Odd and Bookish
Review
5 Stars
How to Keep a Secret - Sarah Morgan

I received this book for free from the publisher (Harlequin) as part of their bookstagram publicity campaign. 

 

I loved this book!

 

A blurb on the back of the book from fellow author, Jill Shalvis, describes this book as being “Jane Green meets Sophie Kinsella.” I haven’t read anything by Jane Green but I definitely got a few Sophie Kinsella vibes from this (I love Sophie Kinsella if you didn’t already know). One of the characters, Lauren, lives in London at the beginning of the book, which reminds me a lot of Sophie’s characters. 

 

A large part of this book are the secrets and the fallouts that happen when they get revealed and I thought they were handled perfectly. I loved how the secrets were revealed one at a time. They were spaced out nicely and woven throughout the story.

 

 

This book is about three generations of women, which is a trope I love reading about and it was very well executed. All the women were fleshed out and felt real. I liked that we are given all 4 perspectives because that allows you to really get to know the characters and their feelings. I know some people had issues with the perspective changes but I didn’t have any issue with it and didn’t find it confusing.

 

There is romance, but the main focus of the book are the familial relationships, and I liked how the romance didn’t overshadow that. There was a nice balance between the two. 

 

Overall, this was a wonderful piece of women’s fiction with a lot of heart and romance. 

Reading progress update: I've read 233 out of 432 pages.
How to Keep a Secret - Sarah Morgan
Review
3.5 Stars
But Not Forever - Joy Schleh

I received an ARC of this book for free as part of BookSparks’ YA Summer Reading Challenge.

 

This was a fun and fast read. It wasn’t super intricate but it was still enjoyable.

 

I loved the characters, especially the side characters like Kerry (she was the best!) and Sonnet’s cousins. 

 

The ending was really good. I didn’t quite know how it was going to end but I loved the reveal that happened. I was on the fence about this book while I was reading it, but the ending tipped me over and made me decide that I liked the book. 

 

 

As for the things I didn’t like, there were a few things I wasn’t huge fan of. The first being that the book read a little too juvenile for my taste. The characters are 15 and 16 but the writing style felt very middle grade. 

 

Second, there really was no explanation at all for the time travel aspect. That didn’t bother me a lot, but I still would have lot to have seen more depth to it. How it happened still remains a mystery. 

 

Lastly, two of Sonnet’s cousins were half Filipino and half white (just like me!), and I wish there would have been more done with their heritage, since Filipinos hardly get any representation. I knew it probably wasn’t going to happen, but I kept hoping that there would be some sort of nod to Filipino culture in the book.

 

Overall, while this book wasn’t 100% perfect, it was still an entertaining read. 

Review
3.5 Stars
Bitter Orange  - Claire Fuller

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Tin House Books) in exchange for an honest review. 

 

The best part of this book is the atmosphere that Claire Fuller creates with her prose. This book gave me the creeps which I wast totally not expecting. It was so eerie and I got a haunted house vibe from it at times. Fuller uses lush language to create an astonishing portrait of a crumbling English countryside mansion. She really makes the setting come alive and gives it a character of its own. 

 

As for the storyline, I didn’t find it to be as twisty as I had expected it to be. Some of the blurb reviews on the back made it seem like it was going to be shocking but it ended up being more subdued. The twists are more blink and you’ll miss rather than in your face. 

 

The three main characters were all very fascinating. They were all very nuanced and well crafted. However, I didn’t feel like I really got to fully know who Cara and Peter really were. I was waiting for a big a-ha moment to come but it never really happened. I’m still left with a lot questions about their relationship and what really happened between them. 

 

Overall, this was a gorgeously written novel with dynamic characters, a stunning setting and an intriguing mystery.

Review
4 Stars
Caleb's Window - John J. Siefring

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

 

Going into this, I had no idea what to expect since it was a self published book and this type of book can go either way. But luckily I ended up really enjoying it. 

 

I loved the characters. Cara’s strength, determination, and compassion for others was inspiring. I loved how cheeky Caleb was as a teenager. 

 

I liked how the story was woven together and started at one point in time but went backwards to show how they got to that point. 

 

The book was also very well written which made it so easy to read. It took me a while to read this book because I was in the middle of moving, but one night when I wasn’t busy I managed to fly through 100 pages. 

 

The one thing I didn’t like was how fast Caleb’s part was. I would have loved for his story to have been fleshed out more and given the same attention and time as Cara’s story because I found his to be just as compelling. His story went by lightning fast and I wanted to spend a little bit more time with him. Additionally, Caleb grew up during a very interesting time period so there would have been a lot to explore. 

 

This doesn’t have anything to do with the story, but this book probably had the best Acknowledgments page I’ve read recently. The author didn’t thank anyone specifically, but instead gave the reasons why he didn’t. It was subtly hilarious. 

 

Overall, this was a wonderful historical fiction novel about a mother and her son and the struggles they face in life. 

 

Review
4 Stars
Mammoth - Jill Baguchinsky

 

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Turner Publishing) in exchange for an honest review. 

 

This was a super fun and cute read! 

 

I loved the unique point of view. A plus sized fashion blogger who loves paleontology is something we don’t see often. I enjoyed reading her view point and seeing the world through her eyes. It was a unique perspective that I found refreshing.  

 

I enjoyed the little Look of the Day pictures and blog posts that are mixed in at the beginning of some chapters. They were cute and added a nice touch. 

 

I thought the romance was very adorable. I was happy with who she ended up with in the end. I was shipping them from the very beginning. 

 

The one thing I didn’t like was how annoying the main character, Natalie, got in the second half of the book. She started making one stupid decision after another. A lot of the problems she had were caused by making bad decisions and she would try to solve the problem by making more bad decisions. It ended up being a chain of bad decisions and it frustrated me. But aside from this, I still liked the plot overall. 

 

Overall, this was a unique young adult novel full of paleontology fun, a dash of funky fashion, and a sprinkle of romance.

Review
5 Stars
The War Outside - Monica Hesse

I received an ARC of this book for free from TheNovl in exchange for an honest review. Since I received an ARC, my quotes from the book are tentative. 

 

Last month I read a different YA novel about German American internment and was beyond disappointed by it. When I saw that TheNovl was offering a chance to read and review this book I jumped at the opportunity. Thankfully, The War Outside was a million times better than that other book I read.

 

This book was so heart wrenching and emotional. There was one incident towards the end that gave me chills and goosebumps. 

 

I loved the dual perspectives and how well the author put you into each girl’s shoes. I also enjoyed the author’s writing style. It flowed easily and sucked you into the story. 

 

I’m glad that the book showed both Japanese American and German American internment. I particularly liked that it discussed how being called the enemy was different for each group. At one point Haruko tells Margot, “I’m so sorry…that your father had to wake up and realize that you had become the enemy overnight. But a least you didn’t have to wake up and realize that other Americans had thought of you as an enemy all along” (148). She then explains, “the reason this imprisonment is hard to Margot’s father is because they didn’t know yet that this country was unfair…The West Coast Japanese had already given the government their shortwave radios, and they had already agreed to their curfew, eight PM to six AM, but it wasn’t enough, it was never enough. It was so easy for the government make those rules. You can’t hate someone all of a sudden. It takes practice. It takes a long time” (148). This is an idea that Margot revisits later in the book when imagining what it would be like to go back home to Iowa. She ponders, “Haruko was right the first time we talked. It was not like with the Japanese. where entire communities went away. With us it was like a scalpel: a German here, a German there, while the rest of the town went about their business” (207). These quotes showcase the idea of how we are not  free in America until we’re all free. Everyone’s freedom is in jeopardy if one group loses theirs. 

 

The ending was…WOW. It was one of the best endings I’ve read in a while. It left you thinking about all that happened between the girls and the motives behind their actions.  

 

I liked that the author included a note at the end about the history behind the story. It is evident that she did a lot of research and tried to make it as accurate as possible.  

 

Overall, this was an amazing and powerful novel whose ending will leave you questioning it all. 

Review
5 Stars
Anna Undreaming - Thomas Welsh

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

 

I haven’t read much urban fantasy before so I had no idea what to expect going in, but I ended up loving this book. 

 

This book gave me a ton of Alice in Wonderland vibes especially in the second half, which I was totally digging since I love Alice in Wonderland. The book had the same dream-like quality and mad characters that Alice in Wonderland has.

 

The premise of the book was so creative. People with the ability to build new worlds is such a fascinating concept.

 

The whole book was absolutely stunning in terms of execution. Welsh writes brilliantly and through his prose crafts a gorgeous world. 

 

My favorite character was Elise. She was just so fun and quirky and I loved that about her. I hope we get to see more of her in the following books. 

 

As someone who majored in philosophy in college, I enjoyed the philosophy references throughout the book. Rousseau, Nietzsche, and Camus were all mentioned by name.

 

The glossary at the end of the book was tremendously helpful in learning about the their world. I used it numerous times while reading. 

 

The one thing this book was missing was a map. I would have loved to seen a map of The Realm. 

 

Overall, this was a fantastic start to a magical new trilogy! I can’t wait to find out what happens next and learn more about these characters. 

Reading progress update: I've read 159 out of 368 pages.
Anna Undreaming - Thomas Welsh
Review
5 Stars
Sweet Black Waves - Kristina Perez

I received this book for free as part of BookSparks’ YA Summer Reading Challenge.

 

Omg this was so amazing! I don’t know why people aren’t talking about this book. This could have totally been one of those super hyped YA books. 

 

This is a retelling of the popular Tristan and Iseult myth, which I have to admit, I’ve never even heard of. So going into this book I didn’t have any expectations about the retelling aspect since I knew nothing about the story. I went into the book completely blind as to what might happen. I wanted to be completely surprised by it. 

 

What I got was a roller coaster of a story. This book took me on a wild ride and I loved every second of it. It was beautiful yet tragic.

 

For some reason, the book reminded me a lot of the CW show, Reign. The mood and atmosphere were somewhat similar, but mainly the sense of duty that Branwen had to her land reminded me a lot of the women on that show. 

 

 

I loved the blend of fantasy and royalty. It was a very ethereal combination.

 

The writing style is wonderful. Kristina Perez spins a beautifully written tale that is just as magical as the story itself. 

 

Since this is the first book in a trilogy, a lot of this book was set up, but it was still very enjoyable to read. I still found it to be very exciting and I was throughly engaged the entire time. 

 

I loved the notes that the author included at the end about the language used and the source material. You can tell a lot of research went into writing this book so I appreciate that. The author even included a glossary and a list of the characters which made reading this book so easy. There is also a map but I had an ARC so mine didn’t have it but I’ve seen it in a preview and the map is gorgeous. 

 

Overall, I was blown away by this book and will definitely be continuing the trilogy. If you’re looking for a new spellbinding YA fantasy series, then read this! 

Reading progress update: I've read 337 out of 448 pages.
Sweet Black Waves - Kristina Perez
Reading progress update: I've read 142 out of 448 pages.
Sweet Black Waves - Kristina Perez
Review
3 Stars
Disco Sour - Giuseppe Porcaro

 

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

 

So this was an interesting book. I’m not quite sure I “got” it. I’m American and I felt like I would have understood and appreciated the political side of it better if I was from Europe. I’m just not that familiar with how everything works over there. 

 

The book does raise some fascinating ideas about the future, especially the intersection of politics and technology (“Tinder-politics”). I enjoyed that exploration. 

 

I did like the parts that didn’t have to do with politics such as his nightmare of a journey to the conference. That was loads of fun to read. I also liked the parts about his ex Janine. 

 

The one big issue I had was that I found the ending to be too rushed. Everting just ended super quickly. I would have liked to seen it drawn out more. As a whole, I felt like the book could have been at least 50 pages longer. That way the whole thing could have been developed a bit more. The book seemed to end just when things were really getting interesting. 

 

Overall, this was a promising debut novel and I am eager to see what else this author publishes in the future. He certainly has a very creative and innovative mind! 

Review
3.5 Stars
Campaign Widows - Aimee Agresti

I received this book for free from the publisher (Harlequin) as part of their bookstagram publicity campaign. 

 

 

This book and I got off to a rocky start. In the beginning, I had a hard time connecting with the book and the characters. I typically get sucked into chick lit, but I didn’t with this one. To me, it felt a bit like fan fiction in the beginning. It kind of felt like I was reading someone’s fantasy election season. Like the 2016 election was so bad that they just created their own.

 

Once I hit the halfway mark, things got a whole lot better. The story finally seemed to be picking up and I was able to connect more with the characters. The friendship between the widows also started to blossom at this point and that’s when the book actually started to work for me. However, their friendship never reached its full potential. I would loved to have seen more of them together. A lot of the times two or three of them would be hanging out but not all four of them. 

 

Out of all the widows, I loved Cady and her storyline the most. She had the most development and was really the glue that brought everyone together. 

 

As much as I loved Cady, my favorite character was Parker. I loved his sense of humor and his bar was such a genius idea. 

 

Overall, this was your average chick lit novel, just with an election backdrop.

Review
5 Stars
When the Beat Drops - Anna Hecker

I received this book for free as part of BookSparks’ YA Summer Reading Challenge.

 

Going into this book, I didn’t have very high expectations. I thought it was just going to be an average contemporary YA summer read. Instead, this book blew me away.

 

The way the author describes music is incredible. From the very beginning you could just feel the passion that the main character, Mira, has for jazz music, and then later on for DJing. Prior to reading this book, I never thought of DJing as being that beautiful. But after reading this, I’m never going to look at it the same way. I have a newfound respect for it. 

 

I liked that this book didn’t shy away from the drug aspect of rave culture. That was a huge part of the story and it highlighted the reality of it very well. 

 

 

I also enjoyed Mira and Britt’s sisterly relationship and the journey they went through together. A large chunk of the book is focused on them going to these music festivals and how they cope with the devastating tragedy that happens at one of them.

 

Character-wise, I loved Shay! She was hands down my favorite character. I was actually shipping her and Mira after they first met, even though I knew (based on the blurb) that was probably not going to happen. 

 

Another aspect of this book that I loved was the secrets that some of the characters had. They were all revealed at the right time and it just made the story click. 

 

Overall, this is an impressive novel that was realistic and hit all the right notes! 

Review
5 Stars
Boardwalk Summer - Meredith Jaeger

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review as part of a TLC Book Tour.

 

I absolutely loved everything about this book! 

 

I was so excited to read this because it takes place in Santa Cruz, California. I just so happen to live in nearby San Jose (which is mentioned in passing a few times in the book) and have been to Santa Cruz and the boardwalk myself. It was really cool reading about a place that I was familiar with. The beach boardwalk was the place for end of the field trips while I was in school. Whenever the Giant Dipper or the carousel was mentioned, I got exited and  was like, I’ve been on that! 

 

This book has dual storylines: Violet’s story which takes place in 1940 and Mari’s story which takes place in 2007. I found both stories to be very compelling and I liked how they were connected. Usually when it comes to dual storylines, I’ll end up liking one story more than the other, but with this book, I loved them both! 

 

 

I was so happy to see that Mari was Mexican American. It gave the book a realness that was refreshing. There are a lot of Mexican Americans in the Bay Area so it was nice to see that representation. 

 

The whole tearing down the gazebo and building condos storyline in Mari’s part was so accurate. That happens so much in the Bay Area especially since the Silicon Valley tech boom. Developers are constantly trying to tear down things that have been here forever in order to build stuff the city doesn’t even need. I could relate to Mari’s opposition to it so much! 

 

As for Violet and her storyline, I enjoyed how it portrayed the reality of Hollywood. It showed both the glamour and the grime of it. It especially important now because of the #MeToo movement. 

 

Overall if you’re looking for a California beach read, then look no further, this book is for you! And from a local perspective, this was spot on!