Monday, July 9, 2018

In a Nutshell Reviews - Nothing But 4-Stars Edition


In a Nutshell Reviews are my version of mini-reviews, because sometimes, you just want the highlights.

Notes from My Captivity
Kathy Parks
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Girl meets boy… and the family holding her hostage.

Adrienne Cahill cares about three things: getting into a great college; becoming a revered journalist like her idol, Sydney Declay; and making her late father proud of her.

So when Adrienne is offered the chance to write an article that will get her into her dream school and debunk her foolishly optimistic stepfather Dan’s claim—no, belief—that a legendary family of hermits is living in the Siberian wilderness, there’s no question that she’s going to fly across the world.

After all, it is the trip of a lifetime.

But the Russian terrain is even less forgiving than Adrienne. And when disaster strikes, nothing—not the flirtatious guide or her stepdad’s obsessively detailed preparations—can protect Adrienne from the sheer force of nature. Now, Adrienne’s being held captive by the family she was convinced didn’t exist, and her best hope for escape is to act like she cares about befriending them, even if it means wooing the youngest son.
Adrienne thought this would be a summer to remember. She planned on writing THE article, which would be her ticket to college, but when their trip takes a tragic turn, Adrienne just hopes to get out alive.
  • Pro: It was amazing to see the changes Adrienne experienced during this story. I really liked the way Park slowly peeled back her layers to let us actually see what was at the root of Adrienne's pain. I also thought she was quite funny, and her commentary during the first part of the book was pretty hilarious. 
  • Pro: After many years, Adrienne was still grieving her father's death. Her pain was heartbreaking, and I cheered as she made progress working through her grief. 
  • Pro: Faith was a big theme in this book. Faith in a higher power, faith in your family, faith in a legendary family, faith in yourself. It pops up over and over again in this story, and Parks approached it in a very thoughtful way. 
  • Pro: The Siberian setting was pretty much new for me, and Parks did a great job exposing us to both the beauty and the dangers of the land, as well as the challenges faced by those living there. 
  • Pro: There were tears! There were several moments in the book, which just hit me in the feels. The fact that I shed tears for these characters means I formed an attachment to them. 
  • Pro: The bond Adrienne formed with the Osinov's was really special. She worked hard to earn their trust and affection, but by the end, there was not doubt that the love was reciprocated. 
  • Pro: I wasn't expecting it, but I pleasantly surprised by the magical elements Parks incorporated in this story. They were used wisely and added a little mystery to this tale. 
  • Pro: There were some really heart-pumping moments in the story, and I really felt the urgency to survive during these scenes. 
  • Pro: What an unexpected, but beautiful ending. This book presented itself as one thing, but it was really about so much more, and the conclusion left me in a happy place. 
Overall:  An inventive and intriguing exploration of grief, faith, family, forgiveness, and love.


Things Jolie Needs to Do Before She Bites It
Kerry Winfrey
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Jolie's a lot of things, but she knows that pretty isn't one of them. She has mandibular prognathism, which is the medical term for underbite. Chewing is a pain, headaches are a common occurrence, and she’s never been kissed. She’s months out from having a procedure to correct her underbite, and she cannot wait to be fixed.

While her family watches worst-case scenario TV shows, Jolie becomes paralyzed with the fear that she could die under the knife. She and her best friends Evelyn and Derek decide to make a Things Jolie Needs To Do Before She Bites It (Which Is Super Unlikely But Still, It Could Happen) list. Things like: eat every appetizer on the Applebee’s menu and kiss her crush, Noah Reed. Their plan helps Jolie discover what beauty truly means to her.
Jolie had been dealing with her mandibular prognathism, aka underbite, her whole life. There were braces, pallet expanders, and more braces. There were also headaches, jaw aches, a lisp, and foods she could never eat. Finally, Jolie was old enough for corrective surgery, but after one too many "true story" TV shows, she was convinced something could go wrong. Thus, the list was born.
  • Pro: Jolie captured my heart. She was that girl, who didn't see what other people saw when she looked in the mirror. She fixed her make-up to draw attention from her jaw, she arrange her hair to hide her jaw, she wore bland and plain clothing to keep herself in the background. It all sort of broke my heart, because she was such a smart, wonderful, and talented young women, and I was glad she learned to see herself a little differently by the end of this book. 
  • Pro: I love that Winfrey challenged the beauty standard. She also included a secondary storyline, which served to show us how even the "beautiful" ones are not without problems in their lives. 
  • Pro: The emotions Jolie experienced regarding her mandibular prognathism felt so real, and I am sure it is because Winfrey also had an underbite in her youth. 
  • Pro: The list was precious, and just writing the list pushed Jolie out of her box. She found out there was a lot more to her than her underbite, and she was able to shine even before they "fixed" her face. 
  • Pro: There is a lot of family focus, and Jolie's sister was dealing with a pretty big life change. Seeing her family banding together to support her was very touching. 
  • Pro: Evelyn and Derek were fantastic friends. Jolie was lucky to have so many positive people in her life, who genuinely cared for her. 
  • Pro: Speaking of Derek, I totally loved him. He was a pretty interesting guy with his podcasts and academic team clout. It was very touching watching him work through his grief, as well as his feelings for Jolie. 
  • Pro: The characters in the book had really fun quirks. Everyone should have a "terrible movie night", and Jolie's family's obsession with true-crime stories was very amusing. 
  • Pro: This book was funny, but packed with feels. It was sits on the lighter side, but has plenty of substance. 
Overall: Another reminder, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I loved being there as Jolie learned to love and appreciate herself. You will laugh with her, and maybe share her heartache, but you will definitely cheer for Jolie to see her inner beauty.


The Supervillain and Me 
Danielle Banas
Series: Morriston Superheroes, #1
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Superhero Fiction
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Never trust a guy in spandex.

In Abby Hamilton’s world, superheroes do more than just stop crime and save cats stuck in trees—they also drink milk straight from the carton and hog the television remote. Abby’s older brother moonlights as the famous Red Comet, but without powers of her own, following in his footsteps has never crossed her mind.

That is, until the city’s newest vigilante comes bursting into her life.

After saving Abby from an attempted mugging, Morriston’s fledgling supervillain Iron Phantom convinces her that he’s not as evil as everyone says, and that their city is under a vicious new threat. As Abby follows him deeper into their city’s darkest secrets, she comes to learn that heroes can’t always be trusted, and sometimes it’s the good guys who wear black.
I expected something fun and cute, when I read this book, but I also got a story with a lot of heart, and a reminder that we can all be some sort of superhero.
  • Pro: Abby was so complicated. She had all these feelings, which were in constant conflict with each other, and Banas did a great job helping her work through some of them. I loved that when the going got tough, Abby dug in and came out with her fists up. 
  • Pro: This story had that old school superhero feel - think Adam West era Batman. This is not a bad thing in my book, because I always found Batman to be amusing and enjoyable. 
  • Pro: Sibling relationships are something I tend to enjoy in books, and Abby and her brother had a great relationship. They kind of only had each other, with their father throwing himself into saving the city full-time, and she may not have had super powers, but Abby provided a lot of encouragement, love, and support to her brother. 
  • Pro: I am going to tell you right now, I did not select this book for the superheroes, I selected it for the fun factor and the romance, and I was very pleased with both. Though I did predict, who the Iron Phantom was, I still enjoyed the build-up to the unmasking. I also really loved the quiet moments Abby and the Iron Phantom spent together, getting to know one another better and exploring their friendship. I was definitely shipping this ship. 
  • Pro: As with any superhero story worth its salt, the loss of a parent played a role in this story. These characters were carrying around a lot of residual pain and grief, which they worked through during the story. It was the moments surrounding this loss, which packed an emotional punch for me. 
  • Pro: I was team Iron Phantom from the get-go. The interactions between him and Abby were adorable, and the banter was snappy and made me smile. 
  • Pro: The story really moved along. Between the romance, the mystery, the rescues, the nefarious plot, and the school play, there was lots to keep my attention, and I throughly enjoyed it all. 
Overall:  A fun romance filled with a little mystery, action, superhero antics, and swoons. I, for one, and looking forward to more Morriston Superheroes. 

** ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

Have you read any of these books?
Let us know in the comments!

26 comments:

  1. Oh wow, I don't know which one a like more. I think maybe The Supervillain and Me. Great reviews.

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    1. Supervillain was probably the most fun of the three.

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  2. Oooh, some new ones to me but boy does The Supervillain and Me stand out as something I'd like! I'm such a fan of superheroes and this sounds like a lot of fun!

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    1. Supervillain was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it.

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  3. All of these books sound intriguing. I’ve seen so many mixed reviews of Notes from My Captivity. I’m not sure if I want to read it or not.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. I feel like a black sheep when it comes to that book, but I was really moved by parts of it, and the ending left an impression on me.

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  4. I'm so glad you enjoyed The Supervillain and Me - it sounds like so much fun. :)

    Lauren @ Always Me

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    1. It really was, but like any good superhero, these guys had origin stories dealing with great loss, which gave it that emotional injection.

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  5. Notes From My Captivity sounds so unique - I'm a little surprised to hear there are magical elements, but that's pretty cool!

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    1. We get peeks at the magical elements early on, and it was an interesting thing to work into the story. I always appreciate a little magic here and there, and this served a purpose in the story too.

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  6. So many good ones! I want to read all of these.

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  7. The Supervillain and Me sounds like such a fun read. I had seen some mixed reviews for Notes From My Captivity, but you've got me wanting to check it out now.

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    1. If I had enough, I would have included Notes in a Black Sheep review. I was really surprised by the negative reviews, but, different readers, different books. My thing for grief books probably endeared it to me.

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  8. I haven't read any of these but they all sound good! Especially since you liked them this much. Thanks for sharing your reviews!

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    1. Yeah, the books I didn't like usually end up as DNFs. If I finished a book, it's at least a "I liked it" 3-stars, but these were better than that for me. I really enjoyed them all, something stayed with me from each book.

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  9. Aw yay, so glad that you enjoyed all of these! Notes From My Captivity... I mean, I liked it more than didn't like it, so that is good. My biggest gripe with it was the whole thing at like, 35% in, you know? Erm. Anyway! The others look really good too- especially Jolie! Great reviews!

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    1. You mean what happened at the camp? It was tough, and even worse when I found out the truth of what happened, but at least it served a purpose and pushed the story forward, you know?

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  10. These sound really good, Sam! The Supervillain and Me sounds like a book that I would really like but I am also intrigued by Notes from My Captivity. Glad you liked these :)

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    1. Both were good. I wasn't sure about Notes, because GR's reviews were not great, but I really liked it.

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  11. Aww what a great crop of books! I especially like the sound of The Supervillain and Me. Snappy banter, strong sibling relationships, and empowerment? Yes please!

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    1. Supervillain was fun with some of that campy charm a la Adam West Batman

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  12. The Supervillain and Me sounds right up my alley!! I've been a bit obsessed with superheroes here lately lol. Super interested in reading it!! Great reviews!!!

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    1. It was cute and even had some battles

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  13. The Supervillian and Me sounds like something I would enjoy reading, especially as I like my superhero movies and novels like the next person. I especially like the Batman story so seeing them compared has me very happy indeed. The Things Jolie Needs to Do Before She Bites it book has a great cover! I have seen some books with a similiar sort of premise so I wouldn't say it's unique, but we can never have too many of them and I like that beauty and what it means and the definition of it is such a key focus.

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    1. Supervillain is superheroes with a little camp. It's fun. I think Winfrey having had the same condition as Jolie gave her an insight, which allowed her to really get into Jolie's head. That was one of the stand out things in that book.

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