Monday, February 29, 2016

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After

Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.


 

 

 

Rating: 5 Stars

Book Title: Isla and the Happily Ever After

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Release Date: August 14th, 2014

Pages: 339

Publisher: Dutton Books

 

 

          You know when you finish a really good series and you almost feel as if you’ve left behind a world that you just weren’t ready to be done with yet?  Although that’s typically how I feel after I finish a really spectacular series (I’m thinking of The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo which I just recently finished reading and loved), I don’t think that I was expecting that to happen with the Anna and the French Kiss Series by Stephanie Perkins.  Despite the books being set in the same world, each book can be read as a standalone and as such, I didn’t view these books as a series, but more of a continuum.  As someone who read Anna and the French Kiss months prior to picking up the rest of the books in this series, I didn’t expect to get attached to this world so much.  After reading Lola and the Boy Next Door in one day though, I practically ran to my bookshelves to grab the next one, Isla and the Happily Ever After. 
            What set Isla apart from its brethrens was that the romance started off right away, whereas in Anna and Lola the two main characters don’t get together until later in the book, after they’ve become friends or realized they are meant to be more than the friends they’ve always been.  Having gone to the same school for a few years now, Isla and Josh are mere acquaintances, nothing more.  After a few close encounters that spark something between them, they start dating.  The entire book is about their relationship; the ups and downs, how they deal with school and make time for each other, and trying to figure out what they’ll do once high school is over and they have to get a job or go to college.  I loved that about Isla, because we got to see more of “them,” the couple you grow to love and enjoy reading about.  Despite my obvious affection for Anna and Lola’s stories, what I would have loved to see in those two is more of the relationship itself.  By the time Anna and Lola get together with their significant others, the book is practically over and we hardly get to see them as couples.  The benefit of Isla and the Happily Ever After hitting the ground running with the actual relationship is that I thought we got to see more of the nitty gritty bits a relationship can pose: jealousy, hardships, trust, and incorporating family. 
            One of my favorite things about Stephanie Perkins’s writing is that she always manages to create wonderful secondary characters in her books.  In Isla and the Happily Ever After we meet Kurt, Isla’s best friend, who has high-functioning autism.  Not only is Kurt exceptionally unique but also brilliant.  I loved that Stephanie included diversity in her book and also disproved this popular assumption that people with autism are less intelligent.  For fans of Cricket from Lola and The Boy Next Door, I think you’ll just as easily fall in love with Kurt.  His quirks, even those that are a direct result of living with autism (such as failing to pick up on sarcasm), make him even more charming. 
            I feel I should also mention my complete freak out that occurred after reading the last few chapters of this book, which is uncharacteristic even for me. Even though I knew the characters from each of the three books were all connected in some way, and in some cases, even close friends, I don’t think I truly expected them to all meet in one scene.  And WOW.  What a scene that turned out to be!  If, like me, you get emotionally attached to fictional characters  (I believe there are now shirts for that on Etsy, in case you were wondering), prepare yourself.  There will be tears! But good tears don’t worry! Perkins didn’t kill off any of your favorite characters from books past.  :) 

 



Friday, February 26, 2016

Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door


Lola Nolan is a budding costume designer, and for her, the more outrageous, sparkly, and fun the outfit, the better. And everything is pretty perfect in her life (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood. When Cricket, a gifted inventor, steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: 5 Stars

Book Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Release Date: September 29th 2011

Pages: 384

Publisher: Dutton Books

 

            Cute boys, great fashion, wonderful characters, and pie; what more could a gal ask for in a contemporary?  I already regret waiting this long to read the second book in the Anna and the French Kiss Series by Stephanie Perkins, Lola and the Boy Next Door.  Not only is Stephanie Perkins a doll and quite possibly one of the friendliest authors I have met to date but her writing is also spectacular.  I remember falling in love with Anna and the French Kiss last year when I read it for the first time, and thinking what incredible characters she always manages to come up with.  Lola and the Boy Next Door was no exception. 
            Favorite Characters:
o   Lola: Also known as Dolores, Lola is what many might call eccentric, but which I found to be delightful.  She feels her best when dressing up in costumes, whether it’s a picnic basket theme or as Marie Antoinette, and wants to go to school for fashion once she’s finished high school.  I loved Lola so much and there was more than one occasion when I cried with her: heartbreak, mean kids, you name it! As someone who originally wanted to get a college degree in business fashion, I could really relate to some of the criticism Lola received from other kids her age teasing her about the way she dressed.  I think any readers will be able to sympathize with some of the things she is going through in the book though!
o   Andy and Nathan: Lola’s two dads who adopted her from her birth mother are downright hilarious and so easy to love!  I’m not sure if it was their concern for their daughter or their easy manners that made me fall in love with these two, but I thought their personalities added so much to the family dynamic that I loved in this book.  Even when Lola’s birth mother comes to spend some time with them later in the book, I still couldn’t help but feel so much respect and adoration for these two!  One of my favorite scenes in the book was when Lola and Cricket stay home to help Andy get a rush order of pies done and delivered for his business.
o   Cricket: AKA “the boy next door,” Cricket is one of Lola’s oldest friends whose family has just moved back into their neighborhood.  Cricket’s passion is building things and he is always tinkering with some form of gadget or invention in his room when he’s not at Berkley studying.  I loved his character in the book and his willingness to stick around and fix the mistakes he made with Lola before he moved away, despite the fact that she now has a boyfriend.  It’s funny because my ships typically revolve around the “bad boys” but this time I fell for Cricket from the get-go. He’s the type of guy who is always more concerned with the people around him than himself, which I think is extremely charming! I had a hard time liking his twin sister Calliope though, whom Cricket would do anything for (and does), including following her around to all her ice skating events.
            Other than the phenomenal characters in Lola and the Boy Next Door, one of my favorite parts of this book was the setting itself.  I think this is one of the first books I’ve read set in San Francisco and I really loved it!  After I finished the book I actually spent a lot of time browsing the Internet and reading up on the culture there and drooling over the cute Victorianesque houses.  Visiting the Golden Gate Bridge has always been on my bucket list and reading this book made me want to visit that much more! 
            Although I certainly think you can read this book as a standalone, I am glad that I read Anna and the French Kiss prior to Lola and The Boy Next Door, because I was able recognize some of the references Anna and Etienne (St. Clair) make in the text.  They played minor roles in this book (they work with Lola at the movie theatre) but they are in numerous scenes throughout.  Knowing that they played a small role in this book makes me feel a little bit better about leaving Lola’s story to begin reading the next book in the series, Isla and the Happily Ever After, because I’m hoping that means Lola will appear in the next book from time to time.  I wasn’t quite ready to leave her behind yet and I have a sneaking suspicion that Lola’s story might be my favorite in this series of three by Stephanie Perkins (although that remains to be seen as I have not read Isla yet).  What about you guys?  Which one of this series is your favorite?

 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Review: The Choice


#1 New York Times bestseller Nicholas Sparks turns his unrivaled talents to a new tale about love found and lost, and the choices we hope we'll never have to make.

Travis Parker has everything a man could want: a good job, loyal friends, even a waterfront home in small-town North Carolina. In full pursuit of the good life - boating, swimming , and regular barbecues with his good-natured buddies -- he holds the vague conviction that a serious relationship with a woman would only cramp his style. That is, until Gabby Holland moves in next door. Spanning the eventful years of young love, marriage and family, THE CHOICE ultimately confronts us with the most heartwrenching question of all: how far would you go to keep the hope of love alive?






Rating: 4 Stars

Book Title: The Choice

Author: Nicholas Sparks

Release Date: December 22nd, 2015

Pages:317

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing



            Some may choose to scoff at the fandom that surrounds Nicholas Sparks’s writing, but I’ve never been one of those people.  Then why did I wait so long to read another one of his books?  Interesting question, ESPECIALLY considering how much I adored The Choice.
            If I’m being honest, the real reason I decided to pick up another Sparks book after so long is that I wanted to read it before the movie came out (and I’m going to make it a mission of mine going forward with any of the film adaptations).  The last one I read by him was The Last Song which, ironically enough, is my favorite movie all time and one of my favorite books of his.  Unfortunately the book broke me just a bit (probably because I found myself relating too much to Ronnie) and I haven’t been brave enough to read any more of his writing since!
            Set in small-town North Carolina, The Choice features two neighbors who live on the edge of the ocean and meet for the first time during a confrontation, one in which new-to-the-neighborhood Gabby Holland accuses Travis Parker of letting his dog run wild and getting hers pregnant.  This scene was one of my favorites not because of the accusation itself, but of the way Travis takes the whole thing in stride and lets Gabby yell at him.

Favorite Bits:
o   Travis: Other than being the obvious dreamboat love interest, Travis has an adorable soft side to him that I just loved.  He works with his dad at the town’s veterinarian clinic, taking care of all the locals’ pets.  Not only that but he loves kids and is never one to complain about having his best friends over, even when their families tag along.  In fact, Travis is the kind of guy who would invite his friends’ families over every weekend if he could.  It’s one of his favorite things to do and I love that there’s no level of animosity that he feels towards them just because they’ve already settled down and he hasn’t.  I think that speaks volumes about his character.
o   The Timeline: The story opens with present day Travis discussing his life and how he would have done things differently in his marriage had he known better.  Although it sets the scene for something bad to occur down the road, I liked that the book started with this part and then jumped to the story itself.  It wasn’t confusing at all and I was excited to see a younger side of Travis and compare how much his personality had changed since the start of The Choice.
o   The Setting: My dream would be to live on the coastline one day and I’ve always said I want it to be Georgia, but after reading The Choice I might just be open to North Carolina as wellJ I loved reading about Travis and Gabby’s little adventures they go on, whether it’s parasailing with friends or taking a late night cruise to one of Travis’s favorite spots.  I also loved the small-town feels the book gave off, especially since Gabby was new to town and had no clue just how close everyone was.  Having worked at the vet clinic with his dad for years, Travis knows just about everyone in town and them him.  It’s cute seeing Gabby fit into all this and learning to adjust to her new surroundings.

            While I know many will choose to skip over this book entirely for the fact that Sparks wrote it, I would argue that it’s worth giving a chance.  It’s not like all the rest of his books, despite the general consensus that his books all follow the same plot (they don’t).  And I thought this one was a little more upbeat than some of the rest.  While I can’t promise there won’t be tears shed, I do think this story will be a little easier on the heartstrings than some of his previous ones.  That’s one thing I’ve always loved about Nicholas Sparks though and his writing.  It’s honest in a way that a lot of fiction just isn’t.  And that’s what I loved about The Choice.  It’s about real life characters who go through hardships and face difficult points in their relationship.  You can’t tell me that dating isn’t like that! I hope those who have sworn off Sparks will give him another chance because I think that you’ll find yourself falling for The Choice just like I did!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (4)

Waiting on Wednesday is a featured post hosted by Breaking the Spine that discusses upcoming releases that bloggers are excited about. 


This week's book I am looking forward to in 2016 is:




  
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Expected Release Date: May 3rd, 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court--but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms--and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future--and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas's masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday (5)




Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish

This week's topic revolves around the idea of books that we loved and recently read (although mine are in the span of the last 6 months since I don't step outside of my comfort zone as often I should) that are from genres or categories we don't typically read or read a lot of.  As someone who reads mostly YA, specifically fantasy or paranormal romance, my books for this week's topic span a lot of genres! 
Top Ten Books That I Enjoyed Recently That Aren't From A Genre I Typically Read
1. Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna #1) by Kendare Blake 
     Reason: Not a huge fan of horror, although this one is admittedly more paranormal than horror
2. Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk
     Reason: I never used to read a lot of contemporary books until 2015.  I am slowly coming around to this genre though!
3. When Joss Met Matt by Ellie Cahill
    Reason: As I mentioned, I normally read YA and some NA from time to time.  Although I haven't read a NA book to date that I haven't liked, it's still not a genre I read many books from.  When Joss Met Matt is adorable though and one of my favorite books of 2016.
4. Juniper Berry by M. P. Kozlowsky
    Reason: Other than the Percy Jackson Series reading Middle grade doesn't hold my attention. Juniper Berry was a gift from a friend though (thanks Kristen!) and I really loved it! I think kids of this age group would enjoy this book by Kozlowsky.
5. Rule: Marked Men #1 by Jay Crownover
    Reason: New Adult.
6. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
    Reason: Until Bone Gap I didn't even know what magical realism was, so I was skeptical to try a book that included some aspect of this.  I loved Bone Gap though and oddly enough, the magical realism was one of my favorite elements of this story.
7. The Selection Stories: The Prince & The Guard (The Selection, #0.5, 2.5) by Kiera Cass
    Reason: I usually stay clear of standalones or novellas, especially if they are retellings of the original story from another character's POV. In this case though, I loved reading some of the most popular and important scenes in the Selection Series as told from Prince Maxon and Aspen's POV
8. Dream Boy by Marky Crockett and Madelyn Rosenberg
    Reason: Magical Realism.
9. and 10. Lola and the Boy Next Door AND Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss # 2 and 3) by Stephanie Perkins
    Reason: Contemporary. Although I shouldn't have been surprised that I liked these two books so much, since I adored the first one in the series when I read it a year ago!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: Exquisite Captive


Forced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.

Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

Inspired by Arabian Nights, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light.


Rating: 5 Stars

Book Title: Exquisite Captive

Author: Heather Demetrios

Release Date: October 7th, 2014

Pages: 480

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

 

 
           Fans of The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh will love this first installment to the Dark Caravan Cycle, Exquisite Captive, by Heather Demetrios.  This Arbian Nights inspired book is based on jinni lore.  The Jinni (more commonly known as djinn or genies) live in their own world, far from the eyes of prying humans.  Unfortunately for some jinni though, they end up on Earth as slaves, bound to their masters and forced to obey their commands until their master has used all of his/her three wishes.  For Nalia, she knows this day will likely never come, since her master knows the consequences of using up his third wish. 
            Throw aside all the genie stereotypes you already know, especially those of you like myself who grew up on Disney movies like Aladdin.  There will be no magic carpet rides in this story (although I’m holding my breath for future books in the series) and the jinni in Demetrios’s world are powerful, using the Earth’s elements to fuel their magic.  What I really liked about the construction of the jinni in this series is how they’re set up in castes based on their powers.  At the top, the Ghan Aisouri are the most powerful due to their abilities to access power from all four elements.  The lower castes are typically confined to one element though, such as the Djan whose power comes from the earth.
            Favorite Characters: Once again I’ve managed to fall completely in love with the bad guy, who in this case, happens to be the main character, Nalia’s, master.  Malek purchased her off the Dark Caravan, where jinni are sold to humans on Earth, as a young girl.  He’s cruel, forcing Nalia into her bottle for extended periods of time as punishment for misbehaving.  Unlike the genie of lore though, the bottles aren’t their homes.  These bottles are designed for punishment and a means of keeping jinni in line.  Made of iron, these bottles are not only dark and lonely for the jinni, but also poisonous to them.  The longer Nalia is forced into her bottle, the sicker she is after she is let out.
            Despite this brutal treatment, Malek starts to change.  His relationship with Nalia has changed from master/servant to something more.  For Nalia though, she’s reluctant to give into him.  She knows if he asks her to do something, she’ll have to, but she slows his advances anyways.  Although I’m probably a masochist for saying it, I loved Malek even BEFORE we find out there’s more to his mood swings than just bad behavior alone.  Malek has secrets Nalia knows nothing of and once she figures some of them out as the book progresses, I think she starts to have some more sympathy for him.  That’s when her feelings get complicated.
            Romance: Speaking of feelings, what made Exquisite Captive stand out so much (in my opinion) in the paranormal romance category is the construction of the romance.  The feelings jinni have for one another is complex, and has to do with their chiaan.  I also loved watching Nalia learn about love.  All her life she was taught by the Ghan Aisouri that love was a myth and sex was only for reproductive purposes.  Then she meets Raif, who changes all of that for her.  Also, let’s not forget her complicated feelings for Malek, which she struggles with the whole book.   The romance in this book consisted of a love triangle (WAIT. Just listen!) but it was SO GOOD.  Unlike love triangles from other series, this one really makes sense.  Nalia’s unfortunate relationship with Malek means she feels a sense of obligation to him since he’s her master.  Then she has to separate these feelings from those she develops for Raif.  
             The Ending: OH MAN. NOT what I was expecting in the least and WAY more plot twists than I could have seen coming!  I loved that though, because you all know by now if you read my reviews that I despise predictable endings.  Finishing Exquisite Captive was heart-wrenching not because of the ending itself (although I shed a few tears towards the end due to one of the deaths) but because I know the next book isn’t out yet and that I’ll have to wait for quite some time to read it!  Blood Passage (Dark Caravan Cycle #2) by Heather Demetrios just made it to the top of my most anticipated 2016 releases!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Love A Thon Blogger Questionnaire




 


 
QUESTIONNAIRE

  1. What’s your name?
  2. Where in the world are you blogging from?
  3. How did you get into blogging in the first place?
  4. How did you come up with your blog name?
  5. What genre do you read and review the most on your blog?
  6. What other types of posts do you do on your blog, apart from reviews?
  7. Best blogging experience so far?
  8. Favorite thing about the blogging community?
  9. Name the 5 books you’re most excited for this 2016!
  10. Name the 5 books you want to read this 2016 that you didn’t get to in previous years!
  11. What’s an underrated book or series that you think everyone should read?
  12. Which book boy or girl would be your book BFF?
  13. Which book boy or girl would be your book boyfriend/girlfriend?
  14. Who would you recruit for your apocalypse squad (5 characters max)
  15. Apart from reading, what are your other hobbies or interests?
  16. Apart from book shopping, what else do you like shopping for?
  17. At a party, the DJ suddenly changes the song – and it’s your song. What song would be playing?
  18. Pick out either a book you want turned into a film/TV show, or a film/TV show you want turned into a book.
  19. What would your dream library look like?
  20. Author you want to meet and sit down to tea with?



1.     My name’s Emily Alfano
2.     I’m from Wisconsin
3.     I got into blogging after I joined the book community on Twitter.  I had Twitter for a while but I never realized how passionate everyone from the book blogging world was and once I started following a few popular book bloggers, I knew I wanted in.
4.     My current blog name is a new one.  I used to co-blog at another site and I recently launched my current site, Rabbit Hole Reviews, just last month.  I’m really excited and so far everyone has been super supportive about it.  If you want to know how I came up with the name (it’s a rather long story) check out my “About Rabbit Hole Reviews” page.
5.     My favorite genre is YA, but more specifically I LOVE anything fantasy or dystopian.  This past year I’ve also been obsessed with contemporary, which was something I never used to read that much of, and I’m always looking for new recommendations in that category.
6.     I’ve been on Other than reviews I love to do participate in blog tours, TTT, WoW, and my own featured post “Book and a Bath.”
7.     Best blogging experience so far was getting to meet my blogging friends in real life.
8.     My favorite thing about the book blogging community is how close everyone is.  Even if you’re just Internet friends, you can still support someone from afar and I think that’s what’s great about this Internet community. 
9.     A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas,  Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare, Heartless by Marissa Meyer, The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, and The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Adhieh
10. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Sabriel by Garth Nix, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Page, and Landline by Rainbow Rowell
11. The Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole. I cannot say enough good things about this series and I’m so glad my friend recommended this to me last year.
12.  Cath from Fangirl. We have so much in common and I could see myself being best friends with someone like her in real life.
13. SO MANY. Why am I limited to just one? Ok, if I had to pick I’ll always love Rowan from Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
14.  Aelin (Throne of Glass Series), Tamlin (ACOTAR), Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles), Evie (The Arcana Chronicles), and Scarlet (Scarlet Series).
15. Other than books/reading I love writing, running, and music.  I’m currently training for another half marathon and I am also considering a triathlon at some point this year. 
16. I could honestly shop for anything under the sun and be the happiest camper.  I’m a bit of a fashion freak, as well as a makeup junkie.  Hour of truth: one of my weird quirks is collecting jackets, ESPECIALLY leather (pleather, actually) jackets.  I have 18 jackets and I have a closet JUST for my jackets!
17. This is a hard one! When I said I love music earlier, I really meant it. I listen to most genres of music. Hmmm… anything by the Script? I know that’s not really specific but I don’t have a favorite song.
18. Book series I would LOVE to see turned into a film would be The Splintered Series by A.G. Howard.
19.  Well other than the fact that it would be full of books ceiling to floor, I would love a rolling ladder (who wouldn’t right?), a coffee bar, and lots of artwork.  I’m really into any type of book related artwork and I would love to have a whole room just to be able to buy more.  My current room at home is sadly full now so I keep seeing artwork online that I want to buy but nowhere to hang it.
20. J.K. Rowling. Is this even a question? LOL.

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