Review: Letters to the Lost

Letters to the Lost

 

I was not prepared for this book. I thought I was but it caught me off guard. It surprised me and shattered my heart.

Short recap: Juliet writes letters to her mother that recently passed away. Declan tends the cemetery where Juliet’s mother is buried. He discovers the letters and starts writing back – but neither knows who the other is. The most beautiful friendship blossoms from writing to a mysterious person and they turn out to be exactly what the other person needs.

What stood out to me the most about this novel were the characters. They were both terribly flawed and that made them feel more real. They were both grieving for someone they lost and they were handling it differently. One acted out in rebellious ways while the other chose to internalize the pain. Who knew all it would take to help someone deal with the pain was a mysterious friend that shared the same pain and someone to talk to. Now it is no surprise that both characters hated each other in real life but connected over anonymous letters and emails. I did not like Juliet in the beginning because she came across like a spoiled snot. She was rude to nearly everyone she felt was beneath her. That made it very difficult to like her. Thankfully that was short lived after she and Declan started talking. Declan had a rather rough home life so I immediately felt bad for him. How could I not?! His step-dad was a massive POS that needed to go away. Declan was trying to deal with his emotions the best way he could and was getting no help from his family. All of these things and more made these character so much more relatable.

I know some people would say that a story where two people met through a random letter in a cemetery is farfetched, but I believe it could happen. Why not? People have met from wrong dialed phone calls and incorrect email addresses. Anything is possible nowadays and I like the idea of believing something good coming from grief. Kemmerer’s writing style was just beautiful and the words flowed off of the pages. Everything about the plot worked. The pacing was on point along with the ending of the story. It was not rushed or unresolved. It just… worked.  My heartstrings were tugged and my emotions were overflowing by the time I finished this one. Man, I’m even tearing up now as I write this review.

I was hesitant to start this as I had not had a good run of luck with books recently. They all let me down within the first 50 pages so I went in with low expectations. Boy was I wrong! I felt all of the feels with this. If it hasn’t already been placed on your TBR, please add it now. It is a powerful story that is more than a YA contemporary read. It deals with heavy, serious topics but does so in a way that feels organic. Please, give this book a chance. Your heart will thank you.

 

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Books Left Unread #90

Wallpaper-Books

Books Left Unread

Welcome to my blog post where I talk about the books I have been meaning to read, but just have not yet. You know what I am talking about – the books that have remained unread for various reasons yet when you see them you think, “You know, I really need to read that.” Instead you get distracted by another book, series, or something in your TBR pile. It happens to the best of us. I want to spotlight those books in the hope that I can persuade myself to move them up on my TBR list.

This week’s post is dedicated to:

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

What We Saw

 

The cover alone made me get this book. It looks like a great creepy mystery! Have I cracked it open? Nope. So riddle me this, have you read it? What did you think? Should I give it a go?

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DNF Review: I See London, I See France

I See London, I See France (I See London, I See France, #1)

 

Starting a DNF review is never easy. I want to express my thoughts, concerns, feelings, and disappointments in the most constructive way possible. Sadly, the first things that go through my mind are never pleasant when I have to quit a book. What reader quits a book and says, “I cannot wait to write this positive review on why I stopped this awful story!” Nobody ever, that’s who says that. This is how I felt right before I made my decision to DNF:

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Short recap: Sydney embarks on the trip of a lifetime to Europe with her best friend, Leela.

Whew. That was direct and to the point, right? That is actually the basis of the entire story. I won’t say, “OMG! Hilarity ensues and crazy adventures are had!” because that isn’t true and that isn’t how I read this story. The number one thing that made me quit this story at 30% was the characters. There is no gentle way to say that – the characters made me strongly dislike this story. The protagonist, Syndey, needed to grow a backbone like the entire story needed to be revamped. She is a 19 year old girl who is put in the worst family situation because her mother refuses to leave the house and Sydney enables her. She gives in to her demands and gives up her life to take care of her. I’m not say she shouldn’t take care of her mother, I’m saying she needed to ask for help. Sydney’s best friend, Leela, was an all around awful friend. I think in my GR short review I called her a bitch. I don’t feel that is a strong enough word but it will work. Leela basically guilted Sydney into going on the 4.5 week trip. She had zero care for what Sydney had going on in her life, she just wanted her to “loosen up and have fun”. Sweetheart, the girl is living paycheck to paycheck and is the soul support for her family. You know nothing about that because your parents pay for everything. GROW UP. Leela actually gets worse as the story continues. She is only concerned about hooking up with her ex-boyfriend and following him around Europe. (That’s called stalking, btw. There are laws against it.) It felt like Leela’s character took over the story with her vapid comments on needing to own every shade of lipstick and taking a billion selfies. She didn’t care about Sydney or what she wanted to do during the trip. It had to be all about Leela. What a bitch. I wish someone had just dropped a house on her and been done with it.

It was difficult to figure out what the overall plot was supposed to be about because it focused on Leela and her needs/wants. I knew Sydney was supposed to be having a memorable trip but it was hard to see that with the way she kept focusing on what was going on back home at the same time she was caving in to whatever temper tantrum Leela was having. I just wish the author would have spent more time discussing the mental illness Sydney’s mom suffered from – severe agoraphobia. That never happened and it felt like an afterthought for the story to be classified as dealing with mental illness. I know that sound harsh but it was brushed over when it was mentioned. Also, it felt like Sydney simply used her mom’s condition as a scapegoat to get out of whatever situation she wanted. What a letdown.

I know there are a ton of positive reviews and feedback for this story and for that I say yay! I wish I could have read it with your eyes and enjoyed it like you did. Sadly, I just did not read it that way. I did not enjoy this and I opted to listen to music instead of finishing this story. I am now upset at myself that I had this book on hold with my library for so long because I had high hopes for it. What a disappointment it turned out to be. I’m also floored to hear there is a sequel to this book. Bet your last dollar I won’t be picking that up.

 

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Review: Gem & Dixie

Gem & Dixie

 

Holy crow my heart hurt with this story. I knew it was about sisters but this felt deeper and more powerful than just that.

Short recap: Gem and her sister, Dixie, have not had an easy life. Their father left when they were young and their mother all but gave up on them. Gem does the best she can to take care of herself and Dixie, even if that means doing what is not right.

From the very start, I was cheering for Gem. This girl had been dealt a crappy hand by the universe. Her mother is practically worthless and blames Gem for everything. Dixie, the youngest daughter, could do no wrong. Gem is the one fighting, working, and sacrificing to keep the family together. Their dad left years ago for the next million dollar idea and easy girlfriend, leaving behind the family he shattered. How can I not have my heart tore to shreds after a premise like that? Gem was such a strong character and I adored that. She pulled herself up by her bootstraps and did what needed to be done, even when she didn’t want to. She felt responsible for keeping what was left of her family together. She was constantly met with a disapproving mother and sister that thought she was overreacting. As for Dixie, I did not like her. She walked around oblivious to their reality. Dixie always thought her dad would come home and everything would go back to the way things were. She was living in a fantasy and it wore on my nerves. I wanted to slap her so hard. She was a bitch to Gem every chance she got and always took her mother’s side. She even bought her mother pain pills from kids at school so she could get high. What daughter does that?! The girl had a subscription to her issues. Their parents (I use this term loosely) were just as bad. Mom was in denial and blamed Gem for everything, whereas Dixie could do no wrong. Their dad comes back but only talks to Dixie because he is a con artist and knows how to pick his victims.

The plot of the story was a pretty good one. I was intrigued by the idea of their deadbeat dad leaving a backpack with thousands of dollars in cash under Gem’s bed. Gem wants to take the money and run but Dixie, being the brain dead twat that she is, wants to tell her parents. Are you mental, Dixie?! What a stupid idea. They should have just made a run while they could. Instead, Gem treats Dixie to a night away from home. They go to a hotel, order room service, watch movies, and just have fun. The entire time Dixie has a massive guilt complex and keeps wanting to “check in” to let her mom know she’s okay. Traitor. Idiot. Judas. She was the weakest point of this entire story. Everything she did went against what Gem was doing. It felt like she was pulling the entire story down with her, “*sobs* I just want things to go back to the way they used to be! *sobs*” bullshit. That got old fast. I kept wanting and hoping that Gem would drop her sister like a bad habit and move on. Did she? … I won’t ruin the surprise for you. But when you read this, or if you have already, come back and talk to me. We’ll trade frustrations. The ending did feel a bit rushed. The last 15% of the book was a whirlwind as Zarr tried to wrap everything up. I’m not the biggest fan of when authors do this.

I will leave you with this: this was a heartbreaking story and a hard reality for the way some families live. I believe this story needed to be told. There was a harsh realism to the struggle of kids today trying to find money for one meal a day thanks to less than interested parent(s). The reality that sometimes one meal a day is all kids will get. Or that they are forced to grow up far too quickly in order to save themselves. This story will kick you right in the feels so don’t go into this thinking it is a feel good story. I do hope people will give this a chance because it is a heck of a powerful reality check.

 

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The Hummingbird Heart Release Blitz – Excerpt and Giveaway!

I am so excited that THE HUMMINGBIRD HEART by A.G. Howard is available now and that I get to share the news!
 
If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author A.G. Howard, be sure to check out all the details below.
 
This blitz also includes a giveaway for a 5 AMAZING Prizes courtesy of A.G. and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.
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About The Book:
Title: THE HUMMINGBIRD HEART
Author: A.G. Howard
Pub. Date: August 15, 2017
Publisher: Golden Orb Press
Pages: 339
Formats: Paperback, eBook
 
Set 19 years after The Architect of Song:
Shortly after escaping a circus tragedy, young Italian orphan, Willow Antoniette, seeks refuge at The  Manor of Diversions—a holiday resort in England
born of a ghost story. For eleven years, she’s raised  alongside the children of the resort’s owners: Julian, his twin brother, Nick, and their younger sister Emilia. Now that Willow is of marriageable age, she’s determined to escape finishing school along with everyone’s efforts to make her a proper lady. The only man she wants to spend her life with is Julian, after all. Yet how can she tell him, when he thinks of her as nothing but a friend? 
As a machinist and engineer, Julian Thornton prefers a governable life. He can’t allow his  ever-deepening attraction for Willow to distract from his amusement park plans to lure a younger, wealthier clientele to their family’s resort. In hopes to escape Willow and find investors, Julian sets off on a transatlantic ocean liner headed for the St. Louis World’s Fair, unaware Willow has secretly stowed away on the same ship.
A tiny, mute orphan named Newton and a pair of haunted Italian shoes bring Willow and Julian face to face on deck. Forced to work together to solve the mystery of Newton and his vindictive, ghostly companion, Julian and Willow can no longer fight their untapped passions. However, time to admit their true feelings is running out, for the ghost and her murderer have enlisted them as unsuspecting pawns in a karmic game of cat-and-mouse that could cost all of them their lives.
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Grab book 1!
 

Title: THE ARCHITECT OF SONG

Author: A.G. Howard
Pub. Date: August 15, 2016
Publisher: Golden Orb Press
Pages: 425
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Find it: AmazonGoodreads
 
A lady imprisoned by deafness, an architect imprisoned by his past, and a ghost imprisoned within the petals of a flower – intertwine in this love  story that transcends life and death.

For most of her life, nineteen-year-old Juliet Emerline has subsisted – isolated by deafness –  making hats in the solitude of her home. Now, she’s at risk to lose her sanctuary to Lord Nicolas Thornton, a twenty-seven-year-old mysterious and eccentric architect with designs on her humble estate. When she secretly witnesses him raging beside a grave, Juliet investigates, finding the name “Hawk” on the headstone and an unusual flower at the base. The moment Juliet touches the petals, a young English nobleman appears in ghostly form, singing a song only her deaf ears can hear. The ghost remembers nothing of his identity or death, other than the one name that haunts his afterlife: Thornton.

To avenge her ghostly companion and save her estate, Juliet pushes aside her fear of society and travels to Lord Thornton’s secluded holiday resort, posing as a hat maker in one of his boutiques. There, she finds herself questioning who to trust: the architect of flesh and bones who can relate to her through romantic gestures, heartfelt notes, and sensual touches … or the specter who serenades her with beautiful songs and ardent words, touching her mind and soul like no other man ever can. As sinister truths behind Lord Thornton’s interest in her estate and his tie to Hawk come to light, Juliet is lured into a web of secrets. But it’s too late for escape, and the tragic love taking seed in her heart will alter her silent world forever.

International and NYT bestselling author, A.G. Howard, brings her darkly magical and visual/visceral storytelling to Victorian England. The Architect of Song is the first installment in her lush and romantic Haunted Hearts Legacy series, a four book gothic saga following the generations of one family as – haunted by both literal and figurative ghosts – they search for self-acceptance, love, and happiness.

New Adult: Recommended for ages 17+.
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Excerpt:


In the dream, Willow was a child again. With each barefooted step around the stacks of baggage in steerage, she found them taking on new shapes: pyramids of clowns, bears, horses and feathered performers, all balanced atop one another. She was back at the circus, albeit a much hazier and dimmer rendition than she remembered. She skipped along the center ring, excited to be home at last. Grit and discarded trash snagged between her little toes. A spotlight clicked on to illuminate a trunk. From within came a thumping sound, and girlish giggles.
“Tildey!” Willow cried out, racing across the distance to find her doll, her pigtails slapping her face and neck upon each bounding step. The creak of abandoned trapezes swung overhead, cutting intermittently through a thick cloud of fog. Yet it wasn’t fog. It was tobacco—a stench that seeped into her leotard, her tights, her very pores, until she could taste it coating her tongue like bile.
The spotlight shifted from the trunk to a trapeze just above her where a shape took form in the light: a graceful silhouette in a shimmery leotard and glistening tutu.
“Mama?” Willow whispered in the dream, forgetting Tildey for the chance to see her mother perform once more.
The trapeze vanished into thin air but the aerialist continued a controlled descent toward her, held in place by harnesses attached to the center pole. A face came into view,  painted white like a clown, with bloody eyes and a hollow of a mouth—stretched wide on  a perpetual scream. Willow yelped and squeezed her lashes shut, willing away the creature … for it was not Mama.
When she opened them again, the freakish performer exploded into a flock of hummingbirds made of ink. They skittered around Willow, buzzing wings scraping her skin and hair, imprinting tattoos everywhere they touched. She screamed and stumbled backwards, bumping into the trunk which was somehow right behind her. A tinkly, off-key lullaby drifted from inside the giant box. The lid shook and shuddered, as if something wanted out.
Whimpering, Willow tried to back away, but her feet grew heavy. She looked down and ballet shoes, covered in steel spikes, swallowed them up. The empty harness that had held the ghastly aerialist slithered toward her like a snake, coiling itself around her legs and arms to hold her in place.
On the final haunting strains of music, the trunk’s lid popped open, and out from the midst rose a hunched old man, holding Nadia’s haunted shoes upside down. Blood and water gushed out of them—a stench of copper and stagnancy—and the man laughed with a voice that gnawed into her bones like a thousand snarling wolves.
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About A.G. Howard: 

 

A.G. Howard was inspired to write SPLINTERED while working at a school library. She always wondered what would’ve happened had the subtle creepiness of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland taken center stage, and she hopes her darker and funkier tribute to Carroll will inspire readers to seek out the stories that won her heart as a child.When she’s not writing, A.G.’s pastimes are reading, rollerblading, gardening, and family vacations which often include impromptu side trips to 18th century
graveyards or condemned schoolhouses to appease her overactive muse.

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Giveaway Details: All International
(1) Grand prize: Signed set of The Architect of Song & The Hummingbird Heart PB 
(1) First Place prize: Signed The Hummingbird Heart PB
(1) Second Place prize: Signed The Hummingbird Heart poster
(3) Third – Fifth Place prizes: Signed The Architect of Song & The Hummingbird Heart swag pack sets

Ends on August 22nd at Midnight EST!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

 

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Waiting on Wednesday: Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack The Ripper #2)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share a book that we are eagerly anticipating!

This week’s pre-publication “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #2)

From Goodreads:

 

“In this hotly anticipated sequel to the haunting #1 bestseller Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.”

 

Is this on your TBR? Did you read the first one? If so, what did you think?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Book Suggestions For People Who Don’t Normally Read YA

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they have a different theme for bloggers to post their top tens about, and this week I’m listing…

Book Suggestions For People Who Don’t Normally Read YA

 

Illuminae

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)

 

 

Ready Player One

Ready Player One

 

 

The Legend Series

Legend (Legend, #1)

 

 

The Lunar Chronicles

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)

 

 

Warcross

Warcross (Warcross, #1)

 

 

The Serpent King

The Serpent King

 

 

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

 

 

Out of the Easy

Out of the Easy

 

 

The Winner’s Curse

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)

 

 

The Sun is Also a Star

The Sun Is Also a Star

 

 

Caraval

Caraval

 

What books would you recommend to someone that doesn’t normally read YA? Are they on my list or would you recommend something else? Let me know!

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