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Tina (HDB)

Book reviews, random musings and all things mischievous. 

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Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things
Jenny Lawson
Progress: 90 %
Billow
Emma Raveling

Review: Miss Behave

Miss Behave - Traci Highland

If you're in the mood for a light, funny book then you should pick up Miss Behave. The inclusion of Piper's advice column from the paper really made me choke on my drink a few times from laughing so hard. Highland does a wonderful job making Piper into a totally relateable and charming character.

 

This wonderful gem has a little bit of everything for you, family craziness, overbearing mothers, naked runs in the forest.... you won't want to miss a moment of Piper and Mr. Brookes chaos. Each new development in the story makes you laugh out loud and question your own sanity. Piper has a sarcastic wit that I would adore in a friend, and Mr. Brookes is a great match for her personality. Their banter and flirting is absolutely hilarious and swoon worthy.

 

I can't wait to read the next installment of the Anderson Family series. I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy fun, romantic, sarcastic lead characters.

New Release Review!

How to Breathe Underwater - Vicky Skinner

 

There's a lot to unravel here, so bear with me. I'm still in awe of the profound emotional roller coaster I just experienced with this heartfelt story. Skinner has a way with words that elicits your emotions and keeps you engaged page after page.  
 
Kate is a fairly average teenager, save for one big exception, she's the best swimmer in the state. With her dad as her coach constantly pushing her to do more, be better, work harder, etc. there's a lot of emotional baggage tied into her sport. When Kate's life turns upside down after her dad's affair becomes public, it's more than just a relocation. It is the first time Kate really questions whether she wants to keep swimming now that she's not striving for her father's attention.
 
I imagine switching schools after growing up with the same team is difficult in itself, then add the pressure of being "the best", any kid would have a hard time. Kate manages to navigate her new circumstances with less than stellar grace and a few bad choices to makes things more challenging. Crushing on the boy next door is adorable and sweet, but navigating through an existing girlfriend and trying to make new friends does not make it easy. 
 
Kate's struggles with her new family life are an integral part of the story. Divorce is a difficult topic to write about, but Skinner does an exceptional job keeping things just the right amount of heavy without feeling overwhelming. It was important that we see how the divorce is affecting Kate's mom and sister as well. The camaraderie of their shared heartache is a refreshingly honest look at the emotional toll divorce can have on a family. 
 
Michael and Kate's friendship is the bright light in an otherwise tumultuous world. There's one particular scene that stands out in my mind where they sit in the hallway across from each other in the middle of the night eating ice cream. That sweet moment of friendship made me wish I had a neighbor like that, especially as I suffered from insomnia in high school too. I found their story endearing and frustrating at the same time. It is a splendid story fraught with awkward moments, sweet gestures, and a fair amount of hardship. 
 
I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy a heartfelt look at what strengths lie in moving on and forgiveness. 

Review: Demon hunting teenagers, what could go wrong?

When Life Gives You Demons - Jennifer Honeybourn
Teenagers and exorcism, what could possibly go wrong? As if young Shelby doesn't have enough going on in her senior year of high school she is also learning to be an exorcist from  her uncle who is a priest. Learning Latin for fun sounds awesome /sarcasm.
 
As with most first jobs, Shelby is struggling with the responsibilities placed before her, especially when it requires her to miss her study sessions with her crush Spencer. Soon enough they will find out they have a lot more in common than they think, and Shelby will uncover a secret that makes her take her exorcism training much more seriously. 
 
While the story starts out light and full of teenage sarcasm, it quickly becomes an interesting exploration of demons and the power of exorcism/faith. Family ties and loyalty are an underlying theme woven into several relationships in the story. Shelby's quest to find her mother and her lackadaisical attitude towards her uncle are important throughout her journey into demon hunting.  
 
 I enjoyed every aspect of this gem of a story and would recommend this to readers who enjoy quirky young adult books. 

Review: Watching You

Watching You - Shannon Greenland (S. E. Green)

There is a lot to unravel about Viola's story and I hope to do it justice. We meet Viola as she is starting at a most prestigious school that she's worked tirelessly to attend. From the first interaction with Riel we know that there is a spark between them but it is quickly doused with cold water when Viola realizes Riel is her competition for the scholarship that allows her to attend the school.

 

As Viola settles in at her new school she has a strong sense of impostor syndrome. She hasn't lived the privileged life most of her classmates have and if they only knew where she came from she would never be accepted, or so she thinks. This particular piece of of the story is so important. The need to fit in, to feel like you belong, is so strong as you enter into adulthood. This is Viola's chance to change her life and she's willing to fight hard, study furiously, and try to ignore her budding feelings for a certain boy. 

 

I really loved falling in love with Riel. His character has so much depth and passion that it's impossible to ignore. Viola deserves a beautiful soul like Riel and their story was enthralling to read. Of course, as with most relationships, there are hurdles to overcome and trust to be earned, but I was rooting for them from the first meeting. 

 

My favorite part of suspense novels is trying to figure out who did it, before it's revealed in the story. I was not successful in this case, which makes me love this story even more. Viola's stalker was a mystery right up to the reveal. So hang on to your hats, cause you're in for a whirlwind. 

 

I'd recommend this book to readers who enjoy a good coming of age story with a lot of heart, and a great build of suspense. 

Review: The Truth Hunters

The Truth Hunters - Emilia Zeeland

Hang on to your hats friends, this is a roller-coaster ride. If you're looking for a page turner, then look no further. The STAR Academy series is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. The Truth Hunters is book 2 in the series and you'll want to read book 1 before starting it. 

 

We pick right back up with Yalena and her friends as they return to STAR Academy for year two. Lots has changed as they prepare for whatever it is the Fians are up to. Yalena struggles to find her new place since she lost her leadership role, but eventually finds her footing again. With a few new freshmen to make things interesting, we follow the same cast from last year through their trials and tribulations. Except this time, there is even more at stake. 

 

In true trilogy fashion, this book gets to the heart of the issues. There is so much information to uncover about Yalena's past, and trust me when I say it will leave you speechless. A roller-coaster of emotions is the only way to describe her story. You will want to keep reading till the last page and then you'll want more. 

 

In addition to a personal quest for answers, we learn a lot about the nuances of the space world and everything really comes to life. Zeeland does a wonderful job of bringing you into the moment and making you feel like part of the story. There is a threat from the Fians that can't be ignored, but understanding the history makes it even harder to cope. 

 

I wish book 3 was already out, but alas, we will have to wait for the next installment. Grab this fantastic sci-fi story now. 

Review: Meh

Origin - Dan Brown

I have been a fan of Dan Brown since The Da Vinci Code and I have thoroughly enjoyed all of his books up until this one. This particular story was interesting in challenging our relationship with technology and perhaps opening a dialogue about our future as a species. The characters and story line just felt a little meh for me. 

Part of the charm of Dan Brown's stories are that they all take place in real places, and this is no exception. Focused in Spain our hero, Robert Langdon once again finds himself caught in the middle of an ordeal, this time focused on a former student of his. To say Langdon's character wasn't really necessary seems cruel, but that's how I felt. His particular expertise didn't shine through and his character could have been replaced with almost anyone with a similar academic background. His inclusion in the scandal felt forced at times and simply ridiculous at other times. 

Vidal was an interesting character and I enjoyed her contributions to the story. She really carried the story for me. A strong, intellectual, beautiful woman with ties to the throne, what could possibly be wrong with her? It was a remarkable commentary on her relationship with the Prince and how that all came together in the end. 

All in all I didn't love this particular installment of the series. I think fans of Dan Brown and his character Robert Langdon will find this interesting. The actual "discovery" is quite dramatic and very interesting and I would love to chat about it in real life, but alas the plot just didn't fit for me this time

Review: Ray Vs the Meaning of Life

Ray Vs the Meaning of Life - Michael F. Stewart

Ray is a typical teenager just trying to get through high school and find something he enjoys. He spends most of his time playing video games by himself and crushing on a neighbor girl. Then his grandmother dies and everything gets turned upside down. Ray finds himself suddenly responsible for an entire trailer park and all that it entails.

I'm a big fan of coming of age stories and this one does not disappoint. What seventeen year old is ready to discuss the meaning of life? I certainly wasn't. Ray's search for understanding leads him on a hilarious and sometimes disgusting path towards enlightenment. The author does not shy away from the muck that is part of the daily grind of running a camp full of miners and misfits.

I have to say one of my favorite parts of the story was the pool iceberg. The simplest of problems can become overwhelming if we don't manage our expectations of them, including how long it takes for ice to melt once the weather warms up. The symbolism of this and Ray's interactions with Penny really warmed my heart.

There is a lot of depth to this story, family struggles, helping those in need, taking responsibility and of course growing up. Ray's family is an eclectic group of misfits who motivate him, intentionally and not, towards finding his meaning of life. You'll want to join in on this hilarious "spiritual" journey.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy a fun coming of age story with a lot of heart.

Review: The Fireproof Girl

The Fireproof Girl (Sophie Shields Book 1) - Loretta Lost

Wow. Prepare yourself for a roller-coaster of emotions when you pick up this fabulous book. I could not put it down and you won't want to either. The alternating timelines and narrators make a smooth transition from story to story filling you in on the sorted past of Sophie and Cole.

 

There is so much to unravel from their bond and love for each other that I don't think I would ever be satisfied with the amount of stories about them. The raw emotional power of the writing and the intricate descriptions of the minute details bring this story to life in a beautifully tragic way. I found myself lost in the writing and feeling the same things that Sophie experiences on her quest for answers.

 

I highly recommend you grab this amazing story, a hot cup of coffee, and a comfy chair that you won't want to get up from. You'll want to finish this in one sitting.

Review: Love Hack

Love Hack - Kimberly Dean

I had some high expectations for Love Hack since I married a guy who works in IT and I've been around "geeks" my whole life. While the story was interesting, the characters fell a little flat for me. I wanted a bit more from Spencer and the instant stud scenario didn't really help anything.

 

Josie is a pretty typical girl navigating a high stress work situation while trying to deal with an ex boyfriend who invaded her privacy in the worst way. Her bubbly personality comes through as her attraction to the geek guy grows. Spencer was a little far fetched for me. He was described as going from a lanky geek guy to a hot stud with abs after a few weeks of working out. He discusses "studying" for sex and is apparently really great at it. There was even a comment about "leveling up" while in the act. It was all a little.... meh for me. Geeks are normal people, with normal hang ups. Inserting some slang terms and stereotypes doesn't really create a great character for me. I wanted more from him.

 

That being said, I did enjoy this little novel. It's fun and flirty and of course a bit suspenseful too. An interesting take on the perks of knowing IT security and how that can be advantageous when dealing with people posting things about you on the internet that may not be flattering. I would recommend this to readers who enjoy a good romance book with a bit of suspense.

Review: The Unsound Theory

The Unsound Theory - Emilia Zeeland

As you may have noticed, it has been a very slow year for me reading wise. Who knew having an infant and toddler to take care of full time would leave me little "me" time. The chronic sleep deprivation hasn't helped things either, but the plus side is that the few books I have managed to get to this year have been amazing. This one is no exception.

 

In true YA fashion, Yalena has a cryptic past that leads her on a journey to find both her origins and herself. This being the first book in the series, there is a lot of informative information and character introductions but it's a great lead in to what is sure to be a fantastic series. Yalena is an interesting character who surprised me a bit as she found her own voice in a sea of overachievers.

 

I really enjoyed the world building elements that Zeeland includes. Brief history lessons that you attend with Yalena and her classmates make this space world more and more interesting. Of course, what's a good novel without some romantic interests and competitive drama to keep things interesting. STAR Academy is a college level specialty school by invitation only. It is an elite group of students expected to become the next best thing in their respective fields, no pressure there.

 

I highly recommend this book to science fiction fans, especially those who enjoy young adult as well. Space is the next frontier and there is so much to learn from the next generation of explorations. The Unsound Theory has a little bit of everything in it and I can't wait for the next installment of this series!

GIVEAWAY!

Reblogged from Jessica (HDB):
Emergency Contact - Mary H. K. Choi

Hey loves!

 

I'm giving away a copy of this gorgeous book on my blog, courtesy of Simon Teen and Big Honcho Media. If you have a U.S. mailing address, and this looks like something you'd like to read, would you please go and enter? :D

 

Click here!

Sugar Lump Review

Sugar Lump - Megan Gaudino

There is so much to unravel about this story, I really enjoyed following CC around her new town getting to know the quirky characters. At the end of the day it's a very interesting commentary on the wedding industry as a whole and the promise of "happily ever after". I was anticipating a much different outcome to the mystery of this town, but was happily satisfied with the closure.

 

CC is a fairly typical seventeen year old girl who wants to fit in and find a place that feels like home, her dad promises that Sugar Lump is that place. With his dream job baking wedding cakes in the wedding capital he assures CC that his wanderlust days are over. There is some mystery as to why, but as they settle in to their new house and CC gets to know the town, the mystery just gets more complicated. Every character in this story provides some clue as to what goes on "behind the scenes" in town, but every piece of information just adds more confusion to CC's life. You will enjoy going on this adventure with CC and her new friends as the pieces eventually fall into place.

 

The wedding industry is an interesting one and a whole town devoted to it is actually not all that surprising. Ask anyone who has planned a wedding in the last 15 years and they can tell you that the wedding industry is crazy with a capital C. Just the mention of a wedding at a venue or caterer and the price magically goes up. Providing the "perfect" wedding day is a full time business and a very prosperous one for many people. The promise of happily ever after is what most couples are looking for and Sugar Lump provides that. But is everything the way it seems?

 

I highly recommend this fun and insightful mystery of the small wedding town of Sugar Lump. You won't be disappointed.

 

(there's a giveaway over on my blog if you want a copy!)

Interesting Commentary on Wedding Culture

Sugar Lump - Megan Gaudino

Full review to come later, but I really enjoyed this book! Lots of subtle commentary on the wedding culture and emphasis on the wedding (not marriage) part. 

Review: Double Take

Double Take - Abby Bardi

Bell-bottoms, booze and mystery are all a big part of this story. Bardi does a wonderful job painting the picture of Casa Sanchez and the way things used to be. Rachel aka Cookie remembers all the subtleties of her experiences and does a great job bringing you with her down memory lane.

I never quite connected with Rachel as a character, perhaps because things like bulimia were thrown around without context or point. Regardless, looking for truths from your past is always an interesting storytelling element. I enjoyed getting to know Cookie and the life she lived prior to present day and though her motivations for change at the end of the book are still a bit fuzzy for me, I'm going to say that I think she found what she was looking for.

If you enjoy reading about a small group of misfits from the late '60's/early '70's then you should definitely give this book a chance. It was an interesting ride.

 

 I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

 

2018!

Happy New Year! May your coffee be hot, your sleep be plentiful and your anxieties be minimal.

Review: Dark & Stormy

Dark & Stormy - J. Mercer

Our story starts out simple enough, a new girl in town meets cute hometown guy and he falls head over heels instantly. The amount of discussion regarding their lust, but respectful lust, was a bit excessive for my tastes. I understand new relationships are exciting and full of positive emotions, I just feel like it was a bit of instalove and an extraordinary amount of discussion about the feel of each others skin and trying to control their lust for each other.

The story moves forward eventually and we get into the drama of the story. Friends and exes interfering, a mysterious past that was never discussed, you get the idea. I actually really loved Savannah as a character. She was feisty and determined and I feel like every small town has a Savannah in it. Faryn and Kai were an interesting match, but his overprotective nature was never really addressed.

All in all, not my favorite story I've read lately but certainly had some interesting characters and a very small town feel which I enjoyed. I wasn't so shocked by the twist at the end because there was some foreshadowing for it, but it was as good finish to the story.

 

TW: Mental health issues/suicide