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This Is What Happy Looks Like

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I absolutely adored Smith’s novel, "The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight" so I was excited for "This is What Happy Looks Like." Unfortunately, it fell short of my expectations.Gorgeous teen movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends happily normal girl Ellie an email one day. Neither of them knows who the other is, but they continue emailing and start to build a friendship. Ellie lets her location slip, and through some finagling, Graham is able to move his film’s location to her town. The rest of the book deals with their growing relationship and family issues for both of them.The book is definitely a cute, fluffy read. I truly loved Graham’s character. He is a sweet, funny boy. I wasn’t as fond of Ellie. While I loved that she is down to earth and couldn’t care less about movie stars or fame, she doesn’t have the same spark that Graham has. The setting itself is very romantic – summer in small town Maine, night beach visits, picnics, and ice cream.Also, the romance just wasn’t there for me. The emails at the beginning of the book were flirty and engaging but once the characters met in person, I never felt a spark or any sort of anticipation. I felt like they had a solid friendship happening, but the only fireworks in this book were the ones lighting up the July 4th sky.
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

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I loved Dash & Lily's Book of Dares! I don't think it's realistic for how teenagers really are but it won me over anyway. The characters! Wonderful, fully-fleshed out characters and I fell in love with so many. Lily was so refreshing - it was nice to meet a teenage girl character who is happy and positive and secure in her quirkiness. She's not your typical YA star. Dash was a bit confusing for me. I loved him, but I didn't understand why people described him as snarly but Lily never saw that and I didn't really get that from him either. Also, they both seemed to have a lot of money, time, and no parental supervision to do whatever they wanted to. So, add the characters to a lot of wacky experiences, along with humor (I laughed out loud a lot) and you've got a winner for me.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel

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I fell in love with this book and I was sad when I finished it. The story is told completely in letters beginning in 1946. By chance, the main character Juliet recieves a letter from a man who has one of her books and would like more. This sets off a string of events that lead to Juliet's discovery of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society as well as more meaning for her life. It is refreshing to read a novel that can encompass both the good and the bad and leave you feeling hopeful. I especially loved the characters and the writing is delightful. I highly recommend the book.
House of Secrets

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This book was a definite let-down. With an author who wrote the scripts for Gremlins and The Goonies, directed two Harry Potter films, Home Alone, and Mrs. Doubtfire, and produced Night at the Museum and The Help, I had high hopes for this book. Add on an endorsement from J.K. Rowling and I’ve been salivating for this book for months. You know how we usually say the book is better than the movie? In this case, Chris Columbus probably should have stuck with writing scripts instead of books. The Walker family has lost all of their money after Dr. Walker unconsciously carves a mysterious symbol into the abdomen of a patient and is fired. Miraculously, the family is able to find an absolutely gorgeous mansion exactly within their budget because the owner is looking for just the right family to buy it. Turns out, it’s owned by an evil witch who wants to use the family to obtain an evil book that will make her ruler of the entire world. This book is completely action-packed. And that’s about it. There is a lot of fighting, violence, injuries, deaths, fantastical settings, beasts, and characters. We are constantly on the move in this book. The characters aren’t developed very much, so I had a hard time caring about what was happening to them. A few who died should have evoked some kind of sadness but didn’t really bother me. Honestly, there was so much action that it got repetitive and boring instead of exciting and page turning. I felt that there was TOO much going on, almost as if they picked every magical/mythical thing they could think of and put it in the book. I had a hard time making myself finish the book and was bummed when I learned it’s only the first in a series. Definitely could have been a stand-alone. The way that the conflict was resolved didn’t seem logical to me (a character shows up to fight the witch without any warning to the reader that this person was even an option to help save the kids). I probably won’t continue this series.
The Madman's Daughter

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After her prominent father, Dr. Moreau, is publicly shamed, he flees London, leaving Juliet and her mother to fend for themselves. After her mother dies, Juliet is forced into hard labor. A chance meeting with a childhood friend named Montgomery makes Juliet aware that her father is alive and living on an island. Juliet accompanies Montgomery to the island and enters the bizarre and brutal world of Dr. Moreau. It wasn’t until after I read this book that I found out it was supposed to be a twist on The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. AND I don’t think I even really read the book’s description beforehand so I went in pretty blindly. That being said, I really, really enjoyed this book. The characters were well-developed and the setting was beautifully described. There were twists and turns, excitement, adventure, and romance on every page. I wasn’t expecting the beasts on the island so that was an imaginative surprise for me. The story kept me riveted until the last page. A few critiques: First, I absolutely love a strong, rebellious heroine. It’s just that Juliet didn’t fit into the time period she came from at all. If a story is going to be historical fiction, it has to stay in those constrains. I felt she was a bit too liberal for the era she was raised in to be believable. Also, there were times when I didn’t like her. I just didn’t. Second, the love triangle didn’t work for me. Edward never even felt like a contender. It would have been just as suspenseful to have Juliet and Montgomery figuring things out between themselves. Third, I found out this is yet another trilogy. Ugh. This is a personal pet peeve that there are so few standalone YA books now! And this one most definitely could have been a standalone (even though the ending is a cliffhanger).
Spellcaster

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From the moment Nadia and her family drive into Captive’s Sound, she knows dark magic has a hold on the new town they’re moving into. Although she’s been a practicing witch for a while now, she’s not sure she knows enough to confront the terrifying problem, let alone defeat it. With the help of hot guy Mateo and school outcast Verlain, Nadia just might stand a chance. Soon the three of them will realize that magic has a hold on all of them, not just Nadia.This book definitely kept me reading – there was plenty of action and romantic tension to keep me interested to the end. The story is told from four viewpoints. Typically, I find narrator changes to be jarring and I have to work to keep my mind with the current character. Instead of assigning each chapter to a different viewpoint, Gray used short passages within the chapters to switch characters and it flowed very nicely and logically. Major points for that. However, I felt that so many viewpoints made it hard for me to really get to know any of the characters. I didn’t feel majorly connected to any of them. The author also gave a twist to what we’re used to reading about magic. Nadia Casts differently, using emotions from her memories as ingredients for the spells. It was nice to read some different ideas about witchcraft.Overall, it was a fun, fast read. I was a little annoyed to find out that it’s the beginning of a trilogy which means that many questions remained unanswered at the end.
Simply An Inspired Life: Consciously Choosing Unbounded Happiness in Good Times & Bad

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I received this through Early Reviewers giveaway. I couldn't even get all the way through it. There is nothing new in it and it just seemed like a big ad for their upcoming seminars. Nothing is cohesive and it felt like it was written in a big hurry. The two authors take turns writing and it seems as though they just stuck their pieces together instead of actually collaborating.
The Ability

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Christopher Lane’s life hasn’t been easy so far. His mom fell apart when his dad died and Chris is responsible for taking care of her and the house. But everything changes when he’s selected to go to Myers Holt Academy with only five other kids. There, Chris learns that he’ll actually be working for a secret branch of the government using his Ability, which enables him to read people’s minds, among other things.I really enjoyed this book and read it in a day. I really like Chris’ character and feel for him. The school is an interesting place and the kids’ abilities are pretty cool. The story is fast-paced and action packed. It is a bit dark, with some mature themes. This is the beginning of a series and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. The only negative I have is that there did seem to be some obvious borrowing from Harry Potter. Chris is visited by a school representative on his birthday and she brings him a chocolate cake to celebrate, they are given a chocolate bar to replenish their energy, and the sky in Chris’ room changes to reflect what it actually looks like outside. Overall, these instances didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book – just a little annoying.
Truly, Madly: A Novel

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Author Heather Webber introduces us to Lucy Valentine in . Due to a family situation, Lucy takes over the family matchmaking business. Her father and other Valentine’s before him have all been blessed by Cupid with the ability to see people’s aura’s and make accurate matches. Lucy lost this gift in a freak accident that replaced it with the ability to find lost items. This ability gets Lucy involved in more than one mystery – finding a lost boy, a missing ring, and maybe even true love for herself. I really enjoyed this book. It is light and fluffy, a quick read and a vacation for your mind. The writing is far from spectacular but the characters were likeable and the plot engaging. I’m looking forward to the next title in the series.
The Fault in Our Stars

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Meh. According to all the reviews I’ve read and people I’ve talked to, I am supposed to love this book. But I didn’t. I was absolutely sure I would. Meh.I am an extremely emotional person. I cry a lot. I cry at pretty much every movie I watch, and most books have something in them that makes me tear up. I didn’t cry at all while reading this book. I knew I was supposed to, but I didn’t need to. I could not connect with the characters. They were unbelievably intelligent and mature. Hazel and Augustus seemed to have the insta-love thing going on that is an immediate turn-off for me. I liked Isaac, who seemed to have the most realistic reactions to things for me. Maybe if he would have been the MC I would have liked the book more. And the whole thing with the author and flying out of the country just threw everything off for me and made it less believable.It was a story about the awfulness of cancer with too many embellishments thrown in. I think if it would have been a rawer story, I would have felt more. The ending wasn’t even surprising; I saw it coming a mile away. So, meh.
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