ARC Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

DumplinTitle: Dumplin’

Author: Julie Murphy

Series: None. Standalone

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Release Date: September 15, 2015

Source: Egalley from the publisher through Edelweiss

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects the honesty of this review.

Before I start, I feel like I need to warn you. I loved this book so much and I see a lot of shouty caps and exclamation points in your future if you choose to continue reading. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. Unless you like shouty caps and awesome books and my excitement about them. In that case, enjoy! Here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . .  until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

1. This entire book is centered around body positivity, even when Willowdean is not feeling positive about her body.

Willowdean Dickson calls herself a token fat girl. She is our narrator and she discusses things like how the word “fat” offends people, but as she explains, that’s what she is. She has this incredible outlook on life and she knows she is fabulous. She never lets her weight drag down her positive attitude, that is, until she meets Bo. After she and Bo have their little fling, Will lets her body take over her mind. She feels disgusting in her own skin, which she shouldn’t because she’s amazing, and lets this control her life. Then, when going through her deceased Aunt Lucy’s things, she sees the application for the town pageant – which is a BIG deal. She decides to enter, because it’s not something anyone could expect. From there, so much happens that I won’t tell you. However, I adored Will through this whole book. She went through such an incredible metamorphosis and I just want to be best friends with her. She sounded like me, talking to me through a book.

2. The Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant is almost like a character in this book.

Will’s mom runs the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant and she has for as long as Will can remember. But unlike most pageant moms, Will’s mother has never asked her to join or even considered that she’d have an interest. Her mother always likes to bring up that she used to be a bigger girl, then shed the weight her freshman year of high school (unlike her sister, Lucy, who died of a heart attack at over 500 pounds). Will’s mother is sneaky with her tactics and fad with her diets for Will. When Will decides to join the pageant, her mother is most definitely not enthused. The pageant normally takes over her mother’s life, but when Will joins, there is extra tension. Her mother seems to believe that Will aims to embarrass her and that she doesn’t take the pageant seriously. Just like football is a big deal in the south, so this pageant is to their small Texas town. The pageant takes over Will’s life, even when she doesn’t mean it to. At first, she is gung ho about showing how anyone can be anything with enough courage and confidence, which leads to Amanda, Hannah, and Millie (girls that are relentlessly bullied for their looks) to join Will’s ranks as pageant outcasts. This creates a whole new dynamic that helps Will (also inviting the pageant to permeate her life) which I’ll explain shortly! All in all, the book says it best. About the pageant, Will says, “But I don’t want it to be brave. I want it to be normal.” (79% in the ARC). This is what this book boils down to. Yes, Willowdean, YAAASSSS!!!

3. Ellen and Will have the cutest best friendship.

El and Will’s friendship was built on a mutual love for Dolly Parton when they were kids. El’s mother is a Dolly impersonator. They have been inseparable since childhood. Then, when Will enters the pageant, El does too, and that is too much for jealous Will. Before entering the pageant, Will talks a lot about how she thinks she and El are growing apart and she is extremely upset about it. When the pageant happens, that is the last straw. Through most of the book, we see El and Will blatantly ignoring each other and it really broke my heart. However, enter the school misfits: Amanda, Hannah, and Millie. They become extremely close with Will through their involvement in the pageant and they’re some of my favorite characters. This book is heavy on the friendship aspect, too, which I adored. At one point, Mitch (who I’ll talk about shortly) says to Will, “‘Listen,’ he says. ‘I obviously don’t know the whole story here, but good friendships are durable. They’re meant to survive the gaps and the growing pains.'” (55% in the ARC). This is golden and so, so true. Slow, thunderous clap for you, Julie Murphy.

4. There is kind of a love triangle here. As a notorious hater of love triangles, though, I actually didn’t mind this one.

Will has this thing with Bo over the summer, but then she feels like a secret so she leaves. Then, come to find out, that Private School Bo is now her classmate, which makes things MORE awkward. Especially when she starts pseudo-dating Mitch. Don’t get me wrong, Mitch is a really nice guy, but from day one Will never experiences the spark she feels with Bo, which leads her to leading Mitch on for an extremely long time in the book. Bo comes back into the picture because he’s amazing and then she’s really torn. However, when this triangle falls apart, there is no huge drama played out in the hallways. There is no tire slashing. There is no extreme emotion. There is just…life going on, which I think was the reason I was okay with this. I love Julie Murphy for giving Will a love triangle. Even when she’s extremely down on herself for her body, she still has two dudes vying for her attention! That is so awesome!

5. The biggest reason I adored this book was its focus on loving yourself, regardless of how you look.

Julie Murphy really wrote an incredible book on how to love yourself and its name is Dumplin’. For example, here is Will explaining her criteria for a perfect bikini body: “Do you have a body? Put a swimsuit on it.” (96% in the ARC). Will exudes confidence and you don’t normally see that from a protagonist who is flawed. Actually, you don’t see much of a protagonist’s flaws. I loved Will because she didn’t try to hide her imperfections, even if the only one she complained about was her body. She was proud to be in the skin she was in. Even with her mother harping on her to shed a few pounds before the pageant, she doesn’t, because she knows she is beautiful the way she is. “I’m Dumplin’. And Will and Willowdean. I’m fat. I’m happy. I’m insecure. I’m bold.” (98% in the ARC). I can’t tell you how many times I screamed YAAAAS WILL, YAAAASSSSS!!!!! while reading this book. I lost count. Bottom line: I loved this book for its message.

OVERALL 5 STARS!!! I really, really loved this book. I’m usually not into contemporary, but I adored this so much. This is a great book to pick up if you’re ever feeling down on yourself because it’ll give you the boost you need to pick yourself back up and keep on going. Because, as Will says, “I guess sometimes the perfection we perceive in others is made up of a whole bunch of tiny imperfections, because some days the damn dress just won’t zip.” (99% in the ARC). Trust me when I say you need this book in your life. This comes out on September 15, 2015 so click the link below to go forth and preorder!

Click to Pre-Order!

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#TLCreadalong Bonus Post: Favorite Sci-Fi Novels!

Hey, guys! I love that the #TLCreadalong hosted by Brittany over at The Book Addict’s Guide is giving us these crazy topics to write on along with doing recap posts! So I’m pretty new to sci-fi – I never really thought I’d like sci-fi and I’m EXTREMELY picky when it comes to my sci-fi novels. This list will most likely be short, but full of some POWERHOUSE recommendations. *pats self on back* here we go!

  1. RPOReady Player One by Ernest Cline

THIS BOOK BLEW ME AWAY. If you like video games, alternate realities, and late 80s-early 90s pop culture, this book will take you places. I definitely agree with the people saying that it’s got some The Matrix elements and I LOVED. THIS. I originally listened to this on audiobook, and Wil Wheaton narrates. No WAY can you go wrong with that. This book is all of your nerd dreams come true. I am forever a fan of Ernest Cline, which brings us to…

2. Armada by Ernest Cline Armada

This is his second book and is JUST as awesome as RPO. This one is a tad reminiscent of another book on this list (Ender’s Game) while being its own amazing story. Video game players are unknowingly training for an imminent alien invasion. When they finally arrive, the top pilots in the game are recruited to become the military’s best pilots. So many things happen in this book and it blew me away AGAIN. Way to go, Ernest Cline, you’ve gotten me back into sci-fi.

3. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott CardEnder

While I hate Orson Scott Card for being a bigot, mysoginist, homophobe, I LOVED this book! This book is basically about a genius kid, taken from his home at the age of 6 to become an elite military fighter for an impending alien invasion. A lot of the book focuses on Ender Wiggin and the absolutely horrible things he goes through in order to achieve his goal. If you’ve seen the movie, YOU DON’T KNOW THE HALF OF IT. One of the biggest gripes I had about the movie was that they did not even come close to scratching the surface of all of the things Ender goes through while he’s away from his family. It is horribly heartbreaking. I haven’t continued the series (I refuse to buy an Orson Scott Card book, and the library NEVER has it) but eventually, I will!

4. Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie KaufmanIlluminae

OH. MY. GOD. This book was absolutely insane. Told in emails, instant messages, ship transcripts, and recorded video and conversations, Illuminae takes you through the story of Katy and Ezra. The day Katy breaks up with Ezra, their planet is attacked. They are saved by a giant warship called The Alexander. Their love starts to grow again as they’re put on separate ships, but then Phobos Beta breaks out – a horrible disease in which the infected rip apart their victims. Then, there’s AIDAN, the AI in charge of keeping The Alexander afloat. All I can tell you is that this book is INSANE. Even though it was 600 pages, I breezed through it in a day. All I can say is: DON’T LOOK AT ME.

5. A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia GrayA Thousand Pieces of You

There isn’t much I can tell you here, other than that our main girl is Margeurite and her parents are BRILLIANT physicists. They have created a device named the Firebird (hence the name of the series being Firebird). This device allows the wearer to jump to an alternate dimension. However, in order to jump to that dimension, a version of YOURSELF must exist there. If an alternate version doesn’t exist, you don’t get to go. Margeurite is on a mission to find Paul, who she deems responsible for her father’s murder. Huh, I guess I did tell you a lot. Anyway, this book is amazing and Claudia Gray is a bad ass. And COME ON, that cover is GORGEOUS.

6. Cinder by Marissa MeyerCinder

Last, but CERTAINLY not least, is all of The Lunar Chronicles. These books were definitely my introduction back into sci-fi. Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella, cyborg and future style. I can’t really tell you a lot about this book, as I know you’re going to read it anyway. Just know, Meyer is amazing at creating this world and Cinder is one of my all time favorite female protagonists because she’s a BAD ASS CYBORG.

So, how’d I do? Let me know your favorite sci-fi novels in the comments below. I’m always open to new sci-fi recs! I’m super picky, but I’ll try anything once! And, come join us for the #TLCreadalong. Just click the link at the top of this post to sign up!

Blog Tour: The Uninvited by Cat Winters! PLUS, A GIVEAWAY!!

Guys, I adored this book so much! Never did I think I would enjoy an adult book this much! If you want to see my full review of this book, click here.

The Uninvited

Praise for The Uninvited:

“Dark and romantic…[The protagonist’s] compelling voice carries this gothic coming-of-age story, at once horrifying and tender, toward a revelatory yet hopeful conclusion.”

— Publishers Weekly

“A wonderfully atmospheric and intriguing novel. Cat Winters portrays a fascinating period in American history with clever writing and a delicious plot twist. A novel that is sure to keep readers hooked to the end.”

— Hazel GaynorNew York Times bestselling author

“Evocative and lushly written, THE UNINVITED also features a twist I never saw coming.”

— April HenryNew York Times bestselling author

Don’t forget to check out USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog post about The Uninvited! There is a bonus excerpt included!

Cat Winters ap1Connect with the Author:
Ya’ll Cat Winters is amazing and loves connecting with her fans. Which, honestly, is one of my favorite parts about Twitter and the bookish community. Go stalk her! I promise, she’s the best!
Don’t forget to pick up your copy from Amazon: http://amzn.to/1T1ciAN
And finally, as promised, A GIVEAWAY! Two winners will get a print copy of The Uninvited for their very own to cuddle and read and go on frolicks with. Follow this link to enter!

Recap of Cinder by Marissa Meyer for the #TLCreadalong!

CinderWelcome to my first recap post for The Lunar Chronicles Readalong hosted by Brittany over at The Book Addict’s Guide! Seriously, whether you’re rereading or reading for the first time, you should come join us. These books are like crack, for real. I finished Cinder entirely too early and my reactions were so hard because I’m not really a rereader. Knowing everything that happens just makes the story that much more crazy the second time around, so I am way too excited to keep going! I’M TELLING YOU NOW: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AHEAD. IF YOU HAVE NOT FINISHED CINDER AND DO NOT WANT ANYTHING SPOILED, TURN BACK NOW AND FINISH. THEN COME BACK TO ME.

My first reaction to recap: I hate Adri and Pearl so much that it makes me physically ill sometimes. I mean, yes, they are the classic Cinderella evil stepmother and stepsister, but they’re so supremely horrendous. I want them both to die in a fire. I thought it was interesting that Meyer had Cinder have only one evil stepsister since Peony was such a peach. Why couldn’t have Pearl died of that horrible disease, huh?! Well, I guess I get it, since then we’d really have no reason for Cinder wanting to find a cure.

After reading this after its original release and not picking it up again until now, I’m starting to see all of these obvious things. One of these things is that I found it crazy that Cinder (or I, for that matter) couldn’t figure out she was immune to letumosis when she didn’t get sick after hugging Peony after discovering the marks on her. I mean, duh! With as much as Cinder was all over her, if she weren’t immune, it should have manifested pretty quickly.

Prince Kai, oh boy. I’m not really one for romance and I don’t usually swoon over dudes, but I adore Prince Kai. He disguises himself to drop Nainsi off with Cinder instead of haggling for privacy with palace mechanics, which is so smart of him, since he knows he doesn’t know who to trust. Not only that, but the way he saves Cinder from Levana at the ball was amazing. Reading it the first time, I thought Kai hated Cinder, but knowing what ends up happening, I know he was saving her. Weird how that works, huh? I feel for Kai so much. He has to step up and become emperor at such a young age after losing his father. I think he handles himself so graciously considering he has to deal with Levana and her Lunar goons for most of the book.

Levana…oh goodness. So, I read Fairest, as I’m sure most of you did. And along with all of you, my skin was crawling through the entire book. After I finished it, I had to take a shower because I was so creeped out. If you haven’t read it, GET ON IT, but basically just imagine the creepiest stalker movie you’ve ever seen and multiply it by many thousands. I liked having that insight into Levana then coming back to Cinder. She is insane and there were parts where I almost felt bad for her. (Trust me, I scolded myself for that later).

Letumosis is one of the scariest parts of this book. I have a strange fear of airborne diseases, and that’s what letumosis is! I’m kind of also obsessed with researching The Black Plague, and this disease reminds me of that, too. I love how the world is set up in this book with the Commonwealth and all the other countries living in harmony after a fourth world war. The way the Commonwealth is set up, no wonder everyone is getting sick. I like to imagine that there is little to no room to move around, let alone room to get away from an airborne illness.

Iko remains one of my favorite characters in the whole series. I remember reading this the first time and seeing Iko in pieces in Cinder’s room, and crying. I was SO upset. I love thinking that Iko has a malfunction since she has such a big personality. Since I’m only spoiling Cinder right now, I won’t go much farther, just in case you haven’t finished/read Scarlet!

The Lunars absolutely fascinate me and we saw some cameos from later in the series! We see Jacin at the ball (if you haven’t read, he comes back!) and we see a guest appearance from Cress at the end! I totally forgot that we saw them in this book! I am so fascinated with the Lunars’ ability to manipulate bioelectricity. I also can’t wait to re-live Cinder rediscovering her gift as her block slowly releases it. SO MUCH TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN SCARLET OMG!!!

All in all, this book was as fantastic as I remembered, if not more! It is seriously book crack. I was trying to stick to the reading schedule, but I just COULDN’T. I was up until 4am finishing this because it is just too too good. I hope you enjoyed my crazy, ranty recap and I’ll see you guys for my themed post for Cinder and for my next recap of Scarlet! Happy reading, awesome nerds and thanks, Brittany for hosting! *smoosh*

ARC Review: A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano

Curious TaleTitle: A Curious Tale of the In-Between

Author: Lauren DeStefano

Series: Pram #1

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Release Date: September 1, 2015

Genre: Middle Grade, Paranormal

I was provided with an egalley of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects the honesty of this review.

It’s very rare that I read a middle grade that I love as much as I loved this book. I have a lot to say about DeStefano’s middle grade debut, so here is your synopsis from Goodreads:

Pram Bellamy is special—she can talk to ghosts. She doesn’t have too many friends amongst the living, but that’s all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.

Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram’s power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost.

1. This was my first DeStefano book, and I know this is middle grade, but wow the writing is gorgeous.

As a middle school teacher, I’m always looking for middle grade books that will challenge my students’ intellect. A lot of times, the language fails to make my students think about what they’re reading. There is a disconnect because kids who are reluctant readers need insanely clever writing and world building. This book has both. The writing was gorgeous and elevated and I can’t say enough about the beauty of the writing in this book. It’ll definitely be recommended to my middle schoolers this school year.

2. Pram is so interesting, even as a newborn child.

From the time we’re introduced to Pram (short for Pragmatic), she is different. She is born dead and brought back to life. Because of this, she has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts. She is in a constant state of in-between, hence the title of this book. She is an insanely smart little girl and she is more well read than most adults I know. She was a fantastic protagonist for this book (and series) because she constantly surprises me not only with her brains, but her curiosity and bravery.

3. When Pram goes to school, she meets Clarence who I also adore.

From the first time Pram meets Clarence, she knows they are a perfect match. Pram is forced to go to school since her aunts are deemed unfit to continue her schooling. During her first day at school, she meets Clarence by trying to sit at his desk at the back corner of the room. He graciously lets her sit there. Then, at lunch, they run into each other again when they’re finding the most secretive and secluded spot in the lunch room. For eleven years old, Pram is very clever and a pretty good judge of character. Better than I was at eleven, anyway. Clarence shows Pram that not everyone at school is cruel as she originally thought they’d be. I really liked that about this book. More about that later.

4. Felix is one of my favorite characters…and he’s dead.

Felix is Pram’s best friend. He lives at the lake next to Pram’s aunts’ 200 year old colonial. They’re constant companions. While Pram’s aunts think that she has an imaginary friend, Pram is communicating with the ghost of a little boy. He is loving, protective, charming, and a little sad. I adored this kid.

5. A lot of this book was focused on the cruelty – or lack thereof – of the living.

When Pram starts school, she is convinced that everyone will be cruel to her. Then, on her first day, she meets Clarence and she starts to see the living as tolerable, if not nice, people. Since she spends a lot of time with the dead (and the elders in her aunts’ homes), she’s kind of awkward at interacting with the living and the young living. When she meets Lady Savant, she uses her great judgment of character and doesn’t reveal much about herself. However, Lady Savant knows things about Pram that she doesn’t let on. She is the cruelest person in the book, yet Pram still ends up feeling sympathy for her. What eleven year old child possesses that kind of empathy? I adored Pram and the story and the villain and the writing…basically everything.

OVERALL: FIVE STARS!!! I can’t wait to recommend this to my students this school year. The ghosts in the book are kind and just want to talk while the living are the real monsters, which was a great way to write this story. I was enthralled the entire time and I loved everything about this book. I can’t wait to see where this story goes and what Pram does with her abilities. Go forth and preorder from your local bookstore or Amazon because you will adore this. It’ll be a fantastic beginning of fall read, especially if you hate summer as much as I (or Lauren DeStefano herself) do.

ARC Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything EverythingTitle: Everything, Everything

Author: Nicola Yoon

Series: None. Standalone

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: September 1, 2015

Genre: YA, Contemporary

I was provided with an egalley of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is no way affects the candor of this review.

You guys know by now that I’m never really into contemporary unless it grabs me immediately. Well, this one did it! I loved this book so much. So, here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

1. I really, really liked Maddy.

So Maddy’s disease basically makes it so she’s trapped inside always. When she has visitors, they have to be completely decontaminated because she is allergic to everything. Instead of wallowing in pity over her illness, she loves to live her life through books (which are vacuum sealed and brand new inside of bags that are delivered to her) and her classes over Skype. She loves architecture and is able to see her tutor once a week. This really impressed me because if it were me, I would be constantly feeling sorry for myself and I would most DEFINITELY wallow in self pity. Not Maddy, though. I really liked that about her.

2. Maddy is surrounded by a great support system…and then we meet Olly.

Maddy has been attached to next door neighbors before. Then, they moved away and she was heartbroken, according to her nurse, Carla and her mother. Her mother is her doctor and is very meticulous in monitoring and taking care of her daughter. Carla is pretty awesome. Not only is she Maddy’s nurse, but she’s her best friend. When Olly and Maddy start emailing and talking about meeting, Carla goes behind Maddy’s mother’s back in order for them to spend some time together face to face. I thought that was so wonderful of her, especially since Maddy’s mother is a little bit OCD when it comes to her daughter. I mean, I don’t blame her, but there comes a time when Maddy should be able to make her own decisions about her health, especially since she is 18.

3. Olly and Maddy are so cute I could die.

Olly and Maddy spend only a few minutes at a time together, but it’s enough. They IM every night until the wee hours of the morning and there is so much tension when they’re together. Even though Olly is decontaminated every time he sees Maddy, there is still no touching. They are basically in a room, talking and getting along, without being able to even sit close enough to touch each other. I can imagine how that would be the worst kind of torture. Olly is so sweet and his intelligence is on par with Maddy’s, which makes for some delightful banter between the two of them.

4. I really liked the way this story was told.

Most of the book was told through a first person narrative, but interspersed between Maddy’s narration were charts she makes, former journal entries, and IM and email conversations between she and Olly. I thought this was really creative and added so much more to the story. I felt like Maddy was a friend telling me a story instead of a narrator in a book.

5. The ending was kind of easy to call, but it took me awhile to figure it out.

I’m not telling you much about this book because trust me when I say this will be a one day read. However, the end really made me happy then surprised me, then made me SO angry then happy again. It’s an emotional roller coaster for SURE. If you think Maddy will come into her own and make decisions for herself, you’re absolutely right, but I won’t tell you much more than that.

OVERALL: 5 STARS!! I adored this book. It was fast paced and told by a wonderful narrator. The ending came out of nowhere and I loved that, since it took me awhile to figure it out. I know this review was a little short, and a little vague, but that’s all with a purpose. I want you to read this book so desperately. This book releases on September 1, 2015 so click the link below to get your copy!

Click to Order!

ARC Review: The Uninvited by Cat Winters

The UninvitedTitle: The Uninvited

Author: Cat Winters

Series: None. Standalone.

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: August 11, 2015

Genre: NA, Paranormal, Historical Fiction

I received a free egalley of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects the honesty of my review.

Guys, I loved this book! This was my first adventure into and Adult novel for review, since I’m so used to Cat Winters writing YA books that I adore. But I ended up loving this as much as I love her YA! So, without further ado, here is your synopsis from Goodreads:

Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days.

But Ivy’s life-long gift—or curse—remains. For she sees the uninvited ones—ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War.

Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold.

1. True to form, Cat Winters gives us historical fiction with a dash of the creepy.

This story is set in 1918 during the outbreak of the Spanish Influenza of World War I. So of course there is a lot of illness, paranoia, and paranormal happening in Ivy’s town. Fresh from a fever of her own and the knowledge of the death of one of her brothers, Ivy is ready to no longer be a shut in. After her father and brother murder a German man in town, Ivy can’t handle being in the same house and she strikes out on her own. While in town, she gets news of the APL spying on civilians and of a widow who is looking for a boarder. Ever since Ivy was young, she was able to see Uninvited Guests (which is what she and her mother call the spirits they see before someone they love dies). So, mixed in with this small town’s illness, death, and paranoia are some ghosties. As I said, true to form for Cat Winters. I am NOT complaining.

2. Ivy annoyed me for most of this book.

I know, I know, she’s a 25 year old spinster just striking out on her own, but hear me out. Ivy is constantly taking other peoples’ actions on to her own shoulders and feeling guilty for things she can’t control. As someone who used to do that, I saw a bit of my former self in her, which is probably why I was so annoyed. At one point, I even told Goodreads how much she was annoying me with all of her guilt. Just stop it already!

3. The love story in this book developed a little quickly for my taste, but it totally fit.

Ivy ends up visiting the brother of the man who was murdered by her own father and brother. She does anything and everything she can to assuage her guilt. Daniel is the brother left behind. The two brothers were both from Germany and Ivy’s father blamed THEM for the death of his son. There is one scene where Ivy asks what she can do and he tells her to go to bed with him. Her response? Okay. At first I was kind of taken aback by this because of what I had found out about Ivy to that point. But then I got to thinking: a lot of people must have behaved that way during any war. They never knew what was coming next, whether they would live or die, or if they’d get sick. It made a lot of sense the more I thought about it, and their story was too cute.

4. I’m not giving you any spoilers, so this point will be short and sweet:

Nothing is what it seems. If you have read either of Cat Winters’s other books – which, if you haven’t, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! – you should come to expect this. That’s all I’m sayin.

5. Cat Winters’s writing is some of the most beautiful I’ve ever encountered in a book, ever.

I don’t know what it is about Winters’s writing, but it just takes me away. It engrosses me so much in her books that I usually forget where I am when I’m reading them. Not many authors can do this for me, but Winters is one of my favorites. I felt like I was feeling everything Ivy was. The way she describes things is so beautiful and magical. She is hands down one of my favorite authors and I will forever read anything she produces. You go, girl!

OVERALL: 4 stars! I really really enjoyed this book. I’ve been reading YA so long that I kind of had a hard time with the pace of this book, but it was phenomenal as I’ve come to expect from the QUEEN, Cat Winters. This book releases on August 11, so get thee to your local bookstore and get this IMMEDIATELY!