Review: Love a la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Love à la ModeLove à la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“…part of the magic of food. It didn’t last. It couldn’t. Each bite was only a moment transformed into a memory.”


FOODIES REJOICE!!!

This book stole my heart right out of the gate. A departure gate at O’Hare International Airport to be specific. We meet our main characters, Rosie Radeke and Henry Yi, aboard a plane to Paris. Both teens have been selected to attend the very prestigious Ecole of Chef Laurent. The program is part competition, part culinary school, open to only 20 students per year. Being selected is an honor in itself and both Rosie and Henry are full of excitement and trepidation on their flight.

This book was absolutely adorable ((one of the best ‘Meet Cutes’ I have ever read!!)) and reminded me that sometimes it is okay to just read something that makes your heart happy. There was nothing complicated, no horrible hidden secrets or murders or deceptions, just love, reflection and growth…oh and a heck of a lot of fun, food and friends!

In addition to Henry and Rosie, the story incorporates quite a few of the other students who are from different areas around the world and brought such unique personalities to the story. If you are someone who enjoys stories with a strong friendship group you should definitely pick this one up. I loved the support and camaraderie amongst the main cast. Yumi in particular, loved her so much!! The banter between the characters is great; I was laughing out loud by only 3% into the book.

“There’s no one else I’d rather eat with.”

As a romance-heavy YA Contemporary will do, this book is replete with the angsty sort of romance tropes that you would typically find in a YA but, that being said, they were really well done here. It never felt cheesy to me or overplayed, just nice, steady and sweet. I loved watching the evolution of the relationship between Rosie and Henry, even through the miscommunications that made me want to scream, I just truly felt filled to the brim with warmth from this story.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback and I look forward to hearing what other readers think of this one! Well done, Ms. Strohm. Very well done.

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Review: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleThe 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Too little information and you’re blind, too much and you’re blinded.

The above line perfectly captures the spirit of the literary puzzle (aka. MIND F**K) that is The 7 1/2 Deaths o Evelyn Hardcastle. This book is bloody FANTASTIC!

Never have been so excited about being so confused whilst reading a book!

Turton is a Master. This was completely original and completely out there and completely compelling. I was so absorbed in every moment and….well, CONFUSED.

There is really not much I can say about the plot of this novel without getting all spoilery and stuff; something I am not looking to do. Go into this knowing nothing besides the fact that it is okay to be reading it and not understanding anything that is going on. The longer it goes, the more info you have and the more confusing it can become. It’s exceptional in its detail. I had so many theories, some panned out, others didn’t but I never stopped guessing, right up until the very end.

If you are looking for a completely unique mystery to get you through the holiday season, look no further! Stop right here! This is the book you need to read. I cannot wait to read more from Stuart Turton. I am already fangirling over him after one book. I love his ingenuity and style. Yes, I do! Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me a copy of this to read and review. I am blown away!!!

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Top 5 Wednesday: Characters You’d Want at Friendsgiving

Happy Thanksgiving week to all my American book friends! This week’s top 5 Wednesday topic is an interesting one and one that should be a lot of fun to discuss. The topic for the week is the top 5 characters you would want at your ‘Friendsgiving’ day feast. Easy enough…let’s go:

  1. Danny Torrance from The Shining & Doctor Sleep – For those of you who may have missed it, The Shining, is one of my all-time favorite books. I love this book to the moon and back. Every time I read it I am in absolute awe of the horror goodness within the pages. When King announced there would be a sequel, Doctor Sleep, where Danny Torrance was now a grown-up, I pinched myself. Too good to be true, was it not? But low and behold Doctor Sleep was released, Danny is still awesome and I would be blessed if he would join me for Friendsgiving Day dinner! Side Note: I believe ((but could be wrong)) that Ewan McGregor has been cast as Danny in the upcoming Doctor Sleep film. I will take that version, please.
  2. Eddie Dean from The Dark Tower series – Every Friendsgiving Day dinner needs a cute and funny distraction and I think Eddie Dean would be just that. One of my biggest book crushes, I would definitely forget to send an invitation to his wife, Susannah. Sorry, no room for competition at my Friendsgiving Day table!
  3. Holly Gibney from The Bill Hodges Trilogy & The Outsider – I guess it is going to be a Stephen King kind of day at my house on Friendsgiving. Are we really shocked by that though? Holly is a troubled character who struggles to overcome her many, many, many anxieties throughout the course of the Bill Hodges trilogy. By the time we meet her in The Outsider, Holly is just starting to feel comfortable out in the world ((note, I use the term ‘comfortable’ very loosely, perhaps functional is a better word)). She finds interacting with a lot of people mentally draining which I absolutely find relatable and I think Holly would fit right in by my side. Plus, we could talk about true crime stuff all day and that would be highly entertaining after a few glasses of whiskey! Cheers to that.
  4. Professor Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter series – Professor McGonagall is my idol and my queen. I love her dry wit and fair play and I know she would be an absolute blast to be around once she lets her hair down. Sure, she can seem a wee bit grumpy around Hogwarts but who wouldn’t dealing with all those damn kids all day. I am sure behind her pursed lips and stern glare there is a wildchild just waiting for the right opportunity to let loose and become the life of the party. Plus, magic. We need someone to bring the magic to the Friendsgiving Day party – my hopes is that would make clean-up a breeze!
  5. Hercule Poirot from many Agatha Christie works – I mean, who wouldn’t kill for a chance to have Hercule Poirot at their Friendsgiving Day table ((pun absolutely intended)). The stories this man could tell = dinner and a show. I think him and Minerva would get along swimmingly. Is that love I smell in the air? In all honesty, Hercule Poirot is one of the most interesting, enigmatic characters ever written. I want to get to know him better. Hopefully there will be no murders to investigate whilst Friendsgiving is going on but if there is, between him and Holly we are sure to solve our ‘whodunit’!!

Which book characters would you be interested in having over for Friendsgiving Day dinner? I want to know! What do you think of my choices? Leave a comment below or contact me through any of my social media outlets – links to the right >>>

Cheers to a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving Day~

 

Review: This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

This Is Our StoryThis Is Our Story by Ashley Elston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every town seems to have that group of kids who can get away with anything. Inexplicably, no matter what they do, nothing seems to stick to them. In Kate Marino’s town, that is the ‘River Point Boys’, prep school hot shots who host the wildest parties and seem to have their hands in every cookie jar. But can they really get away with everything? Even murder?

After an all night party where a lot of grievances were aired, the River Point Boys decide to go hunting. On no sleep and still a little drunk and high, this seems an excellent idea. Grant, Henry, Shep, John Michael and Logan walk into the woods that day…only 4 walk out. No one is talking. They didn’t see anything. They don’t know who did it. This is THEIR story.

Under the suspicion of murder, the remaining boys are forced to leave their cushy prep school and head off to ((GASP)) public school!

Our protagonist, Kate Marino, is a high school senior, an avid photographer and an intern at the local DA’s office. Brought in to help the DA prep the case, Kate is more involved than anyone knows. She knew the victim. They had a relationship via text for some time prior to his death. Kate throws herself into her work, hoping to find justice for the slain boy. However, not all is as it appears and before she knows it, Kate is hit with a truth bomb that the boy she thought she knew…isn’t really the boy she thought she knew.

Elston’s writing is top notch in this genre. A solid YA Mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end. I loved the pace of this and the investigatory elements woven throughout. Kate was likable and relatable and I was definitely rooting for her the whole way through. I am trash for Elston’s writing at this point and cannot wait to see what she puts out next. If you haven’t read this book yet, please pick it up. It is perfect for this time of year. Highly recommend for YA mystery fans!

Original: SWOON

I love Ashley Elston’s writing soooo much. Does she have a to-do list I could buy? ‘Cause I would buy that, for real! Full review to come tomorrow…stay tuned!

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Review: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial KillerMy Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a unique novella following the perspective of a young woman, Korede, living in Lagos, Nigeria. Korede is a nurse and seems to lead a fairly normal life; she is on the straight and narrow, if you will. ‘Normal’ until you discover that Korede’s younger sister, Ayoola, kills all of her boyfriends and then calls on Korede to help clean up the mess!

“You’re a big sister now, Korede. And big sisters look after little sisters.” Apparently, this is the sentiment that Korede was raised with and now, no matter what her sister does, she feels obligated to PROTECT HER from everything. Protect her?!? The witch is crazy. She shows no remorse or empathy for the things she does. At one point, Korede muses, “I am more haunted by her actions than she is.” Yeah! No kidding!

I did fluctuate throughout the story between feeling bad for Korede for all the bullshit she had to put up with and being angry at her for not standing up to her damn sister. It was like every other chapter, like a seesaw. Ultimately I wish it would have gone a different way. I really was hoping Korede would make more growth as a character and fight back against the treatments and judgments laid on her. This is a novella though, very short, and I just don’t think there was enough time for her character to get there.

Overall, I felt the story was compelling, it definitely kept me interested and was unique. Thank you to the publisher, Doubleday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity and I know a lot of people will enjoy this little tale. I look forward to seeing what comes next from Braithwaite. I like her style!

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Review: Winterhouse by Ben Guterson

Winterhouse (Winterhouse, #1)Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars!!!**

Elizabeth Somers is an orphan being raised by her miserable Aunt and Uncle in the equally miserable town of Drere. Just when Elizabeth thinks things can’t get any worse, her Aunt and Uncle ((…like these people could give the Dursleys a run for their money)) tell her they are shipping her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel for three weeks over Christmas Holiday. Are they going with her? No, of course not. They are taking their own, much more glamorous holiday, abroad.

Thus, Elizabeth embarks on the holiday that will change her life forever. Strange events begin occurring to poor Elizabeth before she even sets foot on the Winterhouse property. On the train enroute to the hotel you can tell something is amiss. This book has a wonderful blend of mystery, intrigue, fun and adventure throughout. You follow Elizabeth as she makes new friends, including her new constant companion Freddy who is also spending his holiday sans parental figures, and as she explores the hotel and the many mysteries held within its walls.

The cast of characters in this was one of my favorite elements. You have the two kids, Elizabeth and Freddy, both major word nerds, who develop a very strong friendship rather quickly. You have Norbridge Falls, the eccentric owner of the hotel who spews forth droplets of wisdom onto the children with every turn. ((e.g. “The moment we start feeling better than other people because of our capabilities is the moment we start to lose ourselves.”) And of course, as every good Middle Grade novel should, this story also has a very malevolent set of baddies, the Hiemses, a husband and wife pair that seem to pop up at the most inconvenient times and in the most inconvenient places.

For all of us booknerds, there’s more! There is a library! A library with a very special book hidden on its shelves. The Book. It is when Elizabeth comes across this book that things start to really heat up for her. There is so much here to enjoy: messages hidden in paintings, skeleton keys, codes, orbs of red light, coffins hidden in back bedrooms, long-held family secrets and so much more.

As mentioned before, this story occurs during the Christmas holiday season and I would highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself, or that Middle Grade reader in your life that will be haunting your halls this holiday season looking for something to do because he or she is bored!!

This entertaining little book could be the perfect cure for that! Additionally, the next book in the series is releasing at the end of December so they won’t have long to wait for the sequel!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., for providing me with a copy of this delightful book to read and review. As always, I truly appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback on a book and I cannot wait to pick up the next book in this series!

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

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1)A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When James ‘Jamie’ Watson gets shipped off to boarding school in Connecticut he is sad about leaving his life in London behind. It doesn’t take long however before he is elbows deep in intrigue and thinking nothing about shoddy old London (totally joking on the shoddy part, obviously). You see, Charlotte Holmes, the descendant of the infamous Sherlock Holmes, also attends this very same boarding school. Coincidence? I think not.

Jamie, the descendant of John Watson ((the one who penned those cute little Sherlock tales)), has heard all about Charlotte Holmes and wants nothing more than to get in her good graces. In the flesh, Charlotte is beautiful, edgy and addicted to opiates and he wants to get to know her better. Before long they are seeing one another on a regular basis and Charlotte really seems to be warming up to him. That’s something because she’s not particularly warm with many other human beings.

After a fellow student, one that Charlotte has a very messy history with ((putting this SUPER mildly)), ends up dead and another on the brink of death, Charlotte and Jamie need to work together to prove they are innocent of these crimes. They are being framed and in ways reminiscent of cases the original Sherlock and Holmes investigated.

This was a pretty good story. There was nothing bad about it but it never really reached a level where I was compelled to read it either. I read it, it happened and then it was over and I moved on very quickly. I guess I was hoping for a little more if I am being honest. I’m not sure if I will continue on with the series. I may read the synopsis of the next and some of the reviews to see if anyone like it better than this one. For now, if I had to choose a YA Mystery series to continue with it would be the Stalking Jack the Ripper series over this one, as I just finished the first one in that series in October.

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Top 5 Wednesday: Books I Want to Read Before 2019

Happy Wednesday fellow bookworms. I hope everyone is having a wonderful week so far. Thanksgiving is almost here, which means Christmas is almost here, which mean New Year is almost here! Can you believe it? This fits well with this week’s ‘Top 5 Wednesday’ topic: The 5 books I want to read before 2019. Oh my goodness, there are so many to choose from. Narrowing it down will be difficult but I shall do my best. Here we go:

  1. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – I actually received this book as an ARC way back in February but I haven’t gotten to it yet because I am terrible. Just terrible. The release date for this book was 9/18/2018 here in the U.S., although it had released previously in the U.K. Overall, this unique mystery/thriller has received great reviews. The current Goodreads rating is 4.08 for 11,265 ratings – quite strong for a thriller on GR. This story follows Aidan Bishop as he wakes up every day at Blackheath House in a different body with the aim of solving the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day. I have never heard of a mystery book like this before and I am really looking forward to reading it. I plan to start this one by the weekend!
  2. Love a la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm – Releasing on November 27th, I received this cute YA Contemporary from the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, as an ARC to review. I am planning to start this one by this weekend as well. This book follows Rosie and Henry, two American teen chefs, who travel to Paris to attend a prestigious cooking school run by celebrity chef, Denis Laurent. I expect this one to be humorous and heavy on cutesy romance. Sparks will fly – I can just feel it! I love cooking competitions on television, my favorite being The Great British Bake Off. As soon as I read the synopsis of this book, I knew I wanted to give it a try.
  3. The Mansion by Ezekiel Boone – This horror novel, releasing on December 4th, is another book I have an ARC copy of which I received from the publisher, Atria Books. I really don’t know how to describe this one, it sounds very unique and like it could be a wild ride. Basically, it follows two computer programmers, Shawn and Billy. After a fallout, Shawn goes on to become rich and famous while Billy is a complete failure. Seeking revenge against Shawn for perceived wrongs, Billy sets up a ‘smart house’ computer program at an old mansion they used to live near and all hell breaks loose from there. I am not sure what I am going to get from this as the reviews have been mixed ((which you see a lot with horror novels)) but Ezekiel Boone is an author I have been curious about so I am looking forward to reading something of his.
  4. Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas – This is the 5th installment of the widely popular Sarah J. Maas series, Throne of Glass. The 7th and final book of this series just released on October 23rd and it basically broke the internet. It is hard to stay away from spoilers so I really need to finish up with it! This is a YA-high fantasy series with a kick-ass female protagonist and a ton of REALLY great side characters and relationships. Maas knows how to bring the drama and her books never disappoint. This series keeps getting better and better for me so by the final book, my head may actually explode. We will hope not of course but there you go.
  5. Song of Susannah (Dark Tower #6) by Stephen KingThe Dark Tower series truly is King’s Magnum Opus. The size and scope of this series has been mind-boggling to me from the very beginning. I am currently reading the 5th book in the series, Wolves of the Calla ((I have about 45-pages left)) and I can tell you I have purposefully slowed down my pace. It recently hit me that I only have two more books and then I am at the end. As a HUGE King fan this series really means a lot to me. I am sure that I will read it again in my lifetime, start-to-finish, but you only get that ‘1st time’ feeling once. This book connects so much to his other works and connects those works together until you could have one giant flow chart of King goodness that would make any Constant Reader ((King’s loving nickname for his fan base)) swoon. It’s really hard to explain this series. Suffice it to say it is an all consuming story of a tight-knit group of individuals (a ka-tet in Tower speak) from different times and different places who must band together to protect the ultimate good from the ultimate evil. It is a parallel universe story that is so incredibly constructed it will leave you shaking your head in awestruck admiration. Certainly not for everyone but the people who read it all the way through never forget it, I can tell you that.

So, that’s it folks! Those are my top 5 picks for books I need to get to before the end of the year. Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What are some books you are hoping to finish up before the end of the year? I want to hear about them. Leave a comment below or connect with me through any of my social media outlets – links to the right!

Cheers & Happy Reading!!

Review: The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston

The Lying WoodsThe Lying Woods by Ashley Elston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Lying Woods follows teenage protagonist, Owen Foster, in the aftermath of his Father being exposed as a white-collar criminal. Mr. Foster steals millions of dollars from his company – the largest employer in town – and leaves Owen and his mother behind to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. People in the town are furious, they believe Owen’s Mom knew what he was doing and they begin threatening her and Owen. Forced to leave his posh private school when they can no longer afford the tuition, Owen returns to his hometown public school where he finds it close to impossible to fit in. A great number of the students come from families directly effected by his Father’s crime. Luckily, Owen is able to rekindle a relationship with his old friend and neighbor, Pippa. Through her guidance, Owen begins to understand the destructive scope of his Dad’s actions.

Angry and confused, Owen vows to learn the truth about what happened. How can the Father he knows and loves actually have done this? He is having a hard time grappling with what seems to be a secret side of his Father’s personality. When he first returns to town, Owen secures a job on a local pecan farm and quickly learns that his Dad once worked there as well and and even lived on the property. The owner for the pecan farm, Gus, was not only his Dad’s employer but also a mentor to him. Owen feels if he sticks around the farm long enough he may be able to piece together his Father’s past; he hopes this will help him to understand the present.

This story reads like a hard-hitting contemporary but there is a strong mystery element that runs throughout. The format was great because you get half of the book from Owen’s present day perspective and the other half from his Dad’s perspective at the time that he worked on the pecan farm and first met Owen’s Mom. You get to see their relationship build and learn about the obstacles they overcame to be together. I liked this structure a lot as I felt it was a very creative way to reveal the truth at the heart of this story.

Elston’s writing is smooth and organic. She is really a fantastic storyteller. You sit down to read a few pages and the next thing you know hours have gone by. I truly felt drawn into these characters and this story and I needed to know how Mr. Foster could have done what they said he did. It seemed so out of character with the person you meet through his own perspective. The major twist in this gave me chills. It was completely unexpected and then everything unraveled to the truth very quickly.

This is a story of first love, redemption, discovering who we really are and what is truly important in our lives. I loved the dual perspectives and also thought it was interesting to explore white-collar crime as a topic in YA. I don’t think I have ever read something like this before. Elston has very quickly become one of my ‘autobuy’ authors and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for giving me the opportunity to read this book early and provide my opinion. I cannot wait for more readers to get their hands on this so I can finally discuss it with some of my book buds! This is definitely going on my favorites list for the year.

Original: Starting tonight!!! One of my most anticipated books of the year. I am actually proud of myself for holding off until release month. A feat I frequently FAIL at!

I love how they kept the cover to this along the same vein as This is Our Story even though they are completely unrelated. They’ll still look great next to each other on my shelf!

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Review: Abandoned (Max Revere #5) by Allison Brennan

Abandoned (Max Revere, #5)Abandoned by Allison Brennan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Investigative reporter, Max Revere, sets out to solve the most important cold case of her career in this 5th installment of the Max Revere series. Abandoned by her Mom at the age of 9, Max was left in the care of her very wealthy grandparents. Eventually her Mother stopped sending postcards on Max’s birthday (always belated) and withdrawing from her trust fund; she disappeared without a trace. Now aged 32, and a successful television personality and author, Max is finally ready to uncover the truth behind her Mother’s disappearance.

This is actually the first book I have read in the Max Revere series and I don’t think that diminished my enjoyment for this book at all. You could definitely pick this up as a stand-alone novel if you wanted. After reading this, I am absolutely interested in reading the other books in the series. I loved Max as a character. She was smart, strong, independent and not afraid to make it through life on her own. No matter how dangerous her investigation became she never backed down. She was willing to do whatever it took to get to the truth and I respect that.

Overall, this is a very solid mystery with strong investigatory elements. There were a lot of leads to follow as there is so much going on in this book: family drama, small town secrets, art theft and forgery, con-men/women and more! I usually do enjoy mystery/thrillers where the protagonist is a journalist but this one is especially well done in my opinion. The story leaves off with a lot of changes going on for Max so I definitely think this series will be continuing and this won’t be the last time I read about Max Revere. That’s for darn sure.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. Max is just the kind of protagonist I love so I had a really great time reading this!

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