Review: A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

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I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Title: A Stranger in the House
Author: Shari Lapena
Publisher: Double Day Canada
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
Stars: 4/5

Summary (from Goodreads): From the New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door, a new thriller featuring a suspicious accident, a wife who can’t account for herself and unsettling questions that threaten to tear a couple apart.

You come home after a long day at work, excited to have dinner with your beautiful wife.
But when you walk through the door, you quickly realize that she’s not there.
In the kitchen, there is a pot on the stove, and vegetables on the counter, abandoned.
Her cellphone and her purse are still in the house, in the bedroom, exactly where she keeps them.
It looks like she’s left in a blind panic.
You fear the worst, so you call her friends to see if they know where she is.
Then you call the police.
The police tell you that your wife’s been in an accident. They found her in the worst part of town, after she lost control of the car while speeding through the streets. But why would she go to that neighbourhood? And why was she driving so fast? Was she running toward something? Or away from something?
The police think your wife was up to no good.
You refuse to believe it, at first.
Then, as the stories and facts don’t line up, and your wife can’t remember what happened that evening, you start to wonder. You’ve been married for two years and you thought you knew her better than anyone else in the world . . .
. . . but maybe you don’t.

Goodreads | Amazon

Looking for a fast-paced thriller that will keep you guessing right up until the very end? A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena is sure to fit the bill. While I didn’t find this book to be as incredible as her debut, The Couple Next Door, this novel is packed with suspense and is definitely hard to put down. Lapena has a writing style that is easy to follow and quite succinct. The characters are very interesting, and can definitely be found in any suburban neighbourhood, making this story seem relatable.

When a book grabs my attention so much that I am flipping pages all night long, it is safe to say that it is definitely one that has lured me in and won’t let go. Shari Lapena has crafted a murder mystery that unfolds in a quiet neighbourhood with a housewife at the centre of attention. As new details begin to be revealed, and the pieces of the story start to come together, you will want to keep reading to see where the plot is headed next. The concept and storyline are that intriguing to keep you on the edge of your seat, wanting to know more.

If you are familiar with The Couple Next Door, you will come to expect a certain style from Shari Lapena’s writing. Her style is very much to the point and is very easy to follow. A Stranger in the House has a fantastic plot, but it is just not as descriptive as I would have expected. While I enjoyed how quick this story is to read, I would have preferred more details about the setting and the characters than is offered. The book feels a little rushed, and it would have been amazing to have it slowed down just a little bit.

This commuter neighbourhood in A Stranger in the House has some characters that will be easily recognizable. For instance, there is a very nosy neighbour that seems to know quite a bit about what everyone else is up to. Also, for those who have read The Couple Next Door, Detective Rasbach makes an appearance, which adds a bit of an interesting twist to the story because he is a character that we are already familiar with. Rasbach is a detective who seems to be able to solve any mystery, and is a very likeable character.

A Stranger in the House is a perfect thriller for your summer beach bag. The book is a quick read that will satisfy anyone who loves the genre. I look forward to reading more of Lapena’s novels and I am curious to find out if we will be seeing more of the infamous Detective Rasbach.

ARC Review: Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock

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I received an ARC from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Just Friends
Author: Tiffany Pitcock
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Stars: 3.5/5

Summary (from Goodreads): A new spin on the classic smart-girl-and-bad-boy setup, this witty contemporary romance shows how easily a friendship – even one built on an elaborate lie – can become so much more.

Jenny meets Chance for the very first time when she is assigned as his partner in their Junior Oral Communications class. But after they rescue a doomed assignment with one clever lie, the whole school is suddenly convinced that Little-Miss-Really-Likes-Having-A’s and the most scandalous heartbreaker in school have been best friends forever. It’s amazing how quickly a lie can grow―especially when you really, really want it to be the truth.

With Jenny, Chance can live the normal life he’s always kind of wanted. And with Chance, Jenny can have the exciting teen experiences that TV shows and movies have always promised. Through it all, they hold on to the fact that they are “just friends.” But that might be the biggest lie of all.

Debut author Tiffany Pitcock delivers a spot-on depiction of first love and the high school rumor mill in Just Friends, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon | iBooks

Just Friends is a cute and quick read about two teens who fake being friends since childhood after they are brought together because of a school assignment. The opposite personalities of the two main characters are interesting to read about, and both Jenny and Chance visibly transform as the story progresses. I still enjoyed this book, but I found it to be a bit too clichéd for my taste.

This book is so adorable! It tells the story of Jenny and Chance, two teens who meet in an Oral Communications class. On a whim, they successfully convince their class, and the entire school, that they have been best friends for years. However, as the two become closer and actually get to know each other, they slowly become more than friends. I loved how Jenny and Chance make up cute stories about their childhood together and how they are able to create such an intricate backstory even though they just met. The way that all this happens so spontaneously is also enjoyable and makes their interactions so believable. This book may seem like pure fluff, but it actually gets pretty deep, so this is a good one for those looking for a mix of cuteness and seriousness.

One of the aspects that I especially enjoyed about this novel is the fact that Jenny and Chance are complete opposites. Jenny is the good girl who does well in school, and Chance is the bad boy with a bad reputation when it comes to relationships. The book is split into dual POVs, which I really enjoyed. Reading about the two characters pine for each other and getting both sides of a misunderstanding is so entertaining for the reader. Jenny and Chance also really change each other throughout the book, and it is so interesting to see how much they both transform from the beginning.

While I enjoyed the book, I still had one main issue with it that lowered my rating. The story is so unrealistic and hard to believe that it becomes a bit frustrating. For example, no one, not even Jenny’s best friend, thinks to question this friendship that has supposedly been going on for years. I just found it a bit strange how Jenny’s friend doesn’t seem too hurt by this new “best friend” that Jenny never told her about. There are also some aspects later on in the story concerning Chance that I can’t really describe because of spoilers, but his whole family situation seemed a bit far-fetched to me. There are also so many clichés, which I kind of expected, but it becomes a bit cringey after so long.

Just Friends is a cute read about two strangers who fake years of friendship after a school assignment bring them together. I enjoyed the main characters’ differences and the use of multiple perspectives. This book is still enjoyable, but the pacing and countless clichés weren’t for me.

ARC Review: The Pumpkin Cookbook, 2nd Edition by DeeDee Stovel

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I received an e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Title: The Pumpkin Cookbook 2nd Edition: 139 Nutritious Recipes for Year-Round Enjoyment
Author: DeeDee Stovel
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Stars: 4/5

Summary (from Goodreads): The 139 recipes in The Pumpkin Cookbook celebrate the varied ways that you can use pumpkin in everything from appetizers and snacks to soups, salads, main courses, side dishes, and desserts. Some of DeeDee Stovel’s creative spins on incorporating this highly nutritious, low-fat vegetable into delicious dishes include Caribbean Black Bean Pumpkin Soup; Pumpkin Sage Risotto; Spring Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Pepitas; White Bean, Chicken, and Pumpkin Chili; Pumpkin Pizza with Gorgonzola Cheese; Pork Tenderloin with Red Wine Pumpkin Sauce; Lemon-Pumpkin Strudel; Chocolate-Pumpkin Brownies with Apricot Surprise — and seven kinds of pumpkin pie!

Goodreads | Amazon

When I saw that The Pumpkin Cookbook was available for review, I was so excited! I don’t want to wish away the summer quite yet, but the fall and all of those yummy foods that come along with it are my absolute favourites. What is notable about this book of pumpkin inspired recipes is the fact that there are many ideas to incorporate the nutritious benefits of this vegetable all year long.

 

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Pumpkin-Ginger Ice Cream

 

I always like to try a few of the recipes for my reviews because knowing whether or not the instructions are clear and easy to follow is key to any cookbook. Also, taste is a big factor here, and I can honestly say that The Pumpkin Cookbook delivers in its ability to provide simple, tasty recipes for all of the pumpkin-loving chefs out there.

 

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Orange-Banana Smoothie

 

It is sometimes difficult to assess the quality of the images in an eARC, however, I was quite pleased with this one and its ability to convey all of the different types of pumpkins and pumpkin dishes that are included in the recipes. There are some stunning pictures that will absolutely have you drooling for one of those delicious pumpkin breads.

 

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Black Bean Dip

 

Not only is this a book of recipes and ideas for creating meals and pumpkin inspired treats, it is a guide on all things pumpkin. Readers will learn how to select, store, and prepare pumpkins for enjoyment year round. I have bookmarked so many recipes, that I am definitely considering purchasing a copy of this book.

 

Blog Tour, ARC Review, Interview & Giveaway: Because You Love to Hate Me by Ameriie (editor)

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I am so thrilled to be part of the Because You Love to Hate Me blog tour, celebrating the villains in books. I had the opportunity to review this incredible anthology and interview Susan Dennard and Sasha Alsberg. Keep reading for a giveaway at the end of this post!

About the Book:

31450752Title: Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy
Author: Ameriie (editor)
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Synopsis: Leave it to the heroes to save the world–villains just want to rule the world.

In this unique YA anthology, thirteen acclaimed, bestselling authors team up with thirteen influential BookTubers to reimagine fairy tales from the oft-misunderstood villains’ points of view.

These fractured, unconventional spins on classics like “Medusa,” Sherlock Holmes, and “Jack and the Beanstalk” provide a behind-the-curtain look at villains’ acts of vengeance, defiance, and rage–and the pain, heartbreak, and sorrow that spurned them on. No fairy tale will ever seem quite the same again!

Featuring writing from . . .

Authors: Renée Ahdieh, Ameriie, Soman Chainani, Susan Dennard, Sarah Enni, Marissa Meyer, Cindy Pon, Victoria Schwab, Samantha Shannon, Adam Silvera, Andrew Smith, April Genevieve Tucholke, and Nicola Yoon

BookTubers: Benjamin Alderson (Benjaminoftomes), Sasha Alsberg (abookutopia), Whitney Atkinson (WhittyNovels), Tina Burke (ChristinaReadsYA blog and TheLushables), Catriona Feeney (LittleBookOwl), Jesse George (JessetheReader), Zoë Herdt (readbyzoe), Samantha Lane (Thoughts on Tomes), Sophia Lee (thebookbasement), Raeleen Lemay (padfootandprongs07), Regan Perusse (PeruseProject), Christine Riccio (polandbananasBOOKS), and Steph Sinclair & Kat Kennedy (Cuddlebuggery blog and channel)

Goodreads | Amazon

Mini Review:

Because You Love to Hate Me is such an original anthology! This book is a collection of short stories celebrating the villains of YA. I personally love villains, and having an entire book dedicated to them is so satisfying. What I really enjoyed is the fact that the stories retold aren’t ones that are too common, such as Medusa. I also found the booktuber-author pairings to be interesting, since I have never seen this before.

One of my favourite stories in this collection is Susan Dennard’s, which is a Sherlock retelling. In the story, Sherlock is actually female, which is a very unique twist. It also takes place in a boarding school, a setting that I always seem to enjoy. I also loved Marissa Meyer’s Little Mermaid retelling and Victoria Schwab’s story, which personifies death. There is really something for everyone in this anthology, and I would definitely recommend it to those who are fascinated by villains.


Interview with Susan Dennard and Sasha Alsberg:

Susan:

1. I love the fact that Shirley and Jim is a Sherlock retelling! Are you a Sherlockian? Who is your favourite Sherlock Holmes character?

I don’t know if I qualify as a Sherlockian, but I have followed many iterations of Sherlock Holmes. My grandparents first got me hooked when I was a kid, giving me an abridged version of the mysteries, as well as letting me watch many an episode of the 1980s Sherlock Holmes TV show with them. (My favorite tale was always “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.”)

When the BBC show came along a few years ago, it reminded me of that childhood love for mysteries and problem solving. Plus, Sherlock-love aside, it’s just an awesome show. And Andrew Scott on there is handsdown my favorite portrayal of Moriarty EVER.

2. Jim is described as a rebel in your story, while Shirley seems to be a do-gooder. Which character do you relate to more?

Shirley. Ha! I’m such a goody-goody. Growing up, I was always that kid who followed the rules and did her best in class. Deep down, though, I wanted to be a rebel, and I did give it a try in college. Eye-liner, studded belts, punk music. But let’s face it: that’s not who I really am, and the persona didn’t stick for long.

3. Another aspect of Shirley and Jim that is so exciting are the chess games that take place. Is chess a game that you enjoy and play often?

I wouldn’t say I play often, but I do enjoy it when I get the chance to play. I taught myself how in college, and for a while there, I was pretty addicted (what a rebel!). I would play with anyone who knew how, but more often than not, I got my butt whooped by the computer. It was awesome fun, and I still carry that love for strategy games to this day.

About the Author:

4499623Susan Dennard has come a long way from small-town Georgia. With a masters degree in marine biology, she got to travel the world—six out of seven continents, to be exact (she’ll get to Asia one of these days!)—before she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor.

She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series (from HarperTeen) as well as the forthcoming Witchlands Series (Tor, 2015). When not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or earning bruises at the dojo.

You can learn more about Susan on her website, blog, newsletter, Twitter, or Pinterest.

 

Sasha:

1. Do you ever find yourself empathizing with the villain when you are reading or watching tv?

All the time! I used to think that was weird when I was younger but then I learned how villains come in various forms and not all them think what they’re doing is bad. But, some villains I cannot empathize with at all. It’s the ones I can empathize with that are the ones that stick with me long after the book ends!

2. Who is your favourite fictional villain?

I think that Black Jack Randall from Outlander is truly a horrific person. I absolutely hate him with everything I can muster up within me. That’s why he’s my favorite, because he makes my blood literally boil!

3. You mention online façades in Dear Sasha, the 411 for Villains. Do you think that most people hide behind some sort of mask when they are online? 

100% yes. Lots of people hide behind the screen and either they use that to be bold and good, or rude and awful. Someone can express themselves fully online because they can find a community they feel is unlike anything they have in the real world. Like the book community! READERS ARE OUT THERE! But then there are the trolls and haters who use their computer screens to hide behind because they love to feed negativity into the world. Cowards. So share love not hate! Use the screen to be positive and unite with people like you.

About the Author:

15100575.jpgSasha Alsberg is the #1 NYT Bestselling Co-Author of ZENITH: The Androma Saga.

When Sasha is not writing or obsessing over Scotland she is making YouTube videos on her channel Abookutopia. She lives in Northern Texas with her dog, Fraser.

For her writing, she is represented by Joanna Volpe at New Leaf Literary and is represented on YouTube by Brian Lieberman at Studio71.

You can learn more about Sasha on her YouTube channel or Twitter.


Giveaway:

You can win:

    • one copy of Because You Love to Hate Me (open to US/Canada only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

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ARC Review: The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger

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I received an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Title: The Inevitable Collision of Birdie and Bash
Author: Candace Ganger
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Stars: 4/5

Summary (from Goodreads): Birdie never meant to be at the party. Bash should have been long gone. But when they meet, a collision course is set off they may never recover from.

Sebastian Alvaréz is just trying to hold the pieces together: to not flunk out, to keep his sort-of-best friend Wild Kyle from doing something really bad, and to see his beloved Ma through chemo. But when he meets Birdie Paxton, a near-Valedictorian who doesn’t realize she’s smoking hot in her science pun T-shirt, at a party, an undeniable attraction sparks. And suddenly he’s not worried about anything. But before they are able to exchange numbers, they are pulled apart. A horrifying tragedy soon links Birdie and Bash together—but neither knows it. When they finally reconnect, and are starting to fall—hard—the events of the tragedy unfold, changing both their lives in ways they can never undo. Told in alternating perspectives, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger is a beautiful, complex, and ultimately hopeful teen novel that will move you to the very last page.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon | iBooks

I am not usually one for super tragic books, but The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash drew me in. It tells the story of two people linked by tragedy, though one of them doesn’t know it. One of the main characters, Birdie, is so intelligent, and the author’s writing is whip-smart. However, it is a good idea to have some tissues nearby because this book is an emotional rollercoaster.

This book’s concept really intrigued me. Basically Bash, and his friend are in the car that runs over Birdie’s baby brother, causing him severe injury. There is a low chance of survival, and Bash and his friend never own up to the accident. The plot thickens as Birdie and Bash end up working at a rollerskating rink together while Birdie is unaware of their connection. I enjoyed the suspense that built up as Bash struggled to tell Birdie what he did and being able to understand both sides of the story. This story is so complex and absolutely heart-wrenching, making it an incredible debut.

I really enjoyed Birdie’s character in the novel. She is so intelligent and not afraid to make math jokes. Birdie is also pretty sassy because of her ability to recite random facts, which provided some comic relief. She struggles a lot after the accident and blames herself, so I really sympathized with her. I found Birdie to be such a realistic character and one who is very likeable.

Candace Ganger has a very entertaining writing style. I found the writing in this book to be similar to John Green’s since it is both clever and comedic. Ganger is able to write about tragic events while still incorporating some fun scenes, which I appreciated. It is also clear that she did her research while writing this book because there are some great chemic metaphors scattered throughout the story. This amusing writing really added a lot to the book and is the perfect complement to Birdie and Bash’s story.

The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash is a clever story about two teens who are linked by a tragedy. I loved the main character and her intelligence, and the author’s writing style is so engaging. Though this book is pretty heavy, it’s worth the read.

 

Review: Hearts, Fingers, and Other Things to Cross by Katie Finn

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Title: Hearts, Fingers, and Other Things to Cross
Author: Katie Finn
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
Stars: 2.5/5

Summary (from Goodreads ): WEATHER ALERT: SEVERE STORMS AHEAD

Gemma and Hallie’s world has come to a screeching halt. Their parents are engaged, which makes them step-sisters. Nothing in the world could possibly be worse for Gemma and Hallie–they won’t let it happen. Even if it means putting their own feud aside to separate their parents.

Events quickly escalate as a hurricane rips through the Hamptons leaving everyone (including Gemma’s two exes, her current crush, best friend, and her nemesis) bottled up in one house. One big, miserable group of exes and enemies together allow secrets to unfold and plans to be plotted. The calm before this storm definitely doesn’t exist.

Katie Finn pulls out all the stops for this fast-paced, dramatic conclusion in the Broken Hearts and Revenge series, Hearts, Fingers, and Other Things to Cross.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon | iBooks

I had been awaiting Hearts, Fingers, and Other Things to Cross for a while, since it is the final instalment in the Broken Hearts and Revenge series, but this story just doesn’t compare to the rest of the books. The concept is not as fun and upbeat as the first books, since it is all about two girls trying to get their parents to divorce because they don’t want to be sisters. I also didn’t enjoy the main character’s immature actions and the unrealistic plot. I had such high hopes for this conclusion, but unfortunately, I was let down.

I’m not sure how I feel about the concept of this book. I have always been a fan of revenge books, which is why I enjoyed the other two books in this series so much. However, in this final instalment, the two enemies become friends. I think it’s great that they are able to stop their fighting, but they are only joined together to execute a reverse Parent Trap, as one of the characters describes the plan. Hallie and Gemma only get over their differences so that they can break up their parents’ marriage to avoid becoming sisters. This is such an awful thing to do, and I couldn’t believe that they would try and do something so heartless. There are some aspects to the book that I enjoyed, but I just couldn’t get past this horrible plan.

Gemma, the main character is not as enjoyable in this conclusion as I found her to be in the rest of the series. As I mentioned a bit above, she tries to break up her dad and Hallie’s mom without even considering their happiness. She prioritizes her own drama over her dad’s well-being, and because of this, her character becomes dislikable. Gemma is also so careless and is so wrapped up in her scheme that she neglects tasks that are supposed to ensure that everyone is safe during the storm. Her immaturity was tolerable in the rest of the series, but it became too much in this particular story.

My biggest issue with this book is probably how unrealistic it is. It’s difficult to describe without spoiling too much, but the whole story is basically a cliche. First of all, there’s the entire plot. The main character is trapped in a house with everyone she has drama with because a hurricane is approaching. This isn’t so hard to believe, but there are so many other things that would never happen. For example, Gemma and Hallie are scheming out in the open, people even catch them in the act, but no one tells their parents. It also just so happens that they have access to hours of documentary footage in which Gemma’s dad insults Hallie’s mom’s writing, and they are able to burn onto a DVD to show them. For what it is, I tried my best to look past it, but there are just way too many cringeworthy moments that I couldn’t believe.

Hearts, Fingers, and Other Things to Cross is the final book in the Broken Hearts and Revenge series. I ended up disappointed in the reverse Parent Trap concept and the main character’s childish behaviour. I wanted to enjoy this book so much, but the endless cliches made it difficult. The ending of the book itself is satisfying, but I wish I could say the same about the ending of the series.

ARC Review: Hello, Sunshine by Leila Howland

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I received an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Hello, Sunshine
Author: Leila Howland
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date July 11, 2017
Stars: 3.5/5

Summary (from Goodreads): A Prep School Girl with a Hollywood Dream

Becca Harrington is a reject. After being rebuffed by every college on her list, she needs a fresh start, so she packs up everything and moves to LA, giving herself one year to land an acting gig or kill herself trying.

Unfortunately, not everything turns out as planned, and after a few grueling months, LA is looking like the worst idea ever. As hard as she tries, Becca can’t land an agent, she’s running out of cash, and her mom is hounding her to apply to more schools. In an act of desperation, Becca and her friend Marisol start posting short videos online—with the help of their adorable filmmaker neighbor, Raj—and the videos catch the attention of a TV producer. Could this be it? Her big break? Or will she have to move back home with nothing but some bad head shots and a monstrous credit-card bill?

Becca may not get the Hollywood ending she was hoping for, but perhaps she’ll learn there’s more than one way to achieve her dream.

Readers will love every page of this funny, romantic, aspirational, and ultimately triumphant novel about a girl who just wants to make it on her own.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon | iBooks

Hello, Sunshine is the perfect book to read if you’re looking for something inspiring. This story is about a young girl figuring out how to live on her own while trying to achieve her goal of becoming an actress. I loved this concept and the strong bonds the main character makes, but I found the pacing to be a bit slow. However, I would still recommend this to those who are interested in the world of acting.

Since I’m a sucker for books about acting, the concept of this book immediately drew me in. It is such an inspirational story about a girl trying to follow her dreams and become an actress in LA. I loved how this book shows the reader that being an actor isn’t easy. It follows Becca as she is constantly rejected, and doesn’t shy away from the hardship that she endures moneywise. The reader will definitely be rooting for Becca on her journey to fame and be able to relate to her as she learns how to live on her own as an adult.

One of my favourite aspects of this book are the strong, supportive relationships that Becca has. Her two new friends live in the same building as her and help her out by cheering her up, attending her performances, and encouraging her. Becca’s mom also has a role in the story, which I loved. Parents in books are something that I always like to see. Becca’s mom wants the best for her daughter and tries to steer her towards college, even though college isn’t the future that Becca wants for herself. Despite all this, her mom’s pride towards Becca and her accomplishments and her constant text message check-ups are so sweet.

While I enjoyed this book, the pacing bothered me. I found the story to be very slow-paced, and it felt like nothing was really happening. At first, Becca’s search for an agent was interesting, but after so many rejections, the plot got a bit old. I also didn’t agree with some of her decisions. For example, she goes out and buys a super expensive shirt right when she gets paid, even though she’s struggling with money. I found her ignorance to be frustrating, and it is kind of hard to believe that she knows so little about living on her own and priorities at her age.

Hello, Sunshine is a motivational story about an actress trying to live her dream. I enjoyed the different perspective the book offers on the world of acting and what it’s like getting hired, and I loved the supportive relationships that the main character makes. However, I didn’t like the slow-pacing or the decisions that Becca makes, so this book didn’t impress me as much as it could have.

Review: To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

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Title: To Catch a Killer
Author: Sheryl Scarborough
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Stars: 4.5/5

Summary (from Goodreads): Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that, like Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart, is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father’s identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother’s best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother’s killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she’s secretly doing on her own.

Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she’s close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it’s too late.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon | iBooks

It’s been a while since I’ve read a thriller, but when I first saw To Catch a Killer, I knew I had to pick it up. This is a fast-paced mystery about a young girl who attempts to solve two murders that are connected. I absolutely adored the use of forensics to crack the case and the main character’s intelligence. I really enjoyed this story and would recommend it, even to those who aren’t big mystery fans.

This book is an action-packed mystery about a girl trying to find the person who killed both her mother and her teacher. I enjoyed the main character’s approach and her group of friends who are able to assist her in solving the murders. There are many diversions and different suspects to keep the reader guessing, even if I did find the ending to be pretty predictable. The novel has everything I hope for in a thriller, and fans of the mystery genre will definitely adore this book as well.

One of the aspects I found to be the most interesting in this story is the use of forensics. I have never seen this before in YA and after reading this, I would love to see more. It is clear that the author really knows her stuff since the techniques that the characters use are described in a way that is so easy to understand. The fact that the main character hunts for evidence to analyze instead of just running around town looking for some sort of vague clue made me enjoy the story so much more. Forensic science has always intrigued me, which is probably why I loved To Catch a Killer so much.

I really enjoyed the main character, Erin. She is so resourceful and uses the tips in her uncle’s book to teach herself how to analyze DNA. Erin has such a captivating voice, and her cleverness makes her so likeable. She also has a very complex backstory which makes her such a developed character. Erin has her moments and makes some questionable decisions, but she is still an engaging character overall.

To Catch a Killer is an epic cliffhanger that features the use of forensics to solve two linked murders. The main character is so likeable and very talented. This story is a perfect mystery, even if it does end on a bit of a cliffhanger.

ARC Review: Treat Yourself! by Jessica Siskin

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I received an e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Treat Yourself!: How to Make 93 Ridiculously Fun No-Bake Crispy Rice Treats
Author: Jessica Siskin
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
Stars: 5/5

Summary (from Goodreads): It all began with a giant cheeseburger-shaped rice crispy treat, created on a whim and posted online. Since then, Misterkrisp, aka food artist Jessica Siskin, has become an Instagram sensation with her joy-inducing, pop-culture-inspired treats.

Treat Yourself! is the perfect answer for any cook, crafty food lover, or creative parent looking to make crowd-pleasing and personalized treats for birthdays, holidays, school events, and virtually every other occasion. With no baking required, these playful, visually dazzling sweets are simple enough for anyone to whip up.

Each of the 93 projects, arranged from Apple to Zebra, starts with a single base recipe. There are large, cake-sized treats to share and individual-sized treats perfect for bake sales and goody bags. Step-by-step instructions, vibrant illustrations, and downloadable templates ensure that anyone, with any level of skill, can turn out delicious, eye-catching creations: Lively designs for kids’ parties—Robot, Dinosaur, Crown, Balloons. A Cheeseburger. A Statue of Liberty. A Dancing Lady Emoji. And a sweet centerpiece for your next Super Bowl bash: a Football Stadium filled with sprinkle spectators. It’ll serve the neighborhood!

Treats have never been so much fun or so doable.

Goodreads | Amazon

Having been a long time fan of Rice Krispie squares, I knew that I had to check this book out! There are literally close to 100 different ideas and designs in this book, and it will most likely inspire its readers to create their own treat projects as well. The instructions are relatively easy and the images are absolutely whimsical. Also, Jessica shares her story and how she came to be the iconic Misterkrisp in the introduction to the book, which is an interesting addition to a recipe book.

If you have already discovered Misterkrisp online, you will already have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Treat Yourself! Siskin gives her readers a list of tools and tips on how to achieve the best results from her recipes, as well as a chart that breaks down the ratios of cereal, marshmallow, butter and food colouring each design will require. The book takes on the idea that this is arts and crafts more than cooking and gives the sense that there is no wrong way to create each design. The medium is forgivable and it is easy to correct a mistake with a simple fix.

As the synopsis indicates, Treat Yourself! is a great resource for anyone looking to come up with some interesting, crowd-pleasing treats. The designs range from easy to advanced, with one of the more difficult recipes being a recreation of Van Gogh’s Starry Night! I am not sure if I have the ability to make that one turn out as well as the one in the book, but I think it is something that would be a lot of fun trying to create.

wkendcooking

 

 

I have linked this post to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking.

Review: The End of Oz by Danielle Paige

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Warning: Spoilers for the other books in the Dorothy Must Die series below!

Title: The End of Oz
Author: Danielle Paige
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Stars: 3.5/5

Summary (from Goodreads): Ding dong—Dorothy is dead.

I watched as the Emerald Palace crumbled to the ground, burying Dorothy, the Girl Who Rode the Cyclone, under the rubble. And now that the rightful ruler, Ozma, has been restored to the throne…

Oz is finally free.

My name is Amy Gumm. You might remember me as the othergirl from Kansas. When a tornado whisked me away to the magical land of Oz, I was given a mission: Dorothy must die.

But it turns out girls from Kansas are harder to kill than we look.

Now the Road of Yellow Brick is leading me away from Oz to the dark world of Ev, where I have a new, powerful enemy to deal with: the Nome King. And—surprise—he has a gingham-clad bride.

With my magical shoes and a shrinking group of allies, I have one final chance to fulfill my mission, and save not only what’s left of Oz, but Kansas, too. As the line between Good and Wicked blurs even further, I have to find a way to get rid of Dorothy once and for all—without turning into a monster myself.

Dorothy once said there’s no place like home. Can I stop her from destroying mine?

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon | iBooks

I had been awaiting this final book in the Dorothy Must Die series for such a long time, but this book ended up being a bit disappointing. It keeps the same action as always, but it seemed unnecessary. I enjoyed seeing some old characters redeem themselves, but the new setting isn’t as impressive as the other books. I found myself unsatisfied with the ending, and would have liked one more magical journey to Oz.

This book is so action-packed! This final instalment of the Dorothy Must Die series is full of plot twists and character revelations. Basically, Dorothy is actually alive, but in a different world called Ev where she is about to be married to an even worse enemy called the Nome King. Amy and her friends travel to Ev to prevent the Nome King from stealing Dorothy’s power and destroying Oz. I enjoyed being reunited with all the characters in the book, but I feel like the plot fell a bit flat. The first book in the series was absolutely incredible, but this fourth one doesn’t seem to compare. I found the Nome King’s character to be a little unnecessary, and I feel like this series should have ended as a trilogy.

What I found really interesting about The End of Oz is the fact that a few of the characters that the reader is meant to dislike become likeable. For example, Madison, Amy’s bully from Kansas, joins her, and they actually become friends. I also sympathized a bit with Dorothy, since she is being forced into a dangerous marriage. All of the characters in this book are as sassy as ever, and they each have such dynamic personalities.

One thing that bothered me about this book in particular is the different setting. The End of Oz does not take place in Oz, but Ev, which is more drab and gloomy. I didn’t enjoy reading about this setting as much since I wasn’t as familiar with it, and I would have preferred to be transported to Oz one last time. This land contains some elements, such as scary machines called Diggers, which I found to be intriguing, but Ev just didn’t seem as magical as the other books.

The End of Oz is the final action-packed instalment in the Dorothy Must Die series. Some old characters redeem themselves, and the series gets a new setting. The ending of this book wasn’t as satisfying as I had expected, and I personally think that this series would have been better as a trilogy.