ARC REVIEW: The Art Of French Kissing – by Brianna R. Shrum @skyhorsepub

Title: The Art Of French Kissing
Author: Brianna R. Shrum
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: June 5th 2018
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Finished reading: February 14th 2018
Pages: 247

“Talking about our favorite foods feels like something way more intimate than it should. It’s the thing each of us is more passionate about. It’s like asking a reader their favorite book. Asking a fighter their favorite move. It’s a soul-level question.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Sky Pony Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Some of you might seem surprised to see this title appear on It’s All About Books, because I normally tend to stay far away from the contemporary romance genre. But even though it’s not really my genre, it’s a fact I can really enjoy them if they are done right or if I’m in the right mood. After an particularly emotionally exhausting read, I desperately needed something light and fluffy to get over the book hangover. As soon as I saw this title, I was sold. YA contemporary AND a cooking theme? Yes please! The Art Of French Kissing was definitely a perfect match for that particular moment. Sure, it’s a bit cheesy and there are quite a few cliches involved. Sure, there is a lot of romance involved that you can see coming from a mile away. BUT. Somehow, I didn’t care about that at all. The Art Of French Kissing is easy to read, cute and there is a LOT of food talk involved, Basically, this book makes me crave all kinds of delicious food! Including those fabulous macarons on the cover… The writing is very engaging and sets the right atmosphere for this cooking competition. The plot is simple, but very effective and fans of cooking shows or food in general will be in for a treat. As for the characters… The whole hate/revenge theme is actually quite entertaining and it was interesting to see the characters evolve over time. The ending was a bit too neat for me, but then again I also admit it does fit the story. YA contemporary romance fans will love this one!

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Carter has wanted to be a chef since she was a little kid, and now she has the chance to achieve her goal. This summer, she is invited to participate it a prestigious scholarschip in Savannah along with nineteen other teenagers. They will compete all summer in a series of cooking challenges, where the weakest links will be eliminated until the last one standing will win a full-ride to one of the best culinary schools in the country. Carter was pretty confident, up until she and one of her rivals Reid get off on the wrong foot. Soon they are involved in a full-fledged culinary war, trying to screw each othe over looking for revenge. What will happen to the two and will this affect their place in the competition?

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If you like fun, light, cute, slightly cheesy and entertaining YA contemporaries with a healthy dose of romance, you will be in for a treat with this one. The Art Of French Kissing incorporates the whole cooking competition theme very well and all that food talk is probably one of the reasons I loved this book the way I did. The bantering and revenge element between the main characters worked better for me than I thought it would, and definitely added it’s own spice to the plot. The Art Of French Kissing doesn’t lack sugar either, as it has a healthy dose of (cheesy) romance especially in the second part. But at that point I was having so much fun following the competition, that the story was mostly forgiven for it. All in all this story was just what I was looking for!


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ARC REVIEW: Hollo – by Devon Michael

Title: Hollo
(The Magic Of Thedes #1)
Author: Devon Michael
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: January 1st 2016
Publisher: Snowfair Books
Finished reading: February 10th 2018
Pages: 204

“There is never enough time to live, no matter how many years you have in the world.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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This little magical story first appeared on my radar after a review and I was instantly charmed by the premise. It took me a lot longer than expected to finally get to it, but I’m glad I finally did so. Hollo and her world have completely won over my heart! Both the writing style and detailed descriptions of the magic of Thedes stand out right from the beginning. They are able to give the story a magical and whimsical feel and help you feel yourself right at home. I especially liked the descriptions of the magic itself and how it varies depending on the person and what element they use. Element, do you say? Yes, you’ll have your share of wooden, bronze and clockwork characters and a ‘wizard’ or two as well, although they are called differently in Hollo’s world. These characters all have their own story and help flesh out the world while also adding more dept to the plot. I really liked the relationship and dialogue between Hollo and her father! Both the development of Hollo in general and the plot itself are interesting and will definitely keep you interested until the very end. The story is a good balance of characters and actions and the magical battles are well described. Some parts of the story were simply adorable! Definitely recommended for the younger YA fantasy fans… Another bonus: there is no romance involved, since Hollo is only twelve!

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Hollo has always been different, but she doesn’t realize just how different from the rest of the world she really is… And now she’s twelve, she is about to find out. As a birthday gift, her father takes her outside for the very first time in her life, exploring the city like she has always wanted. But what she doesn’t realize is that the magic that comes so natural to her will actually endanger her outside. And soon she will see magic for what it really is.

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If you are looking for an endearing, whimsical and magical read, Hollo is a great choice. From the writing style to the worldbuilding, characters and descriptions; you will be enchanted by Hollo and her magical world of Thedes and enjoy her journey. Hollo is perfectly suited for the younger YA fantasy fans despite the magical battles and some details, and it has another bonus in the form of a romance-free story! I can definitely recommend this one.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #18: As Dead As It Gets & Take The Key And Lock Her Up

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a double dose of third and final book of a series… Yes, I’ll be marking two more series as finished with this post! Sadly both of these weren’t as good as I hoped. As Dead As It Gets by Katie Alender is a bit stronger than the sequel, but the main character is annoying and I still prefer book one. Take The Key And Lock Her Up by Ally Carter is by far the weakest book of the series and I don’t really care for the ending either… Things have been going downhill since book one. Oh well, at least it’s two series less to worry about right?


Title: As Dead As It Gets
(Bad Girls Don’t Die #3)
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: May 15th 2012
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Finished reading: February 1st 2018 
Pages: 448

“Find the people who treat you the way you deserve to be treated. Tell everyone else to go to hell. And don’t look back.”


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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Don’t read my rambles if you haven’t read the first two books of this trilogy yet… You’ve been warned.

As part of my promise to finally start finishing those poor neglected series, I decided to pick up the third and final book of the Bad Girls Don’t Die trilogy while my memories of the second book were still fresh. And while I still think the first book is the strongest, As Dead As It Gets without doubt makes a comeback from what I call a ‘weak-second-book-syndrome’. No more sunny and miss nice girl, because Alexis has another paranormal problem on her hand and things are quickly spiralling out of hand… And things might turn ugly. The writing is engaging and reads superfast as always, making As Dead As It Gets a fun, exciting and speedy paranormal read. The plot is darker than the second book and adds a level of suspension to the story… Without doubt an interesting final adventure, although I’m still on the fence whether I like the ending or not. Strong final words though! I do have to say I still find Alexis annoying with her whole ‘I need to do this alone’, ‘I clearly need help, but I won’t ask anybody even if they are willing’ and ‘I don’t want others hurt, but they somehow do anyway’ attitude. I could have done without the love triangle as well… But there is no doubt that As Dead As It Gets is still a solid and entertaining YA paranormal read.


Title: Take The Key And Lock Her Up
(Embassy Row #3)
Author: Ally Carter

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: December 27th 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Finished reading: February 7th 2018
Pages: 336

“There are some ghosts that live inside us, and we can never lose them, no matter how far we run.”


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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Don’t read my rambles if you haven’t read the first two books of this trilogy yet… You’ve been warned.

I was a big fan of the first book when I read it back in 2015. I liked the sequel as well, although the main character was realy started to bother me… But still I had added this third and final book to my list of most-anticipated 2016 releases. Why didn’t I pick up Take The Key And Lock Her Up sooner then? I have no idea, other than that it probably slipped between the cracks of my exploding TBR pile. I had forgotten about the details, including the supposedly enormous cliffhanger ending, by the time I was able to get to it… But it was quite easy to pick up the thread anyway. That said, it was by no means the reading experience I was hoping for. Unfortunately, Take The Key And Lock Her Up is by far the weakest book of the trilogy and it’s sad to see a series end on this note as it started out so promising. One of the biggest problems I had was with the main character Grace. I already had these feelings in the sequel, but Grace becomes almost unbearable in book three with her constant whining about just how crazy she is, how she is endangering others by just being close, that she should be punished, that she doesn’t deserve positive things happening to her etc… Yawn. Her whole attitude, dialogue and actions seriously annoyed me and it was one of the reasons the final book didn’t work for me. I wasn’t 100% convinced by the writing either, but this is probably mostly related to Grace and her dialogue. And the whole love triangle and romance put a damper on things as well. As for the plot… If you look critically, nothing much is actually happening during this final adventure, or at least I missed the intensity and suspense. It has some interesting pointers, but overall I was quite disappointed by Take The Key And Lock Her Up.


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ARC REVIEW: The Lot Of A Nobody – by Dave Johnston

Title: The Lot Of A Nobody
Author: Dave Johnston
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Humor
First published: March 22nd 2017 
Finished reading: February 5th 2018
Pages: 256

“Lot often thought he’d make a great Where’s Wally, cos even in red stripes he was difficult to spot.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I admit I’ve had this title on my list way longer than originally planned, and I’m kind of kicking myself now for not reading this sooner. The Lot Of A Nobody first appeared on my radar after a glowing review, so I was happy to give it a go myself. The other day I needed something fun to brighten up my day, and this was EXACTLY the read I needed in my life. I already knew I was probably going to like it after seeing a couple of positive reviews from bloggers with a similar taste in books, and I’m definitely a new member of the Lot Nobody fanclub. I was able to take to the main character straight away and the writing style is just spot on. Engaging, quirky, direct, funny, a little blunt… The right kind of tone for a story I didn’t even know I was looking for when I started reading The Lot Of A Nobody. Between the writing and main character this story had me enchanted straight away… Although the plot played a role as well. This story is a perfect balance of contemporary and fantasy elements and maybe even a big of magical realism, although only in the best possible way. What seems to be another typical high school story with a quirky outsider as a main character soon takes an interesting turn that makes the story very much original. And it’s definitely my kind of humor that is used in The Lot Of Nobody! Very funny indeed… Also, I just loved the Nobody quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Such an original touch! This story is without doubt a winner.

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Lot Nobody is average in every possible way, and so lonely that it seems like he has become invisible. He is almost like a ghost floating through his high school experience, but that changes after his sixteenth birthday. Not only is he able to make a friend, but he also suddenly starts disappearing for real. And not in his dreams either, but somehow he finds himself sent to a magical island and back to reality again repeatedly. The catch of these unexplained adventures? He always seems to arrive at his destination fully naked, making for some very embarrassing situations… And that is not the only thing that has been going on.

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If you are looking for a fun, quirky and well written mix of contemporary and magical elements, you will be in for a treat with The Lot Of A Nobody. The main character is very easy to like and it has been fun seeing his character develop over time. The story starts out as a contemporary, but the appearance of the magical island adds a little something extra to the story and I just loved the descriptions of the life there. The plot itself is quite interesting as well, and leaves room for quite a lot of funny moments. Recommended!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #17: Under Rose-Tainted Skies & Station Eleven


Another day and another round of Yvo’s Shorties… This time around two Beat The Backlist titles I managed to read last month. The first, Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall, I mostly picked up on a whim because I was in the mood for a YA contemporary read. I didn’t remember it had a mental health angle, which was a nice surprise, but I did feel the story was way too similar to Everything, Everything. The second title, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, is one of those books I have been wanting to read for ages, but always felt slightly intimidated by. I’m glad I finally did pick it up, because the writing was wonderful!


Title: Under Rose-Tainted Skies
Author: Louise Gornall

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 7th 2016
Publisher: Clarion Books
Finished reading: January 29th 2018
Pages: 330

“We can assume the best, but we can’t choose how people perceive us. We can, however, chooce how those views affect us.”


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I kind of picked up this title on a whim while I was browsing my kindle looking for a YA contemporary since I was in the mood for the genre. I didn’t look up the summary before I started reading, so it was a pleasant surprise when I discovered Under Rose-Tainted Skies has a very prominent mental health angle. I can always appreciate when a story focuses on this illness and helps spread the word… In this case, the main character suffers from agoraphobia and OCD, and her situation plays a very big role in the story. The main focus of Under Rose-Tainted Skies is on Norah, how she is trying to live with her illness and how it affects those close to her. I think the author did a good job portraying this element as well as addressing a few misunderstanding and cliche reactions along the way. The writing and pace made this story easy and fast to read and overall it is an engaging and entertaining read. BUT. I did feel it just all felt too similar to Everything, Everything. The girl ‘trapped’ inside her house due to her illness, the single mom, the cute neighbor… Even the unnatural ‘fast’ development of the relationship felt kind of the same. Also, I wasn’t too sure about the ending or credibility of certain parts of the plot. In short, I ended up having mixed thoughts about Under Rose-Tainted Skies, but I do think contemporary romance fans will enjoy this one better than I did.


Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: September 9th 2014
Publisher: Knopf
Finished reading: January 31st 2018
Pages: 336

“First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.”

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Station Eleven is one of those books that has been on my shelf for years and somehow I just kept posponing it. One of the reasons is probably that this story by Emily St. John Mandel is such a popular one and I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to the hype… Even 3+ years after the publish date. You can also say I was a bit intimidated by it. I’m glad I did finally pick it up though, because I ended up enjoying it considerably. I went in with no idea what to expect whatsoever and the whole dystopian setting came as a huge (but pleasant) surprise. I don’t think I was expecting the story Station Eleven ended up delivering, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed it less because of it. I always love my surprises! The first thing that stood out for me was the writing style, which had me under its spell immediately. Station Eleven starts out as a contemporary and then suddenly throws the bomb (or should I say, Georga Flu) on you and turns dystopian. This ‘after’ is in fact the most dominant storyline and I really liked reading about the different characters and how their stories connect or overlap. There will be a few plot twists in story for you as well! I do have to say that, while I really enjoyed this story, I do think the plot felt a bit disjointed with all those flashbacks and different storylines. Especially in the beginning it was hard to put each storyline and character in its correct place and this might slow down the pace a little. This is only minor compared to how I felt about Station Eleven overall though, and I can recommend it to anyone who appreciates a good dystopian story with a perfect character/plot/background/action balance.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #15: The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo & From Bad To Cursed


Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! No more backlog reviews, so from now on it’s only books I’ve actually read this year. The first is one of the (hopefully) various memoirs I will be reading this year: The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. I had high hopes for this one besides the fact I’m not familiar with her at all, but I just couldn’t connect to her writing style and her humor definitely wasn’t for me. The other title on her is the Bad Girls Don’t Die sequel From Bad To Cursed by Katie Alender, which turned out to be a disappointment as well. A shame, because I loved the first book!


Title: The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo
Author: Amy Schumer

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Humor
First published: August 16th 2016
Publisher: Gallery Books
Finished reading: January 23rd 2018
Pages: 323

“If you’re a true introvert, other people are basically energy vampires. You don’t hate them; you just have to be strategic about when you expose yourself to them—like the sun.”


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I have a weird fascination with reading memoirs even from persons I’m not really familiar with. So even though I don’t really know Amy Schumer or her work, I was still intrigued enough to want to pick up The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo. The fact that this memoir has been praised a LOT did also help of course. I was fully expecting to be loving this read, but I ended up feeling the complete opposite. Oh yes, it’s time for another unpopular review… Did you really think I could go that long without one? I don’t think my opinion has all that much to do with the fact I don’t really know her… It’s more that her writing style, crudy humor and sexual talk simply aren’t a right fit for me. The humor felt kind of forced-funny, but then again my sense of humor has always been a bit ‘special’ and I don’t like what most people like. What was a surprise is that The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo was actually a lot darker and self-confessional than I thought it would be, especially since it’s labeled humor. Kuddos to her for having the guts to share all this personal stuff… Although if I got it right she kind of does the same thing in her shows. I guess her humor and writing style either works for you, or it doesn’t. Unfortunately I belong to the second group, and honestly I kind of struggled making it to the last page. Oh well, we can’t like them all, can we?


Title: From Bad To Cursed
(Bad Girls Don’t Die #2)
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: June 14th 2011
Publisher: Hyperion
Finished reading: January 20th 2018
Pages: 442

“Stay sunny, we said to each other.
Because if you don’t the whole world will know you’re a monster.”


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I read the first book back in 2016 for Halloween, and while I really enjoyed that one, I somehow ever picked up the sequels. No longer, because I’ve vowed to finish this trilogy before the end of February. Book number two starts off quite a few months after the first book finished its story… And in From Bad To Cursed the sisters will have another dose of the supernatural. Sadly I wasn’t able to enjoy this sequel as much as I thought I would. I still love the writing style, which is engaging, flowing and makes you fly through the story. But I wasn’t so sure about the plot. The idea behind From Bad To Cursed is an interesting one and definitely involves a healthy dose of creepy, BUT I wasn’t so happy with all those high school cliches included as well as a lot of ‘perfect pretty girl’ cliches. A bunch of teenage girls playing perfect and bitching to others if they don’t dress perfectly, eat the right food and say the right things? No thank you. The way both Alexis and Kasey behaved really started to bother me as well. I’m still hoping it was just this particular ‘problem’ they had to deal with that made them unlikeable and I’m having hopes for the final book. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to like that one better!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #14: Hide And Seek (ARC) & The New Hunger


Oh yes, it’s time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! And I’m happy to say that with today’s edition I will be finishing my last pending 2017 review; Hide And Seek by M.J. Arlidge is the (un)lucky book to win that title. No more backlog, woohoo!! It was an interesting enough thriller that can be read as a stand-alone as well. The New Hunger by Isaac Marion I finished earlier this month, a zombie novella that will hopefully make me get a copy of book number two some time this year (although I saw there is going to be a third book, so I might wait until there is more news about that one).


Title: Hide And Seek
(Helen Grace #6)
Author: M.J. Arlidge

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: September 8th 2016
Publisher: Berkley Books
Finished reading: October 14th 2017
Pages: 416

“In prison it is the hope that kills you, not despair.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Berkley Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***


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I kind of messed up when I requested a copy of this one, because I totally didn’t realise Hide And Seek was actually book number six of a series. Oops? Thankfully (at least for me), Hide And Seek can also be read as a stand-alone without missing too much of the background information. What I liked in this thriller is the fact that the main character is actually a cop trapped inside a prison… Call that original! Helen Grace is framed for a murder she didn’t commit and now has to survive in a prison full of enemies; more than one inside thanks to her and they are not happy. This setting and plot makes for some very interesting reading and the writing only makes it easier to emerge yourself fully in the problems Helen Grace has to face while trying to survive. And it’s not just the daily life that is challenging, because on top of that there is a killer on the loose on the inside. Hide And Seek definitely ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to a thrilling read.


Title: The New Hunger
(Warm Bodies #1.5)
Author: Isaac Marion

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Horror
First published: January 28th 2013
Publisher: Atria
Finished reading: January 17th 2018 
Pages: 170

“Nothing is permanent. Not even the end of the world.”


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I read the first book Warm Bodies ages ago (read: 2015) and wasn’t aware a sequel came out last year until recently… So I thought it was about time I picked up the novella while I wait until there is more news on book three so I can read both sequels together. The New Hunger is a prequel novella and I think I actually enjoyed it better than the first book. It might have been because of the lack of romance in this one, but The New Hunger turned out to be quite an interesting read despite the fact I’m not really into zombie stories. The writing and pace make it into a superfast read and I enjoyed reading about the background of the Warm Bodies characters and how it is to survive in this dystopian world in the first place. Get ready for a bunch of zombie attacks, dystopian scenes and characters in survival-mode when you pick up this one! Short, but sweet with a healthy dose of fresh brains.


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