Friday, May 31, 2019

Book Spotligh: The Beholder by Anna Bright

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Good morning friends, and happy Friday! Yes, you've made it to the end of the work week, so good job! You deserve a high five! Also,  you deserve a chance to check out a new book to add to that ever growing TBR. Right? Right. Let's do this!
Today's spotlight is on The Beholder by Anna Bright. This is a book that not only has an absolutely gorgeous cover, but also seeks to blend the fairy tale world with our own! Doesn't that sound absolutely magical?

Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.

But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.

From English castle gardens to the fjords of Norge, and under the eye of the dreaded Imperiya Yotne, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks…and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.
Sound like something that's up your alley? Well, check out the Book Excerpt below, for even more excitement! It's a good one, and it's sure to pique your interest.
Once upon a time always began on nights like tonight.

Candles flickered in the trees that grew up through the marble floors of Arbor Hall, setting aglow the faces of the partygoers beneath them and the garlands of shattered glass sparkling in their intermingled branches. My heart beat like a hummingbird trapped between my breastbone and spine.

I ducked behind an old oak climbed over with ivy, hiding for a moment from the music and all the people, careful to avoid the gap carved around its trunk.

Tonight wasn’t truly a beginning. I’d loved Peter forever, even if I’d never told him so. Tonight was growth—a page turned. Tonight, I would reap from seeds I’d sown and tended half my life.

Tonight, I’d go to sleep with a ring on my finger and my future clear before me. Confident in the promise that tomorrow and the next day and the next would be happy days, always the same, always close to the ones I loved. Ready to do my duty by Potomac and take my place as its head someday, with someone strong and trustworthy at my side. Just as soon as Peter said yes.

I tugged an ivy vine loose with shaky fingers, looped it into a wreath, and pinned it over the loose ponytail I’d made of my curls.

Tonight, whispered my heart. You’re getting engaged tonight.

My breath came fast at the thought, my knees practically knocking together.

I believe in woods, mountains, highways, cobblestones, roller coasters, dancing, concerts, cherry Pop Tarts, books, and magic.

When I'm not reading or writing on my couch, I'm dragging my husband off on an adventure, communing with Salem (my kitten/spiritual familiar), or causing trouble at One More Page Books, where I work.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Can't Wait Wednesday - Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted here, at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they're books that have yet to be released. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine. If you're continuing with WOW, feel free to link those up as well! Find out more here.
I was going to have a review post for you guys today, but my energy level is at the point where I can't form any thoughts beyond basic ones. My attempts to write a review of 8 Souls, by Rachel Rust, was laughable. So I'll be waiting until I'm in a better spot, but you can expect it soon.

Now let's talk about what book I'm excited for!

I've been in a spooky reads mood lately (it gets that way most times when I'm feeling off) and this book caught my eye immediately! It looks perfectly terrifying, and I am so ready to devour it.

In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister--at all costs.

Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her--and who won't make it out of the woods?

It's been exactly one year since Sara's sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn't know whether her former friends no longer like her...or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together. When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to "play the game" and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca--before she's lost forever. And even though she's hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends--and their cameras--following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side.

This releases on September 24th and I am SO EXCITED. I can't even hide it!

What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, May 27, 2019

Book Blitz + Giveaway: The Lady Raven by Rebecca Henry

Happy Memorial Day! I have an exciting new book to share with you today. I love when authors retell some of the classic fairy-tales with a twist and The Lady Raven promises some darkness. Don't forget to check out the giveaway too. 

The Lady Raven: A Dark Cinderella Tale
Rebecca Henry
Publication date: December 5th 2017
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
In The Lady Raven, Rebecca Henry tells the tale of Zezolla, a little princess abandoned by her father into the hands of her evil stepmother and wicked stepsisters. A familiar fairy tale you may think but all is not as it appears. The reader is soon drawn into a web of witchcraft, lies and deceit, and gradually realises that this is no typical fairy tale but a dark and macabre take on one. Zezolla is treated with the utmost cruelty, neglected and vilified, and left to live in the damp cellars of the castle. The only friends Zezolla has are her beloved raven and her pet wolf. Her only comfort lies in the loyalty of the creatures of the forest and her mother’s hazel tree. Will Zezolla have the power to escape her torment and ultimately save herself from the unscrupulous clutches of the king? The Lady Raven is a compelling tale and one that is not for the faint-hearted.
Add it: Goodreads / Amazon

Baldric bent down, whispering into his wife’s ear. “I am going to drown you in the river, my love. I want you to hear my words and know that it is I who will kill you. Do not think that I do not know what you did.” Before Avelina could protest, her face was plunged into the icy water. She tried pulling her head up, but Baldric was too strong. She began to buck her legs around like a mule, desperate to make contact with Baldric, anything to weaken his grip. Baldric climbed on top of her and pinned her body beneath his. “Die, Avelina.” he growled. Hands were flying all around him as he drowned his wife, the only woman he ever loved. Princess Avelina was a fighter and she determined to stay alive, but it was to no avail.
Baldric kept her head under the water well after her body stopped moving. Avelina’s betrayal caused Baldric’s love to turn to hate, just as water turns to ice in the frozen kiss of winter.
“Die, you lying witch. Die! You do not deserve the life you have. You do not deserve me. You have taken everything I’ve loved away and now I will take everything from you.” Baldric’s hands trembled with rage as he dismounted his wife’s limp body. Baldric arose, looking around the grounds to ensure that no witnesses could testify to his crime. Still, he would not suffer the consequence of murdering his wife. To seal his innocence, he gathered heavy rocks from the bank and shoved them in Avelina’s robes.
“They will think it a suicide and my hands will never be traced to her death.” He bent down to see her face one last time before kicking her corpse into the lake.
“I loved you mind, body, and soul. I would have loved you until my dying breath, but I will never think of you again. From this day forth, you no longer consume my heart. May you rest in hell, my love.” He watched her body sink; he was triumphant, sentencing her to the punishment that fitted the crime: death.
Before her body disappeared into the ultramarine water, he spat on her. One final act of defiance.

Rebecca Henry is a newly published author. Her debut novel is The Lady Raven, A Dark Cinderella Tale, which was published in 2017. The Lady Raven, is for those who have an affinity for fairy tales retold with a link to witches, magic and the macabre. Her second novel, Louisiana Latte, a chick lit comedy was released February 28th 2019. Louisiana Latte, is a feel good comedy that focuses on the bonds of sisters, and how audacious life can be when you have a diva for one! Both books are available on amazon as well as Barnes & Noble.
Rebecca Henry is a world traveler living abroad in England. Besides being an author of two published books, Rebecca is also a podcast talk host on the show The Latte Talk. The podcast was inspired by her latest novel, Louisiana Latte and her diva sister Deb. She is a serious vegan, gardener, crafter, wife and mom who practices yoga. She loves to laugh, her drug of choice and loves all things witchy with a hint of the macabre. Her favorite holiday is Halloween and her favorite movie of all time is Practical Magic.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Book Review: The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: The Wise and the Wicked
Author: Rebecca Podos
Publisher: Harper Collins/Balzer + Bray
Pages: Hardcover; 368
Release Date: May 28, 2019
Source: FFBC Tours / Publisher
Content Screening: Nothing of note.

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy slow burn stories filled with magic, and a bit of mayhem.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Ruby Chernyavsky has been told the stories since she was a child: The women in her family, once possessed of great magical abilities to remake lives and stave off death itself, were forced to flee their Russian home for America in order to escape the fearful men who sought to destroy them. Such has it always been, Ruby’s been told, for powerful women. Today, these stories seem no more real to Ruby than folktales, except for the smallest bit of power left in their blood: when each of them comes of age, she will have a vision of who she will be when she dies—a destiny as inescapable as it is inevitable. Ruby is no exception, and neither is her mother, although she ran from her fate years ago, abandoning Ruby and her sisters. It’s a fool’s errand, because they all know the truth: there is no escaping one’s Time.

Until Ruby’s great-aunt Polina passes away, and, for the first time, a Chernyavsky’s death does not match her vision. Suddenly, things Ruby never thought she’d be allowed to hope for—life, love, time—seem possible. But as she and her cousin Cece begin to dig into the family’s history to find out whether they, too, can change their fates, they learn that nothing comes without a cost. Especially not hope.
Put a book in front of me with any type of fairy tale aspects to it, and you can pretty much guarantee that I'm going to read it. When I saw that The Wise and the Wicked was based around Russian folktales, my heart was so happy. I love a good story with folktale roots. It's probably no surprise at all that I was very excited to read this book.

To be honest, I actually really loved about the first 70% of this book. It was a little slow, sure, but I could feel that pull back to the old stories and it kept me going. It was also so refreshing to read a book with such lovely queer representation in it and, thank goodness, one that wasn't completely built around romance. I'm all for a good romance, but it's always so nice to read a book where it isn't the most important thing ever. In fact, this story is mostly based around family. Around the secrets that they keep, the love that simmers beneath the surface, and about doing whatever you can to protect one another. Ruby and her sisters felt real to me, and I was invested in them. I always love when a family dynamic has some ruts along the road. Ruby and her sisters felt like a real family, because it wasn't always all sunshine and rainbows but the love was definitely there.

However as the book progressed it became more and more evident that things weren't going to be completely wrapped up. I won't lie, I felt concerned because this book doesn't show any inkling of having a sequel. It's true that there were some plot gaps in the first part of the book, but I let them go because I was so enjoying spending time with Ruby and her family secrets. I figured that things would be explained eventually, and the slow burn of this book wasn't really bothering me. The closer I got to the end, the more I realized that I wasn't going to get my answers. There are a lot of portions of this story that are told in flashbacks and in podcast listening form. I liked them at first. As I realized that the end wasn't going to be cleaned up though, I started to resent them for taking up story that could have been used to further flesh out the characters and the plot. I really hope there's another book after this one, because the ending is frustratingly incomplete.

Still, there's a lot to love in The Wise and the Wicked and so, like I mentioned above, I'd definitely read the next book. Dev is a great male character. It's so nice to see a sweet boy instead of a brooding one. The idea that words passed down over time can be twisted to meet the needs of those telling them was fascinating. I also loved that Ruby was unabashedly in love with a science fiction story podcast. Her addiction to the story that was unfolding in her podcast, matched against the very unbelievable story that was unfolding around her, made for a beautiful parallel in the book. If only this story had been a few chapters longer, and finished explaining some of the things I desperately wanted to know, I would have fallen completely in love.

If you enjoy stories with a slow burn, a lot of heart, and a kind of fairy tale feel to them, you'll love The Wise and the Wicked. I'll just be over here hoping that there's more Ruby coming, very soon.

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Book Blitz + Giveaway: The Divorce Planner by Angela Lam

Happy hump day my reader friends. Today I have an especially juicy book for you. The Divorce Planner promises to bring some hilarity to the wonderful world of romance. What could possibly go wrong with a fake engagement and a daughter who wants to do a double wedding? Let's find out!

The Divorce Planner
Angela Lam
Published by: The Wild Rose Press
Publication date: May 20th 2019
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
When her daughter suggests Darcy Madison attend her ex-husband’s wedding, Darcy enlists the help of her colleague, divorce attorney Victor Costello, to pose as her dashing young date. But when Victor proposes to Darcy at the reception, Darcy forgets they are pretending and says, “Yes!” Between her false engagement to Victor and her daughter’s suggestion to have a double wedding, Darcy falls even further in the fantasy of being a blushing midlife bride. The longer the masquerade continues, the more Darcy starts to wonder what is love and can it last forever in a world where divorce is the only language she knows?

“Are you leaving?” He stood.
“Yes.” A flash of disappointment descended over her shoulders. “I think I’ll go.”
“Let me walk you to your car.”
“But you’ll miss the live auction and the dancing.”
He offered his arm. “I’d rather spend the time with you.”
A touch of kinship united them.
She wove her arm through his. How delightful to find someone who enjoyed her company as much as she enjoyed his.
Matching strides, they walked around the tables of guests. A few people stopped them to comment on how cute a couple they made.
She blushed from the compliments.
He nudged open the double doors.
A gust of cool summer air blasted against her face. She shivered.
He tugged her closer. “Would you like my jacket?”
“No, thank you. I’m parked over there.” She waved toward the left.
They strode over to an ancient sports sedan.
Darcy unlocked her door and tossed her clutch inside. As she turned to say good night, she trembled with anticipation. Would he kiss her again?
Standing in silence, he gazed into her eyes.
A flicker of desire lapped at her feet and licked up into her belly. She had never seen eyes so big, so bold, and so beautiful. Oh, why wouldn’t he kiss her?

Angela is a San Francisco Bay Area native.
She studied journalism at Northwestern University as a Cherub scholar. She received her B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Sonoma State University.
Her nonfiction articles on real estate, lending, and finance can be found online at Her short stories, essays, and poetry are published in a number of magazines, newspapers, and anthologies, including The Do
llar Stretcher, Foliate Oak , Kenwood Press, The Phoenix, Potpourri, The Sun, The Writer, and Women’s Voices.
When she is not writing, she is either painting, reading, running, or spending time with her family and friends.


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Book Review: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

Media Type: Print Book
Title: Pieces of Her
Author: Karin Slaughter
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: Paperback; 496
Release Date: May 21, 2019
Source: TLC Book Tours / Publisher
Genre: Thriller

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy slow burn thrillers with vivid characters.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
The #1 internationally bestselling author returns with a new novel in the vein of the New York Times bestsellers Pretty Girls and The Good Daughter—a story even more electrifying, provocative, and suspenseful than anything she’s written before.

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?

Andrea Cooper knows everything about her mother Laura. She’s knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Gullaway Island; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a Saturday afternoon trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one will ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Twenty-four hours later Laura is in the hospital, shot by an intruder who’s spent thirty years trying to track her down and discover what she knows. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumbs of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . 

This was my first Karin Slaughter book, despite the fact that many people in my book circles love her writing. I wasn't sure what to expect, so keep in mind that my review is based around being a newbie to these books! It helped, of course, that Pieces of Her focuses on a group very similar to the Symbionese Liberation Army. Cults of all sorts fascinate me, and I can't deny I love a really charismatic "bad guy" leader. So into this book I went, sight unseen, and I can tell you that it wasn't a bad ride at all.

First off, kudos to Slaughter on her ability to write one tight, well-plotted out mystery. The beginning of this story pulls no punches, and that's tame compared to what comes after. I can't say that I ever really loved Andrea. She's frustratingly slow sometimes, and hysterical as all get out. However the plot that Slaughter expertly wove together at least made Andrea's emotions understandable. There really isn't anything in this story that doesn't belong right were it is. Each death is carefully calculated. Each violent act, perfectly placed to maximize its impact. This isn't a story that is an easy read, but it's definitely a tension filled one. That, I appreciated.

However, weirdly, this book also manages to move really slowly. I can see how it would be important to move things along as a pace that really amps up the tension, but some of the events in this book moved at a near glacial pace. I didn't so much mind that this book was told as a series of flashbacks between the present and past. I actually thought that it helped bring Laura's past life to the foreground in a really interesting way. Still, it could have been done a faster pace. There was so much fleeing, so much dialogue, and it got to the point where it weighed the plot down. I was torn between loving that the breadcrumbs were so expertly laid out, and wanting to run ahead because prying them off the floor was taking too long. It would probably have helped a lot if Andrea's journey to find answers about her mother hadn't taken so many chapters. I know that it was a plot device, in order to allow Slaughter to slowly lay out the past, but that didn't stop me wanting to skim ahead.

I did love the mastermind behind this group though. Well, as much as you can love an evil, calculating man. It was evident that there was a lot of research, and thought, that went into the character of Nick. He was a man that you could tell would be the perfect cult like leader. Charismatic, persuasive, and always with a simmering undercurrent of violence. If I have anything to tell you about what I loved about this book, it would be that Nick is the perfect villain. He brings this whole beautifully executed plot full circle, and I was extremely impressed.

All in all, I thought that Pieces of Her was a pretty solid story. As my first Karin Slaughter book, I was fairly impressed! I'd like to find another one of her books that maybe has things tightened up a bit, in the forward movement department. I'm generally not a fan of thrillers, but reading one in which the story actually felt like it was beautifully resolved has hooked me! I'll be on the lookout for more.

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

Monday, May 20, 2019

Book Review: I Spy the Boy Next Door by Samantha Armstrong

Media Type: ebook (ARC)
Title: I Spy the Boy Next Door
Author: Samantha Armstrong
Publisher: Self published
Pages: 346 paperback
Publication date: May 25th 2019
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Source: Xpresso Book Tours/Author
Content Screening: Violence; Adult Language/Topics

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy a coming of age story with a surprise ending.

Add it: Goodreads / Amazon
Four p.m. spy sessions are the highlight of Mallory Taylor’s day. Observing the boy next door—one with a body and an attitude to match—has her perched beside her window so often it can’t be healthy.
When she finally convinces her mom to let her go to public school, Mallory comes face to face with her neighbor, Troy Parker. And he makes it clear he wants nothing to do with her. His rejection awakens a newfound tenacity and maybe even a touch of recklessness. But when Troy starts to show up when she needs him the most, Mallory can’t help but wonder if there’s more to him than he’s let on.
Taking chances, breaking rules, and following her heart is all new to Mallory. And no one warned her just how fickle hearts can be. When she discovers that Troy isn’t at all the guy she imagined him to be, secrets rise to the surface that will change her life forever.
**This is a standalone mature YA/new adult contemporary romance.

Every story has its up and downs and I'm still a little on the fence of where I land on this one. There were parts I really enjoyed and parts that left me a little unfulfilled. Let me try to capture my feelings.

Mallory is an interesting character. While I sympathize with the whole home-schooled, live in a bubble, upbringing it seemed overused as an excuse for her naivety. One of her main character traits is her impulsiveness: sneaking out, drinking, fights, snooping, etc. which seems contradictory to her very sheltered outlook. For me, it seemed like two extremes that didn't quite make sense in my brain. I understand the venturing out for the first time excitement, but with her anxiety and panic attacks I feel that she would have more trepidation doing all these things. The fact that she was spying on her neighbor for 5 years while pining for him is a bit creepy as well, but let's hope that was just her naivety and social anxiety.

Despite the slightly weird "I know you've been spying on me for years" vibe that Troy has, his character is very well written. He is guarded and has several reasons to be. There's a lot of family history that makes him who he is and I really enjoyed the reveal of his angst and guarded-ness with Mallory. Forbidden fruit you might say.

There were some surprises and I did enjoy how things ended up between Mallory and her friends and family. There were some plot holes that never quite got filled but overall it was an interesting coming of age story. Learning about life, love, and how sometimes are parents are right.

Samantha Armstrong's novels incorporate all of the feels--from swoon-worthy heroes to sweet-but-mostly-sassy heroines, quirk and laughter to emotional grit and panty melting-heat. She has written in multiple genres, but never strays far from romance.
Born and raised in New Zealand, Samantha Armstrong prefers to be tucked away writing whenever she can -- or, rather, whenever her adorable yet demanding baby boy allows.
A normal day for her includes diapers--lots of them--walks with both babies (i.e. human baby and dog baby), writing between naps, and staying up late to write even more. Then somehow fitting all the other stuff in between.
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FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Book Review: The Bone Charmer by Breeana Shields

Media Type: Print Book
Title: The Bone Charmer
Author: Breeana Shields
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Pages: Hardcover; 400
Release Date: May 21, 2019
Source: FFBC Tours / Publisher
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy "sliding doors" stories with vivid characters and settings.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
In Saskia’s world, bones are the source of all power. They tell the future, reveal the past, and expose secrets in the present. Each village has a designated seer who performs readings for the townsfolk, and in Midwood, the Bone Charmer is Saskia’s mother.

On the day of her kenning—a special bone reading that determines the apprenticeships of all seventeen-year-olds—Saskia’s worst fears come true. She receives an assignment to train as a Bone Charmer, like her mother, and even worse, a match-making reading that pairs her with Bram—a boy who has suspicious tattoos that hint of violence.

Saskia knows her mother saw multiple paths for her, yet chose one she knew Saskia wouldn’t want. Their argument leads to a fracture in one of the bones. Broken bones are always bad luck, but this particular set of bones have been infused with extra magic, and so the break has devastating consequences—Saskia’s future has split as well. Now she will live her two potential paths simultaneously. Only one future can survive. And Saskia’s life is in danger in both.
So very impressed with this book! It took me a few chapters to really settle into the way that Breeana Shields wanted to tell this story, but once I was there I was hooked. Saskia's life has has always been dictated by bone reading. Each moment painstakingly created so that she'll stay on the path to her happiest life. That is, until it's her turn to find her true calling. I can't remember if I knew that this book was about to split into two stories, or not, but I can tell you that it's a wonderful way to navigate Saskia's journey.

First off, let me be the first to assure you that there is no love triangle in The Bone Charmer. You have no idea how happy that made me, since that's one of my pain points in YA lately. Instead, there are two very seperate romances here. As Saskia's life splits off, one road leading to what she believed she wanted and one road leading to what her mother believed was best for her, these two romances grow in very different ways. I absolutely loved how Shields doesn't shy away from putting Saskia through all manner of trials. As she follows each of these paths, she learns more and more about herself, her mother, and the two boys who she has been matched two. The idea that we don't always know what is best for us, even if we are so sure of it, is heavily featured in this story. It's perfection.

It's honestly tough to say too much more about the plot without giving anything important away, so I'll start focusing on the world building instead. In Saskia's world, as I mentioned above, bone readings are part of life. Matches, both with jobs and with romantic partners, are an essential part of a person's future. It was fascinating watching the way that this played out, in a place like Midwood. Much like our own world, the people with the most money always seemed to have an advantage over those who were poorer. The fact that Saskia's mother, the bone charmer herself, was so upset about that made me smile. This book speaks of "wild magic" and how it used to grow without monetary interference. As I found my way through Saskia's story I saw how that could both help, and hurt, a civilization. There's a lot of deep thoughts in this book, hidden in a way that almost makes them invisible. I loved every minute of it.

Was this book perfect? Perhaps not. There were a lot of things I wished for more of. I wanted more time with Saskia's potential matches. I would have loved more background on Saskia's family, and especially on her amazing mother. While the magic system was fairly well fleshed out, I also wished there would have been more time spent with Saskia as she learned to grow her abilities. I do believe that this is the first book in a series though, so I have hope! There's still time for all of this to become a reality.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my read through of this book! I'd recommend it to those out there who love "sliding doors" stories, and are looking for something without a love triangle. You might just enjoy it as much as I did.

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Book Review: The Pumpkin War by Cathleen Young

Media Type: Print Book (ARC)
Title: The Pumpkin War
Author: Cathleen Young
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Pages: Hardcover; 192
Release Date: May 21, 2019
Source: Publisher
Content Screening: Nothing of note.

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers looking for a sweet story about real family and friend relationships.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Former best friends compete to see who can grow the biggest pumpkin and win the annual giant pumpkin race on the lake. A great pick for fans of Half a Chance and Gertie's Leap to Greatness.

At the end of every summer, Madeline Island hosts its famous pumpkin race. All summer, adults and kids across the island grow giant, 1000-pound pumpkins, then hollow one out, and paddle in it across the lake to the cheers of the entire town.

Twelve-year-old Billie loves to win; she has a bulletin board overflowing with first prize ribbons. Her best friend Sam doesn't care much about winning, or at least Billie didn't think so until last summer's race, when his pumpkin crashed into hers as she was about to cross the finish line, and he won. This summer, Billie is determined to get revenge by growing the best and biggest pumpkin, and beat Sam in the race. It's a tricky science to grow pumpkins, since weather, bugs and other critters can wipe out a crop. Then a surprise visit from a long lost relative shakes things up, and Billie begins to see her family, and her bond with Sam, in a new way.

What a super sweet book! There is so much goodness wrapped up in here, and this was exactly what I needed to read this week. Did you know that Giant Pumpkin Regattas are a real thing? I didn't! When I started reading The Pumpkin War, my first instinct was to go and do research on the very thing that Billie was working so hard to win. Yes, friends, it's a real competition. Do yourself a favor and go look at some photos before you start reading this book. It makes things so much better!

Anyway, it's safe to say that I loved reading this. Billie was a character who made me smile, because she's exactly what I'd expect a competitive twelve year old to be. I loved that Young didn't just try to pull out the good parts of Billie's life. Yes, she has a loving family and a farm that does well for itself. Still, there are moments of stress and anger too. Watching Billie interact with her new baby brother, battle valiantly against Mother Nature for her prize pumpkin, and even navigate the balance between competition and friendship, was a wonderful thing. There will be a lot of young readers who see themselves in Billie, the good and the hard parts, and that's a really good thing.

My gardening loving heart was also all atwitter at the deep explanations of all the hard work that Billie and her family had to do on their farm. You can tell that Young has done the research. Billie tends bees, and extracts honey. She knows which flowers to plant, to attract bees, and what to plant to get rid of pests. In fact, she even goes through and has to hand pick cucumber beetles to save her pumpkins which, from someone who has done that, I can tell you isn't easy! Her hard work, her sweat, and the ultimate reward at the end, were all just wonderfully detailed. There's even a nod in here to not using pesticides in order to save the bees. Which, to that I say huzzah! Agreed!

I think what I loved most about this story is just the fact that it has such important messages but they aren't at all heavy handed. Billie faces jealousy and guilt. She faces annoyance, shame, and even anger. Underneath all of that though is the idea that family and friends are the basis of everything. Time and time again she finds herself helping, or being helped, by someone else. That beautiful balance is so important, so why not start teaching it to young children and start things off right? I loved it, and I love this book!

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


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