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Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Posted by Irish in 4 Stars, Review, Young Adult0 Comments

Review: Dumplin’ by Julie MurphyDumplin' by Julie Murphy
Published by Balzer + Bray on 15 September 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Emotions & Feelings, Family, Friendship, Girls & Women, Health & Daily Living, Love & Romance, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 375
Source: Edelweiss
Buy on Amazon|Buy on Audible|Buy on Barnes & Noble|Buy on Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars

Place(s) Traveled To: Clover City, Texas // Odessa, Texas

First Line(s): All the best things in my life have started with a Dolly Parton song.

I’m not going to lie, when I first heard about DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy I had my reservations. Even before all the hype around it began and that hype only increased my wariness of this book. I really didn’t think that DUMPLIN’ was going to be a me book and I didn’t even consider picking it up until I was traveling in Greece with a friend and she sold me on this book. A thing for which I’ll be forever grateful to her for doing because I *loved* Willowdean and couldn’t get enough of her story. DUMPLIN’ is a powerful little story and I found that once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down again. I was engrossed. I was enthralled. I was completely and totally lost in its pages.

DUMPLIN’ is a story that will speak to many readers on many different levels. Its not just Willowdean’s story but the story of everyone who has ever struggled to fit in and find their place in the world. Its raw and amazing and I wish that I had this story when I was a teen. Willowdean is a perfectly flawed character. She’s strong and insecure. She’s smart and naive. She’s everything and nothing all at once. Her journey is all about learning to love yourself and learning that your imperfections are what make you uniquely wonderfully perfectly you. Willowdean teaches us that no one can do you better than yourself so you better be the best dang you that you can be.

Dumplin Quote

Another thing that I like about DUMPLIN’ is that while there is a romance to the story the story isn’t about the romance. Its not about Willowdean trying to find someone to love her but about her learning to love herself. But what romance there is will just make your heart ache! My only complaint is that there weren’t enough scenes between Willowdean and Bo as I would have liked to have seen more of them together. Because even though DUMPLIN’ is the story of Willowdean I do so enjoy my swoony moments. So I do hope that these two make a decent cameo in the upcoming companion which will be released a millenia from now in 2018.

DUMPLIN’ is a book that I think everyone should read. If you are one the fence then jump off of it and into this story. If I’d listened to my first instincts I would have missed out on reading this amazing unputdownable read. It was fresh and funny and had all the things that I love in a story. There was laughter and tears and moments that just hurt my heart. We’ve all been a Willowdean and we all could learn from her knowing that its okay to let our sparkle shine no matter what anyone else says. We are all beauty queens and we don’t need the crown to prove it.

irishdarkblue

IR - Dumplin

Add Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon to Goodreads. (Click here for my review)

Add The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson to Goodreads. (Click here for my review.)

four-stars
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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mini Review: Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge

Posted by Irish in 3 Stars, Review, Young Adult1 Comment

Mini Review: Gilded Ashes by Rosamund HodgeGilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge
Series: Cruel Beauty,
Also in this series: Cruel Beauty
Published by Balzer + Bray on 01 April 2014
Genres: Adaptation, Death & Dying, Fairy Tales, Folklore, & Legends, Family, Fantasy, Love & Romance, Romance, Royalty, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Short Story / Novella, Young Adult
Pages: 80
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon|Buy on Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
three-stars
Also by this author: Cruel Beauty

Place(s) Traveled To: Arcadia

First Line(s): My mother loved me more than life itself. That’s how everything went wrong.

After listening to the audio of Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (review coming soon) I wanted more of this world that she created and so was happy to see that there was a novella that was set in the same world. Guilded Ashes has no real overlap with Cruel Beauty and is set either before or concurrent to it. There is a small appearance from Ignifex but there is nothing in this story that will give anything away in Cruel BeautyGilded Ashes is loosely based on Cinderella and shows some of the effects of making a deal with Ignidex.

Maia spends her days walking a fine line and pretending to always be happy because of a deal her mother made with Ignifex. Its a hard life, made even more difficult as her stepmother forces her to be a servant in her home. Overall I liked this story and I liked Maia’s growing relationship with Anax, the prince of the story. Though I never fully understood when Maia stayed in her families house. Yes, options weren’t plentiful but she wasn’t chained there either. She could have made her way just fine. But then, of course, we wouldn’t have a story.

Gilded Ashes is a quick read and I’m glad I read it but I do wish that I’d read it before Cruel Beauty and that is entirely based on how the main book ends. Reading Gilded Ashes after that makes it all a little odd and just a tad bit jarring. I’m not sure if Gilded Ashes is something that I would buy as its only 80 pages but it was defiantly worth checking out from my libraries digital catalog and a good introduction to Hodge’s writing style and this world.

irishdarkblue

Guilded Ashes Quote
three-stars
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Monday, April 6, 2015

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Posted by Irish in 5 Stars, Review, Young Adult1 Comment

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer + Bray on 07 April 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Emotions & Feelings, Fantasy, Friendship, GLBT, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon|Buy on Audible|Buy on Barnes & Noble|Buy on Book Depository
Goodreads
five-stars

Place(s) Traveled To: Shady Creek, Georgia // Atlanta, Georgia

First Line(s): It’s a weirdly subtle conversation. I almost didn’t notice I was being blackmailed.

Writing a review for a book that I adored are sometimes the hardest reviews that I have to write. Its so easy to pick out the things you didn’t like about a story but when you love it so much that you simply want to crawl into its pages and live there forever? Not as easy to find the words. At least, words strung together in such a way that makes sense to those not living inside of my head. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is one of those books where I feel all the feels and I may have already read it more than once even though I just finished it the other day. Its such a Mary Poppins story that is ‘nearly perfect in every way’ and I just hated for it to end. Like for reals. My new mission in my bookish life is to pester Becky Albertalli over and over until she writes a companion story so that I can get more from this world and these characters.

My love of Simon knows no bounds. I loved his voice and his POV and just everything about him. He’s real and down to earth and he’ll make your heart swoon. I love his relationships with those around him, his best friends and his family and best of all there is no pointless drama in this book!!! Oh the pointless drama is such a pet peeve of mine and its so refreshing to find a book that doesn’t have that. Yes, there is conflict and issues but they aren’t over the top and they can’t easily be solved by two people talking to each other. Because Simon and Blue talk all the time. At least, they do via email and they are so open and honest with each other. Oh how I loved those email exchanges and my only regret is that there weren’t more of them.

Another thing I loved about Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda was the inclusion of parents within the story. Through Simon we learn about the various family units of his friends but who I loved most were Simon’s parents. They were much like mine in that they had jobs and they were involved in my life. I loved how they made a ‘big deal’ out of everything because so often those small moments can be overlooked. I liked how when Simon messed up he faced consequences and when he was in a play at school they treated it as if he had the lead roll and not just a supporting part. They made me smile with every appearance on the page and I was just so happy to see a happy family unit. Too often in YA reads the parents are either dead, absent, or there but so self-absorbed that they might as well not be there at all.

Simon Vs Quote

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda also made my heart ache. I understood Blue’s reluctance to break through the wall of anonymity that the email exchanges gave him and Simon. To leave that safety and bring things to the real world. Especially in a smallish sized town where there aren’t many openly gay people its hard. Especially since the reality of a person can be so different than their on-liner persona. But with every email exchange I kept hoping that in that one, that moment, Blue would be all for a meeting with Simon. It was for this moment that I kept flipping hurriedly through the pages as I was desperate to know who Blue was and where this story would go. And let me tell you, the ending of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, oh my stars, that ending was perfect. So very perfect. This whole book was perfection. Seriously. Which is not something that I think I’ve ever said about a book before. Ever.

Oh I am sure that there are flaws within its pages but Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda just hit all the right notes with me. It made me feel and when I hit that final page I sighed a happy sigh and hugged the book for all of the loveliness within its pages. It truly saddens me that I can never read this one again for the first time but I do know that it will be re-read often and I will fall more in love with its story and its characters each and every time. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a book that you need to have on your radar. Its a book that I think everyone should read. If you only read one book this year than this is the book that it should be. This is something else that I don’t say that often but I just feel so strongly about this book that I want to use all the cliches and all the words and all the everything I can in order to get YOU (yes YOU!!) to read this book. If I could buy everyone a copy of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda I would but I can’t. Its unputdownable and your life will be just a little bit better for having read it.

 

irishdarkblue

P.S.A.: When you do pick up Simon vs the Homo Sapiens be sure to have a package of Oreos handy because this book will make you crave them.

IR - Simon Vs

Add Something Real by Heather Demetrios to Goodreads. (Click here for my review.)

Add The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord to Goodreads. (Click here for my review.)

 

Simon Vs Collage
five-stars
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Monday, January 12, 2015

Review: The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas

Posted by Irish in 4 Stars, Review, Young Adult0 Comments

Review: The Perilous Sea by Sherry ThomasThe Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas
Series: Elemental Trilogy, Book 2
Also in this series: The Burning Sky, The Immortal Heights
Published by Balzer + Bray on 16 September 2014
Genres: Action & Adventure, Adolescence, Assassins, Emotions & Feelings, Epic Fantasy, Friends to Lovers, Friendship, Love & Romance, Magic, Mystery & Detective, Politics & Intrigue, Romance, Royalty, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Survival Stories, Young Adult
Pages: 414
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon|Buy on Audible|Buy on Barnes & Noble|Buy on Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars
Also by this author: The Burning Sky, The Immortal Heights

Place(s) Traveled To: The Sahara Desert // Windsor, England (1883)

First Line(s): The girl came to with a start.

After finishing my listen of The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas I knew that I had to immediately jump into the sequel, The Perilous Sea. As with the first book I initially started this one on audio but quickly found that it was taking too long and so I dug out my ARC and sat down to devour all the words! The Perilous Sea picks up a few months after The Burning Sky ends and it quickly jumps into the action. Its a fast paced, edge of your seat read with an ending that has you wanting to toss the book across the room because there is such a long wait to see what happens next. Unlike the first book this one is told in an then and now style alternating with the chapters. The now progresses with each chapter and the then tells the reader all that happened to lead up to the start of the story. This helped add to the suspense of the story though every time I entered a new chapter I was also frustrated as I didn’t want to leave where I was.

One thing that I really liked in this book was how we learned more about Prince Titus and Iolanthe’s friend Kashkari. I enjoyed his scenes in the first book and was always curious about him so loved learning more of his background. I hope that this trend also continues in the third and final book to come. A thing that I didn’t like was how The Perilous Sea became a bit Harry Potter like in that there was more than one potential person to be “the one” in the prophecy. This just added some unnecessary torture for Titus and Iolanthe as they began to question ALL THE THINGS just because one thing may or may not be true. In truth, my heart broke over and over for these two as they pushed each other away and I just wanted to reach into the story and shake them both until they came to their scenes!

The Perilous Sea Quote

 

I was so glad though that The Perilous Sea was more than just a filler book in a series, a transition story where not much happens as the author sets things up for the big grand finale of the final book in the series. While there isn’t a ton of information revealed in The Perilous Sea it was enough to wheat my appetite and make me yearn for the final book. For this waiting is sheer torture!   If you like a good fantasy and you are looking for something in the vein of Cinda Williams Chima and her Seven Realms series then you need to pick up this series. There is action and adventure, romance and intrigue and just so much heart achy goodness for ever readers tastes. This book makes me all bouncy with excitement and I just love every bit of it. There is also just so much that I want to say here but I can’t because The Perilous Sea is the second book in a series and I don’t want to risk giving out any spoilers. Just know that if you liked the first book than you are going to love this one as this is one of those series that just keeps getting better. Now can someone please hand me book 3 because I don’t know how much longer I can wait!!

My thoughts summed up in a gif:

Blew My Mind

 

irishdarkblue

 

Irish Recommends - Burning Sky
four-stars
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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Posted by Irish in 4 Stars, Review, Young Adult0 Comments

Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara RaaschSnow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Series: Snow Like Ashes,
Published by Balzer + Bray on 14 October 2014
Genres: Abduction, Action & Adventure, Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Epic Fantasy, Espionage, Friendship, Girls & Women, Love & Romance, Magic, Politics & Intrigue, Romance, Royalty, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Survival Stories, Suspense, Young Adult
Pages: 422
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon|Buy on Audible|Buy on Barnes & Noble|Buy on Book Depository
Goodreads

Place(s) Traveled To: Putnam, Yakim // Rania Plains // Abil, Spring // Jannuari, Winter (World name: Primoria)

First Line(s): “Block!”

 

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch is one of those books that drew my eye the moment I unpacked that months box of ARCs from Harper Teen. It had such a pretty cover and I immediately placed it on my TBR pile but it took me awhile to get to as there was just something in the synopsis that held me back. I’ve been so wary of YA fantasy novels as they often leave me wanting and I don’t fall as head over heels in love with them as my other blogging friends have. But after reading The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas I wanted a readalike and a few bloggers kept mentioned Snow Like Ashes so when it came time to pick out plane books for my flight to Paris it made the cut. I started Snow Like Ashes on my flight home and while it started off a little slow I quickly became glad that I was trapped in a tin can for hours as I became engrossed in the story.

There plot points of the story that were pretty easy to figure out but that in no way took away from my enjoyment of the story. The set up of this world was unique with the magic split between the seasons and the rhythms. The seasons, and their corresponding countries, are set and never change, which is something that I know would please some of my friends who wish it was summer all year round. I liked the rules of the world and am curious to learn more about it as the series progresses. I also liked how Snow Like Ashes reads almost like a stand alone book. There was a mystery and a goal and things were achieved and wrapped up by the end of the book. But there are threads still open that will carry the series forward into the next two books in the trilogy. Or at least I hope it does.

 

Snow Like Ashes Quote

 

Snow Like Ashes is a book that has a little bit of everything, there is action and mystery and intrigue and romance. There is a little bit of a love triangle and while I am normally super anti-love triangles I didn’t mind this one as it wasn’t overpowering. Meira didn’t moon over one boy more than the other or even do much mooning in general. Meira is your average 16 year old girl, well, as average as you can been when you live in exile in a fictional world. She does love both boys but I think that she loves them in different ways and one is a more romantic love than the other.

I think that those who like fantasy will enjoy Snow Like Ashes and I think that this one will also appeal to those who are new to fantasy and looking to explore the genre. Its a fun story and one that I was glad to have read. I liked how there was an ending as so many books have the crazy cliff hanger but even without that I am still looking forward to the next book, Ice Like Fire, which is expected to be released in 2015. And praise be that its almost 2015 as the wait for book 2 isn’t that long…or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

 

irishdarkblue

Irish Recommends - Snow Like Ashes
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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Posted by Irish in 3 Stars, New Adult, Review, Young Adult1 Comment

Review: How to Love by Katie CotugnoHow to Love by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer + Bray on 01 October 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, New Adult, Young Adult
Pages: 405
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-stars

 

Place(s) traveled to: Broward, Florida

First Line(s): I’ve been looking for Sawyer for half a lifetime when I find him standing in front of the Slurpee machine at the 7-Eleven on Federal Highway, gazing through the window at the frozen, neon-bright churning like he’s expecting the mysteries of the universe to be revealed to him from inside.

When I first read the synopsis of How to Love by Katie Cotugno I was intrigued. I love stories that cover both the past and the present and enjoy getting that complete picture of a story. In the case of How to Love, each chapter alternates between the before and the after. Before, Reena was a typical teenager in love with a boy who just happened to be dating her best friend. After, Reena was a teen mom and the baby’s daddy had skipped town when she got pregnant and he’s only just returned. The boy in question is the same, Sawyer and he had to the potential to be this complicated character but in the end he never quite lived up to what he could have been. The same can also be said for How to Love as a whole.

While I did enjoy How to Love I just felt that it lacked depth. There were many questions that were never fully addressed and many others that were just glossed over. Reena in the time After was a bit of a mary sue allowing everyone around her to walk over her and treat her like she was less than she was. Reena in the Before had so much potential and had such big plans that when things feel through do to the unexpected pregnancy those around her treated her horrible. Especially the ones that should have loved and supported her the most. If it wasn’t for Aaron and Shelby I fear she may have spun out of control.

Another area where this book lost me was in the YA cliche of the BFF who really isn’t. In How to Love Reena ends up with two of these, first there is Allie, who knows how much Reena likes Sawyer but dates him anyway. Then gets all high and mighty and so very bitchtastic when Reena eventually calls her out on it and then BAM no more BFF. In the After, Reena has become good friends with Shelby and on the surface Shelby is a true friend. But that is when Reena is dating her twin brother, Aaron. When Sawyer returns and starts to get between Aaron and Reena (they do share a baby and a complicated history) Shelby goes a bit bitchtastic and Reena suffers for it.

*le sigh*

While I don’t agree with some of Reena’s actions I do understand them and I am glad that it is with Sawyer’s return that she finally starts to grow a spine. Though I do wish she’d done with without breaking hearts along the way as while I understood the draw of Sawyer in the Before I didn’t get it in the After. I think that Reena was just too accepting of things there and really wish there were more answers on why he left and more importantly why he returned.

I did like the writing style of Katie Cotugno and do plan on reading more books of hers in the future. Though I don’t think that I will be rushing to read her next book.

 

irishdarkblue
three-stars
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