Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

belzhar by meg wolitzer

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

From New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a breathtaking and surprising story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance.

Description taken from Goodreads.


Not gonna lie, BELZHAR is pretty slow-paced. The book starts off slow, goes into the middle, and ends slowly. I do think that the sleepy feeling that I get from Belzhar was actually enjoyable in the sense that I thought it fit really well with the overall tone of the writing, but I had wished that the book was a little faster paced.

I think that the premise behind BELZHAR was awesome. There were so many moments where I just LOVED the way that certain parts to BELZHAR were executed, but at the same time there were so many moments where I felt like I just could not relate to Jam (hated that name by the way) and her struggles. In that way, I felt like Meg Wolitzer could’ve made the book so much more powerful because in the beginning, I felt like this book would end and be a journey like How to Say Goodbye in Robot, one of my all-time favorite books.

Sadly, this book did not end up like HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT. I was let down. A little.

no gif

There were several other flaws in how BELZHAR was pulled off. For one thing though, before I go into that, this book had a lot of potential, and I think that’s why BELZHAR was such a major disappointment for me. I had wanted so much and initially, I thought that I actually would get all the things I wanted from BELZHAR–but it didn’t end up happening.

The first of the problems I had was the connection to Sylvia Plath. The connection was weak, and even if readers did understand the connection (which I don’t think the majority of the target audience will)–I still don’t think it would truly matter to them. I felt like it was unnecessary.

Show, don’t tell. I will be the first to admit that this is not the way to go for some writers and some books, but I also believe that it is a part of helping a reader to visualize, understand and believe what the writer is saying. One of the first instances where this happens is with Jam’s teacher. She’s awesome, and the snippets of her I got I loved. The reader can also see it in the things that happen that seem minimal but are actually very important.

There were so many things I wanted from BELZHAR that I just didn’t get, but at the same time it was still an enjoyable read, and I did think that it was fun and worthwhile. At the same time though, it’s not a book that I loved in a literary sense. 3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 264

Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

this song will save your life by leila sales

Elise Dembowski is not afraid of a little hard work. In fact, she embraces it. All her life, she’s taken on big, all-encompassing projects. When she was eight years old, she built her own dollhouse. When she was thirteen, she taught herself stop-motion animation. And when she’s fifteen, she embarks on the biggest, and most important, project of them all: becoming cool. Except she fails. Miserably. And everything falls to pieces.

Now, if possible, Elise’s social life is even worse than it was before. Until she stumbles into an underground dance club, and opens the door to a world she never knew existed. An inside-out world where, seemingly overnight, a previously uncool high school sophomore can become the hottest new DJ sensation. Elise finally has what she always wanted: acceptance, friendship, maybe even love. Until the real world threatens to steal it all away.

Description taken from Goodreads.


I was looking back recently at some of my old reviews, some of which I am extremely proud of–

yes so proud gif

And some that should never see the light of day.

what is this I can't even gif

And I remembered that I never did a proper review for the amazing book THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE. At the time, it was the right decision for me. I just couldn’t bring myself to write up a review for this book. I felt like it just so utterly could not be described in words. Instead of doing a review, I emailed the blogger who wrote my favorite (and in my opinion, the most justifying, review of this book) Emily May, and together with Leila Sales, we wrote a post called Books Against Bullying on THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE.

Read Emily May's review of THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE on Goodreads.

But I recently decided to reread this book, and in doing so I really wanted to review this book.

There is a perfectly good reason for that, and that is the fact that THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is amazing. It is completely and utterly amazing in so many aspects.

First of all, one thing I really appreciated about this entire book was the fact that it has such a light undertone of humor to it. The humor doesn’t ruin the actually very earnest, very poignant message of this book. THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE made me want to laugh and cry at the same time at so many moments, and I was left feeling extremely bittersweet and very satisfied with those moments of the book. The end is a sad one in some ways, but it’s also about new beginnings and new people, and Elise realizing that life goes beyond suffering, and there will always be people who will accept you as you are.

Another thing–there are a TON of quotable moments to it. I had resisted the urge to buy myself a physical copy of THIS SONG the first time I read it, but I will definitely be getting one sometime soon, because I need to be able to underline and comment and annotate to my heart’s content. There are simply so many truths to THIS SONG. Truths about life, about art, about music, about people and about bullying. THIS SONG is beautiful in it’s writing, heartbreaking in Elise’s plight and ugly and horrifying in how realistic it is. Similarly though, THIS SONG has so much hope and heartwarming snippets to it.

Most of all though, I think I loved Elise’s journey the most, and the characters who illuminated every single chapter alongside her. Vicky, Alex, Harry, Mel, all of them made this book pitch-perfect. I loved the way that I was able to see Elise’s newfound relationships develop and grow over the course of this book. There are many trials, as well as ups and downs, and Elise’s gradual growth was spot on.

For those who read this book, I think that teens especially and young adults will connect to this book each in their own special way. I found a lot of myself and my place in this story, and it meant a lot to me as a whole partially because of that. 4.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 279

Review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

heir of fire by sarah j. maas

Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

Description taken from Goodreads.


HEIR OF FIRE. This book ripped my heart in half and put it back together again. Slowly. Painfully.

internal screaming gif

There were so many things to love about HEIR OF FIRE. First of, this is the book when we get to see Celaena alone, without Dorian and Chaol and all that utter nonsense. (Awesome nonsense, but still nonsense none the less). I felt like this was truly the book where we get to see Celaena face up to her past and all the things that have happened–as well as the consequences of her actions. In the books before this, I felt like this didn’t really happen at all and only with the death of Celaena’s “dearest friend” (because this is a spoiler free review), did Celaena realize that she had to stop running from all the things that had plagued her for so long.

Then there’s also the fact of Celaena feeling almost too strong. Now, before you all go kamikaze on me–

unpopular opinion gif

–let me explain first. I think it’s a great thing that Celaena is a self-assured character and that she doesn’t need Dorian and Chaol. I think that’s been made pretty clear over the course of this series and HEIR OF FIRE, especially. I, like many others, thought that Celaena was far too concerned with self-image and gluttony. She’s also EXTREMELY arrogant, and I really disliked that about her character. That was mostly in the first book, THRONE OF GLASS.

Then there’s my issue with HEIR OF FIRE. While, in THRONE OF GLASS, Celaena comes off as slightly Mary-Sueish and slightly overpowered, she becomes VERY Mary-Sueish in this book. I felt like Maas was trying too hard to show that Celaena is a strong, independent woman. I mean, that’s very popular in today’s culture, especially with so many YA books being written by women.

strong independent woman

We all remember this ^^.

It, I reiterate, was not an issue with the concept of Celaena being a strong women, it was how Maas portrayed it and executed it that I had a problem with.

Otherwise, there was so much that I LOVED and I thought that Celaena really came in touch with her heritage, her powers and the magic of the world that this book is set in. HEIR OF FIRE got me really excited for the next book in the series, and I think that the next book will really renew the fire that I found a little lacking in this third installment of the series.

THE ENDING OF THIS BOOK THOUGH. I’m just going to leave it at that. SO AMAZING WELL DONE. I applaud Maas for that.

Overall, in writing, I thought that there were some really amazingly written snippets and nothing that stood out to me as bad or annoying. Pace was awesome, as usual, and I really liked all the new characters that Maas introduced in this book. I’m really looking forward to how things pan out with all the characters. I do wish that there was just more in some aspects, but overall this book was AMAZING and to Maas’s fans as well as new readers, people will not be disappointed. 4 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 565

Series: Throne of Glass #3

Dream Cast and Giveaway: The Unhappening of Genesis Lee by Shallee McArthur

the unhappening of genesis lee by shallee mcarthur

Seventeen-year-old Genesis Lee has never forgotten anything. As one of the Mementi—a small group of genetically-enhanced humans—Gena remembers everything with the help of her Link bracelets, which preserve memories perfectly. But Links can be stolen, and six people have already lost their lives to a memory thief, including Gena’s best friend.

Anyone could be next. Which is why Gena is less than pleased to meet a strange but charming boy named Kalan who claims that they’ve not only met, but that Gena knows who the thief is.

The problem is, Gena doesn’t remember Kalan, she doesn’t remember seeing the thief, and she doesn’t know why she’s forgetting things— or how much else she might forget. As growing tensions between Mementi and ordinary humans drive the city of Havendale into chaos, Gena and Kalan team up to search for the thief. And as Gena loses more memories, they realize they have to solve the mystery fast.

Because Gena’s life is unhappening around her.

Description taken from Goodreads.


PRAISE FOR THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE
“…It’s the sensitive handling of emotional details and the trauma of too much connection that make this a story of interest. The reactions to memory losses are painful and poignant…For anyone fascinated with thoughts of omniscience and total social connection—and who isn’t?—McArthur’s debut suggests fascinating and chilling possibilities.” -Kirkus Review
“Equal parts dark and delightful, McArthur’s stunning debut takes an awesome SF premise and follows it deep into the maze of the human mind. I loved it so much I was jealous.” –Dan Wells, author of the NYT bestselling PARTIALS Sequence
“A thrilling read from beginning to end, this stunning debut had me wishing I could record my memories to keep them safe! Just like Gena, I was desperate to discover the thief while at the same time hoping the story would never end.” –Elana Johnson, author of the POSSESSION trilogy

I was able to read an advanced copy of THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE and it is AMAZING. I actually did a Once Upon a Gif post about it early in September. Now, I’m back on the topic of this great debut and Shallee McArthur herself in this dream cast post!

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The Dream Cast of The Unhappening of Genesis Lee

I’m pretty sure nearly every writer in the world picks out exactly who they’d like to play their characters in a movie. It’s never really spot-on, of course, but I found some pretty great folks that get really close to the image in my head of who would play the characters in The Unhappening of Genesis Lee!

Janel Parrish,

First up, of course, is my main character, Gena! She has a pet snake. She does ballet, jazz, and lyrical dance. She’s an astronomy whiz. She struggles with anxiety. She’s a lot braver than she thinks she is. You’d like her. In my dream cast, I can see her played by Janel Parrish, just with darker hair.

Jasmine Villegas

 

 

Next up is Cora, Gena’s best friend. She’s a dancer and choreographer. She writes music. She snaps at annoying people that she’s going to punch them in the face. Gena describes her as “funny and crazy and as needy as a kitten. And flashy…” Basically, she’s awesome. Dream cast-wise, I see her as Jasmine Villegas.

jeremy sumpterAnd then there’s Kalan. He’s a nerd who collects bouncy balls. He’s the son of a traveling preacher. He always says the wrong things at the wrong times. He’s a little overprotective, and determined to find the memory thief. I’m in love with him just a little– and so is Gena. Jeremy Sumpter totally fits the bill (as long as he gets brown contacts).

kristin kreuk

 

 

 

Ren, Gena’s sister, is rebellious and brilliant. She’s passionate about helping keep her people’s memories safe. She’s outspoken. She collects frog decorations, and even has frog pajama pants. I imagine her a lot like a short-haired Kristin Kreuk. She just needs some purple in that hair.

Leila Bekhti

Zahra, Gena’s dance teacher and mentor. She’s a bit of a techno-phobe trapped in the world’s most technologically advanced city. She’s Muslim. She’s got the coolest French accent in the world. I could listen to her talk in my head all day. I imagine her as French-Algerian actress Leila Bekhti with a hijab.

nicole kidman

Hazel, Gena’s mom, is proper and polite. Her preferred way of showing affection is to store one of her memories in a household object for her family to share. She’s proud of Gena, but a little too controlling for her daughter’s liking. I can see Nicole Kidman playing Hazel.

russell wong

Gena’s dad, Kierce, is proper and formal like his wife. He’s strict and his temper flares often, but he has a softer side and brings donuts and flowers to every dance concert she has. I can see him as actor Russell Wong.

 

And there you have it! On the slim chance THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE gets made into a movie, this is who would very likely not be in it. But if I made my own movie and had endless funds and full control over casting, I’d at least give these folks an audition!

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Thanks so much to Shallee for doing this amazing dream cast! I love all of these characters, and I can definitely see these people as visuals of them. I hope THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE becomes a movie someday (and that the director doesn’t screw it up). Be sure to check back on November 3rd to find out what my final review was! (A copy of THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE is also being given away on Goodreads!)

Connect With Shallee: Ξ Goodreads Ξ Amazon Ξ Barnes and Noble Ξ shalleemcarthur.com Ξ Twitter Ξ


shallee mcarthur

Shallee McArthur originally wanted to be a scientist, until she discovered she liked her science best in fictional form. When she’s not writing young adult science fiction and fantasy, she’s attempting to raise her son and daughter as proper geeks. A little part of her heart is devoted to Africa after volunteering twice in Ghana. She has a degree in English from Brigham Young University and lives in Utah with her husband and two children.

She is represented by Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates. Her YA sci fi novel, THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE, debuts from Sky Pony Press Nov. 4, 2014.

And because people always ask, her name is pronounced “shuh-LEE.” But she answers to anything that sounds remotely close.

ARC Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

blue lily lily blue by maggie stiefvater

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.


I have a new theory.

When you finally develop all your amazing writing ability, you become capable of amazing things. Three of these abilities include the ability to create good, bad and awe. But especially bad. AS IN COMPLETELY, UTTERLY, HEARTBREAKING, 100% EVIL, PROFESSIONAL TROLLERS.

maggie stiefvater raven cycle

rick riordan trolling

john green trolling

john green veronica roth trolling

*internal screaming*

BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE was everything I expected it to be, which I was extremely surprised by because I had such high expectations for this fantastic series and, in particular, this book.

For many moments, I could forget that Gansey will eventually die.

I keep on waiting for that moment, that cheesy, there-are-always-happy-endings, welcome to the world of fairy tales, no-she-didn’t moment when Maggie Stiefvater unleashes the bomb that Gansey will, in fact, not die, and he and Blue will be a couple and get married and live happily ever after. NONE. NOTHING. THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW, BECAUSE WE ALL KNOW IT DOESN’T COME IN THIS BOOK.

How’s that for reality?

There are a lot more Gansey and Blue moments in this book, which I was really glad for. I completely ship them as a couple and appreciate the fact that this is a slow burn romance rather than some sort of half-done, half-baked, half-thought instalove (which I don’t even think Maggie Stiefvater is capable of).

There was one thing I didn’t like about this book, and that was one of the couple ships that the reader can just vaguely make out. No. No no no no no no. This already happened in the HEROES OF OLYMPUS series. No way. I refuse to ship this or accept it.

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I mean–when I saw it coming, I was just… no.

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But other than that, I loved this book so much. I can only hope to write like this some day, and I’m SO GLAD that this series has another book coming. I love trilogies, they’re actually my favorite series, but in this case I’m glad there’s four books.

One thing I started really appreciating right from the very beginning was how Adam-focused this book was. I also really liked the way that it showed off how Blue has become so close with the Raven Boys. She’s part of their group now, and even with Ronan you can tell that he cares. I’ve been waiting for this since the beginning of this series, when you can really tell that they’ve become friends. I thought this relationship was masterfully developed, along with Blue’s relationship with Gansey, and I loved seeing it grow.

There were so many new things (and old things) that I enjoyed throughout this story, and the plot excels by leaps and bounds. The ending left me wanting so much more, but in a good way, not because the material there was lacking in any way. I thought that I learned a lot more about Blue and her family life throughout the course of this story and grew closer to each of the characters and their individual struggles.

BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE (beautiful cover, by the way, definitely worth buying :3) is definitely not at all disappointing and fans of the series will LOVE all the things that happen over the course of the book. This is truly only a book that Maggie Stiefvater could write, and it is fantastic. Even if you are not usually a fan of the paranormal/fantasy genre, I would still recommend this series to you. It is at times heartbreaking, heartwarming, awe-inspiring, trolling, hilarious, intense and altogether amazing and READ IT. I cannot wait for the next book in the series, but until then reading the first three books is good enough for me. 4.5 stars.

Thanks so much to Scholastic for giving me the chance to review this amazing book!

pg count for the hardback: 391

Series: The Raven Cycle #3

Manga Review: Witch Hunter by Cho Jung-man

witch hunter by cho jung man

In a world where witches have declared war against humanity, causing two-thirds of the world to fall apart, the surviving human population has gathered specialists with the power to hunt and destroy witches.

Tasha Godspell, also known as the “Magic Marksman,” is one of the best Witch Hunters there is. Along with his sword-wielding Jack-o’-Lantern partner known as Halloween, Tasha puts his magical training and weaponry to good use, in his constant battles against witches. And yet, he cannot bring himself to fully hate the very witches he is tasked to destroy.

Description taken from Wikipedia.


So for conveniency’s sake, I wrote this up as a manga review. In reality, WITCH HUNTER and the WITCH HUNTER series are manhwa (man-ha), which means they’re Korean comics and not Japanese. Most people won’t know the difference and in reality, it’s not very apparent if you’re skimming the manga/manhwa section at your local library or bookstore. One key difference is that manhwas tend to read left to right, but mangas read right to left. There’s also manhua, which is from China, and is in single-issue, fully colored format.

On to WITCH HUNTER though, I’ve only gotten into manhwa recently (the only reason I didn’t read it before being that I didn’t have access to it nor did I know it existed) and so far, WITCH HUNTER has been one of the better ones that I’ve read.

For those of you who enjoy anime, WITCH HUNTER is also in anime form.

WITCH HUNTER tells the story of Tasha Godspell, who tends to appear as a money-grabbing, penny-pinching snot who only really cares about himself. However, that is not the case–and that is one of the many reasons why I really liked WITCH HUNTER.

I’ll face it. This is not SWORD ART ONLINE, clever and unique and amazing all at the same time. But I did really respect the way that WITCH HUNTER was set up, and I found myself enjoying the world building much more than I thought that I would. Tasha’s quest is to take back his little sister from the clutches of the witches, but along the way he has to confront his own demons about his sister, accept the help of others and fight people (and witches) even stronger than himself.

There are some things that don’t make sense in this series. For the sake of not giving away spoilers, I won’t mention them, but there are certain inconsistencies to who beats who and who is stronger than who or certain magical powers. Overall, I really enjoy WITCH HUNTER though and I’m looking forward to reading more of it.

If this is your first time or you’re still just beginning to read manga, especially shounen manga (action/adventure meant for boys) then I would suggest beginning with something a little more mainstream such as REBORN!, BLEACH, ATTACK ON TITAN, SWORD ART ONLINE or even NARUTO. If your local library doesn’t have all the volumes of these extensive series, then I would suggest reading on a computer or a phone. I use Manga Rock and Mango. Both awesome apps available on Android and iPhone. 4 stars.

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

isla and the happily ever after

Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

Description taken from Goodreads.


How… do I even begin to review this book?

I guess I should’ve expected this. It’s a Stephanie Perkins book. But I didn’t. By far, ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER is probably my favorite out of her ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS series. There’s just so much to love about this book, from the writing to the story to the characters and the COVER. Oh ISLA’s cover.

And it’s like island without the nd, not Iz-la.

I didn’t even want to read this book. For a long time, I didn’t read Anna and the French Kiss, but I decided to after all the rave reviews–and it was all worth it.

From the very beginning, ISLA opens up beautifully. It tells the tale of unrequited love in the beginning, and finally getting to know someone that you’ve known for a long, long time. I loved the prose in this book–in all of Stephanie’s books, but especially ISlA.

I think out of all three books in this series, the average reader can relate the most to Isla out of Isla, Anna and Lola. She’s sweet and shy and lovable from the very beginning of the story, and her getting to know Josh–and not just her relationship with him, was one of the true highlights of this book.

Description and imagery were also awesome parts to the writing. There was so much that I could just see, and that was amazing after reading a string of disappointing books writing-wise.

His style is almost whimsical. It's melancholy and beautiful, completely his own. The lines are careful. They reveal that he pays attention. People don't think he does, because he daydreams and skips class and neglects his homework, but when I see his drawings, I know they're wrong.

Plot-wise, this is a lot like Stephanie’s other books. It’s about the building of the relationship, the trials of the relationship and the eventual loveeeeeee part of the relationship. I felt like ISLA was so different from the first two books though, and I think that was because of the characters.

Even though I thought that I could really see a lot of LOLA’s plotline in ISLA, Lola and Isla are almost entirely different people. Lola is bold and loud and crazy and her own special brand of person, while Isla is quiet and shy and small. Unnoticed, really. Over the course of the story, Isla changes and grows to the point where I can definitely still see her in her character, but her character has come to realize things about herself (and life) that has made her grow. I loved to see this in Isla, and how Josh and Isla made each other better.

Speaking of characters, they’re all AMAZING. It’s so fun to see cameos of past characters in books like these. It was something I loved in Sarah Dessen’s books, and it’s something I love in these books. It was amazing to see the characters come back, but I also really enjoyed reading about new characters. The way that Stephanie so seamlessly pulls together words and traits and ideas into a person is beautiful, and I fell in love with her characters all over again.

I loved pretty much everything about this book. It is a little predictable, yes. Contemporary romance can edge along the line of predictable a lot, but at the same time ISLA was completely unpredictable. The events that occurred and the hilarity that ensued in much of the book was awesome to read about, and made for a really entertaining ride. I had so much fun with this story, and I’m sad to see this is the conclusion of this series–but I will definitely be picking up Stephanie Perkin’s later books in the future. As for now, if you haven’t, READ THIS BOOK. 4.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 339

Series: Anna and the French Kiss #3