Book Reviews

My Top Reads of 2020

Despite this rollercoaster year, I managed to read some pretty great books! Here are my top ten of the year:

  1. Straight on Till Morning by Liz Braswell. Part of Disney’s Twisted Tale series, this is a Peter Pan retelling. Check out my full review here.
  2. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. This was so good, and it’s one of those books I can’t believe I’ve waited so long to read. I’m excited to read the rest of the series to see how the three sisters’ stories end.
  3. Finish First by Scott Hamilton. Figure skating is my favorite sport to watch, and Scott Hamilton is one of figure skating’s greatest athletes. He is also an outstanding role model, and all of his books are uplifting and inspiring.
  4. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reed. This was an unexpected top read. I had heard lots of great things about the book, but the blurb did not really pull me in, and it is not my typical genre. So, I was sort of expecting this book not to live up to the hype. However, it did live up to the hype and made it’s way to my top ten list. 🙂
  5. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager. I have enjoyed all of Sager’s books, but this one along with Lock Every Door, are my favorites.
  6. Roaring by Lindsey Duga. I was lucky enough to be on a blog tour for this one. I was really intrigued by the unique blurb, but was not expecting to love it as much as I did. Check out my full review here.
  7. The Companion by Katie Alendar. I read a sampler of this book and was immeditely hooked. I bought the book as soon as I had finished reading the sampler. Check out my full review of this book here.
  8. Horse Crazy by Sarah Maslin Nir. I enjoyed this book so much, I’m doing my own spin on the premise of the book in a blog post. Coming soon!
  9. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. This had everything I love in a YA mystery/thriller novel, and I am eagerly awaiting the sequel!
  10. Atomic Habits by James Clear. As someone who often struggles with forming good habits, I found the tips and strategies in this book to be very helpful. Many of them I will be trying out in the New Year. 🙂

What about you? What were your best reads in 2020? Let me know in the comments!

Uncategorized

My Christmas Recs – Books and Movies

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year! It’s the end of something, but it’s also bringing a new beginning. And this year, I think we are all ready for a new beginning.

Every year, I pull out my favorite Christmas books and movies, and set aside time to read and watch them as part of my own personal Christmas celebration.

Favorite Christmas Books

  1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Although this is not strictly a Christmas book, it’s opening scene takes place at Christmas, and the whole book gives you cozy Christmas-like vibes. When I have the time, I like to do a reread (or listen to the audiobook) of this classic.
  2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Speaking of classics, this one is a must read for every Dickens fan or any fan of Christmas. And truthfully, this is my favorite Dickens book.
  3. The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand. This is a YA retelling of A Christmas Carol and it is so good! Once I finished reading it the first time, I knew it was going to be a yearly reread.
  4. Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. I know this one is a children’s picture book, but there is just something so magical about the rhyming prose. I have loved this one for as long as I can remember.
  5. Everything I Need to Know About Christmas, I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow. There’s a whole series of these humorous books, that just happen to look like Little Golden Books themselves. And I may be giving away my age a little here, but as a kid, I loved Little Golden Books.

And of course, I always find some new books that I want to read, so here are my most anticipated reads for this Christmas:

  1. In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren. I’ve heard so much about this book, and seen it all over the place, so it’s at the top of my TBR pile. 🙂
  2. Snowed In by Rachel Hawthorne. While not specifically Christmas, this book is touted to still have all the cozy Christmas vibes, so I’m pschyed to read it.
  3. The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody. Written by the author of Save the Cat Writes a Novel (find out more about this awesome book here), this one has been on my TBR pile for a bit. After rereading the book’s blurb, I decided I wanted to read it this year. This one is set on New Year’s Day.
  4. The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. This is a Nutcracker retelling and was on my Christmas TBR list last year, but I didn’t get to it, so it’s near the top of my list this year.

Favorite Christmas Movies

  1. A Mom for Christmas. This is an old favorite from childhood. It originally aired on TV as a Hallmark movie, and my grandparents taped it on a VHS tape for all the grandkids to watch at Christmas. (My grandfather loved doing this – taping movies and having them ready for us to watch either at Christmas or during the summer when we come and stay awhile.) Bonus: Olivia Newton John plays the wished for “mom”.
  2. Mickey’s and the Muppets Christmas Carol Movies. These are another couple childhood favorites that I always try to make time to watch each year.
  3. Elf. You knew this was going to be on here. 🙂 I don’t always like the slapsticky comedy, but this one has its own sort of charm. Maybe it’s the Christmas setting that makes it such fun.
  4. Season of Miracles. This is another Hallmark movie, but it’s a throwback one, so it has a slightly more complicated plot than girl finding the perfect man.
  5. While You Were Sleeping. Not only is this one of my Christmas favorites, it’s one of my favorite Sandra Bullock movies and I’m willing to watch it anytime of the year.

Movies on Netflix/other worth a watch

  1. Holiday in the Wild – Set in Africa, the beautiful scenery itself makes this worth a watch, but it also has a good storyline too.
  2. Christmas Chronicles – So cute! This is a fun Santa story.
  3. The Knight Before Christmas – So this one might be a little cheesy, but I really enjoyed it!
  4. Noelle (Disney+) – This is another fun Santa story, with a twist.
  5. Godmothered (Disney+) – This one is new this year and is so fun! Perfect for a family movie night.
  6. The March Sisters at Christmas (Hulu, possibly available other places too.) A modern day retelling of Little Women, with a Christmasy theme.

And of course there are a few I’m highly anticipating, but have not watched yet:

  1. Christmas Chronicles 2 (Netflix)- The first one was great, so of course I want to see this one too.
  2. Jingle Jangle (Netflix)- I’ve heard a lot of great things about this one.
  3. Operation Christmas Drop (Netflix) – The preview for this movie caught my eye and so it’s also on my watchlist.

What books are you reading this holiday season? What movies are you watching? Let me know in the comments!

Blog tours, Book Reviews

Never After: The Thirteenth Fairy Book Review

I’m excited to be part of Turn the Page’s blog tour for Melissa de la Cruz’s new book Never After: The Thirteenth Fairy. I’ve really enjoyed every book I’ve read by Ms. Cruz, and if you have followed my blog for very long, you know I love fairytales, so I signed up for this blog tour right away. 🙂

Don’t forget to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the post to enter the giveaway!

About the Book

Never After: The Thirteenth Fairy
by Melissa de la Cruz
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Releasing on December 1, 2020

Nothing ever happens in Filomena Jefferson-Cho’s sleepy little suburban town of North Pasadena. The sun shines every day, the grass is always a perfect green, and while her progressive school swears there’s no such thing as bullying, she still feels bummed out. But one day, when Filomena is walking home on her own, something strange happens. 

Filomena is being followed by Jack Stalker, one of the heroes in the Thirteenth Fairy, a series of books she loves about a brave girl and her ragtag group of friends who save their world from an evil enchantress. She must be dreaming, or still reading a book. But Jack is insistent—he’s real, the stories are real, and Filomena must come with him at once!

Soon, Filomena is thrust into the world of evil fairies and beautiful princesses, sorcerers and slayers, where an evil queen drives her ruthless armies to destroy what is left of the Fairy tribes. To save herself and the kingdom of Westphalia, Filomena must find the truth behind the fairytales and set the world back to rights before the cycle of sleep and destruction begins once more.

Goodreads Buy a Copy

My Review

The author did not disappoint with this book. Exciting and fast-paced, it was a quick read that I really enjoyed. I love the way the fairytale world was woven into the real world, and I thought Filomena was a relatable character. Being a book lover myself, I also appreciated Filomena’s eagerness to read the next book in the Never After series. I loved the diverse characters, and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Fans of Rick Riordan’s books as well as the Ridley Pearson’s Kingdom Keepers series will enjoy this book!

About the Author

MELISSA DE LA CRUZ is the #1 New York Times, #1 Publisher’s Weekly and #1 Indie Bound bestselling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for readers of all ages, and edited the inspiring anthology of true stories, Because I Was a Girl. She grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. At Columbia University, she majored in art history and English. Melissa de la Cruz lives in West Hollywood with her husband and daughter.

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Giveaway

Click here to enter the giveaway: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1e4a114d14/

Blog tours, Book Reviews

The Opal Amulet Blog Tour Book Review

I’m excited to be part of The Favourite Pages Book Club blog tour for The Opal Amulet by Victoria Drozda. Be sure to check out my post on Instagram to get in on the giveaway!

About the Book

The Opal Amulet (The Forbidden Gems of Regalia #1)

by Victoria Drozda

Publisher: BookBabyRelease

Date: October 14th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fantasy

Goodreads | Amazon | BookDepository | B&N | BookBaby

Synopsis:
Fourteen year old Emberly Tollens doesn’t dream often but when she does its never a good sign, especially when its the same dream. Some nights she would dream of the sweet nothingness of time. Other nights the voices would get louder, the running faster, and the staff colder. Ice cold. But this is just the beginning of her problems.
Things get even stranger when she finds a dangerously beautiful opal necklace lying on the ground at school. Not strange at all. And definitely not strange when your once kind of nice teacher turns into a fire-breathing creature from the past, right?
Now with the help of her hazel eyed friend named Olive and a cute mysterious fire throwing boy. They’re going to discover there’s a lot more going on than what they think.

My Review

First of all, I absolutely love the cover. The cover is what first drew me to this book. The story is interesting and fun. Emberly has a strong voice and is relatable. I liked how she had a good relationship with her mom and a dependable friendship with Olive.

To me, the book seemed like more of a middle grade book than a YA book. Emberly is just a freshman in high school, fourteen, which is young for a YA herione. The story is appropriate for younger readers as well, though older readers who don’t care if the MC is younger than they are would probably also enjoy it.

Fans of the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull and the Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi would enjoy this book.

Favorite Quotes

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book, were the great descriptions in the book. Here are some of my favorites:

“A lustrous silvery and violet light stemmed from her amulet, disentangled itself from Emberly’s hands, and wove it’s way into the owner’s body.” (Chapter 8)

The castle was a deep midnight blue, with three black towers that had thick silver vines climbing up the dark stones. Tall, illuminated clear windows lined the walls, sparkling like diamonds.” (Chapter 10)

They rode to Max’s house, her phone leading them, the warm fall wind hitting their faces with a strong scent of pine and upcoming rain. Blurry splats of orange, yellow, and red flew past them in a leafy fire of autumn.” (Chapter 13)

About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Instagram

Victoria Drozda started The Opal Amulet (book one to The Forbidden Gems of Regalia series) in the summer of 2016 before her freshman year of high school and later finished the book in 2020. She is an upcoming college student and enjoys spending her time reading, drawing, baking and of course writing. She currently resides in California and is eagerly working on the next book in the series.

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

This hop is hosted by Billy at Ramblings of a Coffee Addict. And this week’s question is:

I’m from the US, and I read a lot of books from other English-speaking countries (England, Scotland, Australia ect.) I speak a some Spanish and a little French, but not well enough to read a book in those languages. However, someday I would like to be proficient enough to read a book in one of those languages.

I’ve also read some books from other countries that have been translated into English. One of my favorites is The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser which was orginally published in German.

What about you? Do you read books from other countries? Let me know in the comments.

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

I just learned about this Book Blogger Hop, so my post for this week is a bit late, but I wanted to join in the fun! 🙂

This hop is hosted by Billy at Ramblings of a Coffee Addict.

The question for this week is:

I got through three books over Labor Day weekend, and started another three:

My favorite read was Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot. I also love the Princess Diaries and have found that I really enjoy reading anything Cabot has written. I’m nearly finished with Horse Crazy by Sarah Maslin Nir and am loving it as well. Look for my review to come soon!

What about you? Did you read a lot over the long weekend? Let me know in the comments!

Blog tours, Book Reviews

Emmie and the Tudor Queen Book Review

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I’m excited to be part of the Favourite Pages Book Club’s blog tour for Emmie and the Tudor Queen by Natalie Murray.

About the Book

book cover (3)Emmie and the Tudor Queen (Hearts and Crowns Book 2)

Release Date: August 25th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Synopsis:
True love has never been more deadly in this lush sequel to the best-selling Emmie and the Tudor King.
For an extraordinary love, Emmie Grace has given up her life in the modern world to move to the sixteenth century and marry the Tudor king she bravely saved from a dreadful fate. However, not everyone is pleased to see the glorious King Nick betrothed to the unknown and uncultured Emmie—especially the noblemen commanded to protect her.
As Emmie is drawn deeper into Nick’s sumptuous and savage world—where beheadings are way more popular than time travelers—the Tudor court heads on progress across the country, and a growing rebellion against the promised queen looms.
With life and love at stake, Emmie must face the cost of changing the path of history and realize that her greatest sacrifice is yet to come.

My Review

This book is full of romance, history, and adventure. I loved the way the author weaved lots of historical details into the story. The romance is believable (everything is not perfect all the time), and the story is fast-paced.

Emmie has a strong voice and a great sense of humor. And I couldn’t help but wonder while reading, could one really be willing to give up the modern life for love? It definitely has some Outlander vibes (just on a YA level). I think fans of the Princess Diaries books as well as fans of My Lady Jane will enjoy this book.

About the Author

Natalie Murray is the author of EMMIE AND THE TUDOR KING (June 11, 2019) and EMMIE AND THE TUDOR QUEEN (August 25, 2020). A fast-paced YA time-slip romance, the Emmie and the Tudor King trilogy follows an American high school girl to a reimagined Tudor England, where she meets a doomed, but utterly dreamy, Tudor king. Emmie and the Tudor King has already received acclaim from Foreword Reviews, YA Books Central, and popular YA authors Brigid Kemmerer (A Curse So Dark and Lonely) and CJ Flood (Infinite Sky), among others. You can visit Natalie at nataliemurrayauthor.com.

Blog tours, Book Reviews

Roaring Book Review

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I’m excited to be part of the Favourite Pages Book Club blog tour for Roaring by Lindsey Duga.  A fantasy set in the roaring twenties? Yes, please!

About the Book

 

book cover (2)

Roaring

Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC (Teen)
Release Date: August 3rd 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Synopsis:
Colt Clemmons is an agent in a specialized division within the Bureau of Investigation—one that hunts down not just mobsters, but also monsters.
For reasons that are kept top secret, Colt is the only person who can resist a siren’s voice. But he’s never had a chance to test this ability. The last siren left in the world mysteriously disappeared years ago.
Then one night, with a single word, she reveals herself. It seems too good to be true.
And it is. Because nothing about this siren—her past, her powers, or her purpose—is what it seems…

My Review

I loved that this book was set in the 1920’s, and it was full of all the things that make that time period seem glamorous: speakeasies, mobsters, and romance. And it had lots of mythical creatures. At first, I was unsure how about how the roaring twenties theme would work with the fantasy element, but the author seamlessly weaved the two together and created a magical story.

I like how the book alternates between the siren’s viewpoint and Colt’s viewpoint.  Both are fully-developed, relatable characters, and I quickly found myself pulled into their story and rooting for them. I also liked the mystery surrounding both Colt’s and Eris’s past. It gave the story a bit of a noir film vibe.

The book is fast-paced, and I flew through it in basically one sitting. If you love vintage stuff and mythical creatures, you’ll enjoy this book.

 

About the Author

Lindsey Duga is a middle grade and young adult writer with a passion for fantasy, science fiction, and basically any genre that takes you away from the real world. She wrote her first novel in college while she was getting her bachelor’s in Mass Communication from Louisiana State University.
Other than writing and cuddling with her morkie puppy, Delphi, Lindsey loves catching up on the latest superhero TV show and practicing yoga.

Giveaway

Be sure to check out the giveaway on Instagram. The winner recieves a signed copy of Roaring as well as a signed copy of Glow of the Fireflies, artwork based on Roaring, and a $25 Amazon gift card.
Book Tags

Bookishfirst’s Mid Year Book Tag

So I recently discovered Bookishfirst, and I love it. You can get previews on new books and leave your first impression, basically a mini review based on the preview. Then you are entered in the raffle to win a copy of that book. You also get points for the first impressions and any full reviews you write for the participating books.

They also have some cool forums, and on it was on one of them I found this book tag. I thought it was a great way to look back over the books you’ve read for the first half of the year. So here are my picks:

  1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2020 – Straight on Till Morning by Liz Braswell (You can check out my review of the book here.) img_0850
  2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020 – The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson
  3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to – Jo and Laurie by Margaret Stohl and Melissa De La Cruz (which I finally received in the mail last week. Yay!)img_2608 
  4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year – Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer, and Unbirthday by Liz Braswell   img_2661(I just got my copy of Midnight Sun on Wednesday, and I can’t wait to dive in!)
  5. Biggest disappointment – Catherine House by Elizabeth Thomas. It was not at all what I expected and nothing really even happened, so I DNF at about the halfway mark.
  6. Biggest surprise – Everybody Always by Bob Goff. It’s been so hyped up that I was wary going into it, but it lived up to the hype and received a 5 star review from me!
  7. Favorite new author. (Debut or new to you) – Kendare Blake. I just started the Three Dark Crowns series this year and am loving it!
  8. Newest fictional crush – I actually don’t have one. I haven’t read as much YA this year as I typically do, and most fictional crushes come from YA. 🙂
  9. Newest favorite character – Arsinoe from Three Dark Crowns.
  10. Book that made you cry – Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  11. Book that made you happy – Finish First by Scott Hamilton.
  12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)  – Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles. I recieved the gorgeous Owlcrate exclusive cover!img_2596
  13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year? too many to list. There’s over a hundred! 🙂
Reading Challenge

#Armedwithabingo Q2 Check-in

This year, one of the challenges I’m participating in, is #armedwithabingo hosted by Kristi and Ariel. All the details for the bingo are here, and you can check out my first post about the challenge here.

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For the first quarter, I read these books:

Poetry collection – Ink Knows No Borders

Book in the middle of a series – Blizzard of New Moon (Magic Treehouse Series) by Mary Pope Osbourne

Book published in the last decade – A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahareh Mafi

A YA novel – Heart of the Moors by Holly Black

A memoir – Wildflower by Drew Barrymore

Friendship/family – Drama by Reina Telgemeier

Fantasy – Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Bestseller – The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Meant to read last year – Final Girls by Riley Sager

Nonfiction – You Can Only Yell at Me for One Thing at a Time by Patricia Marx

 

And since the last post, I’ve added these books to my bingo board:

Book published in 2020 – Straight on Till Morning by Liz Braswell. This is my favorite read of the year so far, and you can check out my review here.

Book with multiple POV’s – Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reed

Book with a number in the title – The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie. This one was also enjoyable and though not one of Christie’s most popular series, I find I’m really enjoying the Superintendent Battle series.

Book a friend recommends – Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto.  I read this book as part of the Book Gizmo Book Club on Instagram.

A dystopian novel – The Jewel by Amy Ewing.

Not third person POV (first person POV) – Something She’s Not Telling Us by Darcey Bell

Book by an indie author – A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

Book with a Beautiful Cover – Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel. As soon as I saw the cover for this book, I wanted to read it, even without reading the premise. 🙂

Book you saw someone else reading – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood by Fred Rogers

How about you? How are your reading challenges coming? Let me know in the comments. 🙂