Review: On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

On the Come UpOn the Come Up by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

ANGIE THOMAS!!!

I am so in love with your words.
Damn, she’s good.

This story follows, Bri Jackson, who also lives in Garden Heights like Starr from THUG. But that is pretty much where the similarities end.

Bri lives with her mother and her older brother. Her father, a once successful rapper, was gunned down in the streets, a victim of gang violence. Bri’s mother is a recovering addict who is doing her best to be able to provide for her children alone.

Bri has plans to follow in her father’s footsteps but she definitely wants to do it her own way and struggles to find her identity apart from him.

She is a super talented rapper and spends most of her time thinking of rhymes and putting together lyrics. She is singularly focused on finding success in order to better the living conditions of herself and her family. To make them ‘good’.

Bri is a great kid but she does have a short fuse. She puts a lot of pressure on herself and I enjoyed getting some insight into her thought process and how she sees the world around her. There is always something that seems to be going wrong in her world. It’s tough. Troubles at school, troubles with bills, being behind in rent and she feels compelled to do something to make it different.

I loved this story. The incorporation of Bri’s lyrics gave the story such depth. I loved that angle, seeing her try to make it and channel her talents for good. Learning to stand her ground and be true to herself. I love stories with music or musicians and this one utilized that trope so well.

I have read some reviews where readers commented on not enjoying this story as much as THUG. That doesn’t surprise me at all but for me, I sort of feel the opposite. I think I actually enjoyed this one more. While Bri, as a character, may seem contentious, to me, she was perfect.

As a 16-year old, many aspects of your life can be extremely frustrating. You can feel like you aren’t being heard, like your desires are pushed aside or seen as not important, and that may cause you to act out in socially unacceptable ways. I get that. Bri was struggling with some heavy shit and she let it get the best of her sometimes but that happens when you are a kid.

I liked how this book focused on a variety of hard-hitting issues that can often be brushed over or ignored. The reality of living in poverty is something that millions of Americans, and people around the world, deal with on a daily basis, and while it isn’t pretty, it is important to shine light on and discuss.

Examples: the fact that Bri’s mom was a recovering addict. The fact of the limits that places on her options to provide for her family. The way Bri, and other black and brown kids, were treated at her school. The lifestyle Bri’s aunt lives and how that affects her entire family. Bri’s brother’s options for a job after college.

All of these things are tough issues. I appreciated how much substance Thomas put into this. This was far from a one issue story. This was the whole cake and I was eating every bite!

I can see why this format may not sit well with everyone. It punches the whole way through but it is an exceptionally told story.

Thomas is a true wordsmith. Her writing leaps off the page with realness…is that a word? Realness?

You know what I’m saying.

As you can tell, I loved this. I want everyone to read it and seriously, I am on the EDGE of my seat until Angie Thomas puts out another book. I am really hoping for another story set in Garden Heights!!!

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Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal BlueRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alex Claremont-Diaz is the FSOTUS (First Son of the United States). His Mom, the first female president of the United States, is a hard-fighting Texas woman who knows how to get things done.

Alex is making his way through college and planning to sky rocket into politics straight out of school. He already has years of experience working on various campaigns and it is truly where he sees his life going.

We all know I love politics and political strategy in books, so right off the bat, I’m all like…

But Alex still has some growing up to do. As he should, he’s in his early-20s y’all! Give the boy a break. So he still parties a bit to hard and feuds with foreign dignitaries…

Oh yes, Prince Henry. Prince Henry is all sorts of swoony but Alex sees him as a bore and his #1 enemy. When an incident occurs at the Prince’s brother’s wedding, toppling over the super expensive wedding cake, the boys are forced to pretend to be friends in order to save face.

Alex would rather do pretty much anything else. Unfortunately, his wants are fairly inconsequential at this point, and so begins the relationship that is: Alex + Henry.

If you are reading this, I am sure you already know what this book entails. It is getting so much hype right now and for good reason. A mainstream title that is humorous and steamy New Adult romance, featuring a male/male, enemies-to-lovers relationship? What’s not to love?!

I personally was swept away from the very first pages. It is so fun. Pure fun on the page but also thoughtful in its presentation. I truly feel this is ground-breaking and we will all be talking about it for years to come.

McQuiston did such a great job of making this so contemporary without feeling forced in any way. The dialogue was super believable and the storyline provided a lot of food for thought.

I have heard a few people mention that it is too optimistic?? To me, I didn’t really think so. It is a happy story overall but our characters have struggles just like real people. As Alex and Henry both grapple with their sexuality and what that means in terms of their lives, what their family’s response will be, what the world’s response will be…they really struggled with that. They had hard decisions to make, just like in real life.

I applaud Casey for writing this. I think this will mean a heck of a lot to a lot of people and McQuiston is definitely on my list of autobuy authors after this spectacular debut! Bravo!

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity. I think this will be making a lot of reader’s ‘Best of 2019’ lists!

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Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

ArtemisArtemis by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jazz Bashara lives on Artemis, a moon colony with its own social structure and commerce. Jazz, estranged from her father, has been making ends meet by functioning as a smuggler for the black market economy.

Mostly hustling smaller items, one day a very rich man makes Jazz an offer she can’t refuse.

What follows is a story of girl trying to make up for past mistakes and trying to survive the best she can, with a little corporate sabotage sprinkled in.

I really enjoyed this book. The world that Weir created. When you are reading about Artemis, it’s hard to remember that it doesn’t exist. It seemed real and the science is feasible, so A++. The details were described so well. ((applause))

Additionally, the characters all really worked for me. I loved Jazz. She’s super flawed but seriously trying her best and every once in a while, you just have to throw caution to the wind and say, f* it. I liked her attitude and I think she really came full circle over the course of the story.

I guess it is important to note that I have not read The Martian yet and frankly, I’m glad. I know a lot of folks read that first and then didn’t enjoy this as much. Now I think when I finally do get around to The Martian it will impress me even more, and trust me, that is still on the TBR.

I would definitely recommend this to any scifi fans out there who haven’t read it yet.

Who are we kidding though?
I am probably the only one left on planet Earth who hadn’t gotten to it yet!

I am happy to be crossing it off my backlist and thank my TBR Jar for making me read it!

P.S. This could translate into a fantastic, fast-paced movie! Please do, Hollywood. Please do.

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Review: The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Lovely and the LostThe Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cady Bennett found Kira in the forest when she was just a little girl. That’s what Cady does. As a Search and Rescue (SAR) professional she has found countless lost peoples.

When she came across Kira, it was clear she had been on her own in the woods for weeks. Dirty, scared and practically feral, Cady took her in and raised her as her own.

Now in her late teens, Kira has been in training, along with her brother Jude and closest friend, Free, to be a SAR professional herself. Although she still has a hard time trusting others and has a fuse as short as a fingernail, when it comes to tracking lost things, she’s a natural.

When a call comes in about a missing girl back in Cady’s hometown, the whole family, including their trained SAR canine companions, load up and head out to help. They end up staying at the house Cady grew up in, along with her estranged father, Bales, and his companion, Ness.

Cady has not spoken to her father for years and tensions are running high. That paired with the pressure of the search for missing girl, Bella, makes for a ticking time bomb.

The kids begin to discover some long held family secrets and what unfolds answers questions about all of their pasts, including Kira’s which has remained locked in her mind since the day she was found.

I really enjoyed this book. The mystery, the tension, the drama, the high stakes search and rescue, the DOGSSSSSSS!!!!!

The human characters were super enjoyable as well. I loved the themes of found families and loyalty woven throughout. Cady’s son, Jude, is such a precious popsicle, his witty banter made me giggle pretty much nonstop. I also enjoyed Kira so much. The way she connected with the dogs and her strong-willed spirit had me rooting for her the whole way.

In my opinion, this is a great YA mystery/thriller, that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. It was completely unique, I have never read anything quite like it, and I was really impressed with Jennifer Lynn Barnes writing. She drew me in and had me needing to know what the heck was going on.

I would definitely recommend this book and plan to pick up more of her books. I would also be totally stoked if there was a continuation to this; whether a companion novel, a prequel or a direct sequel. I am so not ready to be done with these characters.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly enjoyed it and appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

City of GhostsCity of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

There is no doubt that I flew through this.

I loved the premise and am planning to continue on with this series. However, while it was good, there was just something about it that kept me from truly being immersed in the story.

I actually read quite a bit of Middle Grade and for me, this was lacking the level of humor and fun that I am used to seeing in MG stories. I know this is supposed to be on the darker side, as far as content, but there still could have been humorous banter or something of that nature to keep me engaged.

Confession:
While Victoria Schwab is a beloved author, this is actually the first book I have ever read from her.

Her writing is great. Very fluid and experienced but for Middle Grade…I don’t know, something about it just never clicked for me.

Again, the premise is great. I love the idea of Cassidy’s, the main character’s, parents being paranormal investigators. The whole concept of their new television series and having to travel to different locations for filming.

I also enjoyed that Cass can actually see ghosts, and interact with them, even though no one else in her family can. I think maybe as the series continues on the plots will become more involved and perhaps we will have more of a chance to connect with the characters.

Overall, I feel this is definitely a good book and a solid start to a series. Obviously, I am not the intended audience for this so a room full of Middle Graders may have a different opinion than me.

I think if the concept of this sounds good to you, pick it up and give it a shot!

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Review: Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

Two Girls DownTwo Girls Down by Louisa Luna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Jamie, a single mother, runs into Kmart to buy a gift for a child’s birthday party, she somehow, doesn’t think twice about leaving her two girls, Kylie, 10 and Bailey, 8, alone in the car.

She’s frazzled already that morning and doesn’t want them hassling her for treats. Little does she know, in just moments, she will be praying to have those moments again.

Upon returning to the car, she finds it empty. The girls are gone.

Parenting choices aside, this is a devastating circumstance for Jamie. When the police fail to come up with any leads, she begins to unravel (although truth be told, she was halfway there already).

Wanting to help, Jamie’s family hires reputable ‘people finder’, Alice Vega, to perform her own investigation. Vega, a bounty hunter by trade, has had great success locating missing people and Jamie’s family knows, she is their best hope.

Vega is a certified badass with a 6th sense for finding lost things. I loved her from the start. Her character definitely has some skeletons in the closet and that’s my kind of gal. She seems to have no fear and will stop at nothing to track down the ones she seeks.

New to the rural Pennsylvania area, Vega enlists the help of disgraced former cop, Max Caplan. ‘Cap’ resigned from the force in order to protect the reputation of another officer, so yeah, he’s a good guy. Father to a smart, independent 16-year old girl, Cap is getting by doing private investigative work. Begrudgingly at first, he decides to help Vega with the case.

Their investigation was so interesting. The characters detailed so nicely to give this a very seedy feel. It got real dark, which I was not anticipating. This went places.

I loved the chemistry between Vega and Cap. They made a great team and I would love to see more books with them solving cases together. Does anyone know if that is going to be a thing?

I would recommend this to people who like police procedural-type crime thrillers. Especially if you aren’t put off by dark subject matter.

A++ to Book of the Month Club for bringing this book to my attention!

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Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding DateThe Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Meet Cute turns Forever Cute…or does it!?

Stuck in an elevator with an attractive man was not how Alexa Monroe saw this evening going. Arriving at a hotel to visit her sister, who is just in town for a night, with a bottle of champagne and cheese and crackers in her purse, she’s ready for a night of girl chat. What she gets is an interesting proposal.

Dr. Drew Nichols is at the hotel for a wedding weekend. The wedding of his ex-girlfriend to one of his best friends from med school. Not awkward at all.

Making matters worse, his date cancelled on him at the last minute so he is running solo. Now stuck in the elevator with an attractive young woman, the answer becomes clear! He needs to convince her to be his date. His fake girlfriend for the whole weekend. Luckily, Dr. Nichols is very persuasive.

And so begins one of the best fake date tropes in history. I adored the wedding weekend for Drew and Alexa. Alexa is such a great character. Extremely relatable. She has some self doubts and insecurities that many of us have probably had. Especially when starting to date a new person. I like how that came off on the page, very believable to me.

Drew is so charming and fun without being annoying. He also had some believable and relatable traits when it came to commitments and second guessing himself.

I would definitely say that I had more fun with the first half of the book compared to the second half. It was still a good story, I just found myself becoming frustrated at the lack of communication. This being said, I think a lot of relationships IRL suffer from lack of communication too, so maybe this is how it really would have gone.

One aspect I did really enjoy was how much we learned about Alexa and Drew’s careers. This wasn’t just all about the romance. There was that but we were also dealing with adults who had lives prior and outside of their romance. I liked seeing that.

I also liked that we were reading about a mixed race couple and it wasn’t just glossed over. They did have some conversations about it and I appreciated that.

There was some depth to this story but also a lot of steaminess. The steamy scenes were good, although at times I did catch some repetitive phrasing and such that was meh. Overall though, a fun little read!

I am looking forward to reading the companion novels in this series. I believe The Proposal features Drew’s friend, Carlos, and The Wedding Party focuses on Maddie and Theo. I am really excited to get to both of those!

I would definitely recommend this book to other romance readers. I think it is important to note that I am just starting to get into romance, so my opinions are from a reader fairly inexperienced in the genre. I still think even advanced romance readers could have fun with this though!

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Review: Last Things by Jacqueline West

Last ThingsLast Things by Jacqueline West
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Anders Thorson is a rock god. Okay, not really a rock god. He’s actually a high school kid but he is front-man of a band, Last Things, and they do have a regular gig at a coffee shop in their Northern Minnesota town.

Thea Malcolm is the new girl in town but has quickly become Anders number one fan. She shows up every where he goes, never approaching, just quietly lurking in the background.

When bad things begin to happen to Anders and those closest to him, the first suspect on everyone’s list is Thea.

What’s her deal anyway? She’s so quiet and she lives alone with her mysterious Aunt who everyone suspects of being a witch.

But Thea is harmless, right?

Told in alternating perspectives between Anders and Thea, the reader is quickly tuned in to the fact that there is a lot more going on in this town than meets the eye.

Let’s talk about the woods.

Yes, ‘the woods’. The woods play a prominent role in this story. You definitely feel early on that something is out there. It takes on a presence all of its own. It’s dark and eerie and we all know, that’s my aesthetic.

The atmosphere of this book definitely amped the story for me. I loved getting tiny tidbits of insight into what was really going on without having everything revealed. That may not make much sense but if you read the story, you’ll get it.

This was a fast, fun read. It reminded me a bit of the movie Megan’s Body mixed with a bit of Stranger Things; not a bad combo. I would say it reads on the younger side of YA and may be a great introductory book for someone looking to get into more paranormal reads.

Overall, I was impressed with Jacqueline West’s writing and I would definitely pick up more books from her in the future. This being said, I did feel the ending was a bit rushed. I could have done with a bit more explanation of the powers involved in the resolution.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Greenwillow Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to get my hands on this early and provide my opinion. This is out now guys, so grab a copy today and let me know what you think!

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Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While attending a Spring Break party, Starr Carter, runs into her best childhood friend, Khalil. They haven’t seen each other in a while and Starr is happy to catch up with him. They used to be real close but drifted apart once Starr started attending a private school out of their neighborhood.

After a violent incident erupts at the party, Khalil offers to give Starr a ride home, which she accepts. On the way, they get pulled over. A nightmarish scene then plays out in front of Starr’s eyes. Khalil removed from the car and ultimately gunned down in the street by a police officer. Badge number 1-1-5.

The rest of the books follows Starr in the aftermath of this killing; what she goes through, what her family goes through and what her community goes through.

There is nothing that I can write that hasn’t been written before in regards to this book.

It’s so important, so well written and so needed.
I loved it beginning to end.

Believe the hype. If you haven’t picked this up yet, please do.
I’m so glad that I did. As an aside, I listened to the audiobook while following along in my hardcover edition. As I already knew, but maybe you don’t, Bahni Turpin is a goddess. She is such a great narrator, bringing stories to life.

I will definitely be picking up On the Come Up very soon! Thank you for writing this, Angie Thomas.

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Review: Saving Meghan by D.J. Palmer

Saving MeghanSaving Meghan by D.J. Palmer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

15-year old, Meghan Gerard, is a very sick girl.
Or is she?

Her mother, Becky, insists there is something really wrong with her but after numerous specialists, and countless tests, there is no definitive diagnosis. In fact, Becky’s track record on dragging Meghan to a million different doctors has started to attract attention.

One doctor in particular, calls her out on it. Dr. Nash, a GI specialist, suspects Munchausen syndrome by Proxy as a cause for Meghan’s mysterious symptoms and she is not going to sit by while Meghan is further harmed.

Dr. Nash sets up a series of events that forces the removal of Meghan from her parent’s home. While this may seem brash, Dr. Nash feels that based on the totality of events, it could also be the best thing to ever happen to Meghan.

The premise behind this book is super intriguing and I wanted to love it. Unfortunately, overall, I was underwhelmed.

It just seemed to drag on and on. I couldn’t stand Becky, or Meghan really, and while I am not one who has to love my book characters, I honestly couldn’t have cared less what was wrong with Meghan.

There were also some fairly far-fetched plot points toward the end that definitely had me rolling my eyes. This being said, the writing itself was strong so I wouldn’t be opposed to reading future books by this author. This one just didn’t seem to stand out for me.

As we all know, there’s a reader for every book and a book for every reader.

Maybe this will work for you.
Pick it up. See if you can figure out who to believe.
It will definitely have you guessing.

Thank you so much to the publisher, one of my favorites, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. As always, I appreciate the opportunity to share my opinion.

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