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Friday, July 21, 2017

Stefanie's Thoughts: The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cestari




Amber Sand is not a witch. The Sand family Wicca gene somehow leapfrogged over her. But she did get one highly specific magical talent: she can see true love. As a matchmaker, Amber's pretty far down the sorcery food chain (even birthday party magicians rank higher), but after five seconds of eye contact, she can envision anyone's soul mate.

Amber works at her mother's magic shop--Windy City Magic--in downtown Chicago, and she's confident she's seen every kind of happy ending there is: except for one--her own. (The Fates are tricky jerks that way.) So when Charlie Blitzman, the mayor's son and most-desired boy in school, comes to her for help finding his father's missing girlfriend, she's distressed to find herself falling for him. Because while she can't see her own match, she can see his--and it's not Amber. How can she, an honest peddler of true love, pursue a boy she knows full well isn't her match?


Since I named this book my favourite book so far of 2017 I figured the best thing I could do after that was review it and let you know why it's my favourite so far!

I initially saw this book on a Goodreads list for upcoming YA Books of 2017 (and you know I make my to-read lists like a year in advance, because who else loves torturing themselves looking at books you want to read for a solid year+ before they actually get released!) and loved the cover. After reading the synopsis it immediately went on my wish-list and I pre-ordered it a month before it's release. I'll be doing the same for its sequel (which feels like it won't be released for another 8000 years).

I couldn't help but love it for these main reasons:
  • 1) I'm always a sucker for a book involving those with magic 
  • 2) Amber was sarcastic 
  • 3) I tend to enjoy books that have a more gentle tone and that aren't about how the world is ending
  • 4) The best friend Amani

Anything that involves magic will generally get me to check it out. I think because I so wish I had some sort of super power that I can't help but love any book/movie that involves it. The whole atmosphere that Crystal Cestari has created here really made me feel like I was in Chicago myself (never been to the city, except for its airport where I bought a pink shot glass that reads Chicago Princess, because why not?) and I wish I could go to the Navy Pier; I can only imagine what the inside of Windy City Magic looks like.

Our main character Amber truly should be my friend; the amount of sarcasm and snark that come out of her mouth basically destined us as friends. She doesn't put up with crap from anyone and I LOVED that. Yes she has her moments of teen angst and I think as I get older (scariest sentence I've typed in a while, hate the fact that I'm getting older) I need to remember that I was just the same at that age. I'm happy the teen angst didn't draw away from the story line or bog it down like it has in some stories I've read. I loved her being a matchmaker; definitely don't see that in YA lit or much lit for that matter unless its a mortal one. The concept of Amber being able to see your soulmate by looking into your eyes is so cool and I enjoyed that her gift was used and we got to read about just how it works.

Amani her best friend was a great character. She herself had the best sub-plot line of the book, which I won't spoil for you. I always enjoy a good solid female friendship, where they don't put each other down, but act as true friends and are there for one another. She herself had a great magical ability, but you'll have to read the book to find out what hers is.

I'm finding now that YA tends to be filled with a lot more serious themed books and a nice, gentle read is almost hard to find. When I picked this one up it was great to take a break from the serious to just have a fun, magical read. All types of magical types were included throughout and didn't just stick to witches and matchmakers; I love books that include all types of magical beings. Also no major cliffhanger, but it ends with enough that you just want to dive into book 2.

This is recommended for those looking for a fun, quick (I read it in a day and a half because I couldn't put it down) read that has a dash of magic to it.

5 out of 5 stars!

 Until my next review,

Stefanie


P.S. Side note while writing this review: I was watching a Natalie Wood film on TCM; turns out I can't write a review and watch a movie at the same time because I was constantly getting distracted by both.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

My Thoughts: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrois


Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.

Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it's too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she's unable to escape. 


**Review copy received from publisher for my honest review**



This book was kind of intense- and I wasn't expecting it to be. I know this may seem strange considering the content, but Bad Romance is the third book I have read by Heather Demetrois- the previous two I didn't particularly enjoy- I think I rated the two books two and three stars I think.  Therefore I was not expecting very much from this one. I was very wrong, Bad Romance kind of blew me away.

When I become aware of a novel that addresses domestic violence, I tend to gravitate towards them, particularly in teen dating relationships. These types of relationships are very real and I believe it is important that they be featured in YA contemporary novels. Especially if teens can use these stories to recognize potential dangers in their own relationships. Bad Romance does a really amazing job of realizing a lot of the major aspects of what can encompass an abusive relationship. I am completely impressed with how well Demetrois addressed this issue in her book.

Bad Romance tells the Story of Grace and Gavin and their relationship from start to finish. Grace hasn't had it easy in life, her mother is distant and her step-father is controlling at best. Grace does not have a lot of control in her life and she is doing the best she can. When she attracts the eyes of Gavin, the most popular boy in the school, she begins to believe things are looking up for her.

It is no secret that Grace's relationship with Gavin is not the golden bright relationship she's expecting. Very early on Gavin's behaviour begins to exhibit the tell tale signs of abuse and control. It starts off small, Gavin makes off the cuff comments and slight criticisms that for the most part went unnoticed.  As the story progressed, Gavin's control and obsession with Grace grew, and was noticed by those close around her. Demetois has either been a victim of domestic violence herself, or she's researched the cycle of violence and how it can present very well, as none of Gavin's actions throughout the story seemed over the top or exaggerated. While I have never been a victim of domestic violence directly, but I have seen it first hand- and I am very familiar with what it looks like. The relationship was a very accurate portrayal of what such a relationship could look like. So are Grace's responses to her relationship. She was constantly making excuses for Gavin and underplaying his over the top reactions. This is something that happens regularly in these kinds of relationships. 

There were a few things that irked me in the way the story was told, however, it's really not important. None of this took away from the story and what it was trying to say. Heather Demetrois really hit it out of the park with Bad Romance and I am SO glad.

This book is triggering. If you have been in a victim of domestic violence, this story has the potential to really hurt you. But I also think this book is so powerful and so important. 

Overall, Bad Romance was an important read for me, and I am glad to have read it. I am grateful to Heather for having the courage to write such a story. I would encourage everyone to read this. This is book that was created for much more than entertainment, so much more. 

~Happy Reading Everyone.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Stefanie's 2017 Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag


Hi everyone,

It's July already, how did that happen so soon? I think it'll take me many more years before I realize and get used to just how fast the year goes when you work in a school. My brain, I think, still believes it's May and exams should be coming up. 

I've got so many books I want to read this summer, but you know how it goes: so many books, too little time. I'll be curious just to see how many books I do get read this year, but I thought for now it would be a fun idea to copy Sara and also do the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag, so here it goes.

Best Book You've Read So Far


The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cestari


I loved this book from page one; it felt like a Disney Channel Movie and i loved every page and I'm desperately waiting for the sequel!!  

Best Sequel You've Read So Far

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han


Because this made me feel like I was back in high school myself, I couldn't help but love this on

Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year


Haunting the Deep by Adriana Mather


This comes out in October, perfect for Halloween, and the first one was too good to not need the sequel right away

Biggest Disappointment

Textrovert by Lindsey Summers

 

I heard such good things about this one and when I finally got my hands on a copy, I thought it was boring and the main character was whiny; it hurt I didn't like this one

Biggest Surprise

The Truth About Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo


I hadn't read any other of the authors books before reading this one and I just fell in love with it and all the fairytale theme-park references 

Favourite New Author


M. Tara Crowl, author of Eden's Wish


I found this book completely by random at the library and based on the adorable cover, knew I wanted to read it. It was a really fun story about a genie and I know I'll want to read the sequel as soon as I can find it

Newest Fictional Crush


I feel like I fail at this category anytime it's asked. I find that I don't get book crushes, not after Oliver Wood in Harry Potter. I'll like characters but nothing to the extent of a book crush

Newest Favourite Character


Amber Sand from The Best Kind of Magic. Sarcastic, funny, and low down on the magic scale; I LOVED her!

Book That Made You Cry


Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Thanks to some major nostalgia about growing up, this one made me cry like a baby and made me want to go back in time and visit my younger self

Book That Made You Happy


A New Model by Ashley Graham 


This book is what the world needed and I ended it by having a smile on my face. Body positivity is what the world needs more of

Favourite Book to Movie Adaptation

Rise of the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz

 

I don't know if this counts, but I'm excited for the next Descendants movie and this fits into the movie world

Favourite Post You've Done This Year

I can't say I really have one, since I haven't actually done that many posts yet. I have the most fun with the month end posts, because I love seeing what books I've read that month and trying to find graphics that fit the month and add to the post.

Most Beautiful Book You've Bought This Year

How to be a Wildflower by Katie Daisy


Drawn completely by Katie Daisy by hand, this book is honestly one of the nicest books I have ever seen. It encourages you to get out into the world and go exploring, something I've been really wanting to do for some time.

New Release You Haven't Read Yet, But Want To


Going Viral by Amy Alward


I love this series and I can't wait to see what adventures Sam has in store for her. This one might be cheating since it's not released yet, but will be soon

What Book Do You NEED to Read By the End of the Year?


Lucky in Love by Kasie West


It's Kasie West so naturally I need this book NOW!!!! I'll probably end up reading it the week it comes out because it just sounds so good!

And that's it! I have to say, this post was a lot of fun writing and now I can see some of the priority books I'll need to get my hands on when they are released!

Hope everyone had a great June!!

Until my next review,

Stefanie


Saturday, July 1, 2017

2017 Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag






Hello Friends,

It is officially the middle of the year! How it that even possible?! I am always floored at how quickly times flies by. Since we're six months into the year, I thought I would take the time to review my reading stats from January through June.

I've been seeing this tag around a lot in the Booktube world and and I think it's a lot of fun and I thought perhaps I'd bring it to out little blogging community.

This tag was originally created by Chami @ ReadLikeWildfire and Ely @ Earl Grey Books



 Best Book You've Read So Far?

 A List of Cages by Robin Roe


This book blew me away. I was not expecting the story that I got with this one and it was beautiful and amazing. I blew through this book in no time and I've been pushing it on everyone. Check out my review here


Best Sequel You've Read So Far?

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas 


This might be a bit of a cop out, because this was a reread.  But it was still a sequel and honestly, the best one I've read this year.  I am pretty sure, everyone and their cousin knows about this series/sequel.


Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year?

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore


I am not the most up to date on upcoming releases. But, I do know about this one and I pretty eager to get my hands on this in September.  


 Biggest Disappointment?

We Are Okay By Nina LaCour

  
I was pretty excited about this book. The cover is absolutely beautiful. But, I really did not connect with the story. I go into a bit more detail here. 

Biggest Surprise?

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes 

I read this one on a whim back in March and I enjoyed it WAY more than I thought I would. The only other book I had read by Moyes was Me Before You, and I worried that this was going to be something similar. It certainly was not, One Plus One was a very enjoyable light, fun read.   

Favourite New Author

Louise Bay author of The Empire State Series

2017 isn't the first time I've read anything by Louise Bay, but I've read three of her books this year (so far) and I really have enjoyed the majority of them. She reminds me a bit of the Christina Lauren team. 

  Newest Fictional Crush? 
 
Honestly? I don't have one. I haven't read a huge amount of YA this past year, the YA I have read hasn't been super heavy on the romance. Maybe that'll change for the latter half of the year. 
 
Newest Favourite Character? 
 
Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery 
 


I am not sure how I hadn't read this book before now?! It was incredible and Anne Shirley is amazing! She made me chuckle and smile so many times. She's such a lovely character. 


Book That Made You Cry?

The Unseen World by Liz Moore 

 
 As I said in my review of this book, there were times when I read this book that I just wanted to curl up into a little ball and cry. This book dealt with SO much and at times it was heartbreaking! Totally worth the read.  
 
Book That Made You Happy? 
 
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
 
  
I reread this one for book club this year. And again, I loved it. I love Don Tillman and he makes me SO happy! Rereading this book was wonderful. 
 
Favourite Book to Movie Adaption?
 
I don't have one. I haven't seen any movies of books that I've previously read. Again, maybe another goal of mine for the rest of the year.   
 
Favourite Post You've Done This Year?
 
My review of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
 
 
I have so many issues with this book. I was angry and upset and frustrated when I finished this book, and I knew I needed to get all these crazy emotions out. I think this particular blog post was one of my best. It's long, but I am please with it. 
 
Most Beautiful Book You've Bought This Year?
 
Another question I am going to have to skip- I don't really buy many books. I tend to only buy books that I have read before and loved. I have very limited space to keep my books- So I need to be mindful. 
 
  New Release You Haven't Read Yet, But Want To?
 
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
 

 


This books has been getting a lot of buzz lately. I was pretty excited to get to this one, but I haven't yet. I don't know what I am waiting for. Soooooon. 
 
What Book Do You NEED to Read By the End of the Year?  
 
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 
 
I have had this book in my hands twice and let the library lend expire. I even read the first 35 pages - but I am nervous. Something is keeping me from this book. But I want to read it, I need to read it. My goal before the end of the year. 
 
 
That's it for this little mid-year review. I hope you enjoyed.  
 
~Happy Reading Everyone!   

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My Thoughts: Looking for Group by Rory Harrison


Dylan doesn’t have a lot of experience with comfort. His room in the falling-down Village Estates can generously be categorized as “squalid,” and he sure as hell isn’t getting any love from his mother, who seemed to—no, definitely did—enjoy the perks that went along with being the parent of a “cancer kid.”

Now that Dylan’s suddenly in remission, all he’s left with is a lingering OxyContin addiction and a hunger for something—anything—but the life he’s known.

His only escape has been in the form of his favorite video game—World of Warcraft—and the one true friend who makes him feel understood, even if it’s just online. Dylan met Arden playing Warcraft, and now he wants to take her on a real mission, one he never thought he’d live to set out on: a journey to a mysterious ship in the middle of the Salton Sea.

But Arden is fighting her own battles, ones that Dylan can’t always help her win. As they navigate their way west, they grapple with Arden’s father (who refuses to recognize his daughter’s true gender), Dylan’s addiction, and the messy, complicated romance fighting so hard to blossom through the cracks of their battle-hardened hearts.

Hey Friends,

I had no intention of reading this book. In reality I hadn't heard a thing about Rory Harrison's Looking for Group until it came in my Quarterly Box. Even when it came, I thought maybe I would never get to it. However, after a couple weeks, I decided to give the first 50 pages a try.  I enjoyed those 50 pages enough to keep reading.

Looking for Group is a story about a boy who has miraculously defeated cancer and is now trying to navigate life. Looking for Group is about a girl who was born a boy trying to find a community that accepts her. The two have found one another through their video game. They have now come together in real life- on a quest of self discovery.

I liked this book, I didn't love it. It was a very meh book for me. Even now I find the story fading from my mind (and I've only finished it a few days ago).  I liked Dylan, he has just come through a very taxing time and his support team (ie/ his mother) was crap. I am going say this right now- Dylan DOES NOT have a drug addiction. I do not understand why this is even presented in the synopsis. His addiction does not exist. I needed to get that off of my chest.

As I said, I liked Dylan and I liked Arden and I liked their relationship. Dylan identifies as gay and is confused when he finds himself attracted to Arden- who is a transgendered. Dylan's struggle with this was pretty amazing to read. He really was unsure if he was being an ass in his feelings for Arden- he recognized her identity as a woman and respected that, but physically she was still male and he was so worried he was being disrespectful- he could not figure out his feelings. This is my favourite part of the book.

Really, not a lot happens in the Looking for Group- there isn't any real struggle to be found in the book. I understand this story is supposed to be a coming of age tale, but I didn't really get much of that either. It's not a bad story, it's just not very believable- it didn't feel authentic. However, in saying that- I am glad this book exists and I am glad that it features two protagonists that are vastly underrepresented in YA literature.

Overall, Looking for Group may not have been the best book I've ever read. But I was never bored while reading it- I still enjoyed it. But it wasn't a memorable story for me.

~Happy Reading Everyone


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Stefanie's Thoughts: Rise of the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz




Deep beneath the waves, King Triton’s powerful trident has passed through the magical barrier that surrounds the Isle of the Lost—keeping villains in and magic out. And when Mal’s longtime rival Uma, daughter of Ursula, gets wind of this, she can’t believe her luck. The tide has dragged in something good for a change, and Uma is determined to get her wicked hands on it. But first, she needs a pirate crew.

A storm is brewing back in Auradon, and when Mal, Evie, Carlos, and Jay hear that the trident has been washed away, they realize they’ll have to find it before anyone from the Isle does. Luckily, they seem to have a talent for locating missing magical objects.

As Uma readies for the high seas alongside Harry, son of Captain Hook, Gil, son of Gaston, and the toughest rogues on the Isle of the Lost, the reformed villains of Auradon devise their own master plan. And with King Ben away on royal business, they won’t have to play by all the rules. Using bad for good can’t be totally evil, right?

The thrilling, perilous race to the trident puts old friends—and current enemies—against each other with the future of Auradon on the line. Both teams might like to make waves, but only one will come out on top of this one.



Hi everyone,

Today I'll be reviewing the third book in the Descendants book series. Let's just start off with how much I loved the Disney channel movie (yes I'm 27 and probably shouldn't be watching it, but it's Disney so I have too), or just how excited I am for the sequel this summer!

The first two books in the series were fantastic and I thought it was just a fun idea to have a book series for this world. Seeing how my favorite Disney characters grew up and having kids just honestly makes me feel, well, old. Beast shouldn't have a teenage son named Ben, because that just means I'm super old...

But enough on that.

I loved the addition of Uma, daughter of Ursula. What a great antagonist! (Side note: can't wait to see her in the new movie this summer). I was also happy Lonnie was in this one as well. I just wish Ursula herself would have been included; imagine the terror that would have been brought to Auradon if she had made an appearance! I think too, Uma was too much focus of the story; I wanted more Evie, was she even in this?

My only other negative was that this book had a lot less humor and jokes in the dialogue. Book one was so much funnier in comparison and I'm wondering if this is due to just where the book flows in book chronologically; it'll be between the second book and the upcoming movie. I get they wouldn't want to spoil any of the movie plot, but a few more jokes or digs at the parents would have been nice. I always enjoyed when Mal would make fun of her mother.

I loved all the little Disney references throughout; they did this with the other two books and I'm glad that it was included in this one. The beginning mermaid festival reminded me of the beginning of The Little Mermaid movie and the whole setup of how Ariel meets Eric.

It's such a fast plotted book that I read it in a day and a half, because I didn't want to do anything else but read it. That's what so great about these books and the uber amount of Disney goodness that is inside them. I remember reading the first one and thinking I was back in junior high, because that's just how much I loved it.

I missed the plot being set in Audadon though; I loved the idea of ships and getting to visit the Isle again, but Audadon remembered me so much of Halloweentown that I wanted more of the plot to be set there.

This was a great summer read and high on my to-read list. It was one book I actually made myself read the day it arrived in the mail; I didn't want it to be like the others where I pre-order and then forget to read it until Christmas. I'm probably just so excited for the movie the book couldn't wait.

If you liked the movie or the first two books I can see you liking this one. No it's not as good as the other two, but still an enjoyable read as we get to see what the crew gets up to in-between the movies.

4 out of 5 star read for this.

Until my next review,

Stefanie

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Stefanie's Thoughts: A New Model:What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like by Ashley Graham & Rebecca Paley




Ashley is on the leading edge of a new generation of women breaking ground and demolishing stereotypes, transforming our ideals about body image and what is fashionable. A woman who proves that when it comes to beauty, size is just a number, she is the voice for the body positivity movement today and a role model for all women—no matter their individual body type, shape, or weight.
In this collection of insightful, provocative essays illustrated with a dozen photos, Ashley shares her perspective on how ideas around body image are evolving—and how how they aren’t; the fun—and torture—of a career in the fashion world; her life before modeling; and her path to accepting her size without limiting her dreams—defying rigid industry standards and naysayers who told her it couldn’t be done. As she talks about her successes and setbacks, Ashley offers support for every woman coming to terms with who she is, helps her bolster her self-confidence, and motivates her to be her strongest, healthiest, and most beautiful self.


Hi everyone,

I'm about to get real here: I've never been one that's had high self-esteem or really ever been comfortable with myself. It's taken me a couple years now to finally be able to not constantly critique myself. When I heard this book was being published I knew I had to read it.

I'm so happy I did!

This book was beyond excellent. Ashley Graham is not only one of the best role models out there, she faces the harshest critics around. I was actually just talking about this issue with my co-workers about common sense and online haters. Every year there's always someone that posts about being nice to people at the beach and not to hate if someone is wearing a two-piece. The fact that people even need to post this disgusts me; we shouldn't have to post pictures telling people not to shame other people, but then again common sense these days is unfortunately not very common. I can only imagine the haters Ashley Graham has to deal with on a daily basis and publicly too. I can't imagine dealing with all those online trolls when it came to her Sports Illustrated cover and all the hateful words she received from it. She includes some of the comments in this book and I myself, couldn't believe them.

Ashley is one kick-ass bad-ass and I want her as my best friend.

After reading this book I've really taken on a "I don't care what people think of me" attitude; I'm focusing on doing me and not caring about what haters think. Ashley Graham is so good at dealing with the haters and for all the body positivity she's promoting, and I think this book came at just the right time. Not only did I devour it in one sitting, but I loved just how positive Ashley is about her own body. I loved the pictures included and it was really interesting to read about how she met her husband. I loved the Beauty Beyond Size movement because really, beauty has no size. Everyone is beautiful just the way they are.

I realize this review is a bit shorter than normal and less of a review than a soap box moment to promote body positivity and being happy with yourself, but I feel like most people have a moment in their lives where they don't like themselves. I feel like everybody should read this! Honestly, I felt happy while reading this book and couldn't help but smile after finishing it and feeling like I am enough, not matter what people say.

Not in a while have I related to a book so much. While some chapters are on her modeling career and  I couldn't connect with those on a personal level, all her personal tales on life was a breath of fresh air. This one will be on my bookshelf for a long time and will be one I pick up when I need a reminder that I am awesome the way I am- and everyone is awesome the way they are right now in this current moment (that wasn't meant to sound preachy, hope it didn't.).

Solid 5 out of 5 stars.

Let me know if you've had the chance to read this book; I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Until my next review,

Stefanie
"So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall."
— Roald Dahl