Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Friends with ARCs: You'd Be Mine + Descendant of the Crane

Clay is a popular country singer that has all the girls swooning… and all the tabloids and gossip sites hungry for his latest bout of bad behavior. Given an ultimatum by his record company, Clay convinces the Annie, the reclusive daughter of two country superstars known for their work and their double suicide, to be a part of his summer tour. Neither one expects to encounter something more to the other person; neither one expects the sparks that instantly fly between them. But will their attraction flourish beyond the perils of life on the road and the demons of their respective pasts that threaten to overtake them?

You’d Be Mine, y’all. It was a book that I had a real good time reading, even though it touched on some difficult topics (trigger warnings: alcoholism, drugs, addiction, suicide) that made my heart ache. On the surface, this is the story of two young country artists who team up to embark on a summer tour. But this is also the story of a young man who is running from his grief and anger by donning a persona on stage and by drowning his feelings in alcohol and drugs and meaningless hook-ups. It’s also the story of a young woman who is trying to find her way forward to embrace the life of music and performing that she’s always known she’s meant for, even as the demons of her past try to drag her down. If that sounds like a lot to tackle in one contemporary read, well, it is. However, I do think Hahn does well in weaving these plot points together (though we might have benefited from the book being a touch longer). She strikes a great balance between the fun and the hard, the romantic and the real, and crafted Clay and Annie’s stories into an easy-to-read, engaging novel. It also helps that she did well bringing her cast to life on the page, from our main couple Clay and Annie to their friends and support systems. You’d Be Mine certainly lived up to my expectations, and it’s a contemporary YA read that you’ll want to get your hands on!

Favorite country song? I admittedly do not listen to a lot of country music, but Carrie Underwood has always been an artist whose work I've really appreciated. I love a lot of her songs, but So Small is definitely one of my all-time favorites from her! The theme of the song is really resonated with me.

You'd Be Mine by Erin Hahn | Publisher: Wednesday Books | Publication Date: April 2, 2019 | Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thank you!)

Princess Hesina finds her ascension to the throne happening much sooner than she anticipated when her beloved father is found dead. Her first order of business as queen? To find out who murdered her father. But the further Hesina digs into the mysterious circumstances surrounding her father’s death, the more political corruption, societal and magical deceptions she discovers within her court and her kingdom. Faced with opposition on all fronts, Hesina will soon have to decide just how far she’s willing to go in order to obtain justice for her father.

I’m always nervous when it comes to YA fantasy these days, because my tastes have started shifting enough that I find this kind of fantasy to be very hit or miss. Unfortunately, Descendant of the Crane was very nearly a miss – which simply translates to the fact that it was just plain okay, in my humble opinion. It earns marks for being a quick read (I was seriously nearly halfway through it before I realized I’d gotten so far already), and for having a story that kept me just interested enough to see how it would all unfold. But having had a little distance from the novel, I can easily pinpoint the thing that really bugged me: the underdeveloped characters (and relationships), which invited no emotional attachment from me as a reader. Having no emotional investment meant that the story fell flat for me, instead of being the exciting high stakes fantasy mystery filled with twists and turns that it seems like it was meant to be. It also doesn’t help that there are numerous plot threads woven all throughout, and it ultimately felt like a messy reading experience as we moved from one to the next. Descendant of the Crane was just fine overall, which is personally disappointing since I wanted to love it so badly. 

Favorite proverb or motto? I'm going to have to go with a Biblical proverb for this one, specifically Proverbs 3:5-6, which says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, submit to him and he will make your paths straight."

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He | Publisher: Albert Whitman Company | Publication Date: April 2, 2019 | Source: e-galley downloaded from NetGalley (Thank you!)

Monday, March 18, 2019

A Tiny House Adventure

It’s been a couple of weeks since my sisters, Macky and I ventured upstate, but I still wanted to tell you all about our little adventure! We had been planning a fun weekend away for Rachel’s birthday, initially tossing around the idea of going up to a cabin or to a resort where we could snowboard. But, in the end, we settled on visiting a tiny house for a night out of the city. (Side note: Majority of these photos were taken by Rachel!)

Personally, I’ve always found the concept of tiny houses so fascinating. While I have entirely too many books to fathom living in such a small space (unless I were given a separate tiny house just for a home office and my library), I’ve always liked the idea of being smart about utilizing your square footage and living with less. I was so excited when we booked the tiny house for a night, because I wanted to see how the experience would live up to my expectations.

We booked a stay at A Tiny House Resort, which is a little under two hours upstate from the city. It’s a family-owned resort, run by Bob, Marjorie & Melissa, and you can immediately sense that when you check in. They keep a simple set-up, with all the amenities and features listed for you upon check-in (the little shop, where to get firewood, what you can see around the resort). You’ll then be taken to your Tiny House for your stay, where they’ll walk you through everything (security and utilities, as well as surroundings and words of caution) before they leave you to do your own thing. 

The Tiny House we stayed at (known as “The Flat”) was an utter delight! We had an excellent view of the river, as well as the amenities for a barbecue and fire pit on hand. The actual house was such a striking structure, and I’m obsessed with the exterior design. And I’m even more obsessed with the interior! There’s a separate bedroom (with so many windows that your girl, who loves natural light, was overwhelmed) that Macky and I took, a living room/entertainment area, a dining table, a kitchen, a full bathroom and another sleeping area up top (you had to climb a ladder to get to it). Even with four of us sharing the space during our stay, we were incredibly comfortable and had just enough room to maneuver around without crowding each other.

Once we had unloaded all our stuff, we decided to go exploring. The resort area is lovely, primarily populated by tall trees, and you can follow the road to see the waterfall (either from up top or from below) and view the river up close. You can also visit some of the animals on the resort, specifically the goats and ducks. We had arrived just in time for golden hour, so it was a lovely time for a walk to look around!

As night fell, we got cozy in our Tiny House. We had a delicious dinner before going outside to have s’mores (which only lasted for a little while because it was so. dang. Cold.), and then retreated indoors for drinks and many, many rounds of Codenames and Pictionary that had us laughing late into the night. I woke up early enough to catch a bit of the sunrise (which is always a real treat), and then we all chipped in to create a delicious looking brunch spread (Rachel’s request for her pre-birthday) before heading out on a last morning walk before checkout.

All in all, our Tiny House experience was truly lovely! It’s always wonderful to get out of the city for a little bit, to just breathe it all in, relax and unwind from the day-to-day stress of the work grind and city life. But it was especially nice to do it somewhere that was so beautiful and cozy! We loved “The Flat”, and we want to go back for another visit sometime this year. Would highly recommend the Tiny House experience (and this resort)!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Book Haul: February 2019

I've been exclusively doing book hauls on our channel for the past couple of years, but I recently decided that I should start sharing them here on the blog again as well. I'm always excited about getting book mail, whether it's my own purchases or the exciting things that I get from the lovely folk at a variety of publishing houses. Without any more introduction, since we've got plenty to talk about, here's my January book haul! (*All review copies mentioned in this post were provided by the specified publisher for free.)

Purchased & Gifted
from Lili: The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf | I am so looking forward to immersing myself in this story, because it sounds so powerful and thought-provoking.
from LaurenCity of Bones by Cassandra Clare (10th Anniversary Edition) | I still have so much catching up to do when it comes to Cassie Clare books, but I'm so happy to have this beautiful edition for my shelves and from one of my favorite gals too.
The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss | I read and fell head over heels for The Name of the Wind earlier this year, so it's probably not a surprise that I purchased the sequel. 
Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames | I have heard Holly talk about this book so dang much and it just sounds like so much fun! I can't wait to buddy read it with Kristin.
Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater | I couldn't pass up the chance to have Maggie sign this one while she was in New York, because I loved this series and I loved Cole a lot.
The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason | I adore Lizzy (and have known her for quite some time), and it's such an honor to be able to buy her book and support her debut.
The Blood Spell by C.J. Redwine | I absolutely loved this fairytale retelling that is a part of the Ravenspire series so dang much and I knew I needed a finished copy.

For Review

not in photo:
purchased for Kindle: The Risk by Elle Kennedy


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