Monday, March 28, 2016

My Intimidating TBR Pile Book Tag

Monday, March 28, 2016 with
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Hello everyone,
As my spring break is winding to a close, I find myself looking at all the books I was planning to read this week, but didn't get a chance to pick up. Therefore, The Intimidating TBR Book Tag (created by Lindsey Rey) is best at highlighting some of the books I still need to read.


What book have you been unable to finish?
I started All the Light We Cannot See last year around the time it was released. I bought the e-book and the audiobook because I wanted to simultaneously following along with the words with the audio--my favorite way of audiobooking. I got to about a thirdy, but I stopped because I went on a trip, then another trip (where I actually met the author and got a physical copy signed), and I never picked it back up either on audio or my hardcover copy.

The story was intriguing, but it's historical fiction, which is a genre I hardly reach for. There just seem to always be other, more interesting books to read. It doesn't help that All the Light We Cannot See is not the kind of book you rush through and can read quickly.

What book have you yet to read because...

...you just haven't had the time?
I picked up an early copy of Illuminae last year at the ALA conference in San Francisco and I'm dying to read it, because it promised to be a different kind of reading experience. But I just can't find the time. Urgh!

...it's a sequel?
I read Keeper of the Lost Cities last year and I loved it (gave it 5 out of 5 stars!). I don't know why I haven't picked up its sequel Keeper of the Lost Cities: Exile yet.

...it's brand new?
Rebel of the Sands is my newest [physical] addition to my bookshelf--it came about a week ago with my Uppercase subscription. I'm really digging books with a Middle Eastern flair, so I'm hoping to pick this one up soon. Also, how gorgeous is that cover?! I'm in love.

...you read a book by the same author and didn't enjoy it?
I read The Scorpio Races about four years ago, and while I recognized it as a beautiful, well-written novel, I personally found it to be slow and boring and it took me almost two weeks to read. From reading reviews about Stiefvater's novels, beautifully-written-but-slow-paced seem to be her style. I prefer my YA reads to be fast-paced and written in a readable prose that will take me a couple of days to read. This is why I haven't picked up The Raven Boys yet, despite owning all the books in the series.

...you're just not in the mood for it?
I was going to pick up Miss Mayhem during spring break, but I wasn't in the mood for it. It is on top of my TBR pile though, since I am part of the Lady Renegades blog tour in April because, you know, I have to read Miss Mayhem before I can pick up Lady Renegades.

...it's humongous?
I LOVED The Final Empire, but all the books in this entire series are CHUNKSTERS. I really want to read The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages, but I need a few days without work and without any review books getting in the way so I can solely dedicate my time to them.

...because it was a cover buy that turned out to have poor reviews?
The cover and the fact that I was in my ice dancing obsession thanks to the 2014 Winter Olympics--I was shipping Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir hard. I wanted to read about a skating couple and The Boy Next Door seemed to fit the bill. I started reading the first chapter and I couldn't really get into it, and them I read a bunch of lukewarm reviews so my interest in it waned.

What is the most intimidating book in your TBR pile?
I follow A LOT of Booktubers who loves this series, and it sounds like something I am going to love too. I've been collecting the all books in the series in anticipation that I will love it, but I have really high expectations for it thanks to all the glowing reviews I watched. I'm intimidated because I have to read four big books to catch up with everyone, but also I am nervous it won't live up to my expectations, I won't like them as much, and I bought these books just for them to gather dust on my bookshelf.

Who do you tag?
Everyone! But especially if you also have an intimidating TBR pile.

What are your answers to some of these questions? Do you have similar books as I do on my TBR pile? Have you read any of the books I mentioned?

Happy reading,
Michelle

Friday, March 25, 2016

ARC: 320 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: March 22, 2016
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: The Keepers' Chronicles #2
Synopsis
Johanna and Rafi are in a race against time to save their country before a power-mad Keeper destroys everything they hold dear in the “enthralling magical world” (Cinda Williams Chima, author of The Heir Chronicles) introduced in The Storyspinner.

As the last of the royal line, Johanna is the only person who can heal a magical breach in the wall that separates her kingdom of Santarem from the land of the Keepers, legendary men and women who wield elemental magic. The barrier protects Santarem from those Keepers who might try to take power over mere humans… Keepers who are determined to stop Johanna and seize the wall’s power for themselves.

And they’re not the only ones. As the duchys of Santarem descend into war over the throne, Johanna relies more than ever on the advice of her handsome companion, Lord Rafael DeSilva. But Rafi is a duke too, and his people come first. As their friendship progresses into the beginnings of a tender relationship, Johanna must wonder: is Rafi looking out for her happiness, or does he want the throne for himself?

With war on the horizon, Johanna and Rafi dodge treacherous dukes and Keeper assassins as they race to through the countryside, determined to strengthen the wall before it’s too late…even if it means sacrificing their happiness for the sake of their world.



The Skylighter was one of my most anticipated sequels of 2016 and I was lucky enough to receive an early copy back in December. I meant to read it sooner, but my job, life, and an unfortunate book slump all kept me from picking it up as soon as I got it in my hands. I finally started reading it a few days ago and I am so glad I had my spring break week to just read it slowly and savor it. It was so wonderful being back in Santarem with Johanna, Rafi, Pira, Leao, Dom and the others I've grown to love in The Storyspinner. The Skylighter was an excellent follow-up and conclusion to The Keepers' Chronicles duology and I give it 

The Skylighter picked up right where The Storyspinner ended. After the big fight at the end of The Storyspinner, our two main groups of characters, the Keepers (magical) and the humans (non-magical) fractured and in The Skylighter we had three main plot lines that all came together in the end for the big, explosive battle.

First, we have Johanna and Rafi who were trying to get to Donovan's Wall in order to save it. They eventually meet up with Jacare. I loved Johanna and Rafi and I was shipping them hard in The Storyspinner and they were great here as well. They admitted their feelings for each other in the previous book, but there was tension here partly thanks to Jacare--not in the romantic sense, no worries, but to do with each of their responsibilities to their people. This made me dislike Jacare a bit, but he came through for them in the end. Oh you guys, my heart broke for Jacare--not going to say why, but it was so bittersweet.

Then, there's Pira who was captured by Vibora, who worked for the crazy, essensia-stealing Sapo. Sapo wanted to enslave all the humans and Keepers to take over Santarem. Leao eventually catches up to her to dire consequences. I was also shipping Pira and Leao in The Storyspinner. I felt so sorry for Pira with all the torture she went through under Vibora's control, but she's such a badass anyway. Leao was still his sweet self, and I wish we got more scenes with just him and Pira. But their story line was open enough that hopefully they will get their own book or novella in a spin-off series--there's a lot the author can do with these two in a spin-off.

And, finally, there was Dom who stayed in Santiago. With his older brother Rafi gone, Dom had to step up and take huge responsibilities he's unprepared for as the younger son and come up with a plan to defend Santiago against an attack from treacherous dukes who had their own agenda of taking over the entire Santarem. But, a spy for the other side kept leaking all of Dom's plans. He had to work together with Mirabelle, a daughter of one of the dukes and someone he's not 100% sure he can trust despite her assurances that she's on his side. 

Dom's was actually my favorite story line. The other two were very interesting, but I couldn't wait to get back to Dom and what's going on in Santiago. I loved seeing Dom grow from a carefree second son to a leader. I also love his growing relationship with Mirabelle, who was hands-down the most interesting character in The Storylighter. She was smart, sly and clever, and, like Dom, I didn't fully trust her because while she tells Dom things, she doesn't reveal everything. I love her so much that I was shipping her with Dom, even though he had a sweet thing going on with Brynn, one of the maids who was also his childhood friend. Dom and Mirabelle didn't really like each other but she's his best bet in uncovering who the spy was. And like Pira and Leao, Dom and Mirabelle's story was left open in a way that begged for their own book so that we can explore their relationship a little bit more and tie a few loose ends with the conflict among the duchys of Santarem.

The Skylighter was everything I wanted in a sequel. It was exciting and fast-paced, with all of my favorite characters back in action, and set in a well-crafted world where magic exist. Now, the magic system isn't as intricate as in other fantasy novels, but it works and I do wish we got to explore more of it. The romantic tension between some of the characters was excellently done, but the romance didn't take over the story. The Skylighter was such a fun adventure and all three story lines were fully fleshed out and gripping in their own way, and even though Dom's was my favorite, I was never sad to leave one and jump into another. There were some twists, but they didn't really come as a surprise to me (except for the one that had to do with Brynn) but that didn't really take away my enjoyment of the story. The author did such an amazing job making sure the reader never lose sight of the characters' goals despite the multiple story lines and a large cast of characters. The Storyspinner and The Skylighter are must-reads for YA fantasy fans. I absolutely LOVED this duology.

And, okay, so while Rafi and Johanna's story came to a satisfying conclusion, I think the author left things open enough for Pira and Leao and Dom and Mirabelle. I am not ready to leave Santarem yet, so here's hoping there will be more books in the near future.

Bonus: The Skylighter includes a map of Santarem, which was really helpful in following all of the characters' adventures.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Delacorte
Release Date: April 19, 2016
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: standalone
Synopsis
The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.

There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.

Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.

But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.

Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.



I didn't quite know what to expect when I started reading The Darkest Corners, but what I ended up getting was one of the darkest, most intense, and engrossing YA psychological thrillers I've ever read.
Tessa was the main character and the story was told through her point of view. When she was eight years old, Tessa was at a sleep over at her best friend Callie's house when they were woken up by a strange noise outside the door. They told Callie's older cousin Lori about it, and after telling them to stay in Callie's room, she went out to investigate and that was the last time they saw Lori alive. Her body was found a day later in a wooded area near the highway. The Fayette town police believed she was a victim of the Ohio River Monster, a serial killer who preyed on young teenaged girls. Callie and Tessa testified against a man named Wyatt Stokes, who was convicted of murdering Lori as well as the other three girls believed to be the victims of the Ohio River Monster. The police thought they had found their serial killer and Stokes was sentenced to death for the murders.

Callie and Tessa's friendship did not survive what happened to them. A few months after the trial, Tessa moved away to live with her grandma in Florida. Callie and her family stayed in town, but moved to a new house. They haven't talked to each other since the trial, but neither Tessa nor Callie really got over what happened to Lori, and each found ways to cope with the traumatic memories and unanswered questions. Ten years later, after learning that her father was very sick and dying, Tessa found herself back in last place she wanted to be in. She was back in the town of Fayette and reliving old nightmares with Callie after one of their childhood friends was found dead in the same wooded area and in a similar way as Lori. With Wyatt Stokes still in prison, Tessa wondered if they helped put an innocent man in prison and the real killer might still be roaming the streets.

I was very impressed with The Darkest Corners. I knew Kara Thomas could write a twisty mystery, having read her other series previously called Prep School Confidential (my review of book 1 in the series here) written under Kara Taylor. But while the Prep School Confidential was a charming, light in tone, Nancy Drew-esque mystery read set in, you guessed it, a prep school, The Darkest Corners had the opposite vibe--a dark, intense, grim psychological mystery set in a small, bleak town.

Kara Thomas created an intriguing character in Tessa. She had a crappy childhood, growing up with a dysfunctional family, and after she found herself in the middle of a murder investigation as such a young age, she had her quirks. She understandably didn't form relationships too well with other people and her relationship with Callie was strained at best. Since we were in Tessa's point of view, we only knew what she knows and every time she uncovers a new clue, I was there trying to work it out myself and was basically reading too much into everything and being wrong pretty much every time. But I live for the curve balls and red herrings in mystery novels, and it was exciting piecing together the clues along with her and trying to solve what really happened before she does. When reveal came, though, I was taken by surprise. Holy cow, I didn't see that coming!

I have to say that the first 100 pages were pretty slow. There was a lot of backstory about what occurred ten years ago. We also delved into Tessa's family and her relationship with her dad, mom, and sister, which I didn't find as interesting mainly because I was eager for the main mystery to start already. After that, though, the story gained momentum and I couldn't stop reading, wanting to flip the pages faster. Everything does come together in the end and it was INSANE. There was also that creep factor amidst all the twists and turns, so it was a good time!

The Darkest Corners was a meticulously crafted psychological mystery that kept me guessing and so engrossed that I stayed up way too late into the night because I needed to know and just had to read one more page. It's a must-read for fans of young adult mysteries. As for me, The Darkest Corners going on my keeper shelf.

Fun Extra: There's a dedicated website for The Darkest Corners with newspaper clippings and videos about the investigation of Lori Cawley's murder, as well as an excerpt from the novel: TheDarkestCornersBook.com


About the Author
Kara is the author of THE DARKEST CORNERS, coming from Penguin Random House/Delacorte Press in Spring 2016. She also wrote the Prep School Confidential series (St. Martin’s Press) and the pilot The Revengers for the CW under the pen name Kara Taylor. She’s represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media for books and United Talent Agency and Brillstein Entertainment Partners for film. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or on the couch with her rescue cat, Felix.





Follow the rest of the blog tour!
3/14 Fresh Fiction 3/15 Jessabella Reads 3/16 Book Addict Confessions
3/17 Hollywood News Source 3/18 Undeniably {Book} Nerdy 3/19 Curling Up with a Good Book
3/20 Out of Time 3/21 Supernatural Snark 3/22 Live to Read, review
3/23 Dark Faerie Tales 3/24 Ex Libris 3/25 Reading with Cupcakes
3/26 The Reader Bee 3/27 The Eater of Books! 3/28 Reading Teen
3/29 Chapter by Chapter 3/30 Winter Haven Books 3/31 Once Upon A Twilight
4/1 Intellectual Recreation 4/2 The Hiding Spot 4/3 Carina Books
4/4 Cover Contessa 4/5 Me Read A Lot 4/6 The Writer Diaries
4/7 Whimsically Yours 4/8 Hook of a Book 4/9 Reading Nook Reviews
4/10 Downright Dystopian 4/11 Such A Novel Idea 4/12 Across the Words
4/13 Reviews From a Bookworm 4/14 Itching For Books 4/15 Waste Paper Prose
4/16 The Irish Banana 4/17 The Book Rat 4/18 YA Reads
4/19 No BS Book Review 4/20 Serenity’s Lovely Reads 4/21 Pandora’s Books

Monday, March 14, 2016



Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Tundra Books
Release Date: March 8, 2014
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: The Rephaim #3
Synopsis
Gaby thought her life couldn't get more complicated.

She's almost used to the idea that she's not the teenage backpacker she thought she was. She can just about cope with being one of the Rephaim--a 139-year-old half-angel--whose memories have been stolen. She's even coming to grips with the fact that Jude, the brother she's mourned for a year, didn't die at all.

But now Rafa--sexy, infuriating Rafa--is being held, and hurt, by Gatekeeper demons. And Gaby has to get the bitterly divided Rephaim to work together, or Rafa has no chance at all.



Warning: Shimmer is the 3rd book in the Rephaim series and there will be spoilers for the first two books in the series. This review is intended for readers who already read Shadows (book 1) and Haze (book 2).

*****

I spent the last week binge reading ShadowsHaze, and Shimmer. Usually I like to take breaks in between books in a series (and read other books--preferably in a different genre) because I don't like to stay in the same world for too long. But, I made an exception with the Rephaim series, because I'm part of the blog tour and I needed to read the whole series. But, surprisingly, I didn't mind being immersed in the same world book after book because I wanted to know more and I wanted all the answers.

Addicting. That is the perfect adjective to describe the Rephaim series. 

Just to recap, Gaby and her twin brother Jude got into an accident. Gaby survived and Jude didn't. Gaby, still mourning her brother's death, ended up in a beach town called Pandanus Beach. Almost a year after the horrific accident, a stranger named Rafa showed up and turned Gaby's life upside down. Rafa knew things about her brother and about herself--about a another life that seemed impossible, where Gaby was a Rephaim (a half-angel) and one of their best fighters against demons and hellions. Then, in addition to wrestling with the mystery of a whole other life she didn't remember, she learned that Jude may still be alive. After being sidetracked by all the things in Haze, Gaby finally reunites with Jude. And then we lost Rafa to the demons, which brings us to Shimmer.

So, we got introduced to the world of the Rephaim in Shadows and by the end of that book I had so many questions. Then, in Haze a few questions were answered, but again by the end of the book I had even more questions. Well, I finally got answers to my some of my burning question in Shimmer, but there were twists I did not see coming. Like with that one characters I was always suspicious of, but I wasn't expecting that. Paula Weston really excels in the slow reveal and unexpected the twists and turns, and she really keeps the reader on their toes and that's why I am still reading deep into the night without any regard for the fact that I have to go to work the next day and deal with 22 crazy second graders.

Rafa wasn't in Shimmer as much as he was in Shadows and Haze, because he was captured by the Gatekeeper demons. I missed having a lot of him around, but it was also nice to see Gaby stand on her own without Rafa. Initially, I worried that she'll start acting the typical YA heroine, making dumb decisions because her big, strong man was taken away. But, Gaby never had that problem and I loved her all the more for it. She really came to her own in this novel, and we see how much she has grown physically, mentally, and emotionally since Shadows (which, when you think about it wasn't that long at all). 

Of course, like in the previous books in the series, we get more stories about Gaby's life as Gabe from her Sanctuary and Outcasts friends. And speaking of those loyal to the Sanctuary and the Outcasts, I love that Rephaim weren't divided in a good vs. bad kind of deal. I read the three books one right after the other, and there's a large cast of characters and at times it was hard to keep up with everyone. At first, I was trying to keep everyone straight by trying to figure out who's "good" and who's "bad." But there wasn't a clear distinction between the Sanctuary side and the Outcasts side--they both have their positives as well as their negatives. However, if it's been a while since you read Haze, you'll be happy to know that a "who's who" list is included in Shimmer with mini bios of the characters.

Shimmer was amazing. I really can go on and on about this book, and the other books in the series. After reading the first two books in the series, I've come to expect an adrenaline rush of a read in Shimmer and that was exactly what I got: crazy, kick-ass action, full of unexpected twists and turns and some secrets revealed, fully fleshed out cast of characters, a heroine I can get behind of and root for, sexy, sexy Rafa, the sexual tension between Gaby and Rafa **fans self**, and that cliff-hanger ending that was all kinds of frustrating (I took off a half-star for that because ugh). I am beyond excited for Burn, where EVERYTHING will finally be revealed--I need Burn in my eager hands yesterday!

Seriously, do not miss out on this series. It's INCREDIBLE!!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Hello everyone,
Holy cow! Twenty-sixteen is seemingly breezing by at top speed and it's already March. How the heck did that happen?

How I Did with Reading and Blogging
So, I started the year off with a bang on the blogging front with a total of 12 blog posts. But, February was crazy times at work and, unfortunately, I fell behind with blogging with only seven posts. However, my reading didn't suffer as badly as my blogging did. I read a total of 13 books and 1 novella in January and February, which was really good for me considering I do almost all of my reading during the weekends. As of today, I am also on track with my Goodreads reading goal--I've read 17 books so far in my goal of reading 96 books this year.

The Books I Read in January & February
E-books: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, Midnight Pursuits and Midnight Action by Elle Kennedy, and Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk

My favorite read in January was Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn (read my review here) and my February favorite was Midnight Action by Elle Kennedy closely followed by Midnight Captive by Elle Kennedy (it's really hard to decide, because both books were fantastic--actually I haven't read a book by Elle Kennedy I didn't enjoy).

TBR Jar Reads
Surprisingly, I am keeping up with my TBR Jar challenge. Woo-hoo!!

In January my pick was "historical romance" and I read The Lie and the Lady by Kate Noble. My February pick was "first book in a new series," but I ran out of time so I ended up reading it during the first week of March. I cheated a little bit there, but the important thing is that the book, Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins, was read.

My March pick is "next book in a series" and I am hoping to read The Skylighter by Becky Wallace, which is the sequel to The Storyspinner (I read it 2015 and loved it--my review here).

Other Bookish and Non-bookish January and February Favorites
Here are some other things I enjoyed (or still currently enjoying) during the first two months of 2016.


Arrow: I started watching Arrow on Netflix and I'm enjoying it a lot. I finished watching Season 1 and just started Season 2. I'm just waiting for Olicity to happen ever since I looked for Arrow gifs on Tumblr and found all the super cute and swoon-y Olicity ones.

Candle: My favorite candle was Frostbeard's Bookworm candle. I absolutely love the scent--apple, newsprint, and crayon. It speaks to my bookish nerd and teacher heart. I'm planning to review the Frostbeard candles I own by the end of this month, so be on the lookout for that post if you're interested in Frostbeard candles.

Song: I'm still listening to Hamilton the Musical. Proud #HamiltonTrash

Movie: Take Care (starring Leslie Bibb and Thomas Sadoski) via Netflix. I was bored one night and in the mood for a romantic comedy and I found Take Care. I didn't think I was going to enjoy it, because the trailer makes it seem like a HORRIBLE movie. But, I ended up loving it and have re-watched it many times since.

The premise is Frannie was in a bad car accident and broke her arm and leg. When she was released from the hospital, there was no one to take care of her so she contacts her ex-boyfriend and guilt-trips him into taking care of her. I do think it's a love it or hate it kind of movie, because the characters' actions might rub people the wrong way, but I loved it. I found it sweet and romantic, but real and the characters were very much flawed and even unlikable at times. I thought the dialogue and writing was smart, Bibb and Sadoski did a great job--there were certain looks, meaningful pauses, and quiet moments were spot on and conveyed much.

Etsy: I did a lot of shopping on Etsy and my wallet hates me for it. Besides all the bookish candles, I also bought some bookmarks. I just couldn't resist. They were all so pretty!
The 3 vertical bookmarks were from SkinnyHues and all the horizontal ones were from BehindthePages.
 March TBRHere are the books I plan to read in the month of March. All of these I am definitely for sure reading this month.

I already read In Real Life by Jessica Love (my review) and Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins (my review). I am planning on binge reading the Rephaim series this weekend, and I'll be part of the blog tour for Shimmer this coming Monday. I am hoping to read more this month, especially since I have a 2-week long spring break from work. 

Let me know if we share any favorites in January or February.

Happy reading,
Michelle

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Paperback: 345 pages
Publisher: Speak
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Source of my copy: bought
Series: Rebel Belle #1
Synopsis
Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.



I am so glad I finally picked up Rebel Belle, just in time for the upcoming release of the final book in the series too!

First of all, how awesome is the cover of Rebel Belle. It's basically the novel in a nutshell with the dagger, the pearls, and the peach-y pink color. Good job, Penguin!

I really, really enjoyed Rebel Belle, and I wish I had picked it up sooner. It was a really fun, entertaining read and it kind of plays out like a really good Disney Channel movie, but with better fleshed out characters and better dialogue (none of those annoying "sassy" one-liners that makes me roll my eyes). 

Basically, Harper was her school's queen bee. She's not only the prettiest, most popular girl in school but she's also smart and she's made it her mission to make sure all the school activities in school were a success. But, during Homecoming she stubbled into a strange scene between her school's custodian and her history teacher, and be the end of the night she found herself with with some crazy ninja skills. She soon found out that she's been task to protect--to be a paladin to--her greatest rival, David Stark. 

My most favorite part of Rebel Belle were Harper and David together. My absolute favorite romances are when the characters disliked each other at first and then eventually grow to like each other, and that was the kind of romance we got there. They've known each other pretty much their whole lives, and grew up together, but they've never gotten along. But, when Harper became David's paladin, they were forced to spend more time together and they slowly become friends, and then gradually their feelings for each other become more romantic. I loved the slow burn of their relationship. Of course, since Rebel Belle is only the first book in the series we didn't get the full arc of their relationship and I am very much looking forward to more Harper and David swoon-y moments in Miss Mayhem (book 2).

I also love that it's set in the South. I was picturing Harper and David's town as the town in that tv show Hart of Dixie (you know, that one with Rachel Bilson) and in my head Harper was (a lot less bitchy version of) Lemon Breeland with her Southern accent and pretty dresses, but can kick some major ass. 

The plot was fast-paced, and it kept my interest, but there were moments when the scenes felt contrived and almost disjointed. It felt like the plot didn't flow as well as it should, and there was a cheesiness factor to the whole thing (hence, the Disney Channel movie comparison), but it's all part of its charm.

I am very much looking forward to Miss Mayhem and Lady Renegades. I can't wait to see how everything will turn out after the events at the end of Rebel Belle, because it turned the plot on its head and changes the game. Pick up Rebel Belle if you want a fun, entertaining, kick-ass, Southern good time!


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Monday, March 7, 2016

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: standalone
Synopsis
Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, regularly shower each other with presents, and know everything there is to know about one another.

There's just one problem: Hannah and Nick have never actually met.

Hannah has spent her entire life doing what she's supposed to, but when her senior year spring break plans get ruined by a rule-breaker, she decides to break a rule or two herself. She impulsively decides to road trip to Las Vegas, her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-friend feelings for him.

Hannah's surprise romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and finds out that Nick has been keeping some major secrets. Hannah knows the real Nick can't be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has a night in Sin City to figure out what her feelings for Nick really are, all while discovering how life can change when you break the rules every now and then.



A couple of weeks ago I had a hankering for a fun, fluffy, romantic contemporary YA that will make me swoon and root for the main couple so I picked up Jennifer E. Smith's Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between and was sorely disappointed (more of my thoughts about it here).

Well, everything I was looking for in Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between I found in In Real Life. It had all the fluffy, fun, teenaged angst-y Las Vegas adventure I wanted and I swooned through all the cutesy moments. I rooted for Hannah and Nick to get together, even though there were times I wanted to reach into the pages and shake Hannah because of her choices which I will get into later on.

I kind of had a hard time with Hannah's character. For the most part, I liked her. I saw a lot of my high school self in her. We're both rule followers, see ourselves as the good girl, the straight As student, the DD at parties, and a bit of a control freak. At the same time, she made some dumb decisions and wasted opportunities, and was unfair towards her friends, especially Nick's girlfriend Frankie.

Okay, so Hannah and Nick have been best friends since the eight grade when her older sister Grace met Nick's brother Alex at a concert and introduced Hannah and Nick. Ever since then, Hannah and Nick had a long distance friendship (she lives in Orange County, California and he lives in Henderson, Nevada) and talk to each other multiple times a day on the phone and online. Although they never met in real life, they're best friends and tell each other almost everything. The thing that Hannah had kept to herself (actually, barely even admitting it to herself) was that over the years, she's developed romantic feelings for Nick. So, during spring break on her senior year of high school, she decided to break all the rules and drive to Vegas, with Grace and her real life best friend Lo, to tell Nick how she really felt.

But, when she finally met Nick in real life, she found out that he's been keeping some big secrets--one of which was that he has a girlfriend, Frankie. Frankie was friendly, fun, outgoing, and really nice, but Hannah hated her on sight because she was Nick's girlfriend. Hannah wasn't very nice to Frankie throughout the novel, not reciprocating Frankie's friendliness and was basically trying to steal Nick from her. I just felt bad for Frankie, who really didn't do anything wrong and just wanted to be friends with Nick's long-time friend. So, Hannah and Nick's sweet moments were a bit tainted by that--I mean, I still rooted for Hannah and Nick because they're a better match, but poor Frankie.

Another thing that bothered me about Hannah was that she takes the easy way out, or runs from challenges. She had plenty of opportunities to tell Nick her feeling for him, only to chicken out or run away. She was upset when her friends left her to have their own fun, because they were supposed to be there to support her. I loved when her friend Lo finally called her out on it, and gave her some tough love.

But, at the same time I couldn't dislike Hannah for her frustrating moments because at seventeen she was me. Her flaws were my flaws. I have a feeling that if I was put in the same situation and circumstances as her, I would've acted and responded in a similar way. I would've rather irrationally hate Frankie than face the fact that I was jealous and that it was my fault that Nick was going out with her in the first place. I would've relied on my friends to tell me what to do instead of making my own decisions. But, Hannah grew and made some important realizations about herself and about life, which was awesome. And, I really do love her and Nick together. Their ending was swoon-worthy perfection.

One of my favorite thing in In Real Life was its setting, which was on the Vegas Strip. I had a chance to visit Las Vegas a couple of years ago, so I walked the same streets and saw the same sights, lights, and crazies as Hannah and her friends did, which was really fun. It's a bit like reliving that trip again, but seeing it through a character's eyes.

I also loved that Hannah and Grace were Korean, and Hannah's best friend Lo was Mexican. Yay for diversity!

In Real Life was a really cute read. Yes, it was cliche and trope-y and nothing will really surprise you in terms of plot, but never in a bad way. Add In Real Life in your list of fun, fluffy, romantic contemporary YA because sometimes we just need that kind of read, and this novel delivered on the sweet, fun, and fluffy romance.

Read-alikes: #scandal by Sarah Ockler, Magnolia by Kristi Cook, This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith, Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt