Friday, April 28, 2017

ARC Review: North of Happy by Adi Alsaid

Summary: New from critically acclaimed author of LET'S GET LOST and NEVER ALWAYS SOMETIMES. In the wake of his brother's untimely death, a teen chef runs away from home to find his true path in life.

Carlos Portillo has always led a privileged and sheltered life. A dual citizen of Mexico and the US, he lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family where he attends an elite international school. His friends and peers-fellow rich kids-have plans to attend college somewhere in the US or Europe and someday take over their parents' businesses. Always a rule follower and a parent pleaser, Carlos is more than happy to tread the well-worn path in front of him. He has always loved food and cooking, but his parents see it as just a hobby.

When his older brother, Felix--who has dropped out of college to live a life of travel--is tragically killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother's voice, giving him advice and pushing him to rebel against his father's plan for him. Worrying about his mental health, but knowing the voice is right, Carlos runs away to the US and manages to secure a job with his favorite celebrity chef. As he works to improve his skills in the kitchen and pursue his dream, he begins to fall for his boss's daughter--a fact that could end his career before it begins. Finally living for himself, Carlos must decide what's most important to him and where his true path really lies (Via

Release Date: April 25th, 2017

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

I was fortunate enough to read an advanced copy of North of Happy through an ARC Hop the author, Adi Alsaid, organized. Thanks again for organizing it, Adi! North of Happy is the first novel by Adi Alsaid that I have read, but it will not be my last. North of Happy is one of my absolute favorite novels of 2017 so far. It was refreshing, unique, and an all-around amazing book. If you have yet to pick up a copy of North of Happy, I highly recommend doing so.

North of Happy follows the character, Carlos, who is grieving with the sudden death of his brother. Following his graduation, Carlos unexpectedly travels to Washington state to eat at a restaurant his brother always wanted to visit. In Washington, he begins to rethink the life his family has planned for him. The plot of the story is heartbreaking and tragic, but the story itself is still fun and lively while still being raw and impactful. While I am not going through the same problems as Carlos, I was still able to relate to him. I am approaching my senior year of high school and my impending future terrifies me. I was able to relate to the hesitance he has towards his future. It was nice to be able to identify with in a book that featured a similar topic that I am going through.

The novel also featured a lot of cooking. I have never read a novel before that had a character who worked in a kitchen or avidly cooked, so the uniqueness was refreshing. I also love the Food Network, so I was instantly addicted to the involvement of cooking. The novel is also uniquely formatted where each chapter is a recipe. The chapter begins with a specific food item and its ingredients, and the "method" of the recipe is the actual story. It was amazing to see the food items tie into the chapter and to see the preparation of the food items. I cannot tell you how frequently I craved food in general or the food that was prepared in each chapter.  I was introduced to new foods and recipes I hope to try out in the near future. Warming: do not read this book on an empty stomach!

North of Happy also featured diverse content. The main character is a dual citizen of Mexico and the United States and the novel takes place in both Mexico City and the state of Washington. I have previously visited Mexico; however, I have yet to make it to Mexico City. It was interesting to read about the city and learn facts about Mexico I never knew. The novel also features mental health issues because Carlos sees and hears his brother following his death.

North of Happy featured the perfect blend of heartbreak and self-discovery with a dash of romance. If you are in the mood for a Young Adult contemporary novel, I highly recommend reaching for North of Happy. It is a quick read that remains resonant with its readers long after the last page.

Monday, April 17, 2017

ARC Review: Cold Summer by Gwen Cole

SummaryToday, he’s a high school dropout with no future. 
Tomorrow, he’s a soldier in World War II.

Kale Jackson has spent years trying to control his time-traveling ability but hasn’t had much luck. One day he lives in 1945, fighting in the war as a sharpshooter and helplessly watching soldiers—friends—die. Then the next day, he’s back in the present, where WWII has bled into his modern life in the form of PTSD, straining his relationship with his father and the few friends he has left. Every day it becomes harder to hide his battle wounds, both physical and mental, from the past.

When the ex-girl-next-door, Harper, moves back to town, thoughts of what could be if only he had a normal life begin to haunt him. Harper reminds him of the person he was before the PTSD, which helps anchor him to the present. With practice, maybe Kale could remain in the present permanently and never step foot on a battlefield again. Maybe he can have the normal life he craves.

But then Harper finds Kale’s name in a historical article—and he’s listed as a casualty of the war. Kale knows now that he must learn to control his time-traveling ability to save himself and his chance at a life with Harper. Otherwise, he’ll be killed in a time where he doesn’t belong by a bullet that was never meant for him.

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Expected Release Date: May 2nd, 2017

Rating: 4/5 Stars


I was fortunate enough to read an advanced digital copy of Cold Summer from the publisher through Edelweiss. I had originally heard about Cold Summer from emmmabooks on her Youtube video about 2017 YA Mental Health Fiction Releases. Whenever she mentioned the plot of Cold Summer, I was extremely intrigued and I could not wait to get my hands on a copy of it. Cold Summer did not disappoint me.

Essentially, Cold Summer follows Kale Jackson, a time-traveler, who uncontrollably travels throughout time. Recently he has been coming back to a specific battle during World War II and he develops PTSD as a result. An old friend, Harper, moves permanently next door and Kale has to face his PTSD, family issues, and rekindle his friendship with Harper. Harper is also facing her own crisis and wonders if she made the right decision moving in with her uncle. The novel takes place in alternating points of view between Kale and Harper. The summary that comes with the book spoils events that occur over halfway throughout the book. So, if you happened to skip the end of the summary or decided against reading it, I would recommend not rereading the summary if you have already read it or not reading the summary if you have not read it. I would recommend deciding if you want to read the novel based on the small blurb I just provided and the remainder of my review. 

Recently, I have been extremely annoyed with the romances I have been reading in YA novels. Many of them have featured a romance that was too prevalent in the story or characters that fell in love too fast. However, Cold Summer featured the perfect YA romance. Kale and Harper's romance was prevalent enough in the story to be considered a romance, but the problems plaguing Kale and Harper were the foremost issues. Their relationship developed as the story progressed, but it never overshadowed the problems plaguing either character, which I absolutely loved.

Neither character also 'fixed' each other. A common theme throughout YA and NA literature is the fact that the main two characters dissolve each others problems. Kale and Harper were supportive of each other, but they did not 'fix' each other. They were the only ones who could appropriately deal with the issues plaguing them. It was so refreshing to see them dealing with their own issues, not trying to fix the other. 

I have never suffered from PTSD or known anyone who has suffered from it so I cannot say whether the representation was accurate or not; however, PTSD and other mental illnesses are extremely important topics and I am glad that mental health is being portrayed in YA fiction. If you have read any reviews addressing the portrayal of PTSD in Cold Summer or have read the novel and suffered from the illness, please comment below or feel free to contact me about the representation. I would really like to be informed about the topic and know if PTSD was portrayed correctly in the novel.

One of the problems I had with Cold Summer was the foundation of the novel. While the foundation of Kale's time-traveling ability was explained and made sense, the foundation for the story itself was lacking. The novel took place over the course of a summer, but it seemed to go on forever. While I rarely know what day it is during summer vacation, it seemed as though months went on but summer never ended. They never mentioned that school was only a matter of days or weeks away, only that it was coming. The novel starts at the beginning of July and after Independence Day. The novel has no grasp in time. At first I thought that the no grasp in time would make sense in Kale's point of view since he is constantly time-traveling and losing himself to PTSD; however, the same timelessness was occurring during Harper's characters and she did not suffer from either of his problems. Many readers might not have a problem with the timelessness, but it made the novel seem to be going on forever without any real end point. 

My second problem with Cold Summer ties in with my first issue: The length of the novel. While reading Cold Summer I had no idea how long the novel was, due to the fact I was reading a digital copy; however, according to Edelweiss, the novel is going to be 334 pages. It is relatively short in comparison to an average book I read, which is 500 pages, but the timelessness of the book made it drag on and a couple of the chapters were rather unnecessary. Aside from a few action scenes when Kale is back in time, there is very little action to the story. It is mainly a character driven novel, which I appreciate at times, but it dragged in a couple areas and made it a likable novel for me, not a lovable one. My issues with the novel could be fixed with another revision of the novel. These changes could have easily been changed from the version I read of the story to the finished one.

The story, the characters, the romance, and Gwen Cole's writing was intriguing enough that I finished Cold Summer in a matter of days. It was a short, yet powerful novel that deserves to have a place in bookstores across the world. I highly recommend purchasing your own copy of Cold Summer on May 2nd or borrowing a copy from a local library. Cold Summer was Gwen Cole's powerful and stunning YA debut. I cannot wait to see what she will be publishing next.

Friday, April 14, 2017

ARC Review: Roar (Stormheart #1) by Cora Carmack

Summary: In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage. 

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough. 

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master. (Via

Pages: 378

Release Date: June 17th, 2017

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars


I am extremely thankful that I received an ARC of Roar from Cora Carmack and Tor Teen as an incentive for being a member of the Street Team for Roar. Roar was one of my most highly anticipated releases of 2017. Not only has Cora's most recent release been a couple years ago, but Roar is also her YA Fantasy debut. Unfortunately, Roar did not live up to the hype that I had made it out to be. While Roar did feature a brilliant magic system, nothing was that extraordinary about it's characters. 

It was rather difficult separating Cora's previous works from Roar. While her typical New Adult contemporaries are most certainly different from YA Fantasy, I still assumed both would feature Cora's uncanny ability to write raw and real characters. In her NA novels, she is able to completely develop characters in one book, but she did very little of that in Roar. Understandably, Roar is the first novel in a series so she cannot use everything she has in-store for these characters; however, the characters of Roar were not unique or compelling like her typical characters are. I also found the romance and friendships lackluster. While Cora threw in a line or two of funny dialogue, nothing separated the characters. They simply existed in the story, they were not leaping off the page at me or following me after I put the book down.

Like Cora's other novels, Roar's writing swept me off my feet. Although the characters were not holding me within the story, the world and the story itself were compelling me to stay and ride the waves of the storms. Cora effortlessly compels her readers to continue flipping the pages until the very last one. Although I did not love the characters of Roar, by no means,  was I unhappy with the book. The story and the world intrigued me and allowed me to enjoy the novel. I had a great time reading the novel; however, it was most certainly not my favorite of the year or of Cora's other novels.

The magic system of Roar was fascinating. The world of Roar, Caelira, is built around storms that ravage the world. Those who can defeat the storms rule the world. As the main character, Roar, uncovers new additions to the fantasy world, it creates a fantastical and brilliant world that is terrifyingly beautiful yet dangerous. I cannot wait to learn more about the world and hopefully see more of the beautiful landscape in the rest of the series. The only critique I have about the world is the inclusion of witches. The abilities of the witches are explained; however, I do not understand how they tie into a world of storms. It was an odd addition that I hope will be explained in the remainder of the series.

While Roar was not as stunning as I had hoped, I am excited to see where the story continues. Roar's sequel will most certainly be going onto my to be read list for 2018. I recommend trying Roar for yourself, especially if your are a fan of YA Fantasy series or of Cora's other novels. My complaints can easily be fixed with another revision of the novel or as more is explained and divulged as the series continues. I will definitely be giving Roar a reread when it is released on June 13th and I hope you do, too. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

My Favorite Signed Books

  (Click the Title of Each Novel for More Information)

The first time I met Jennifer L. Armentrout was at Celebrate the Book in October of 2013. It was the second time I had ever been to a bookish event; however, this was the first time I had ever attended a multi-author event.

I was extremely nervous because Jen is one of my all-time favorite authors who I deeply admire. When it was my turn to met Jen during her signing, she immediately asked me if I had ever attended a book event before. I hesitantly answered yes because I assumed I had done something wrong to prompt that question. However, she asked me that because she thought she had seen me before at one of her events. At that point, I was already extremely embarrassed and did not correct how I answered her question.

I got several books signed by her at Celebrate the Book, but Cursed contains my favorite inscription, "So nice to see you again!" Since October of 2013, I have met Jen six times and it is truly a delight to meet her every single time! While her inscription of Cursed was was not true at the time, I absolutely love it! Little did we both know that I would see her numerous times in the years to come. 

When I originally met Cora Carmack at ApollyCon in 2015, I got a bookplate signed by her because I did not own any of her books and had never read any of them. Flash forward a few months later and I owned all of her books and read nearly all of them. In addition, I was absolutely in love with her writing and storytelling.

Later that year, I was able to interview her at San Diego Comic-Con, which you can read here. Having the opportunity to interview Cora was a dream come true! It is always amazing to interact with authors at signings and various events, but interviews are very personal and one-on-one. I vividly remember us sitting outside of a panel room that was in session. People were coming in and out of the room and we had to periodically move or make our presence known so we would not get hit by the door. Following the interview, I asked her to sign my copy of All Played Out, which is my favorite book by her. 

Unfortunately, I have not been able to meet Cora since then and this is the only personalized novel I have of hers. While All Played Out is one of my favorite novels and means a lot to me, having the chance to interview Cora is an opportunity I will be forever thankful for. My interview with her was the second in-person author interview I had ever done and one of my absolute favorites. I still have the audio recording and it makes me smile just thinking about it. All Played Out is so valuable to me because of its content and the memories attached to it.

I was fortunate enough to be chosen for Susan Dennard's Street Team for her YA Fantasy series, The Witchlands. I have been a part of the Street Team for almost two years and it has been a dream. I have grown closer to Susan and made some amazing friendships along the way.

My signed copy of Truthwitch is one of my favorite signed books, not only because of the sweet inscription Susan wrote, but also the connection I have with the novel. Having promoted Truthwitch and its sequel, Windwitch, I have an attachment to the novels and having the physical versions make me extremely happy. While I did not write either of the novels, I feel an attachment to them because I have spent a large chunk of time promoting and raving about them. I actually have an entire shelf dedicated to both of Susan's series. I cannot wait to see it expand as the series continues and as she writes more novels.

I cannot wait to see Susan sometime in the future and have Windwitch and my other unsigned novels of hers signed. It is always a joy to met Susan and I was extremely saddened when I was unable to go to her Pennsylvania book signing on her Windwitch tour.

It is always amazing when an author or follower recognizes me outside of the internet. While I have had authors remember me, it is rare for them to remember my name as well. That is not saying that it is bad for an author to not recognize a reader because they have met countless readers, it would be difficult for anyone to remember all those faces. When I met Wendy Higgins in 2015 for the third time, I was shocked when she began personalizing  my book before I had even given her my name. 

I have been in love with Wendy's stories since 2013 and it was a dream come true that she easily recognized me. While my height and hair does distinguish me from most readers, it was shocking that she was able to remember my first and middle name, which I go by on the internet. It was also amazing that she personalized The Great Hunt with Casey Marie because this duology follows a strawberry-blond lead and one of the side characters is a red-head. My hair is what I named my blog and my social media handles after, it was touching that of all the novels she personalized as such was one with a red-head on the cover.

Wendy is such a sweetheart and it has been an amazing few years growing up with her books! I am excited to see what she writes next and I hope to see her soon, too. There are still a couple books in my collection unsigned by her.

One of my favorite series is Kresely Cole's The Arcana Chronicles. It is one of the most under-hyped series that I have read. I have met very few readers that have read the series, but those that have read it are as in love and dedicated to the series as I am. 

Endless Knight is my favorite novel from the series and one of my favorite novels of all-time. Having had the opportunity to met Kresley Cole at San Diego Comic-Con in 2014 was one of the highlights of the convention. She is a sweetheart and her YA series deserves more praise. The novels in this series are rather short, which is perfect for marathoning, but she is able to capture emotion, character development, and action into such a short amount of pages. It is truly magical.

I treasure this signed copy of Endless Knight. The book itself is a masterpiece, but the inscription and the memories surrounding it are just as wonderful. I cannot wait for the next novel in the series and to eventually have my entire collection of The Arcana Chronicles signed. If you have taken anything from this post, it is the fact that you should check out the first novel in The Arcana Chronicles, Poison Princess. I promise you will not regret it.

It is hard to truly describe the attachment I have to each of these books. They might seem like an average book to most, but many of you should understand how precious signed and even unsigned books can be. Books are able to capture memories a way that a camera never can. I have several other signed books that I love and treasure, but these are a few of my absolute favorite signed books. 

Let me know in the comments if you would like to see another post with more of my favorite books. Also let me know in the comments if you have any favorite signed books and why you treasure them so much.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. The potential of a commission by no means influences my opinion on the item, the link is simply there to assist my readers if they are interested in purchasing or knowing more about the item.