Meet Cute

Image result for meet cute bookSome people are just destined to meet.

I found this anthology at the library and, since my reading time has been limited by going back to school and my writing, I thought a bunch of short stories would be the perfect thing.  I could read for 20 minutes and finish a whole story!  And since these were supposed to be cute love stories, it was even sweeter.

There’s really not a synopsis for this since it’s just a collection of 14 short stories (authors are listed on the cover), so I’ll just get started.

Overall, this was pretty adorable.

No, every story was not a winner. But the stories are imaginative, with lots of diversity and some that were incredibly cool. Some I didn’t want to end. I would read entire novels on that premise if I could. Some writers played around with writing in 2nd person, which is definitely a learning curve since that virtually never happens.

The best stories were:
-“Siege Etiquette” by Katie Cotugno, a story where two teens are stuck in a bathroom at a party
-“Click” by Katharine McGee, a blind date from a dating app
-“The Dictionary of You and Me” by Jennifer L. Armentrout, involving a librarian and a new boy
-“259 Million Miles” by Kass Morgan, a semi-futuristic story of two teens trying to get sent to Mars
-“The Department of Dead Love” by Nicola Yoon, a futuristic story where relationships can be autopsied to see why they ended

Those stories worked for me. They all had lost, nervous, or shy main characters who unexpectedly find something in the story.

That’s not the say the others are bad; it’s just that I related to these other stories most of all. “Somewhere That’s Green” by Meredith Russo was a fantastically engaging story about a trans teen. “The Unlikely Likelihood of Falling in Love” by Jocelyn Davies was a cute story about a female mathematician calculating the odds of finding your true love.

There were many stories of LGBTQ teens, which is generally not my cup of tea. However, that doesn’t mean these stories were any less entertaining. I did genuinely like most of them.

But in an anthology of like 14 stories, there were bound to be a couple of duds. I won’t name them, but it seemed pretty clear some of them didn’t quite know how to plot out a short story. It felt like we were never getting to the point, that we spent all this time understanding the setting and the main character, but the cutie didn’t come in until the last two pages. That was a bit of a let-down.

Overall, this anthology was a lot like getting a cute romantic comedy in 20-30 minutes. Not a bad deal, if you ask me.

Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR

Hey guys!  So who knows if I’ll actually get around to reading any of these this fall (I’m still absolutely reading, don’t get me wrong), since my writing has kicked up big time.  I’m working on another draft while I let the first one sit for a while…and then make final edits on that to (hopefully!) publish.

Anyway, these are the books I’m definitely hoping to get around to soon.

Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR

1. Maybe This Time by Katie West

It’s been a while since I’ve read a West book and I think it’s about time again.  I got off the contemporary romance train for a while and I’m ready to board again.

2. Lovestruck by Kate Watson

I saw this at the library and thought it looked cute.  I love Greek mythology, so this story of Cupid and Psyche’s daughter (who, like her father, manages to flub up shooting someone with a love arrow) promises a cute rom-com.

3. His Hideous Heart by Dahlia Adler (anthology)

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we have this anthology of YA authors doing their take on Edgar Allan Poe short stories.  I don’t even care what it looks like–if it’s Poe and it’s creepy, I’m in.

4. Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud

Yes, I’m 28 and yes, I’m going to read this story of a teenage girl who falls in love with a prince.  I am from the Disney generation and any haters can keep on hating.

5. Ever the Brave by Erin Summerill

This is the 2nd book in this series and I really need to get with the program to keep this series moving along before I forget too much.  So…soon.

6. Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

I love Donnelly’s writing style and, while Cinderella is actually one of my least favorite fairy tales (I hate the emotional abuse Cinderella is put through and physically cannot sit through it), I certainly hope this is going to be worth it.

7. The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

It’s been a really long time since I’ve read a Dessen novel.  I don’t even think I read her previous book, actually.  But I need to get back on board and this seems like as good a one as any.

8. The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

I’m obsessed with Lloyd-Jones’s The Hearts We Sold and I am hoping this is a wonderful blend of the supernatural and the normal.  I couldn’t put the previous book down at all and I’m hoping this is the same way.

9. Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

The title of this alone gets my attention, as it’s the title of a Miranda Lambert song I grew up listening to.  But the idea behind it too, of someone escaping their hometown and making it big then to refuse to come back home for some reason, appeals to me.

10. White Rose by Kip Wilson

This one is going to be hard to read, I just know it.  Set during World War II, it’s about a group of Nazi resisters.  It’s real, it’s gonna hurt, and I still want to read it.

Now Entering Addamsville

Image result for now entering addamsvilleFirst Lines: George Masrell’s house went up in flames at 2:59 a.m. on a frost-tipped october morning.  Masrell was eighty, lived alone on the northeast side of town, and spent his days cleaning the bathrooms at Addamsville High.  He was liked in the way outdoor art installations are liked: for his quirks and his reliable permanence.

When I saw Zappia had a new book coming out, I was super excited.  And the fact that it’s set in my home state of Indiana and the title reminded me of the Addams Family was an added bonus.  Really, she could have written the phone book and I still would have read it.  Getting the ARC was a big win for me.  (Book officially drops October 1st!)

Here’s the official synopsis: Zora Novak has been framed.

When someone burns down the home of the school janitor and he dies in the blaze, everyone in Addamsville, Indiana, points a finger at Zora. Never mind that Zora has been on the straight and narrow since her father was thrown in jail. With everyone looking for evidence against her, her only choice is to uncover the identity of the real killer. There’s one big problem—Zora has no leads. No one does. Addamsville has a history of tragedy, and thirty years ago a similar string of fires left several townspeople dead. The arsonist was never caught.

Now, Zora must team up with her cousin Artemis—an annoying self-proclaimed Addamsville historian—to clear her name. But with a popular ghost-hunting television show riling up the townspeople, almost no support from her family and friends, and rumors spinning out of control, things aren’t looking good. Zora will have to read between the lines of Addamsville’s ghost stories before she becomes one herself.

It’s Zappia’s first book that doesn’t deal with mental illness. Instead, this is more of an urban fantasy (kind of a curve ball, right?). Zora can see ghosts in her small town, a town where you never leave even after you die. But not only are there ghosts, we also have lovely little demons running around. The paranormal edge was slightly unexpected, but it worked out pretty well throughout the story.

However, if you’re still expecting something deeper, you’ll get it. There are serious issues like grief, poverty, and bullying (not in the way you’ll expect) here. And they’re handled with extreme care, in a way that you get it when you’re done.

Zappia’s writing style is immersive. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately where it seems like nothing has pulled me in, but this had no problem doing it. It didn’t matter where I stopped or started, I was all in in just a few pages. It’s just so smart.

Zora is an interesting character. She’s very angry about pretty much everything. She’s got a short fuse and it’s easy to set her off. She’s got a bad reputation and she’s working on picking up the pieces of her life as everyone turns against her. She’s not your typical heroine. She’s impulsive and troubled, but she’s got a good heart to her. There were times when I had to put the book down for a while, though, because Zora’s intense and I can’t handle a lot of that at one time. There’s only so much rage I can absorb before I need to get away from it. But that doesn’t make her a bad character by any means.

I was a little disappointed with the ending, though. The story had been so creative, so engaging the whole time, and then I felt like the ending kind of missed the mark. It still (mostly) wrapped everything up, but it felt too abrupt.

However, as a Hoosier, I appreciated the Indiana jokes. Mentions of Conner Prairie and the Colts were very much appreciated.

It was intense, but it was a good read. Definitely worth checking out.  (Though sometimes reading this before bed is not a good idea.  I did that one night and I got to a super creepy part right before I hit the hay…it was not good.)

Ten More Books To Try If You Like Sarah J. Maas

Hey everyone!  So my last list of books you might like if you like Sarah J. Maas is easily my #1 post on this blog.  And since I published it over two and a half years ago, I thought it was time to update the list a little.  I still 100% stand behind my previous books, but I’ve read a lot more since then (over 250 more books) and I’ve come across a number of them that I think you’ll love!

Now that Maas has more or less completed her two best-known series (ACOTAR and Throne of Glass), I think we definitely need something else we can sink out teeth (or souls) into.

Ten More Books To Try If You Like Sarah J. Maas

1. Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha, #1) by Tomi Adeyemi

Why: This book has one a number of awards for its outstanding storytelling.  (In fact, it was up for the Goodreads YA Science Fiction and Fantasy award in 2018, only to get beat by Maas.)  Like Maas typically does, this book has multiple narrators, sweeping landscapes, magic, abuses of that magic for nefarious purposes, and characters who don’t know they’re own strength until they’re tested.  It’s a wonderful read.

2. His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers

Why: This series is a favorite of mine.  It’s historical fiction (mostly), but it does deal with pagan gods and assassins who worship a death god named Mortain.  These assassins frequently get pulled into political games of chess where it’s a kill-or-be-killed world.  Like Maas, these girls are clever, dangerous, and deal a little in their own brand of magic.  The medieval setting does feel a little like a fantasy world, which helps too.

3. A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Why: Only the first book out in this series, this book is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, much like ACOTAR.  In it, Harper is taken from her hometown of Washington, D.C. and dropped into the fantasy world of Emberfall where a vicious beast is destroying the land and Prince Rhein needs Harper to help break the curse.  Since ACOTAR and ACSDAL are coming from the same source material, the stories do have quite a bit in common.  I had a hard time putting this book down when I read it.  Bonus?  Harper is an even stronger and more unconventional heroine for overcoming the limitations of her cerebral palsy.

4. Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard

Why: This series took the YA world by storm when it came out.  This fantasy about a kingdom where those with silver blood have magical powers and those with red blood don’t will surprise you every step of the way.  Mare is a Red, but when she discovers she has powers, it turns the entire kingdom on its head.  And there are many people who are not ok with this and want to see her dead.  You’ll get swept up into this story in no time.

5. The Diviners series by Libba Bray

Why: This is another historical fiction, this time set in the 1920s, but the Diviners are a group of people who have abilities.  These abilities all manifest themselves differently, but they all quickly see they have much in common.  Especially when people of the time start pushing back against them and monsters are lurking in the dark, waiting for them.  Seriously, these books are so good at letting off that creepy, unsettling vibe that I do no recommend reading the endings right before bed.  I have very clear, vivid memories of how the first book ended because of how haunting it was.

6. The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Why: One of only two standalone novels in this list, this urban fantasy captured my attention from the very first sentence.  In this world, people can make deals with demons for anything–escaping a bad home life, getting the promotion, etc.  In exchange, they have to give up their hearts.  And when Dee, our main character, gets pulled into more supernatural incidents, it completely changes her world view.  I’m pretty sure I read this book in about one sitting because I just could not put it down.

7. Scythe series by Neal Shusterman

Why: This immersive dystopian series doubles as a scathing social commentary about where our world is headed.  This may not sound like something you’d enjoy if you’re looking for a Maas-esque fantasy, but this series is equally impossible to put down.  Teens are trained to be Reapers in a world where death no longer exists unless a Reaper kills them.  Like Maas, there are a lot of abuses of power, backstabbing, betrayals, and intricate plots you won’t see until it’s already happening.  It’s so good.

8. City of Bones and/or Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare

Why: Well, I’m guessing many of you have already read these books, as City of Bones has been out for over a decade, but they’re worth putting on this list.  As urban fantasies, these books put demons and other creatures into otherwise normal locations to wreak havoc.  But we also have the very interesting world of the Shadowhunters, which plays by its own rules.  This was one of a few series that got me into fantasy enough to eventually build up to Maas.

9. The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Why: Perhaps the most unexpected choice of the list, this book is easily one of my favorites.  Judge Stephenie Meyer all you want, but this series beautifully created a world where Souls took over the human race, supposedly for the better of the world.  What I love most about this book is how I get sucked into it.  When Wanderer feels something, I feel it too.  I become the characters, feeling their pain and joy right along with them in a way that I don’t feel very often on my fourth or fifth reread.  It still gets me every time.

10. Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

Why: This dark series does feel a little dated at first.  It, like many mid-2000s books puts a cheerleader and a goth boy together to work on a class project and weird things ensue.  However, this series is based off of Edgar Allan Poe’s work, which is its own level of dark and messed up.  That leads to some time spent in a fantasy world where everything could be dangerous and death could be lurking in any corner.  With a healthy dose of humor, though, this story isn’t as depressing as you might expect, and it stars a heroine who really kicks butt.

Shadowsong (Wintersong, #2)

Image result for shadowsongFirst Lines: My dearest Sepperl, They say it rained on the day Mozart died.

I read Wintersong back in the…spring?…and, being a duology, I wanted to finish off this series.  It was gonna be easy, you know?  Two books, done.  And I’d have one more series I could cross off my list.  If I was actually keeping a list, which I’m not.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

It’s been six months since Liesl came back from the Underground.  She’s determined to live her life and grow her music career, but her second chance at life is so much harder than she ever thought.  Her brother, Josef, is cold and distant from her.  And Liesl can’t stop thinking about the man she left behind.  When signs begin to show that the barrier between the Underground and the world above is failing, Liesl knows she needs to do something.  But how far will she be willing to go?  How much is too much to sacrifice?

I had really enjoyed the first book in this series, though I admittedly found it weird at times. But I liked its play on German culture, its delve into the Goblin underworld, and its ties to music.

Pretty much, still what I liked about this one.

I will say that it started off sloooooow. It took me a long time before I felt like I was really getting anywhere. Part of that might have been because I didn’t have time to sit down and sink into it the way I like to. I was reading a chapter at breakfast and maybe another couple before bed. (Normally, I like to sink at least an hour into reading a day, but I’ve been on a writing kick lately.) But part of it, I think too, was that we not only had to set up the currently world Liesl was living in, six months after the end of the previous story, but also her new, manic mindset.

I did really like that this book took a look at mental illness, particularly relating to bipolar disorder and depression, without calling them by name. You see a couple of the characters spiraling, but they don’t have the vocabulary (due to the time period) to really explain what they’re feeling. But we know. We see it. And I liked seeing some of that from the inside, to better understand it.

What I missed from most of this was the Goblin world. Even though that was the crux of the previous book, it wasn’t very present in this book at all. And unfortunately, that’s what I really enjoyed before. And Der Erlkonig really wasn’t in the story much either.

The reason I gave this a four instead of three is because the last 150 pages or so were pretty extraordinary. I don’t want to say there were big plot twists, necessarily, but it was really well-written. Madness, depression, and yes, a few twists made it quite an emotional ending. I liked that.

The Healer’s Apprentice (Hagenheim, #1)

Image result for the healer's apprenticeFirst Lines: The townspeople of Hagenheim craned their necks as they peered down the cobblestone street, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Duke of Hagenheim’s two handsome sons.  The topheavy, half-timbered houses hovered above the crowd as if they too were eager to get a peek at Lord Hamlin and Lord Rupert.

For over nine years, this has been on my to-read list.  Since then, more than one person has told me how much they loved this book.  But…I was hesitant once I found out it was labeled as Christian lit.  That is not a genre I tend to like, so even though this looked really good, I was reticent.

Rose has been chosen to be the apprentice to the healer of Hagenheim castle, a huge opportunity for the girl who is the daughter of a woodcutter.  And yes, Rose is ill at the sight of blood, but she’s determined to overcome it.  If she doesn’t, she’ll be forced to marry some bloated, old man and the thought of that alone turns Rose’s stomach.  When Lord Hamlin, the future duke, is injured, Rose is the only one who can help him.  And as they get to know each other, Rose discovers feelings she’s not supposed to have and wonders if Lord Hamlin feels them too.  But what they feel is forbidden, not only because of the difference in their stations but because Lord Hamlin is already engaged to a mysterious girl who has gone into hiding to avoid the wrath of an angry sorcerer.  As Rose’s life begins to spin out of control, she’ll need to take the first steps to find her new destiny.

I was initially a bit nervous about this, since I knew it was Christian lit. However, since the story is set in the 1300s in Germany, the focus on religion felt historically accurate more than anything else. In fact, I would have been surprised if religion didn’t play at least some role in a story set in that time.

The story itself was more than a little predictable, but it was a fun read. Rose is a healer’s apprentice, but she doesn’t have the stomach for it.  But she’s determined to do the job well, especially since it means she doesn’t have to marry. I liked her strength and her convictions. It would have been so easy for her to abandon her beliefs in the face of some of her struggles, but she stood her ground, even when that meant making her life harder.

Right, the plot. I saw the big twist coming waaaaay before it happened. That made some of what followed boring, as I was already three steps ahead of the characters. However, there’s enough going on in the story that there was usually still something else happening to draw me in.

I thought this was going to be more of a fairy tale (I’m told it’s supposed to be a version of Sleeping Beauty), but I definitely didn’t see it.  However, it does have some of those fairy tale tropes to it, which I liked. It feels like an original story, but it also feels comfortable and easy to sink into, like a well-known story.

This was good. I plan on looking at some of her other books now.