Review of ‘Listen to Your Heart’ by Kasie West

Listen to Your HeartListen to Your Heart by Kasie West

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, Kasie West, you seem to have quite the monopoly on ‘feel good YA romances’, and for this book, I’m not exactly hating it.

Listen to Your Heart was so stereotypically adorable. I mean, we have an MC, Kate, who isn’t exactly a people person. She does have a best friend, Alana, but she prefers to spend her free time out on the lake. But Alana is the more outgoing one, and since she’s joining their high school’s podcast, she manages to convince Kate to do so, too. But, funny enough, Kate – the one who isn’t the people person – is chosen as one of the hosts for the podcast. As a host, she’ll be doling out advice to fellow students who call in to the show. Strangely enough, she actually ends up doing well, because besides giving advice that seems to be working, she’s liked for her dry, sarcastic responses as well.

Okay, in regards to the ‘dry, sarcastic’ part, I’ve only read one other Kasie West book (which I can’t remember at the moment), and I remember the MC in that one as being sarcastic and dry as well. Is that typical of West’s MCs, or did I just happen to read the only two books that that appears to be the case? Also, how many times did we have to be reminded that Kate wasn’t exactly a people person? Was that supposed to make her not seem trite? I don’t know, but since she wasn’t the worst MC I’ve come across, I’ll give it a pass.

The romantic aspect is brought in to play with the fact that a certain male caller is guessed (by Kate and Alana both) to be Diego, the guy Alana happens to be crushing on, as well as a new friend of them both. While Alana is out in the real world trying to make Diego hers, the Diego of the podcast happens to be asking for romantic advice. Both Kate and Alana assume he’s talking about Alana, so being the best friend that she is, Kate gives him advice that she’s thinking should also benefit Alana. But as Kate gets to know Diego more and more, she now finds herself falling for him, too. And here, is where we come across the infamous romantic dilemma. A book can’t exactly sail easily without one, so in here, we have the best friends crushing on the same guy. But we’ve already established that they both think he likes Alana, so that doesn’t exactly bode well for Kate if that’s what she’s working off of. And again, there’s the fact that Kate is a supportive best friend, so she’ll help Alana out, even if it kills her own chances.
So, yes, romance-wise, I liked this book. It’s pretty obvious what direction it’ll go, but I was still entertained, and still enjoyed reading the outcome.

I also liked that there wasn’t really much in terms of antagonism. There’s a few things that are definitely antagonistic, but they’re addressed and tended to in their own ways. It’s not often that I read such a ‘feel-good’ book, and I really found myself enjoying this one.

I’ll recommend this book to those who happen to like ‘cute’ romances, because yes, this is most definitely an adorable read.

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Review for ‘The Art of Hiding’ by Amanda Prowse

The Art of HidingThe Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I feel like The Art of Hiding had me engaged from the very start! In only a matter of pages, Nina McCarrick goes from being a stereotypical Stepford Wife and mother, to becoming a widow who is now all alone in raising her two children. But, things go from bad to worse when she finds out that not only is her husband’s company in debt, but she now is, as well. Forced to leave the immense and beautiful family home and move back to the small town she’d left behind, she eventually must learn what it is to take control of her life as well as make sure to raise her children to be successful and upstanding citizens. Not that she doesn’t have a lot on her plate already…
I can’t say that I was happy with Nina at first. I do know that it’s because she chose to be the perfect stay-at-home mom – she chose her role and chose to allow her husband Finn to control everything financially – that she ends up facing the repercussions of not knowing how badly things had become within the business. They were in major debt! She had no idea because she’d wanted to believe that her husband was doing what he’d promised to do, take care of her. So then she’s sitting there, not knowing what to do. She’s even unable to access bank accounts because she has no idea what the passwords and pins are, because that was Finn’s job. Ugh. I just couldn’t stand how…small, she appeared to be, and I hated that she didn’t seem to care! In a day and age when women are stronger than ever, it’s sad to see a character be the complete opposite. So, though I was initially unhappy with Nina, I kept on reading, and am glad I did, because I really ended up like this, and even Nina herself!

Moving to the small town she came from (not sure what the name of it was) with her two children, we learn from Nina’s sister that once upon a time, Nina was a dedicated worker who was able to make her own money. I feel like it’s somewhat stereotypical to have a character essentially “go home” in order to “better themselves”, but I really did enjoy reading this story. I liked seeing Nina’s growth, and seeing her finally relax and actually allow herself to make friends and appreciate that she doesn’t have to do everything on her own.

When it comes to Nina’s relationship with her children, I really felt for her in those times when the two didn’t seem to appreciate her in the way they did their father. The eldest, Connor, pretty much worshipped his father in the way boys are prone to do. Connor happens to be a talented rugby player who wants to impress his father and become a successful, professional athlete one day. His father isn’t at all his matches, but though he’s disappointed, he accepts these moments. Now that his father is gone, though, he lashes out at his mother, because the other parent isn’t exactly there to pin any blame on. Nina is quite patient with the anger, and does all she can to help ease the pain, though honestly, she’s hurting, as well. Her second child, Declan, doesn’t come across as being as difficult, nor moody, as Connor, but that could be because he’s not a teenager, possibly. I don’t remember exactly when and what it was, but I do remember an instance in which Declan somehow didn’t feel that something his mother did was as good as his father, but I honestly can’t quite remember exactly what it was. It only stayed with me because I know Nina reacted with hurt, and I felt bad for her. All in all, I couldn’t help but feel sad that Nina wasn’t treated very well by her children, and feel that they took her for granted.

Thank the lord, though, that Nina’s character finally has some real growth when she gets a job and when she allows herself to meet and speak to other people. Even her children notice the change, and appreciate her hard work and attempts at making a better life for them, even with the family’s new limitations.

But not only is their growth for her, but her boys, as well. I can appreciate the changes in the boys, especially in Connor’s case, but I won’t delve into that, since some things still need to be left for you to discover.

I really did like this book in the end, and feel that it overcame the annoying stereotypes that I’d originally thought it would be, so for me, this was definitely a successful read, and I would gladly recommend it!

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing, via Netgalley, for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘The Hundredth Queen’ by Emily R. King

The Hundredth Queen (The Hundredth Queen, #1)The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really had a hard time determining what I thought about this book… For one, I figured I should love it, because so many people were hyping this book on Goodreads a time ago, I believed that I, too, would fall in love. And another reason, was because sometimes I do get suckered into reading about “speshul” snowflakes, and actually enjoy what I’m reading, because sometimes I am simple like that…
But unfortunately for me, The Hundredth Queen just didn’t quite cut it. I didn’t exactly find it horrible, and did enjoy one thing that I will address, but overall, I didn’t love it.

Let me first mention what I actually liked:
I appreciated the loyalty Kali had towards those she cared for. I’ll admit that I can be the type that finds it excessive if the loyalty goes beyond what I feel is necessary (in my case, it’s mostly due to my impatience), so though there were moments in which I wanted to roll my eyes because of Kali’s naivety, I appreciated the fact that she genuinely cared about people.

Okay, now for the bad…
As I was having the hardest time getting into this book (the pacing was just so uneventful), I realized how much I didn’t like the idea of these women (one hundred wives and countless courtesans) fighting in order to gain a better rank among themselves, just to please one man. I didn’t like that they might be powerful women, but it meant nothing if they couldn’t survive these battles. They scarred each other, lost limbs, or died in order to improve their ranks, or in the case of a courtesan, to hopefully become one of the wives.

Then, of course there’s instalove!!! The relationship between Kali and her love interest is so boring and dry. There’s the whole ‘falling for each other at first sight’ thing, but they’re forbidden, since Kali is intended for someone else. So, yes, this means a lot of stolen moments that are cheesy and boring.

Before I end this review, I wanted to be sure to add that the whole idea of the women being lowly in this book, is something that Kali does work to overcome. I won’t get any deeper into this because it’d be too much of a spoiler, but I can give credit to Kali for not completely bowing to submission and actually attempting to show strength when she’s up against someone more powerful than she.

I did find myself intrigued enough with how this book ended to possibly read the next book, but because I didn’t like this one all that much, I probably won’t rush it.
And as for recommending it? Can’t say that I will be doing that.

Thank you to Skyscape, courtesy of Netgalley, for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘By the Book’ by Julia Sonneborn

By the BookBy the Book by Julia Sonneborn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though it happens to be a loosely based, modern-day adaption of Jane Austen‘s Persuasion, By the Book is entertaining with its fun, comedic timing, as well as a premise that had me engaged from beginning to end!


My Synopsis:

In By the Book, Anne Corey is the contemporary version of Persuasion‘s Anne Elliot, with a bit more ambition to fit in with the modern storyline. Like the latter, she’s still single after having allowed herself to be persuaded to break off an engagement with this story’s Wentworth, Adam Martinez some years earlier. But while she’s working on retaining a position as a professor of the college she’s currently employed with – as well as writing her first, full-length novel – she’s startled by the reappearance of her ex, who also happens to end up being the school’s newly appointed president… Though Anne feels she’s moved on, what with a new romance and all the busyness in her bustling life, with Adam in her sights, she can’t help but find it hard to ignore him and wonder if maybe he feels the same way, too.


My Thoughts:

By the Book really was an easy, entertaining read, and a lot of that definitely has to do with the fact that the characters were so well-written! I loved reading about Anne’s past with Adam, as well as her current romance with the suave, Rick Chasen. Obviously, I couldn’t help comparing events and peoples to those found in Persuasion, but I feel like Julia Sonneborn did a good job with putting her own spin on things, and I can’t even begin to say how much I loved Anne’s best friend Larry!!! He was hilarious, and brought with him some new elements that helped with the modernization of Jane Austen‘s story.

Another thing I personally liked, was that this Anne’s father wasn’t so unlikable. I found myself detesting Anne Elliot’s father because of how pompous he was and his narcissism, but this Anne’s father seemed to have more reasoning behind his actions and words, even if they didn’t end up bringing the outcomes we wanted to see.

I could go on with the things I liked about this book – for instance, all the hilarity involving one Jack Lindsey – but I think I’ll leave the rest for you to discover when you read this book, because yes, I do recommend it!

Thank you to Gallery Books, via Netgalley, for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘There’s Someone Inside Your House’ by Stephanie Perkins

There's Someone Inside Your HouseThere’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Synopsis provided by publisher:

Love hurts…

Makani Young thought she’d left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She’s found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn’t far behind.

Then, one by one, the students of Osborne Hugh begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets.
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Okay, so though I’m a fan of horror, it tends to be more along the lines of supernatural. I love me a good, ghostly thrill! But when it comes to slashers, I’m not really the biggest fan. Most of my experience obviously comes from films involving teens being murdered by either the undead, out for revenge, or by other teens, who also may be out for revenge. If I were to pick one slasher film series I’d enjoyed, it’d have to be Scream, and that’s likely showing how inexperienced I am when it comes to slashers.

So, knowing this about me, I’m not sure I’m the best judge when it comes to this book, but I’ll go ahead and give the reasons as to why I didn’t really care for this one.

1. The Main Character:
Makani has to be the one of the most boring/annoying MCs I’ve had the (dis)pleasure to read about, ever. She’s brought forth as a biracial girl from Hawaii (check out her name! It’s Hawaiian! *please note the sarcasm) with a dark past, who ends up in cornfield-ridden Nebraska. While I appreciate that Perkins introduced an ethnic girl as the MC of this novel, I just didn’t really end up caring about her all that much. I didn’t feel like enough was given in regards to character-growth (and that could have been intentional on Perkins’ part, due to wanting to give the story a sense of right now in terms of the plot), but this ultimately led to my not really feeling compassionate for her, in her tumultuous times.

2. The “dark past”:
Seriously, when I find out the reason Makani moved to Nebraska, I couldn’t help but feel like it just didn’t really make sense. Sure, what happened was wrong on many levels, but I was sort of expecting something…different. I can’t really say more without giving anything away, but I will say that what happened just feels disappointing, and not really menacing enough for a slasher.

3. The reveal of the serial killer:
I’d made it maybe 70% of the way through the book – and the killer is revealed.
I’ll admit I had no idea who the killer would turn out to be, but I feel like it could have possibly been more suspenseful if the reveal had been put off till the end. Then again, I’m not sure that would have really made a big difference, since I wasn’t impressed with the reveal in the first place…

4. The murders:
Okay, so yes, we have the stereotypical stabby deaths, but the way the serial killer menaced the victims was really cheesy. Like, for example, the first victim, who is unsettled by an egg-timer (yes, an egg-timer), because not only is she finding it in strange places, but it’s described as ‘smooth, white, and innocuous’…obviously I find this description to be so terrifying! (Insert eye roll here.)

And finally:

5. The stupid romance:
I didn’t really care for Ollie, and didn’t find him to be all that interesting, though the way he’s described, I feel like we’re supposed to feel that he’s interesting. Because yeah, dyeing your hair pink and having a lip ring is really all it takes to be edgy these days.

I think it’s safe to say at this point that I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book. It wasn’t the worst I’d read, thus the generous rating of 2 stars, but it was just not what I’d hoped for when it comes to a slasher/thriller. Besides the descriptions of each of the murders – and the moments leading to each death – there really aren’t any true, horrifying moments in this book. And honestly? I’m not sure the murders were all that scary, either.

I will not be recommending this one.

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Review for ‘House of Ash’ by Hope Cook

House of AshHouse of Ash by Hope Cook

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Summary provided by the publisher:
After hearing voices among an eerie copse of trees in the woods, seventeen-year-old Curtis must confront his worst fear: that he has inherited his father’s mental illness. A desperate search for answers leads him to discover Gravenhearst, a labyrinth mansion that burned down in 1894. When he locks eyes with a steely Victorian girl in a forgotten mirror, he’s sure she’s one of the fire’s victims. If he can unravel the mystery, he can save his sanity . . . and possibly the girl who haunts his dreams.

But more than 100 years in the past, the girl in the mirror is fighting her own battles. When her mother disappears and her sinister stepfather reveals his true intentions, Mila and her sister fight to escape Gravenhearst and unravel the house’s secrets—before it devours them both.
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For whatever reason, I hate the word ‘copse’. There’s no real reason why I should hate word, but I do, so that didn’t help when reading a book that keeps identifying a ‘copse’ of trees as the place where strange things begin to happen to one of our MCs, Curtis. The word just kept being used, and I kept cringing whenever it’d pop up on the page. I really do not like the word copse.

Why don’t I move on from that…

House of Ash is one of those books that you can’t help but feel like you’ve heard the story before, maybe not in this exact sense, but in some form or other. For instance, the idea of a boy and girl, both on opposite sides of time, who happen to see each other in some way (a mirror, in this book), fall for each other, and feel the need to save one or the other. Then, there’s the very real potential that one may be actually suffering from a mental illness, imagining things, because a parent of said one may be suffering themselves. Oh, and did I mention that there’s an evil house? A house that listens, and must be stopped at all costs?
Yup, same ol’, same ol’.

Even though the author’s bio says she has drawn from her personal experience with mental illness, I don’t feel like this book was meant to really address what mental illness really does to people. If it was, then I didn’t quite get that from this book. Curtis’ father is mentally ill, and his illness seems to only exist to explain why Curtis might be suddenly hearing things like voices, and to possibly explain why his home life is so rough, leading to his having some extreme behavior in a variety of circumstances in this book. Yeah, so if you’re looking to really read up on mental illness, this is not the book for that.

Moving on from the very real problems that mental illness can invoke, we should now talk about the supernatural aspect of this book. The girl in the mirror. Is she real, or is she a figment of Curtis’ imagination? This is where the supernatural part comes into play. Curtis is seeing the image of a girl who was very real, but how? Especially since we know that the girl, Mila, perished in 1894 in a fire that descimated a very large estate to the ground, along with anyone else who may have been in the home. So we have a ghosty mirror, along with a ghosty girl, and therefore we have ghosty-ness, though it all plays out to be on the bland side. I mean, Mila’s step-father is supposed to be a large reason behind why things ended up the way they did when it comes to her death and the fire, but honestly, he is such an absent villain. It’s like he appears at times, goes BOO!, then heads off to wait till the next time he’ll come around again to instill some sort of fear into Mila. His villainy is pretty boring, and the explanation for why he does the things he does is also pretty boring.

I feel like I should also mention the characters in regards to what I thought of them in general. Starting with Curtis, I’ll say that he is a very angry person, as well as someone who’s very torn as to address issues with others. He doesn’t want to confide in his best friend, and being that there’s no one else for him to do so to, he’s pretty much screwed. So, yeah, this just leads to him being angry all the time. He finds some drive in his research of Mila and the burned down estate of Gravenhearst, but even then, he’s mediocre at research, so his best friend has to help him, but still, he’d rather not confide in the guy, humph. Now that I’ve given you a sort of condensed description of him, I’ll say that I find Curtis to be boring/annoying. Seriously, one day he happens to come across a clearing of strange trees, hears weird voices, and that’s how this book comes about. Not sure if there was absolutely no chance that he wouldn’t have come upon said clearing anytime before in his life, but now is the time for everything to happen, it would seem. Okay, so even if I were to accept that and move on, I still can’t stand Curtis’ personality in general. He just seemed kind of douchey to me, and I’m not a fan of such people.

Now for Mila. Mila’s account begins with her journey/arrival to Gravenhearst, originally with her mother and sister, as well. Yadda, yadda, her mom disappears, then her sister, and now Mila is left to figure out what her step-father, and the evil house, wants from her. Mila isn’t awful, and I found her to be more tolerable than her male counterpart, but that doesn’t really mean anything if you dislike the guy so much, so I’ll leave it at that.

Finally, when it comes to the way this book ended?? It wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t really that entertaining. There are no cliffhangers, so the end is the end, but maybe this book could have benefited from a horror movie-style ending? Shrug, we’ll never know.

I gave this book two stars because as much as I didn’t really care for it, I felt it was readable, and it didn’t take me too long to read, so that’s definitely a plus in my book. Being that I didn’t really care for this book, I won’t be personally recommending it.

Thank you to Amulet Books, via Netgalley, for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘The Boyfriend Swap’ by Meredith Schorr

The Boyfriend SwapThe Boyfriend Swap by Meredith Schorr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary provided by publisher:
Is Christmas really the most wonderful time of the year? New Yorkers Robyn Lane and Sidney Bellows aren’t so sure.

Robyn has always dated struggling creative types. For once, her parents would love her to bring someone with health insurance and a 401(k) to their Chrismukkah celebration. Her actor boyfriend doesn’t qualify. While across town, Sidney’s professional life already belongs to her parents. She’s an attorney at her father’s law firm and she works tirelessly to keep her love life private. If she brings her lawyer boyfriend to their annual Christmas extravaganza, her parents will have the wedding planned by New Year’s Eve.

A mutual friend playfully suggests they trade boyfriends for the holidays. The women share a laugh, but after copious amounts of wine, decide The Boyfriend Swap could be the perfect solution. This way, Robyn can show off her stable attorney boyfriend and Sidney’s high-society family will take no interest in her flakey actor beau.

It’s a brilliant plan—in theory. In practice—not so much. When Will turns out to be the boy-next-door Robyn crushed on hard throughout her teenage years, and Sidney’s family fawns all over Perry like he’s an Oscar-winner rather than a D-list wannabe, one thing is certain: The Boyfriend Swap might just change their lives forever.
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When I had first stumbled onto this read, I was intrigued by the idea of two women swapping boyfriends, and honestly, how it was that they could even get to such a point. You’d assume that at least one person in this quartet would object—because they’re normal—but no, not in The Boyfriend Swap. In fact, the one who initially objects is surprisingly easy to convince, and soon enough, the two women are off on their holiday trips home, fake boyfriend in tow. Which seems ridiculously easy, right? But I’m happy to say that I don’t care, because I really ended up liking this book, and happily accepted anything Meredith Schorr threw at me.

Like, for example, the fact that Robin’s boyfriend would happen to be Lucy’s childhood crush?? I live for coincidences like these that throw people together! It makes it all the better when Lucy brings Will back to her childhood home, and she’s having to pretend she’s in a relationship with him, all while having to pretend that she doesn’t have actual feelings for him… Yes, I just couldn’t help but love the easy way Lucy and Will got along with each other, and the plain fact that it was just easy.

Robin and Perry (Lucy’s boyfriend) were interesting in a different way. Perry was supposed to be someone her parents would easily forget so that when Robin “broke up with him”, it wouldn’t matter. But Perry doesn’t do forgettable, so instead, the whole family ends up falling for him when they meet him, and that leads to Robin trying to find ways to sabotage this growing relationship Perry seems to be having with her family, though things don’t go quite how she expects them to.

I did find the characters to be endearing, and enjoyed their interactions with each other. I especially liked Perry’s character. He was surprisingly kind and thoughtful when you least expected it, and though I won’t go too deep into his role due to spoilers, I will say that he was definitely a big part in helping Robin figure some important things out.

In conclusion, I really did like this book (though I had to knock off a star because of how long it took me to finish this book because I’d had a hard time wanting to get back to it when I’d put it aside for the day) and the whole rom/com aspect of it. I really feel like this book would be the perfect screenplay for a chick flick, and being that I’m a sucker for chick lit and chick flicks, I’d totally watch it.

I would definitely recommend this to you if you’d enjoyed the movie The Holiday, since it invokes similar feels.

Thank you to Henery Press, via Netgalley, for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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