Monday, 5 June 2017

Review: How to Make A Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

How to Make A Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

Publisher: 
HMH Kids
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017
Pages: 336
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: 4/5
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Grace, tough and wise, has nearly given up on wishes, thanks to a childhood spent with her unpredictable, larger-than-life mother. But this summer, Grace meets Eva, a girl who believes in dreams, despite her own difficult circumstances.

One fateful evening, Eva climbs through a window in Grace’s room, setting off a chain of stolen nights on the beach. When Eva tells Grace that she likes girls, Grace’s world opens up and she begins to believe in happiness again. How to Make a Wish is an emotionally charged portrait of a mother and daughter’s relationship and a heartfelt story about two girls who find each other at the exact right time.




Guyyyssss, what a sweet little book. I mean, there's definitely some sniffle-inducing moments. But all and all, so sweet and lovely. I read Ashley's debut, Suffer Love, last year. I remember thoroughly enjoying it. Buuutttt that's about all I remember. So, that's not great(but will make a good reread; be like I'm reading it for the first time(again)). Could be my fault because I read a bazillion contemps in a year. Where I was going with this is that, How to Make a Wish promised a bi MC in a gay relationship, so automatically I signed myself up to some non-existent list that promised me I would find a way to get my grabby hands on this one. And well I obviously did, but with a bit of trepidation because of the whole realizing that Suffer Love was ultimately forgettable. I think I'm safe here, How to Make A Wish leaves me with quite a bit to remember it by.

Grace was in a really hard situation. Her mom is the farthest thing from providing a stable parental unit. Grace had to grow up super fast, she's the adult in their relationship. And it shows on Grace's exterior. Grace's attitude and hard shell is hard to get pass at times but makes sense for the life she lives. How to Make A Wish is a book about different kinds of relationships but is also a great coming of age, self-growth story.  We start the book as Grace is coming home after being away for a few weeks, to find that her mom has moved them in with her new boyfriend. New boyfriend isn't a terrible guy, but the situation, living situation is terrible. Who ups and moves their teenage daughter to some strange guys home? And strange guys home also happens to be the home of his son; Grace's ex-boyfriend. Let's just say they didn't end of pretty terms. That's pretty much the icing on the cake when it comes to Grace's mom, the revolving door of boyfriends, drinking, no job, constant moving. As I said, not stable. It's really really hard to feel one ounce of sympathy towards her mom. Even when it's obvious that she's not mentally stable. To see the life Grace is living, the situations she has to save her mom from. Her mom even sells her piano. Which is Grace's love and life; her ticket to college. So there's the biggest and most complicated relationship in Grace's life.

Luca, Grace's best friend is a real treat. I want to call their friendship more sibling like. But it is a true and strong friendship. There are no secret lingering romantic feelings. Thank God. Luca is loyal and the most stable person in Grace's life. Which also brings his family into Grace's life. His mom is a better mom to Grace than her own. I love their relationship too. Like I mentioned, Grace is hard to get through to sometimes. She's got a hard shell that she can't let crack, and neither Luca or his mom ever shy away from being there for her. A lot of the time it is about Grace and what her mom has done now, Luca is perfect at talking Grace down, bringing her to reality. It's one of those things where Grace can say whatever about her mom, but if someone else, like Luca or his mom brings a dose of reality Grace is quick to be angry at them. But that never keeps them away, they understand. Two of the least selfish, wonderful people.

Eva is somewhat of a salvation for Grace. Yet also a complication. Luca's mom becomes Eva's guardian after her mom unexpectedly and quite suddenly passes away. Eva and Grace bond immediately. Over their art; Eva being a dancer and Grace being a pianist. Over their broken families. Both feel lost and unsure about their futures. The chemistry is definitely there. In a very sweet and innocent way. I mention this relationship is a complication for Grace because she doesn't want to care for and eventually lose someone else. She sets out to protect Eva from her mom by keeping the truths about her mom secret from Eva. Luca is on her to tell her everything. But Grace is convinced if she just tells Eva the bare minimum and asks her to keep her distance everything will be fine. Until it isn't. There's no falling out, there are just times where both Grace and Eva need time. I love them together. Even being a YA book, and them being young, their relationship has that timeless more mature feel to it.

Grace is a complicated character. Becoming the adult at such a young age will change how a kid grows and sees the world. Grace lives in a small town, she loves her town. But she wants out. Grace knows there's more for her. She is a very talented pianist. Grace works hard even with all her mother's setbacks. Grace doesn't provide the reader with an easy time. She is self-involved a lot of the time. She blames the world for giving her such a hard leg to stand on. Eva brings hard truths based on her life growing up as a dancer and being bi-racial. Luca's tough love starts to crack her shells. Grace's moms actions eventually really take their toll. I mean, that ex-boyfriend Grace was trying to make us hate so much showed a very different side to their relationship. Grace could be as uninterested as her mom at times. I never let her faults affect how I saw Grace. There was just something about her that made me connect with her instantly. And she showed major development. Yes, she could be quick to anger but it didn't always fester and Grace eventually learned to stop placing blame.

Yes, How to Make A Wish touched on some deeper topics, like grief and mental illness, but I never felt like the story went dark. It was a sweet first love with some very dimensional characters. I cannot wait to see what Ashley will give me in future books.


Happy reading!

Brittany

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: May 16th, 2017
Pages: 400
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: 4/5
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Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?





I like Emery. I really do. Her first two books are two of my all-time favourite contemps. I had some issues with her last book, but that was a me thing. Of course, I was dying to get my hands on The Names They Gave Us. Even though I had some reservations. I wasn't sure how well I'd connect, even like The Names They Gave Us. It is about the daughter of a pastor struggling with her faith. I am not a religious person and can find that when faith and religion are one of the main plot points I find myself unable to connect to the story. Or even find that it's too in my face. Clearly, I shouldn't doubt Emery and her story telling abilities. I may not have been able to relate to Lucy on those aspects of her life but that did not take away from the enjoyment of this book. The Names They Gave Us may not be my favourite of Emery's books but I do believe it's her strongest(to date).

I had some misgivings about Lucy pretty much right away. You get this immediate impression of her; daughter of the pastor, clean cut, captain of the swim team, perfect upstanding boyfriend, hiding a few of her passions from her parents; she has a certain image to uphold. Or at least she thinks she does. My views on Lucy changed pretty quickly. She obviously had a lot of personal growth to go through. And it's not that she was a bad person, it's more that her true self had yet to have the time to shine through. Lucy was hidden behind her faith, the comfortable feeling of her trusting loyal boyfriend and captaining the swim team. The news of the return of her mother's cancer is ultimately the catalyst summer Lucy and all she'll learn. I loved Lucy for being curious and fiercely loyal. Even when shocking secrets are revealed and she has every right to be mad, Lucy remains unselfish and a decent person.

Obviously, her mom's cancer is tragic, but I want to point out the bright light that came from it for Lucy(besides her boyfriend pausing them because yea dude is nice but Lucy needs more than nice), her spending the summer as a counsellor at the camp next door. This isn't her families bible camp. It's a camp for troubled kids. Lucy goes in with misgivings. It is a very different setting than her normal summer. But that's the point. Lucy needs to get out of her comfort zone. To realize how strong of a person she is. To form new friendships. To strengthen her bond with her parents. And the big one for Lucy, learning to trust her faith and to know that it will change and grow as she does. I feel like a lot of readers will find themselves relating to Lucy in one way. Even if you live different lifestyles, personal growth and change is always a scary thing when you're a teenager. Even more so in the throes of tragedy.
Quick note on the cancer plotline; this is far from a "cancer book". Yes, Lucy mom's cancer is an element of the book but it is not the book. Far from it.

The Names They Gave Us is a character driven novel, as you would assume a contemp would be. Lucy is our leading lady, but there is a whole slew of characters that I came to love as they dealt with their own baggage, well also helping Lucy along on her summer of growth. The power of friendship really shines through for Lucy when she starts to form relationships with some of her fellow counsellors. I don't think she realized how lonely she was until that point. The four main friendships she forms are some of the best moments in the book. As a group they're dynamic is amazing and fun. They have that familial bond that is missing in a lot of YA books out there. Lucy starts to fit seamlessly into the group. Forming those new relationships, with the group and some of the other kids at the camp is truly what helps Lucy in her journey.

There is a romance; which is sweet and swoony and exactly what I wanted it to be. Never at any point does it take over the story. The romance is quite a few rungs down that plot ladder. Friends, family, faith and Lucy herself all squish up front and centre. Which is exactly how it should be for this story. I mean, I wouldn't mind more of Lucy and Jones in the future. Their relationship is super adorable. The whole always being yourself and honest with each other thing makes their lasting power as a couple believable. Even with them being so young.

The Names They Gave Us is a personal growth story. Lucy starts out pretty subdued and nieve. She believes there is so much holding her back from learning to be herself. Lucy believes things about her parents just based on their faith and that is a dangerous thing. This is where Lucy's curiosity and her ability to learn and change shape her as a person. What you believe in people, how you think they'll react or think is second nature to us. Lucy realzing that her parent's faith or somebodies home life isn't a good enough reason to judge. Just like Lucy loving make-up or not knowing what her future holds should stop her exploring her life and options in the present. The Names They Gave Us is just a great YA contemp for anyone looking for a solid one sitting read; it's got the fun times, the sad times, family, friendship and a pinch of romance. A total win for me. 

P.S. I get what Emery was doing with that ending, but open endings are my enemy. Just be forewarned. I'd like to think that leaves room for a sequel. I know that is very very wishful dreaming on my part.


Happy reading!

Brittany

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Review: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich


The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: May 16th, 2017
Pages: 384
Source: ARC from publisher
Rating: 2/5
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There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.




Friends, I am a huge ball of disappointment right now. Excuse me well I devour some pizza to get me through this review.

The Love Interest immediately made it to the top of my most need now, give me ARC in exchange for my black soul list when I realized it was about a school that trains spies to infiltrate these girls lives for whatever reason. They send in two boys to compete to win her heart. That part didn't get me. The twist was the boys end up falling for each other. I'M HERE FOR THAT!
What actually proceeded to happen was a hot fucking mess. The sort with poor execution and extremely one-dimensional characters.

In theory, The Love Interest should have been wonderfully meta. It literally plays on every trope and cliche that YA has overused throughout the past ten years. An M/F/M love triangle that consists of the bad boy and nice boy competing to win the heart of this unique and unknowingly beautiful girl, who is not like ANY OTHER GIRL. EVER. This spy school makes(trains) these boys to be YA cliches. The boys know nothing about the real world except for what they watch and read in popular teen media. This should have been fucking hilarious. And for the first fifty pages or so I was so into it. I'm thinking this could be possibly one of the best things to happen to my YA loving heart. We now all know how that thinking turned out...

The three most important things about a book failed me here. Let's start with the characters. Caden, Dyl and Juliet were literal personifications of their main traits. Caden the nice. Dyl the bad. And Juliet the different beautiful girl. Let's just outright scratch Juliet from the rest of this review. There is nothing to say except zzzzzzzzz. Caden and Dyl, every time the scene gave them the opportunity to explore their true personalities, away from acting as the cliched nice or bad, I had high hopes. We're going to get some swoony and fun gay moments. GIMMIE. Maybe once or twice, yes, but holy god was the rest terrible. These three characters, the satire, and fun that could have been had. What a missed opportunity.

There's no plot. There's no world building. And hey, I tell you guys every time that I am a character driven reader. So world building isn't the end all be all for me. BUT, when a book is missing everything that lack of world building and plot development becomes an issue. The Love Interest is about a spy school and the main character realizing how much he wants freedom and to be himself. So let's take down the establishment, bro. The end. There is zero development or movement from that line.

I think the absolute real killer for me was the writing. Like I said, the satire that was expected to come from this read was non-existent. The dialogue was flat, flat, flat. One cheesy, cliched, unemotional line after another. At the 60% mark, I was so over everything. I was bored and thus commenced the skimming. I thought about giving up, but this book still had me hoping for something to save it from itself.

I was here for the promised gayness. Caden had some decent moments well he was coming to terms with his sexuality. The dude grew up in a place that probably wasn't super okay or open about being your true self. So I was alright with giving him a minute to figure that out.

Caden and Dyl's "relationship" on the other hand was not the burning focal point that I expected it to be. Again, it had its moments. But there was also a whole bunch of harmful bits. In fact, for like 50 pages it veered into queer baiting territory, and this girl was fucking livid. From that point on, their relationship wasn't salvageable.

Disappointments are the hardest. I can handle a terrible read when I didn't have any expectations. But when I feel like I'm promised something and the execution fails so epically, it's a letdown. There's your Catch-22; are expectations the real one to blame here?

I mean, if you can get over a very flat story and characters, The Love Interest delivers on the fun scale. It doesn't take its self seriously. It's a cliched mess in exactly the way it's meant to be. There are no surprises. The Love Interest is ten years of YA tropes in 400 pages.



Happy reading!

Brittany

Monday, 15 May 2017

Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas



A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #3
Pages: 705
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3/5
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A nightmare, I’d told Tamlin. I was the nightmare.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit—and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well. As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords—and hunt for allies in unexpected places.


I just want to point out the obvious spoiler warning. This review doesn't hold back. Enter at your own risk.


If I'm being completely honest with myself, ACOWAR is more a 3*. It's just really hard to choose that star number for a trilogy I have been shouting to the stars about being my favourite. The ToG series turned out to be a dumpster fire; it's like Maas can write this fantastic first book, an even better second book, and that third book, that's where it starts to get messy. Maybe duologies should be her thing?...

Although I didn't hate ACOWAR, I had a lot of problems. So this review? It's probably going to seem much more negative than positive. I don't really care. Those problems are what stick out for me because I needed this book to be near perfect, and it just wasn't. But I can start with what I liked.
Feyre, Rhys, Az, Mor, Cassian, Armen, Nesta, Elain and even Lucien; I still like you guys. It's not your fault you were toned down at times. Look how far Feyre has come! She is a strong bamf of a High-Lady. Rhys, you've come just as far with starting to defeat your demons. Nesta, though, that girl is a stone-cold wall and I am here for that. I get you, girl.

We all know there are more books to come in this series, and I mean it's pretty damn obvious who those books will be about. Maas did a good enough job of setting up those characters for their stories. I mean, you can't just touch on their new lives or reveal secrets like that and not wrap them up. So if the next three books aren't centered around who I assume they will be, things will get ugly real fast.

The banter and relationship with Feyre, Rhys and the Inner Circle was still pretty much on point. They fight and love like a family. Even better was the inclusion of more of the different courts. Meeting more High Lords and High Fae was fun. Especially when they all have very long histories with Rhys.

Okay, so I don't know if I want to blame this disappointment on myself, for I clearly put ACOWAR on a very high pedestal. After ACOMAF, I expected ACOWAR to deliver the moon and well it didn't even come close. ACOWAR was fine. But who the hell wants just fine when you're expecting epic?!
I can't even pinpoint what really was my biggest issue. It was more a cumulation of a bunch of smallish things.

I've yet to have issues with Maas's writing, but this time, woah batman. If you dislike the word Mate, well.... It's the repetitiveness of words and those damn - and ... multiple times on a page. HOW IS AN EDITOR LETTING THIS SLIDE?!

The pacing was so off at times. Even Rhys couldn't fix it for me; because the unthinkable happened, I GOT BORED WITH RHYS ON THE PAGE! WHAT EVEN?!?! It was so slow for so much of the book that I knew when we finally got to the battle and action things were going to be rushed. And that sure was what happened.

ACOWAR was missing that spark. Characters felt off, and sometimes one-dimensional. The plot was so fucking predictable and convenient. I never feared for any of the main guy's lives. I go into the last book in a trilogy like this, where war is coming and I know death and destruction are on the horizon. I fear for my precious tears. But at some point into ACOWAR I lost that feeling. So and so is epically hurt, someone screams because they think someone else is dying, but I just knew there was nothing to worry about. Was Maas trying to make up for QoS and mess she made of ToG with that book? I kind of felt like it. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to see ANY of my precious babies in pain or worse. BUT when war is happening, death is to be expected. When EVERYONE makes it out unscathed, that's super unrealistic, even for a fantasy. Especially when, fuckface Tamlin is given redemption.

Okay, so I'm sure everyone is aware of the criticism Maas gets for her lack of diversity. She's never addressed it, as happens a lot. ACOWAR has the inclusion of some LGBTQ+ characters. A few new characters, some we already know. Great. Some much needed diverse characters added. Maybe Maas isn't as blind to her world problems as we, the reader, assume. My issue though, how forced and unauthentic this came off. Adding a few gay characters in, having another known character reveal "their secret lifestyle" was very obviously a second thought. So yes, great, Maas realized how much she needs to diversify her world, but hey maybe don't make it seem like you're only doing that because you feel like you have to. You should want to. I sure as hell hope I'm wrong; it just felt so off when I was reading those passages and scenes. Like I said, unauthentic. That is the best word, to sum up how it made me feel every time that character and their lover was mentioned.

There is a lot of uncomfortable, inappropriate and harmful moments throughout the book. Like I mentioned above, the harmful LGBTQ+ representation is too prominent. The icky feelings Rhys gave me at times was super unexpected. From telling Mor that should suck it up and be okay with forming an alliance with her abusers to Rhys telling Feyre that the library is a safe spot for the Priestess who have been victims of sexual assault but then proceeds to stick his fingers in Feyre. Maas's writing and story telling felt super sloppy and almost like she didn't care enough to fix all these harmful scenes.

Fuck, Rhys and Feyre are overly obnoxious for 50% of the book. Now that they're mated, the innuendoes take a front seat whatever the moment. They could seriously be discussing a tragic moment and it quickly turns into something sexual and dirty. Which adds to how inappropriate this book feels way too many times. I realize it's a romance. I'M HERE FOR THAT. But it got old super fast. The banter and sexual tension from ACOMAF were missing. A lot was missing from ACOMAF, but their relationship was my everything from that book. I expected the dynamic to change because obviously(they're mated don't you know?...). I just thought it would change for the better. Not lose half of the elements I loved about them being together, to begin with.

I just am a ball of disappointment. ACOTAR and ACOMAF left me needing more. Wanting more. I had major book hangovers. I was rereading my favourite parts all the time. I finished ACOWAR, closed the book and didn't even want to look at it. I very easily picked up my next read and went on with my life. I had feelings, but they were ones that made me want to vent to Samantha and tell her to hurry up and finish the damn book so we could discuss ALL of my problems. When I should have been saying hurry up and finish so we can bask in our tears and happiness together. Fine is one of the worst words to describe something, especially ACOWAR. ACOMAF gave me so much life, that maybe I should have known ACOWAR couldn't give me that much. But fuck, I was expecting at least almost getting there.

I'm not going to kid myself, I will more than likely revisit ACOWAR before the next book releases next year. I'm not dreading the continuation of the series. The possibilities of where Maas can go in future books is endless. I will try my hardest to not let my lingering feelings over ACOWAR ruin what could be another epic installment to the ACOTAR world.


Happy reading!

Brittany

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Release Day: It Happened On Love Street by Lia Riley





ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: IT HAPPENED ON LOVE STREET
Author: Lia Riley
Series: Everland, Georgia
On Sale: April 25, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Mass Market: $7.99 USD
eBook: $5.99 USD
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Series Page on Goodreads


In the tradition of New York Times bestselling authors Kristan Higgins, Jill Shalvis, and Marina Adair, comes the first in a new series by Lia Riley about two city sisters finding love in a small town.

The most romantic place she never wanted to be . . .

Pepper Knight moved to Everland, Georgia, as step one in her plan for a successful legal career. But after this big-city gal's plans go awry, going home with her tail between her legs isn't an option. So when the town vet—
and her sexy new neighbor—offers Pepper a temporary dog-walking job, she jumps at the chance. No one needs to know that man's best friend is her worst nightmare . . . or that Everland's hot animal whisperer leaves her panting.

The last thing Rhett Valentine wants is to be the center of small-town gossip. After his first love left him at the altar, he's been there, done that. These days, life is simple, just the way he likes it. But sultry southern nights get complicated once sparks fly between him and the knockout next door. When she proposes a sexy, secret fling—all the deliciousness and none of the prying neighbors-it seems too good to be true. And it is. Because Pepper's determined to leave Love Street, and when she goes, she just might take his heart with her . . .

EXCERPT



“Here’s an idea.” He nudged his finger on hers. “Say we—and this is purely hypothetically—enjoyed the . . . ahem . . .pleasure of each other’s company in the privacy of our homes.”

“Hypothetically, kept it casual and under the radar?”

She nudged back. “When I leave, there’s no heartbreak, no drama, and no one is the wiser.”

“Interesting theory?” He reached out, his hand splaying her knee. “Or recipe for disaster?”

Tingles shot up her thigh. His skin was warm, those fingers very big and very male. “I have enough to worry about with my future. If you don’t need me for more than a little here and now? I might be persuaded. Hypothetically.”

He moved his hand from her knee to the back of her neck. The touch melted her faster than an ice cube in the July sun.

“What are you thinking?” she murmured.

His deep blue gaze locked on hers and there it came again, that curious sensation of floating and drowning. “That I’d like to hypothetically kiss you.”

There was a sudden roaring in her ears, a whoosh of blood. “Well, there’s only one way to test a hypothesis.”

Slowly, oh so slowly, he dipped forward. His lips didn’t settle on hers like she expected. Instead, he kissed the center of her forehead, softly, experimentally. A tremble rocked through him.

The evening air was sultry, no a hint of chill. The idea that she shook this steadfast man sent a shiver of need through the join of her thighs, a throbbing shudder that swelled to an ache as he peppered a light trail of kisses down her temple, and then moved lower. He took his sweet time on her cheeks, treating her as something to savor, a delicious dessert you didn’t want to wolf in one bite. Tension spread through her body, pulling tighter and tighter, her belly doing a fluttery dips and dives.

When he finally reached her lips, it seemed reasonable to expect that the kiss would be as soft as the others. Silly. Because Rhett was full of surprises. He didn’t hold back, his tongue was greedy, insistent, and hungry. Their teeth banged together. A chair tipped over. They crashed against a table leg, sent it screeching across the floor.

“In theory, you’re a good kisser,” she gasped, tracing her lower lip with her tongue. The skin was puffy, aching.

“Let me experiment a bit more. The initial results are promising.”

BUY THE BOOK HERE
Amazon.com| Amazon.ca| Indigo| B&N| BAM| Google Play| iBooks| Indiebound| Kobo



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lia Riley is a contemporary romance author. USA Today describes her as "refreshing" and RT Book Reviews calls her books "sizzling and heartfelt." She loves her husband, three kids, wandering redwood forests and a perfect pour over coffee. She is 25% sarcastic, 54% optimistic, and 122% bad at math (good thing she writes happy endings for a living). She and her family live mostly in Northern California.
Stalk her hereWebsite| Facebook | Twitter| Goodreads

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Happy Reading!

Brittany

Monday, 10 April 2017

2017 Favourites Part 1


Oh hey, been awhile. About three months in fact. That sucks. But also is what it is. I don't want to set myself up with big expectations, but hopefully, April will see a few more posts than the last few months have. Of course, I've been reading though! Netflix has definitely tried to bust in there and distract me. So there's been some bickering over my free time. It's weird to say that reading doesn't win more than half of the time now. Anyhow, it's that time of the year again for the first quarter of my favourites. Honestly, I struggled to get a decent list together. Don't get me wrong, I've read some amazing books. But there's been a lot of duds. Quite a few DNF's. Even more disappointments for books I should have loved and sequels to series I love even more. Not surprisingly romance still is my go to. No one is shocked by that. Although I am becoming more critical with my romance books. Yes, they're my babies, but now that I've read every single trope a thousand times over, it's taking more and more to wow me. Alright, here's my stats;

January 1st to March 31st stats:
Read: 48
Reread: 9
DNFs: 6
Most Read Genre: Romance
Total Pages Read(of finished books): 15,324



The Lie
I pretty much all of Karina's books. But for some reason, this one just really hit me more emotionally. LOVE IT.

Cashmere (Velvet, #2)
This series is super underrated. All the fun is had with these vampires. Seriously, Cashmere is hilarious.

Good Boy (WAGs, #1)
Blake Riley is pure fucking gold.

Anything You Can Do
If you want something to fill that The Hating Game void, Anything You Can Do does an excellent job of doing that in the most funny sexually intense way.

Daughter of the Pirate King (Daughter of the Pirate King, #1)
This book starts with a Jack Sparrow quote, which sets the tone perfectly for an epic swashbuckling adventure.

Letters to the Lost
Easily my favourite book of the year. Brigid has always been a favourite author, but this is her best work to date. Addicting and emotional.

Pucked Off (Pucked, #5)
This was unexpected. I, of course, mean that in the best way. This series is ridiculous and funny. Pucked Off and Lance take a different tone in the most perfect way.

At the Edge of the Universe
Just try not to have your heart break a few dozen times when reading this one.

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, #3)
And epic ending to an epic trilogy. I read it super slow for a reason; I didn't want to say goodbye! Anoshe.

Fast Connection (Cyberlove, #2)
I really had doubts going into this one; I did not like one of the MC's from the previous book, well turns out I had nothing to worry about. Intense and wonderful.



Have you guys read and loved any of these? What was your favourite read from the past few months?

Happy reading!

Brittany

Monday, 23 January 2017

Caraval Blog Tour: Review + Excerpt



Good day! Aren't you guys excited you stopped by the blog today? Because I totally have a special invite for you below. The Caraval Blog Tour kicks off today and I'm so excited to be a part of it. Caraval is truly a unique book, with an even more mysterious setting. A new YA book for fantasy and circus lovers to check out. Raincoast, as they always are, were awesome enough to let me read and review Caraval for you guys. But also, that invite below is an excerpt that you don't wanna skip.


About Stephanie Garber


When I’m not writing, I teach creative writing at a private college in Northern California, where I’ve been known to turn assignments into games and take students on field trips that involve book signings. I’m also a blogger on PUB(LISHING) CRAWL. But I probably spend most of my time on Twitter where I tend to overuse exclamation points and emojis.

To help pay my bills during college, grad school, and the breaks in between, I worked as a barista, a waitress, a bartender, a customer service representative for an energy consulting company, and as a sales girl at Bath and Bodyworks. I also spent years working with youth; I worked as a counselor at space themed summer camp, volunteered at a school for deaf children in Mexico, and I took multiple groups of college students overseas to spend their winter vacations serving at youth hostels in Amsterdam. But out of everything that I’ve done, writing young adult novels has been my favorite job.

My debut YA fantasy novel, Caraval will be published January 2017 (Flatiron Books/Macmillan—US and Hodder & Stoughton—UK). Caraval has sold in twenty-five foreign territories and the movie rights were pre-empted by Twentieth Century Fox.



You're Invited





Review


Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: January 31st, 2017
Series: Caraval #1
Pages: 416
Source: ARC from publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.


I'm pretty sure anyone who reads YA has had Caraval on their radar since it's synopsis was released at some point last year. Was it the comparison to The Night Circus that caught your attention? For me, well I read and liked The Night Circus it was more that word Circus that seems to get me every time. Anything that says it's going to offer me a unique circus setting and I'm instantly sold.

Scarlett has dreamed about Caraval her whole life. She spent much of her childhood being told the tales of the magic of Caraval and writing to Legend, the master of the games. Never hearing anything back doesn't detour her until her mother goes missing and her father turns into a cruel monster. Now Scarlett is set survival and protecting her sister. Fast forward to present day where Scarlett is engaged to a man she's never met but dreams that he's going to save her and her sister from the confines of their father. Until an invitation for Caraval arrives and spirals her into different directions.

Scarlett is a naive girl that has spent too much of her life in fear and dreams. Her sister, Tella is literally her saving grace. Her need to protect her is pretty much the only thing keeping her alert. Scarlett is under the belief that someone will save them. This unknown fiance has been spun to greatness in Scarlett's head. Where Tella knows that they must save themselves. The sisterly bond is strong and is the driving force behind the story of Caraval. Things may spiral out of control and the realm of reality for Scarlett once she's competing in Caraval. But she never forgets that's doing this, competing, to save Tella.

Caraval is a character all of its own. A vivid mix of The Night Circus and Wonderland spawns to create something uniquely its own. It's easy to call Caraval a circus, but it's not really. There's the magic of a circus on the surface. But truly Caraval is a game. There are performers and participants and like Scarlett, you never know who is who. Trust and reality are a fickle thing. It's easy to forget yourself, to go mad and get lost in the game. Which is what, I'm sure, the grand master Legend thrives on. Scarlett wants nothing more than to meet Legend. His tales and decent into evil are, ahem, legendary. But just like the mysterious game he created, Legend seems to one of myths only. Caraval and its magic are what kept me turning the page.

Of course, there's a romance. I'm pretty sure that is a requirement of publishing a YA book. It's pretty clear from the get-go who Scarlett's romantic interest is going to be. Just maybe not who he truly is. We met Julian, a rugged sailor, "conversing" with Tella. From there he's annoying and saving Scarlett at every turn. It's one of those I don't want to like you but I'm finding myself attracted to you against my better judgment. Scarlett isn't stupid, enlisting Julian to help her, to help each other through the game is a need. Scarlett finds herself lusting after Julian a bit too much. But hey attraction, who knows when it's going to show up. Like 90% of the characters(including Caraval), Julian is full of lies, a past, and mystery and it's near impossible to tell what's real and what's just part of the game. And their lies Scarlett's biggest issues in falling for Julian. 

I guess my main grips with Caraval, the ones that kept me from loving it as much as I thought I would from the get go were the romance and the pacing. The romance I just wasn't interested in. I wasn't swooning or shipping. It added nothing to the plot for me. But the pacing, that's my main issue. The first half of the book was a page turner. I mean most chapters end on a small cliffhanger. But at some point, the story just lost speed. I just wanted the climax. The shock factor was wearing off and it was too easy to predict what was coming. And unfortunately, the ending was a little too neat. I thought Caraval was a game of chance and blurring the lines and well the conclusion failed there. Don't get me wrong, I'm super eager to see what the sequel will bring me. 

Garber has created a unique and vivid world in Caraval. Her writing and the tone of the story fits together perfectly with that world. The tale of two sisters escaping their small life and cruel abusive father into the legend of Caraval is an intriguing one. Reality is a gray area. Trust and lies go hand in hand. The players and performers of Caraval create a journey that spins your head in the most delicious way. 



I want to give massive thanks to Raincoast for including me in this blog tour. Caraval releases on January 31st. It makes a perfect winter read, so I highly suggest checking it out.



Happy reading!

Brittany

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems I Read in 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme held by The Broke and the Bookish.




This week's topic is: Hidden gems I read in the past year.

Hidden gems, to me, means books that don't get enough love. The love they so deserve. The readers they deserve to have. So either these books are ones I don't see the community or my friends ever talking about and/or they don't have a decent number of ratings on Goodreads; this makes them my hidden gems from 2016.

The Fixer (The Fixer, #1)Undecided (Burnham College, #1)Summer of SloaneThe Wrong Side of RightThe Vanishing Throne (The Falconer, #2)
Overexposed (In Focus, #4)The King Slayer (The Witch Hunter, #2)How to Repair a Mechanical HeartWe Are the AntsThis Adventure Ends


Have you guys read any of these and loved them too? What was a hidden gem from your past year?

Happy reading!

Brittany


Friday, 13 January 2017

Miniviews #30: All the Disappointment

Dawn StudyDawn Study by Maria V Snyder
Publication Date: January 31st, 2017
Publisher: Mira Books
Pages: 384
Series: Study #6/Soulfinders #3
Source: Netgalley/Publisher
Rating: 2/5
Add to Goodreads

It literally hurt my heart to give this book anything but 5 stars, but here we are; a massive puddle of disappointment.
The Study series is my precious. After waiting many years in the hopes that Yelena would grace my life with more books my dream came true. And now we're at the absolute end(I assume so anyhow) and I'm mad.
Dawn Study what the hell? It's not even the story, although there was nothing super stellar or shocking about it(in fact, it was overly repetitive; capture, rescue, scheme, capture, rescue, scheme, and repeat). It's everything else. I'm not sure if this was a rush job or Snyder got confused, but this book feels so out of place. The writing is meh. The dialogue is lacking is every way possible. And the characters! These were not my characters I know and love. Their voices are missing. Their personalities are missing. These were just some random characters that happened to have the same names as my beloved ones. I mentioned the dialogue was lacking, and well that's because these characters were. Everything was so forced and not good. No sexy Valek. No funny Ari and Janco. Yelena was a shell of her usual kick-ass self.
I'm just so upset and angry. I really wish I'd skipped this finale. It would be better to have no ending than this ending...


By Your SideBy Your Side by Kasie West
Publication Date: January 31st, 2017
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 352
Source: Edelweiss/Publisher
Rating: DNF
Add to Goodreads

DNF @31%

Guys, I just did something shocking. I marked a Kasie West book as "DNF".
I can't even.
But you know what? I haven't touched the book in two months. Haven't even thought about. That first 31% was hell to get through too.
I thought I was going to love this one based on the premise of getting stuck in the library with a cute guy(and it being a Kasie West book). Apparently, that's not all it's cracked up to be. Autumn(the MC) is a moron. The story of her getting stuck in the library makes no sense. Like absolutely zero. It makes it impossible to believe. Plus all the reasons she can't get out or no one has come looking for her, also ridiculous.
I don't even like Dax. Although if I could have stood to be in Autumn's head, Dax would have been the reason that I kept reading. I feel like he has a much better/interesting story than Autumn and her superficial worries. I mean, Jesus women, this guy(Dax) is telling you he holes up in the library because his foster family are terrible people and he can't stay there. And you're worried about getting yourself out because your best friend might be trying to "steal" your crush from you. Dax is literally begging you not to try and call the police and you can't think about him. Nah, girl is petty and selfish. I don't need to read about another spoiled brat who is shown the error of her ways by a poor kid with a tragic life. I'm sure there are parts I'll like, but I just can't bring myself to care enough about Autumn and her getting to a better place by the end of the book. I'll just assume she'll continue to be a jerk to Dax and not see how shitty her friends are for 85% of the story.
Hard pass. 


The Cottage at Firefly Lake (Firefly Lake, #1)The Cottage at Firefly Lane by Jen Gilroy
Publication Date: January 31st, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Pages: 368
Series: Firefly Lake #1
Source: Indigo(Tina)
Rating: DNF
Add to Goodreads


DNF @ 100 pages

I'm not one to shy away from DNF'ing. But this year I promised myself to do it more often. There is absolutely no point in finishing something I'm not enjoying. Especially when I have a billion books on my ever-growing TBR.
This isn't a bad book, there's just nothing compelling me to finish it. Let's just call it dull. It's funny because it's not overly dramatic yet it is. One character has just lived through a near death experience; plus her past includes two recently dead parents, and two things from her teen years that caused her to run away from her life and boyfriend(Sean, the other MC). I mean that is way too much tragic history. It's so overdone. And that's only in 100 pages, who knows what else this girl could experience before the book ends. Add on that Charlie isn't all that likable and what am I reading this for?
Sean was fine. In fact, I probably would have liked the book more if it was just from his POV. He seems a lot more level-headed than Charlie.
There's nothing compelling me to read. The story is utterly predictable. The characters are uninteresting. The dialogue is so-so. Just dull. Very dull.


Four Letter Word (Dirty Deeds, #1)Four Letter Words by J.Daniels
Publication Date: October 4th, 2016
Publisher: Forever
Pages: 416
Series: Dirty Deeds #1
Source: Purchased
Rating: 1.5/5
Add to Goodreads

It's funny how you go from thoroughly enjoying a book to becoming super frustrated and over it. Ie: Four Letter Words.
I was so into this one for almost half the book. I devoured it and stayed up way past my bedtime to keep reading. But then it all went downhill. Syd and Brian finally met in person and everything became overly cheesy and dramatic. Calling each other my girl and my boy, what are we 15? The sex scenes were blah and I was pretty much just skipping over them. Just everything turned into an eye roll. Syd was crying or giggling on every page. Brian was thinking about ways to get inside his girl. And I probably should have just closed the book at that point.
Four Letter Words was overly long for a romance. Could have cut 100 pages out and nothing would be amiss. Of course, everything still hit the fan with 30 pages left, because obviously.
Too bad. Because I thought I was really going to like this one. At this point, I'd give the first half a 4* and the second half a 1*. So take with that what you will. We'll see how I do with the second book. 


Time Served (Time Served #1)Time Served by Julianna Keyes
Publication Date: March 23rd, 2015
Publisher: Carina Press
Pages: 283
Series: Time Served #1
Source: Purchased
Rating: 2/5
Add to Goodreads

After reading Undecided early in 2016 and absolutely adoring it(it was a top favourite of 2016), I knew I needed to read Keyes' back titles. So here were are. Well, the writing and fundamentals of this book are fine. I, unfortunately, did not enjoy 75% of it. The real downer for me was Rachel and Dean. I didn't like nor connect to either of them. And I really did not enjoy their relationship. Both have a lot to learn and really just need to grow up. I can understand Rachel wanting to move away from her past but hey, maybe don't be so condescending about it. She's always sorry for leaving Dean, Dean is bent on hurting her and revenge. But you know there's still love simmering there so it's just all so messy and unappealing. These are two people that just need to move the hell on from each other. The sex scenes were not my thing. They seemed to really be saturated with hate and I just, no thanks. Their whole back and forth, hot and cold made the book feel longer than it is. I kept thinking about DNF'ing.
Good news is that I enjoyed a bunch of the supporting characters like Parker, Baxter, and Oreo a whole bunch. So they made the story so much better.
Ultimately, Keyes is a great author. This story didn't hit its mark for me. But that doesn't take away from her writing, dialogue or just general storytelling abilities. I look forward to checking out more of her work. Especially Undeclared when it's released sometime this year.

Happy reading!

Brittany

Friday, 6 January 2017

2016 End of Year Book Survey


Meme created by Jamie @ The Perpetual Page Turner



Number of books I read: 207
Number of re-reads: 36
Genre I read most from: Romance/New Adult


 best-YA-books-2014

Best book I read in 2016? This will only be surprising to like one person; A Court of Mist and Fury is the Queen of 2016. That book blew my damn mind. I still am not in control of my feelings. My head spins anytime I think about that masterpiece.

Book I was excited for & thought I would love, but didn't? There are a few answers here, so let's go with one that was so hyped up and failed to impress me; You. Sooooo boring. And one from a favourite author that let me down; The Hidden Oracle. I mean Rick Riordan writing from Apollo's POV what wouldn't there be to love? Apparently a lot. I liked it alright. There was just something missing. Apollo wasn't as funny or just fun as I imagined.

Most surprising read of 2016? Jennifer Lynn Barnes takes the award here. The Naturals series and The Fixer series are superb. And I just wasn't expecting that. They aren't my usual genre. But hell, they are both smart, witty and shocking. READ THEM!

Best series I started? Best sequel? Best series ender? A Darker Shade of Magic truly was a fantastic start to a series. A sequel besides ACOMAF you mean? Gemina and Torn are pretty damn great too. Oh series enders, you nasty wonderful things. Can anything really beat Crooked Kingdom; nope.

Favourite new to me author of 2016? It was bound to happen, but I'm sounding like a broken record; Jennifer Lynn Barnes you wonderful lady, I choose you!

Best book I read from outside my comfort zone? Honestly, I didn't stray too far from my comfort zone in 2016. I guess I don't read a lot of thrillers. So let's just mention The Naturals series again because I can.

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book? The book I read the fastest and thus made it the most unputdownable? One True Loves. I devoured that book in less than two hours. I was utterly engrossed from page one.

Book I read in 2016 that I will more than likely reread in 2017? Like 20 of them. Do you even know me? Let's go with the most obvious one then, Us. Because Jamie and Wes are my life line.

Favourite cover of a book I read? Even though the book was a bit of a letdown, the cover is sure as hell the most gorgeous thing ever!

Most memorable character of 2016? Crooked Kingdom really truly and indefinitely cemented Kaz Brekker into my heart. This guy leaves a memorable impression plus more.

Most beautifully written book I read? The flowery prose is on point in The Rose and the Dagger. That book makes my heart ache with it beautiful writing.

Most thought-provoking/life-changing read? It Ends With Us was an eye opener. So different from anything CoHo has written before. Dark, gritty and very real.

Book I can't believe I waited so long to read? Over the years I've slowly been making my way through Jojo Moyes backlist, but I'm kicking myself for not having read The Last Letter From Your Lover till this year. Perfect and emotional(soul destroying).

Favourite quote of 2016? I won't go for the super obvious ACOMAF one. Instead I'll go for the second obvious Krista and Becca Ritchie quote from Some Kind of Perfect.
“Our bad days have the ability to become better. It may be a horrible month. A horrible year. But there will be good days, good moments, great seconds.”



Shortest read? Longest read? A stupid novella from Tales from The Shadowhunters; Nothing But Shadows comes in a 74 pages(and a waste of 74 pages at that). And the monstrous tome(that I read twice this year) that I wish was even longer because Calloway comes in at a whopping 664 pages(this is a contemporary romance(at its finest)).

Book that shocked me the most? I want to say The Long Game because that book is 300+ pages of shockers. But Torn has that one scene that was hilariously shocking; and God I loved it soooo much.

OTP of the year? Just one! You guys know I live for finding new ships. It is my purpose in life! I mean Feyre and Rhys are my everything now. But also Jamie and Wes, Liam and Lissa, Jesper and Wylan, Damen and Laurent, Audrey and Thomas, Nora and Crosbie; I can go on for hours here. I am going to sneak in a TV one because #obsessed; Yuri and Victor. You guys don't even know my level of creepy obsession I have for this anime.

Favourite platonic relationship? Always and forever the Calloway sisters. But for something that isn't obvious, Sloane and Vera from This Adventure Ends. Total friendship goals.

Favourite book I read in 2016 from an author I'd previously read from? This is hard because I read favourite authors all the time. P.S. I Like You was the first to jump into my mind. So it wins. It deserves it though. Cute and adorable and awwww.

Best book I read in 2016 based solely on a recommendation? Sure, Becky Albertalli said read How to Repair A Mechanical Heart if you love Simon. So I did. Obviously. Although it isn't Simon, it's still perfect for Simon fans or anyone.

Newest fictional crush? Again, do you even know me? Rhys. Rhys. Oh and Rhys. This guy because clearly.

Best 2016 debut? I didn't read as many debuts as I would have liked to. But the ones I read were pretty damn great. I think I have to give The Summer of Sloane the nod here. It was just a really solid contemporary.

Best worldbuilding/setting? A Gathering of Shadows has a pretty spectacular and vivid setting. Numerous fantastical London's are a thing I didn't know I needed until I did.

Book that made me smile the hardest? The Hating Game in all its weird and lovely hate love romance so wins. I fucking smiled so hard for 90% of this book.

Book that made me cry the hardest? I hate you Sally Green for making me shed my precious tears and soul in Half Lost. Ten months later and I still hate it and her. #dramaqueen

Hidden gem of the year? Undecided has a terrible cover but is a wonderful New adult romance. Crosbie and Nora and the banter and the sexiness and ugh, it's perfect. So perfect I read it three times in 2016. #noregrets

Book that crushed my soul? I feel like this goes hand and hand with the one that made me cry the hardest. So see above. ACOMAF, Crooked Kingdom and A Gathering of Shadows had their fair share of soul destroying moments too.

Most unique read of 2016? Of course it's Gemina. That book is fucking spectacular in its unique format.

Book that made me the angriest? Cursed Child. Need I say more?....



book-blogging

Favourite new blog I discovered in 2016? Ummmm.... I didn't? I was a horrible blogger this year. I could barely keep up with my own. So I clearly sucked at being an active member of the community.

Favourite review I wrote? Surprise(not); A Court of Mist and Fury.

Best discussion/non-review post I had on the blog? Based on the many I post? #sarcasm. I did a few TAG's that were fun. But I also posted a Let's Chat about mid-year because 2016 was sucking as
much then as it was at the end of the year.

Best event I participated in? The Raincoast Teen Reads are always super fun!

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016? It was my third blogoversary. Not like I celebrated. #oops But sticking around for three years is a decent chunk of time.

Most challenging thing about blogging in 2016? Blogging. Keeping myself motivated to blog and write reviews. I didn't do a very good job of it. I blame it on the curse of 2016.

Most popular post on the blog from 2016? By views, my stop on the Heartless Blog Tour. Guess that's not too surprising seeing as everyone and their mother were eagerly anticipating that book.

Best bookish discovery? And the most lethal on my bank account- Society 6.

Completed goals I set for 2016? My reading challenge and re-reading challenge.


looking-ahead-books-2015

A book I didn't get to in 2016 that is the number 1 priority for 2017? A Brandon Sanderson book. I NEED to finally experience his writing and story telling. It NEEDS to happen.

My most anticipated release for 2017? Is there anything besides A Court of Wings and Ruin? Am slowly dying from impatientness.

2017 debut I'm super eager for? Daughter of the Pirate King; it's being compared to Pirates of the Caribbean! Good thing I begged and pleaded to get myself an ARC. :D

Series ending/sequel my grabby hands are all over? The last book in The Illuminae Files. AHHHHHHH

The number 1 thing I hope to accomplish in my blogging life in 2017? Staying consistent. Haha.

A 2017 release I've already read and am dying for everyone else to read? Obviously The Upside of Unrequited. You guys are going to love it!








How was your 2016?

Happy reading!

Brittany