Tag: Contemporary

BOOK REVIEW: A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1) by Brittany Cavallaro

BOOK REVIEW: A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1) by Brittany CavallaroA Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1)
by Brittany Cavallaro
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

“Why didn’t you just break in in the first place?” Her smile flickered. “You seemed so eager to do something. I thought I might as well include you.” “Um, thanks?” “But tonight I’ll go alone. You’re about as stealthy as a lame elephant. See you later.” She patted me on the shoulder and took off down the path, leaving me behind, both charmed and insulted. The side effects of hanging around Charlotte Holmes.

I’ll admit this book was one I passed over many many times…but was extremely curious about. I would pass over it, but then I’d be thinking of what to read, and this book always crossed my mind, inexplicably. Last year a friend told me I might love it but she wasn’t sure, and it always stuck with me. I guess this answers THAT question. This book blew me away, actually. Maybe because, overall, the reviews are extremely mixed. Maybe because I was told I possibly might not like it. Maybe because I didn’t know if I’d like it. Whatever the reason, I loved it-and, honestly, it passed a major test: Time. I have not given this poor book the time of day. My husband and I have been binge-watching all things Marvel to prepare for Endgame and, wouldn’t you know it, we started while I was 70% into this book. 5 days passed-five-where I wasn’t able to finish this story and it still got 5 stars. I’m just saying. For me? That’s unheard of. So, that should say something in and of itself. I must say that this review isn’t going to do justice to this wonderful book because I am just so freaking tired. My eyes are drooping and I am pushing to find the will to be productive-but there is so little time, these days, for me to keep up on reviews, so I am seizing this opportunity and running with it. Jamie and Charlotte deserve at least that.

Truth be told, I liked that blurriness. That line where reality and fiction jutted up against each other.

As promised, I ADORED JAMIE. And how could people not? He’s just so sweet and kind, yet he is far from perfect. He has meltdowns, he has anger issues, and really doesn’t have many people after being shipped off to boarding school. But then that’s why he and Holmes go together-they’ve never really fit into a mold, aside from their namesake (though, Jamie doesn’t come into it until he meets Charlotte).

“Hey, so, he said something about protein powder? Do you . . . do you know a good brand?” I bent to lace a cleat so he couldn’t see my face. I wasn’t sure I could pull that one off: I wore cable-knit jumpers and read Vonnegut novels and had a girl for a best friend. I was about as likely to build up giant biceps as to build a colony on the moon.

And Charlotte…Charlotte is odd, but I honestly thought of her as I would any female lead. And if not for my friend saying she had sporadic behavior that might deter me from liking her, I don’t think I’d have even paid attention. It really was that inconsequential to me. I thought she was [oddly] sweet. Endearing. Loyal. And she has issues…so what? I do, too lol. Maybe not drugs, per se, but she has somewhat of a traumatic excuse, I suppose. Either way, I could care less. I enjoy some balance in my characters, and Charlotte’s flightiness paired with Jamie’s steadfastness really spoke to my soul-the yin and yang made it so my slump slowly slipped away and I was just a happy little Chelsea curled up in bed, devouring this epic little read until it was late at night. Night is when I flourish, ye ken.

She was altogether colorless and severe, and still she managed to be beautiful. Not the way that girls are generally beautiful, but more like the way a knife catches the light, makes you want to take it in your hands.

Ultimately, I loved the slow burn progression of their ‘feelings’ and how things come to a head. I loved the peril that was mixed in slowly, twisted into the quietest moments, making them much more impactful for me and, frankly, making it a lot more unputdownable. You know those books where you just know action is coming or it isn’t coming so you set it down so you don’t miss anything or because you’re tired and why push because obviously nothing is happening then. Well, this book doesn’t allow that. They’re waist deep in a murder investigation and you never know what might happen when they are alone, when they enter a room, when it’s the dead of night, and I am trash for it (and them, but that’s young, yet). And I loved that it was a fun little mystery, yet it wasn’t scary, like in SJTR. That series is great and I adore Thomas….but oh do I lose sleep over those. My only [tiny] complaints stem from plot progression. I love when characters meet and hit it off organically, and this was a bit predetermined due to their family’s names. And I LOVED when they actually met- it was a great introduction and it was the first time we saw Jamie’s fire and loyalty. But then they became friends a little easier than I’d have liked. Otherwise? This book is gold, in my opinion. Better than gold. And I just cannot wait to read book two-I’m practically salivating over the thought of it.

Ever since I’d come to Sherringford, I’d existed in a state of constant loneliness without ever actually being alone.

So, you see, there is much to love about this hit or miss series, and I truly cannot wait for what’s to come. And I don’t actually think I highlighted much in yellow (my color I use when I’m going to put it in a review) because I was so immersed in the story… which is rare, for me. Many firsts came about when I read this fun little book, and I honestly have to thank it for reigniting my flame for reading-I was scared it was lost for a bit. I’m just so dang picky.

BOOK REVIEW: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

BOOK REVIEW: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuistonRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends...

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Thank you to NetGalley (for granting my wish!), Casey McQuiston and St. Martin’s Griffin for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’m going to try and make this review as coherent as possible, but not promises. I’m honestly just so filled with emotions and glee and joy from this book. I have so many highlights from this book and they are all SO GOOD.

Welcome to 2018 and in a far better timeline than the one we currently find ourselves in (*sob*), the successor to Barack Obama is democrat President Claremont, a divorced and re-married bad ass lady, who made two wonderful, half Mexican-half American children in Alex and June.

We start this story in the months leading up to her reelection bid. Alex, the first son, makes a fool of himself, as well as his sworn enemy Henry, at Henry’s brother’s wedding. In attempt to show that there is no animosity between the countries, Henry and Alex are forced to show the world they are indeed, close friends. And cue the start of the enemies to lovers trope, in the best way possible.

“I think it’s amazing,” Nora says. “Sworn enemies forced to make peace to settle tensions between their countries? There’s something totally Shakespearean about it.”

“Shakespearean in that hopefully I’ll get stabbed to death,” Alex says. “This sheet says his favorite food is mutton pie. I literally cannot think of a more boring food. He’s like a cardboard cutout of a person.”

As you can imagine, as Alex and Henry are forced to spend time together, their feelings begin to blossom. While Alex had only been with women up until this point in time, I appreciate McQuiston not dragging out Alex questioning if he could possibly like other men. Alex pretty quickly accepted that he was bisexual; while I can totally appreciate this is not easy for many, it kept the story moving along nicely with Alex’s quick acceptance.

While Alex and Henry’s relationship is very much rooted in friendship as they put on a carefully cultivated PR trip in Great Britain, things really get going with Henry’s visit to a New Year’s Eve party in D.C. It eventually leads to one of the best first kisses I have ever read. There’s so much tension leading up to it and I devoured every interaction between the two.

“C’mon, it’s like in the hips. You have to loosen up.” He reached down and put both hands on Henry’s hips, and Henry instantly tenses under the touch. “That’s the opposite of what I said.”
“Alex, I dont’–“
“Here,” Alex says, moving his own hips, “watch me.”
With a grave gulp of champagne, Henry says, “I am.”

I mean, be still my swooning heart. I was a little surprised how quickly Alex and Henry got together (not that I’m complaining!) as I expected a little more build up. However, I really liked how much attention was given to the complexity of navigating their relationship. There are so many laugh out loud funny moments – I know I was grinning like a fool like 85% of this book.

How dare Henry come into Alex’s house looking like the goddman James Bond offspring that he is, drink red wine with the prime minister, and act like he didn’t slip Alex the tongue and ghost him for a month.

He kisses Henry until it feels like he can’t breathe, until it feels like he’s going to forget both of their name and titles, until they’re only two people tangled up in a dark room making a brilliant, epic, unstoppable mistake.

While most of the attention is on Alex and Henry’s relationship, there’s a lot of great subplots happening and excellent side characters. I absolutely adored June, Alex’s sister, and Nora, June and Alex’s best friend and Alex’s sometimes girlfriend. They are both wickedly funny and smart and incredibly real. I also adored Zahra, Amy, Bea, etc. There are so many excellent characters in their own right, even if they revolve around Alex and Henry.

There’s some also serious issues brought up, like the fact that Alex struggles with his mixed heritage, Henry struggles with anxiety and both struggle what it means to carry on a high profile family legacy.

If there’s a criticism to be made (besides giving me more books in this world), is that you can fairly easily guess the major plot points. There’s nothing terribly unpredictable about them, but honestly, I didn’t find myself caring all that much. They needed to happen and I was more interested in how these characters were going to handle them.

Take for instance Alex’s mother learning of his relationship and her immediate reaction was to make a powerpoint to lead their discussion, including this title for the ages:
EXPLORING YOUR SEXUALITY: HEALTHY, BUT DOES IT HAVE TO BE WITH THE PRINCE OF ENGLAND?
She apologizes for not having time to come up with better titles.

If I didn’t love Alex’s entire family already, this would have certainly sealed the deal. The ending, while a bit cliche, was still entirely wonderful and really tied up the book nicely. As I said, before, I would love a follow-up book in the future to see what all these amazing people are up to. I truly did not get enough of them in fantastic 432 pages McQuiston gifted us.

While I certainly have started to read more romance stories in the last few years, I still would not certainly consider myself a big reader of this genre. I tend to only like contemporaries and they definitely need to be well-done and bring something different to the table. I’ve only found a few so far that fit this billing that I’ve enjoyed and Red, White & Royal blue is certainly at the top of these.

I can’t wait to get this in printed form and read it whenever I need a pick-me-up. I cannot say enough positive things about this book and from everything I’ve seen, just about everyone else who’s read this agrees. It’s sexy, it’s funny and it’s emotionally heart-warming.

“You are,” he says,” the absolute worst idea I’ve ever had.” Henry’s mouth spreads into a slow smile, and Alex kisses it.

Red, White & Royal Blue will be released on May 14, 2019.

BOOK REVIEW: We Told Six Lies by Victoria Scott

BOOK REVIEW: We Told Six Lies by Victoria ScottWe Told Six Lies by Victoria Scott
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Remember how many lies we told, Molly? It’s enough to make my head spin. You were wild when I met you, and I was mad for you. But then something happened. And now you’re gone.

But don’t worry. I’ll find you. I just need to sift through the story of us to get to where you might be. I’ve got places to look, and a list of names.

The police have a list of names, too. See now? There’s another lie. There is only one person they’re really looking at, Molly.

And that’s yours truly.

Thank you to NetGalley, Victoria Scott and Entangled Publishing for my free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

3.5/5

Did you know it, then, that I already belonged to you? Because I did, you beautiful, wicked girl.

“We Told Six Lies” is a captivating and well written YA thriller from Victoria Scott. However, there were a few things that held the story back from being great.

As with many thrillers, this book is told from varying perspectives and time jumps. The main players in this book are Cobain and Molly. Yes, you read that right, Cobain is a character’s first name. This book has a number of questionable first name choices, but I digress.

Molly is new to the high school and area, but quickly finds friends and becomes interested in shy and socially awkward Cobain. Cobain’s chapters often reminded me of Joe from Caroline Kepner’s YOU books, as he was truly smitten with Molly, even to his own detriment. Thus, when Molly goes missing, it’s not a surprise the police are most interested in Cobain, who also has a well-known anger management problem.

“Follow me,” you said, and I recognized that you were about to do something you shouldn’t. It was your favorite pastime, and you knew I’d do it beside you without question.

Cobain was an OK main character. He has a lot of issues, both with himself and with his family. I truly did feel badly for him many times, but I never quite loved him. On the other hand, I really liked Molly, even as flawed as she is. We unfortunately only get Molly’s perspective in present day and not in the flashbacks, as opposed to how we get Cobain’s. Molly has a lot of layers and is smart and determined. She also uses people to get what she wants, just like her father taught her.

Molly wanted freedom. But he wanted Molly. And love always triumphed in the end.

Without giving away much more of the plot, I was slightly surprised at the “twist.” I think part of it becomes fairly clear as the story goes on, but not all of it is easy to guess. The last couple chapters are wild and thrilling, but then it fairly abruptly ends. I would have liked to see more of the aftermath and a hint at the future, as opposed to ending it where it did. Also, it was never clear what exactly those specific six lies were referenced in the title. It’s not a big deal, but it was just weird to have the book titled something that wasn’t explicitly explained within the book.

So many lies. More than any of us can count. And with every lie, we had a chance to make things right. How could we have been so stupid?

BOOK REVIEW: Luna and the Lie by Mariana Zapata

BOOK REVIEW: Luna and the Lie by Mariana ZapataLuna and the Lie by Mariana Zapata
Purchase on: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

The problem with secrets is that they’re too easy to keep collecting.

Luna Allen has done some things she would rather no one ever know about. She also knows that, if she could go back in time, she wouldn’t change a single thing.

With three sisters she loves, a job she (mostly) adores, and a family built up of friends she’s made over the years, Luna figures everything has worked out the way it was supposed to.

But when one of those secrets involves the man who signs her paycheck, she can’t find it in her to regret it. Despite the fact that he’s not the friendliest man in the world. Or the most patient.

Sometimes there are things you’re better off keeping to yourself.

Looking back on it though, there had been no way for me to know then how much Lucas Ripley would haunt me in the future. I’d had no idea as I had walked into that room to introduce myself what he would end up owing me.

Alright y’all, I have a lot of thoughts on this. In a happy holiday surprise, we were gifted a new Mariana Zapata novel. Of course I was elated to get started and dive back into another one of her novels. I LOVED the other two of hers I have read (“The Wall of Winnipeg and Me” and “From Lukov With Love”), and even though this one was diverting away from the sports theme, I was still ready to fall deep.

Let me preface this whole review by stating this was a solid four-star review. I generally really enjoyed the first 80%. It’s the final 20% where I started to have some issues, but we’ll get there.

First, let’s talk about the main characters. Luna Allen, our main girl of the story, is working in a car repair shop in Houston. She is good at her job, loved by her co-workers and has a special father-figure in Mr. Cooper, who gave her the job when she was just 17 and new to the city. Mr. Cooper is a lovely character and I enjoyed every interaction he had with Luna the entire book. It was so sweet and pure, and the love these two had went so deep. He and his wife were there for her (and her sisters) when she didn’t have anyone else. As you learn, her family life back in San Antonio was incredibly terrible and left Luna with a lot of scars.

The heart is more resilient than anyone ever gave it credit for, and I liked to think mine was a bad bish.

And then there’s Rip. The new, second boss at the Luna’s work. He’s prickly and standoffish, but Luna goes out of her way to be nice to him. I bet you can see where this is going…

As the story continues, Luna and Rip get to know each other much better. Rip is there to help Luna when she’s at her most vulnerable and they both begin to open up to each other and learn about their dark pasts.

And more tears just came right out of my eyes with each thing said into my ear, spilling over my fingers and wrists, down my arms as I stood there, letting my boss, a man who barely talked to me on a good day, hug me and tell me I wasn’t a sad, pathetic person who deserved to feel so small.

Coming in at 580 pages, and well, being a Mariana Zapata book, you generally know how this is going to go. It’s a slow-burn, in every sense of the phrase, and things move forward and backward as these two figure out what they are feeling and reconcile it with everything else in their lives. And even with such a large page count, I never felt like it was dragging or found myself getting bored. I enjoy the slow pace, as that to me is incredibly realistic and thoughtful. I love the small moments that are sprinkled in their daily lives as much as the grand giant moments that pop up when the time is right.

”You kill me, girl,” he murmured in the roughest voice I’d ever heard. “I swear to God, you’re a fucking puzzle I thought was all in the box, but every damn day I find a piece or two hidden all over the place.”

So if you’re still with me, you’re probably wondering, well if you liked it so much Cassie, what went wrong?

First, while I know this was a romance and not a mystery thriller, if you’re even paying the smallest of attention, you will generally figure out the “reveals” near the end. Like, it was incredibly obvious. Not really a big deal, but to sit through 500 pages of Luna not figuring it out, when I feel it’s been made clear in the first 100, was a tad annoying. I would have loved to see a bit more creativity here if the “lie” was going to be kept like a big secret for so long.

But the biggest problem I had was with Rip and his actions near the end. Let me just say, so I’m very clear, I have no problem at all with characters who are jealous over their love interests. It’s realistic and I think it can definitely add some needed drama or tension into the story. However, I find some of Rip’s jealousy and actions due to this jealousy to be a problem and honestly, a very unhealthy way of showing his dedication to Luna.

I’m about to get specific, so click for spoilers:

View Spoiler »

If you are still with me, thank you so much for reading all of this! I don’t normally write such lengthy reviews, but I just had a lot of thoughts and feelings on this one. (*insert Mean Girls feelings gif here*)

Overall, it was another good book from Zapata. I don’t think she’s capable of writing a bad book, even if I haven’t gotten to some of her older novels. However, for reasons mentioned above, I hope you’ll understand why I felt this missed the mark. I truly hope her next book keeps all of the wonderful things she does, but avoids some of the negative behaviors and actions I truly found problematic.

“You gave me these pieces of you I know you haven’t given to anybody else, and they’re mine. You can’t take ‘em back. I need them more than you do, you hear me?”

BOOK REVIEW: All of This is True by Lygia Day Penaflor

BOOK REVIEW: All of This is True by Lygia Day PenaflorAll of This is True by Lygia Day Penaflor
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

MIRI loves the novel Undertow like it's a living being. So when she and her friends get the chance to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they plot a way to get closer to her. As for what happened with Jonah ... Well, obviously none of that was Fatima's fault.

SOLEIL wants to be a writer herself one day. She can't believe it when Fatima asks them to hang out with her - and having Jonah there makes it even better.

PENNY is more than the party girl everyone thinks she is, and she's willing to share her darkest secrets with Fatima to prove it. But what will happen when Fatima finds out about Jonah?

All of This Is True is a story of obsession and revenge, betrayal and forgiveness, and the devastating result of a secret that didn't stay buried.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I was engrossed in the storyline and enjoyed the different ways the story was shared (interviews, emails, texts, journal entries, etc.). On the other hand, it wasn’t quite what I expected. From reading the blurb, it came across as something along the lines as One of Us Is Lying, which was one of my favorite books of last year. But it really wasn’t like that at all.

The story centers around four high schools students who befriend a young author.

Fatima told us to share our precious truths. But that wasn’t my precious truth to tell! I didn’t know she would write about it!

While there is a small twist as you get near the end, the book is more about high school friendships and relationships. The book rotates from the perspective of the three teenage girls (Miri, Soleil and Penny), looking back at how ‘everything’ started. Chapters of the fictional book the author, Fatima Ro, wrote based on their lives are also sprinkled throughout the three girls’ recollections. I honestly found the fictional chapters to be the weakest part and enjoyed the interview chapters the most.

This book had a lot of promise and I did enjoy it. I just find myself wishing there had a been a bit more, though I guess I can’t say exactly what. I guess I was just thinking it would be a bit more thriller/mystery, when it really was more about friendships and toxic relationships.

But that night in the courtyard I knew the year was going to be better; sharing the sky with Fatimo Ro was the start of that ’cause I got to do something with my friends that wasn’t shopping or Snapchat, you know? It felt, like … important.

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