role in the setting.

Personally though, I found a lot of things in this story extremely frustrating and annoying. For example, the MC best friend literally have ruined her life several times over; and I just wanted to shake the whole group and be like, stop treating Leah like sh*t and expecting something in return. Listen, I truly appreciate all type of female friendships, but not only was this one unhealthy, emotional manipulate/abusive, but Leah never addressed this issue. At some points it just seemed like she was a puppy to her friend, escalating between guilt and favors and I just couldn't deal with it. My favorite character was defectively Leah's Gram, who was fierce and stood up to Leah trying to show her reason and truth in the midst of a foggy to her situation.

Also a key thing in these types of romances that often gets played the wrong way, and in an endless cycle that I'm not always willing to get through is lack of communication. I swear this whole book could have been resolved in one chapter if the characters simply had a face-to-face conversation where they explained what had happened and what they were feeling. But that would be pointless, wouldn't it have been? Because that means that the author wouldn't have the chance to drag out the whole plot and tangle it with the trope of miscommunication.

One trope that I absolutely adored and will always love was childhood best friends turned to lovers. One trope that I absolutely hate is the concept of "soul mates" and everybody in the community loves it. A mix of salt and sugar was interspersed within this text, which made me want to continue. Also the fact that this is a fairly short read also made the book bearable enough to finish.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing with an e-arc of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

If The Creek Don't  RiseIf The Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was getting lots of buzz and excitement, and I was really hoping for this to be an amazing mark, but sadly it missed the mark by a lot. Not only did I not connect or root for any of the characters, but I found it extremely difficult to understand the dialect and gets accustomed to the dialogue that this author display.

Trigger warnings: abuse

We follow Sadie, a 17 year old pregnant women, who seems to be bright soul in this small Appalachian village, that's stricken with poverty and isolated from the rest of the world. Backwards, we could call it. Then one person, an Eastern teacher comes out and pulls the balance of this community off center. This book is supposed to give us a deep dive into the demons and struggles of living in North Carolina Appalachia as an uneducated, poor white women.

Let me tell you, this is an extremely difficult read. There were many difficult scenes that took me a little while to process before I could make full sense of them, so I would not reccomend using this as a beach read, even though it will be published in the summertime and the cover is deceptive bright.

If the Creek Don't Rise sometimes felt like riding choppy waves, because of all of the POV changes. Usually, I am all for this type of alternation, but in this specific instance I felt like it didn't quite work. My problem with it was, that not only do we often switch POVs(and get introduced to brand new characters in the story which I didn't understand how they were connected) but also we move back and forth in time, which made it even more hard to keep track off.

My one great thing was the character of Sadie. I really was rooted for her and felt like I could deeply connect to her as a beautiful human, and being the central one in the story it made the story sparkle a little bit more, and because of this one person that every thread and strand keeps on coming back too, I found this book enjoyable enough to bear to finish it.

I had trouble grasping the setting of 1970s in North Carolina, maybe because I didn't feel distinct of different culture that could have been portrayed more directly, I feel like. I've seen other reviewers praise this part of Weiss writing, but I honestly thought that she work on this element in her debut novel.

The ending wasn't particularly special, because it was predictable, but I thought that it was a solid resolution to this. The author doesn't leave us hanging in the middle of an event, she wraps it up quite neatly, which I could objectively appreciate.

**Thanks you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for providing me an arc for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Chilbury Ladies' ChoirThe Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 Stars

"Perhaps there is something good that has come from this war: everything has been turned around, all the unfairness made grimly plain. It has given us everyday women a voice - dared us to stand up for ourselves, and to stand up for others."

Stories of strong women in WWII, my favorite things in all the books of historical fiction. I loved this book so much, I loved all of it; didn't want this perfect thing to end.

This book is told through letters or diaries, and it chronicles the narratives of the different townspeople that were left behind in Chilbury, England. There is solid female friendship, feminism motherly figures, and an overall kinship and connection between the members of this all-women's choir. The intricacies and differences of a small village compared to the setting of other urban centers that we often see was extraordinarily done.

There is a colorful collection of stories that come to paint a beautiful mural. We've got Mrs.Tilling, my favorite character who provided motherly moral support and was a lovely role model all around. Venetia, a flirty and attractive women who is just coming into her adulthood. The emotional intense and extremely perceptive thirteen year old Kitty, who provides us with information. Sylvie, a young Jewish evacuee who is terrified about what has become of her family. Edwina, desperate to go to help her sister, while doing something that she will regret.

The two romantic subplots felt rushed, because of the wartime and the realization that we don't know what will happen tomorrow. I do understand why the author did this in the context, but I just found a flaw in the pace, because everything happened almost two quickly in the two romantic subplots, and it didn't reach the impact and potential that it could have. I also would have liked for some of the characters to maybe write back with a note, so I could get more of a sense of who they are as recipients.

So many deep layers are presented here, of love, loss, sorrow, secrets, and what can happen to those bound by them. We come to see throughout the book how strongly these independent women become reliant on eachother, how deeply their lives are intertwined from the beginning, and the compassion and grace that permeates the church light with song.

The female friendships, the feminism, all of it was so delightful and enjoyable to read. Would most definitively highly recommend.

**Thanks to Bloggingforbooks and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Girl Out of WaterGirl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so thankful to be given an e-ARC of this book from NetGalley and the Sourcebooks Fire. I was highly anticipating this book from Laura Silverman, an author that I was following on Twitter, and I'm so glad that I read this book at this time of my life when I could relate the most.

We have Anise, a Santa Cruz local and surfboarder converted to skateboarder who has to spend the summer in Nebraska to take care of her aunt's children after her aunt had a near-fatal accident that injured her legs. So she has to leave her senior year summer behind and temporarily live in a foreign place to me.

I've been hearing this being pitched as a unique and different idea. And I was beg to disagree, this seemed to have a typical contemporary romance premise and plot. However, what makes the book shine in my eyes was the diversity of the side characters and the way that this author handles teenager relationships realistically. The dynamic between the “single parent”-her father was extremely well-developed, it wasn’t exactly the stereotypical relationship that tends to come to mind when you think about that parent-child relationship.

The number one thing for me was to my perspective accurate representation or different cultures and ethnicity that were just casually embodied by the friends and side character of Anise. She has a Polynesian best friend, a black boyfriend who has one arm, and it was by no means a focus of the story, just something that was normally adding into our colorful world.

Also it was so adorable to see her interacting with her younger cousins and really caring about them. What didn’t happen was that she got so caught her in her summer romance that she completely forgot that there are three younger people under her responsibility. Emery seems like an extremely mature tween/pre-teen who went through the real emotions that should happen when such a tragedy like this happened.

It was doubly adorable to see her relationship with Lincoln. He was honestly just a gentlemen and motivator, and just to see the care that he took to make Anise feel happy and comfortable was extremely touching. I was basically screaming “relationship goals” throughout the whole romantic subplot, swooning, and walking around like a heart eyes emoji.

My only minor complaint that wasn’t even a big deal, was that at some points in the book Anise started getting extremely whiny and complaining constantly about not being at the physical place that she wants to be in life. At other parts she acted so immature that I just wanted to cringe at the way that she was treating some people in her life. Another little thing is that I wanted the car accident to be more of a factor, or the actual incident explained the scene in detail.

The best element that I thought the author captured in a glass bottle was your heart being torn between two places. The escalating excitement, joy, regret, loneliness, and want to go back “home.” While Anise started slightly adjusting to her new environment, I was really rooting for her transition and the start of her new relationship.

I’ve not seen many authors successfully accomplish painting this clear picture of the idea of home is where your people and family are. That sounds really cliche describing that way, and the reason why readers can approach that with such hesitation is maybe because it hasn’t been done all that well previously; this is the exception.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Everything Belongs to UsEverything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rating: 3.5

Set in 1978 in South Korea, we start this novel out with the tale of protesters/factory workers who are unhappy with the conditions in their workplaces. We follow four main characters, who each follow different life paths throughout the book and give the readers glimpses to their struggles and victories.

A word that I would use this is clunky but memorable. The narrative switches from one person to another rapidly, and I found it extremely hard to follow along with what was going on with the various storylines. Rarely did they intersect in a way where I understood how the "puzzle pieces" of the story fit in. Also, in the epilogue there was some vague mentions of news of one of the MC's in a newspaper article, but I honestly was very curious to see from their perspective how they feel about being successful in their life. It was just jarring to be traveling with this character throughout this whole book, and then we have no word directly from her fifteen years later, while other character got the stage.

Jinsun and Namin were the two characters who really stood out to me, because I genuinely enjoyed watching their complex female friendship progress through the years, and also a look at the various flashbacks that got them to where they are today.

They were deeply flawed, deeply imperfect characters, but that's what made them more realistic and admirable to me. Namin is an ambitious, brilliant, family oriented women who is on the track to success and has so much potential ahead of her. Jinsun is the daughter of an extremely rich businessmen, one of the top friends with the current leader of South Korean. She floats around in this book, without seeming to lay down roots. While I could appreciate Namin's drive, I could also sympathize with Jinsun's unfortunate circumstances which led her to where she is today.

The historical significance of this, hit very close to home in current events that are going on in the USA. Intentionally or not, I got a sense of relevance and urgency that was coming out of these pages. The framing of the three day protests, the political landscape, the governments actions, seemed to me to be very well researched, although presented in a removed way.

The writing wasn't measuring up to my high expectations, (maybe that's partially my fault), but I felt like this was a just average style that I've seen done dozens of times before in literary fiction. This story felt promising and had lots of potential, yet I felt like the author could have gone farther with what she said. Granted, she's a debut author, and I can respect that fact and give her wiggle room to grow in her future projects.

This story features friendship, familial responsibilities, coming into your adulthood, activism, political intrigue, and the moral dilemmas that people face everyday. It falls into the literary historical fiction category. Overall, I enjoyed the reading experience itself and would recommend for fans of these topics and genre to definitively pick it up.

**Thanks to the publisher for sending me an arc in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Blood Rose Rebellion (Blood Rose Rebellion, #1)Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I went into this book with the expectations that this might be a veiled repeat of what every YA fantasy is. Honestly, I wasn't that inaccurate in the prediction department.

This book follows a "Barren" girl, Anna who goes to Hungary with her grandmother who originated from there. Her family is part of the Luminate, a powerful and rich group in society who is controlled by the "Circle," an elite group of magic-holders. The time-frame of this is set during an uprising revolution, where Anna must choose which side to fight on and how she's going to use what she has to help those in need.

The best parts of the story, was the setting which was Hungary. I personally found it to be very refreshing, as I've never seen a book written in this place before. I would have liked the author to expand a little bit more on the historical impact and circumstances which lead to this actually happening, but you can't have everything.

All of the character absolutely fell flat for me, there was no life, no personality, no flair to make them who they are. I was very disappointed to see yet another cardboard cutout of any average white girl, who is portrayed as a "special snowflake" with "special powers", and acts like the chosen one is in town.

There was an insta-love element, and the main character literally kisses every boy that she meets and she finds even mildly attractive. I am honestly not trying to be slut-shaming at all here, but I just find it disconcerting that she flits from one guy to another, when her sister literally has an almost arranged marriage to marry for money and power. The chemistry wasn't in there with any of the many love interests that she has, I just couldn't and didn't ship them in anyway whatsoever; therefore I didn't care what happened to them as a unit.

**Disclaimer: I don't identify with this group of marginalized folks that I am going to be talking about in this bit below.**

My big problem was problematic rep. that was shown towards the "gypsy" (a slur which if offensive) people, who are called Romani as well in this book. Let me just show you some direct quotes from the test about what I mean. So some background, which may be a contain spoilers. Our MC love interest in Romani, and treated horrible by the members of the Circle. Anna has several encounters with the Romani people, where I feel like she is racist towards them stereotypes them. Here are just a couple of excerpts :

"A spark of indignation lit me, warning me in the evening air. How dare this Gypsy accuse me of being unclean?"

'His words were educated--eloquent, even-- not something I'd expected from a Gypsy."

"I have met an astoundingly attractive man. He is, unfortunately Gypsy and penniless..."

"Do I suprise you? You think because I am a Gypsy I am illiterate and ignorant of science?
'No', I-- I stopped. That was precisely what I had been thinking."

"Were he not Gypsy-no, Romani- I thought we might be friends."

"A couple of children spotted me and came running. They tugged at my sleeve and laughed and held out small brown hands. My first instinct was to pull back, as if they might pollute me."

Gabor, the love interest, tries to educate her and talk to her about who his people are, what their traditions are, yet she still treats him inferiority. Refers to him being a "gypsy" behind his back, and doesn't think of him as being capable of helping her succeed. These injustices and internalized prejudice is addressed by the author in the author's note and sporadically the character witness these crimes (and does nothing to help or step in, only cares about saving her love interest). Here is a sentence from the author's note:

I choose to use "Romani" to acknowledge this preference and to reflect the different between the way Gabor views his family and friends (and the way Anna comes to) and outsider perspectives. Where "Gypsy" is used, it refers strictly to outsiders' perspectives of Romani life.

This author note in itself is really confusing because I thought that Anna an outsider's perspective...she's by no means an insider into the culture, so I don't understand what type of distinction this author is trying to create.

Here's another scene, where Gabor feels like's he's being portrayed as helpless, and I found this interaction to be so frustrating.

"You cannot help with this." His lips tightened. "I may be Romani, but I am not helpless."

That's my whole rant that I've got to say about this book. I was honestly expecting better, but was sorely disappointed by the elements that were found in this story.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Friday, February 10, 2017

The Edge of EverythingThe Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Going into this book, I had high expectations and hope that this wouldn't turn into a dominantly romance based story. Here we follow Zoe, and her journey to figure out who killed her neighbors and what actually happened to her dad. "X", a resident of the lowlands mysteriously shows up on the scene of a winter storm to harvest a soul. There begins a tale of coming-of-age, love, and sacrifice. As you can see from the synopsis, there's the line:

The first fifty to one hundred pages of this book were really solid, they could make me appreciate Giles as a writer. His craft is there, his descriptions are there, and up to my standards, and so I really enjoyed his writing style. Then we get to the part where the romantic subplot starts overshadowing the urban fantasy aspect of it. I had all sorts of problems with the romance.

For the perfect love, what would you be willing to lose?

First of all, it was insta-love, which as you may know is my number one pet peeve in YA. I honestly thought that in this situation, it would have been better to portray a slow burn than to jump on the first opportunity of romance. Some parts of this plot were underwhelming, and I really didn't like how they used the involvement of the father to further their own purpose. It was predictable to me at least, and I found it distasteful. Also, I found the whole romance to fall flat and be underwhelming in general.

My only favorite part about this was the sibling relationship between Zoe and Jonah. Jonah is an eight year old, who has ADHD and is a very sensitive child. Because of their single mother and mostly absent father, it has fallen on Zoe's shoulders to be the protectors of him. It's refreshing to see this healthy relationship portrayed in YA books, when usually if there's siblings, they're kind of brushed away as side characters. But truly, all of the character in this book were interacting with Jonah in one way or another.

I would like to see this worldbuilding be expanded. I honestly thought that what we knew of the "Lowlands" isn't enough to lead us on. I read this some time ago, and the only thing that I can remember is that it was like hell, but the author doesn't really describe the particular landscapes, or the rules that govern that society in them. The ending of this book does set you up right for the next installment, where I would hope that the author could develop the concept of "Lowlands."

Overall, although I could enjoy the reading experience for what it was, this just wasn't the book for me.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange to my honest review. All opinions are my own**

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

i hate everyone,except you

I Hate Everyone, Except YouI Hate Everyone, Except You by Clinton Kelly
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Why do I make myself go through the torture of reading celebrity memoirs that are written by people who are not writers? When I started reading this book, I literally knew nothing about the author, who he was, what he did, nothing at all. However, I came out of the book extremely unsatisfied with the stories that were in it.

Sure Kelly sounded like a nice average celebrity, but here's my problem: I just didn't care, I just wasn't interested in his life stories. I know that might sound extremely cold, but the snarky way that the book is written in is just adequate. There was nothing special here, nothing that made me set this book apart from any other of the dozens of memoirs that I've read. Sometimes, he was trying too hard to be funny and I can't remember even one time when I genuinely started laughing during one of the so-called "funny moments." I don't know, maybe I am hard to crack a smile on, but this book didn't inspire any emotion from me.

"Every single time you set up a comparison between yourself and someone else, you lose, no one wins.”

“The problem, as far as I can tell, is that women spend infinitely more time than men paying attention to, competing with, worrying about, everyone other than themselves.”

He talks a lot about his experience on with fashion and being on the tv where he would critique women, his experience on being gay, and his experience with happiness and not caring what other people say or think about him. Sure, he had some important lessons to convey, but in the end I though that his writing was a little bit too preachy. If I wanted a self-help book, I was have gone out an bought one. I really don't need a rich white man going around and pointing fingers at women comparing themselves so much and how harmful it is to them. Not only is it annoying, I just thought that it's not his place.

Sometimes, he was entertaining in his content, and other times he was uncomfortable. Sometimes he seemed so full of himself, and other times he seemed to make lots of self-depreciating jokes. Ultimately, that leaves me with an unsatisfied taste in my mouth.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinion are my own.**

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The Fifth Petal (The Lace Reader, #2)The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This story follows the re-opening of a 20 year old crime, in which three of the Salem "witches" descendants in modern-day Salem got mysteriously killed.

Our main character Callie Cahill, was a child at the time of the crime, has been scarred for life (both figuratively and literally). Years later, she hears of an incident of a young teenage book dead in her hometown, Salem and Rose, her second mother from her past is being suspected. That drags her back, where its time to discover the answers about what really happened.

It's an average whodunit, and although this was fast paced, it had no real big twists or turns that I didn't see coming. At some points in this book, the answer was so obviously in front of Callie's face, that I was getting legit frustrated with the character's believed perception of what happened.

The romantic subplot was predictable, but I felt there to be absolutely no chemistry between the love interests. In general, this was an unnecessary side-tracking of the main mystery plot. I was also caught unaware that this was the second book in a series, therefore I might have missed some of the context clues in the first book.

“Tell me what you want, and I'll tell you who you think you are. Tell me what you fear, and I'll tell you who you really are.”

“I am a cypher...I carry no weight, no worth, no influence. I represent nothing. I do not exist.”

Writing style wise, it was almost too simplistic and self-helpy to me. For example, in the quotes that I have above I felt like the author tried too hard to get their point across. I understand that she wants our main characters to get extremely reflexive about their past, and how it's affecting right now, but it did get tiring at some point. This type of writing didn't click with me, with is the main reason why I just didn't care about this story.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinion are my own.**

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Friday, February 3, 2017

SeredipiTea Tour is a tour with a giveaway that features [12 different] teas which the authors have selected thoughtfully to represent their novels. It runs from April 1-12th, and there are twelve book bloggers needed to help with this promotion. Follow the discussion at the hashtag #seredipiteatour

What will be included in your post?
~a little about their book ~how the tea relates to their book ~a little about your tea life ~cover ~synopsis ~author/book links/release date

Why do this?
You will be helping promote a debut author's novel, which is always greatly appreciated. Plus, we are going to be doing a rafflecopter giveaway for your viewers to have a chance to win these teas, as well as a rafflecopter for just the participating bloggers for a $15 Amazon/bookdepository stores.

Questions? How do I sign up?
If you are interested, please contact me via this Google Form at the bottom of this post and I will reply to you via email.

Here are the books that will be featured in this tour!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Mexico: StoriesMexico: Stories by Josh Barkan
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Going into this book, I already had some low expectations. But coming out of it, I recognized that it was hella problematic. One of the warning signs on this book is simply the title, “Mexico”. We know that there is no way a writer, especially a not ownvoices writer can capture the whole variety of a country or city as a whole.

**Disclaimer: I am not of the Mexican ethnicity, I don’t claim to be an expert on this type of representation. This is also not an attack on the author in any way, but on the representation that was presented.**

The way that Mexico City was portrayed was narrow and stereotypical, because all it focused on in every story is crime, gang members, henchmen, drug dealer, etc.(there were derogatory slurs used like “gringo”, “naco”, etc.)

“There are occasional bullets, of course, which most of you “gringos” read about in the papers. I put the word gringos in quotation marks because I know better than to make that kind of slur, but the honest truth is that the way we think about you guys to the north.”

(You know better not to use them, yet you’re admitting us that the “we” are racist.)

“I was shocked when my brother said, ‘Georgie did it’ Georgie was a black boy who lived down the street. ‘Georgie took ‘em. I didn’t do nothin.’ And I didn’t do nothing either. I watched, I observed. I saw him make his racist accusation… As I grew up, I saw the same thing over and over.”

(This character literally admits to doing nothing about it, until he’s like over the age of fifty and then he thinks that one good deed will redeem him.)

There was nothing good, nothing wonderful about the city itself to balance out this constant negative emphasis. To be frank, I think that this book perpetuated negative stereotypes about Mexicans, and that’s harmful and hurtful that minority that might be reading it. In every single story there was a drug cartel highlighted or mentioned, but why and to what end?

Also on the negative representation of women was really harmful, because they were portrayed as victims throughout. There was also only one story that actually featured a woman as the main narrator, which is disappointing because that’s not painting a diverse picture of what Mexico City looks like.

Honestly, we don’t need a story with all white- American characters that have privilege and move to Mexico City with their various professions to live out their life. We don’t need to see yet again another white foreigner/immigrant coming into a country different than his origin of birth and being confused or only selectively seeing the “dark side” of things in the city.

**Thanks to bloggingforbooks and the publisher for giving me a copy in exchange of my honest review**

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