Mini Reviews

Where have I been?? It’s been 2 months since my last post, and I’ve missed blogging! But I have good reasons for taking a hiatus. April was an emotionally exhausting month that I still haven’t completely recovered from, and I’ve spent most of May reading, which really makes up for my reading drought in March and April. I feel like I can breathe again now that I keep flying through book after book.

So here are some mini reviews for the Young Adult books I’ve read over the past few months:

PS I Like YouP.S. I Like You by Kasie West – A modern Young Adult adaptation of You’ve Got Mail. This book really surprised me, mainly because Kasie West is a hit or miss author for me. I’ve previously read The Distance Between Us (did not finish) and The Fill-In Boyfriend (which I enjoyed and previously blogged about). P.S. I Like You was exactly what I needed to read this month. April was brutal and YA contemporary romances have been comforting to me. P.S. I Like You was adorably cute with themes of friendship, misunderstandings, and second chances.
My Rating: ♥♥♥

Everything EverythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – I had been wanting to read this before the movie comes out later this year, and the premise was very promising: a girl who can’t go outside because she may die falls in love with the boy next door. I’ve always been a sucker for tragic romances, so it was easy for me to get into this book. The writing is sentimental and gripping. It also includes email exchanges between the two main characters, and I love when books incorporate modern communication technologies. Everything, Everything has a twist at the end that I did not see coming, and honestly I’m still trying to come to terms with it weeks later.
I think the film will be true to the book, and I’m happy with the actors they’ve chosen. Also, the soundtrack will probably be phenomenal, based on the trailers I’ve seen.
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥ (3.5 if I’m being honest)

The Start of Me and YouThe Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – This book should really have its own post, because Emery Lord is a genius who can make you laugh and cry every other chapter. I fell in love with Open Road Summer and I still listen to the playlist I made while reading it. The Start of Me and You was different but still emotionally gripping. I love how Emery Lord incorporates mental health and healing into her books. The main character in The Start of Me and You is struggling with grief, fear, and moving on, and her journey inspired me a lot since I’ve been dealing with those same things recently. Also, there’s an adorably dorky romance in this story, and it’ll make your heart smile.
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline – My husband and I flew through Armada a few months ago, and we were so excited when our Ready Player One hold became available at the library. Ready Player One is fully laden with video game and nerd references. 95% of the video game references and allusions went straight over my head, but I still enjoyed the story. It’s hard not to compare this novel with Armada, and I’d have to say that I preferred Zack’s character over Wade’s.
One thing about Ready Player One that did fascinate me, though, is the idea of internet anonymity. As it is in real life, the characters were able to be whomever they wanted to be, while hiding, enhancing, or even creating certain traits and behaviors. It’s interesting how the internet allows users to be confident and honest about who they are and yet most people hide behind a mask (or in Ready Player One’s case, an OASIS avatar) while communicating with people they will probably never meet in real life.
My one problem with Ready Player One is how critical Ernest Cline is of religion (and I say Ernest Cline because, even though it’s Wade narrating, it is painfully obvious how much Cline hates religion). As a reader and a Christian, I felt disrespected, as if the author was jumping through the pages to yell at me).
Steven Spielberg is working on the film adaptation coming out next year, and I am anxiously awaiting to see how that turns out! The story’s villain is played by Ben Mendelsohn, who played Orson Krennic in Rogue One (I’m sure he’s a great guy in real life, but he plays villains so well that I hate the character of Sorrento even more knowing that Mendelsohn is playing him).
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

This week I also finished Every Last Word, a YA novel by Tamara Ireland Stone that features a main character with OCD. It was really resonant, and I’m looking forward to getting a review up soon! I have lots of thoughts to muddle through.

In the mean time, what are some 2017 releases that should be on my To Be Read list?


The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick


“I think that you wouldn’t believe the problems that can be resolved just by people taking the time to talk to one another.”

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
Published June 24, 2014 by Touchstone
New Adult/Re-adaptation/Romance
Format: Hardcover; 400 pages
Also By These Authors: The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet (pub. 2015)
                                                     Goodreads | Amazon
                                                     My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

I have slowly been making it through the library haul I brought home in early December. I seriously overestimated the amount of time I would have to read once I started working full-time.

But I have finally made it through this stack of library checkouts (I only DNF one; I hate not finishing a book and I only do it if it’s at least 75% unenjoyable) and I am happy to say that The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet lived up to my expectations!


Based on the Emmy Award winning YouTube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.Twenty four year old grad student Lizzie Bennet is saddled with student loan debt and still living at home along with her two sisters, beautiful Jane and reckless Lydia. When she records her reflections on life for her thesis project and posts them on YouTube, she has no idea The Lizzie Bennet Diaries will soon take on a life of their own, turning the Bennet sisters into internet celebrities seemingly overnight.

Featuring plenty of fresh twists to delight fans and new readers alike, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet expands on the web series phenomenon that captivated a generation and reimagines the Pride and Prejudice story like never before.


If you are not familiar with the YouTube sensation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, stop reading and watch this video (seriously, the rest of this post won’t make sense if you don’t).

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At first I thought it was a little strange to make a diary based off a YouTube series that’s based off a book, but there were some incentives to reading this diary, namely the extra scenes that we only get to see Lizzie & co. re-enact via costume theater on her vlog (which was a fantastic element to the show, don’t get me wrong). My favorite of these bonus scenes is the San Francisco tour date Lizzie went on with Gigi and Darcy. We don’t hear anything about that on the show so it was fun getting to swoon a bit over the awkward cuteness that is “Dizzie”.

My least favorite of these scenes involved Jane. I don’t want to go into full detail because there was definitely an element of surprise to it (this particular event isn’t even whispered about on camera, so it’s obviously a very private matter). It shocked me a bit because it felt very un-Jane like. Jane, to me, is in the same category as Eleanor Dashwood and Fanny Price (and we could even include Jane Eyre for her personal moral convictions), and I had a hard time picturing this “shock” happening to Jane Bennet. I know I’m being extremely vague–has anyone else read this book and felt the same way that I did about Jane’s “secret”?

I didn’t have time to watch all of the episodes along with reading their corresponding diary entries, but I think it would be fun to do if you’re in the mood for a LBD rewatch. I did watch a handful of my favorite episodes towards the end of the book when the plot started to thicken. This is my favorite episode, although Episode 83 – “Corporate Interview” is a very close second.

Read This Book If…:

…you have already watched (and loved!) The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Or if you are going to watch and read the diary together. The diary will only be enjoyable if you’re familiar with the YouTube episodes.
…you love Jane Austen retellings!
…you enjoy epistolary reads–each entry is pretty short so it makes for good reading if you don’t have time to sit and read for long periods of time.
…you want a book that makes you feel warm and fuzzy (seriously, you’ll want to hug your sisters, mothers, and best friends after finishing this book).

“People look different when you know their secrets. And they look differently at you.”

Final Musings

There’s nothing like reading this book to get you in the mood for a Lizzie Bennet Diaries marathon! I also know that Ashley Clements, a.k.a. Lizzie B herself, narrated the audiobook. It was already easy to hear in my head all of the different characters reading their lines, but I would love to hear Lizzie do her costume theater interpretations of Darcy, Ms. De Bourgh, and of course Mrs. Bennet.

The Trouble With Flirting by Rachel Morgan


I had everything perfectly planned for my first year of university…That, apparently, was a mistake.

The Trouble With Flirting by Rachel Morgan
Published Sept 9, 2014
New Adult (clean) Romance
Format: e-book; 332 pages
Also By This Author: The Trouble With Flying, The Trouble With Faking, Trouble With Falling
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 4/5


Labelled a nerd for most of high school, Livi sees her first year of university as a chance to redefine herself. She can finally enter the popular crowd and maybe even land herself a super hot boyfriend. But Livi’s about to discover that the price of popularity may be more than she’s willing to pay, and that what—and who—she wants most has always been right in front of her.


Doesn’t this (really pretty) cover match my blog colors perfectly? YES I’M OBSESSED WITH PRETTY COVERS! I have a problem.

The Trouble With Flirting was a really fun read! I just finished the book moments ago and I have those warm fuzzy feelings you get after reading something cute. Livi, the main character, is a college freshman in Cape Town, South Africa, and although she can be somewhat frustrating at times, she’s also easy to identify with. I loved that she was a nerd, because I feel that so many girls who read this (including myself) are nerds as well, and may also try to cover that up when making new friends.

The whole theme of owning yourself and not being ashamed to admit you’re into specific hobbies or interests just because you want to impress or fit in with a clique was really encouraging. I used to think that was only an issue you’d have in high school, but then I noticed it in college, and later with coworkers, and more and more this year I’ve found myself thinking, “Who CARES if I’m a nerd? If I listen to the same song on loop for an hour? If I watch A Walk To Remember and bawl my eyes out and STILL want to watch it again?” I shouldn’t be embarrassed about any of my interests, as long as they’re not unhealthy or harmful, and as Livi’s best friend Adam reminds us, I shouldn’t change who I am to make friends.

Wow, I was not expecting to say all of that in this review. But I really needed to, I guess! :)

If you’re looking for a book that’s light reading but not too light, this is a great one! Some scary things happen to Livi, but some great things happen as well, and the book focuses on those things.

Read This Book If…:

…you’ve ever wanted to redefine yourself
…you’ve ever felt unnecessarily embarrassed or ashamed because of a specific friend, hobby, or interest
…you’re a college freshman (or can identify with one)
…you enjoy reading books that touch on more serious subject matter yet are still comforting reads with “swoon-worthy” moments

“Because you know that place at the back of people’s minds where they keep their secret fantasies? That’s where I kept you, Livi. And if I finally get to make that a reality, I want it to last.”

Final Musings:

Rachel Morgan writes about conflicts that everyone will go through during life: peer-pressure, drug & alcohol abuse, self-love, self-confidence, and how to make worthy friends & love interests. The thing I really loved about The Trouble With Flirting is that it touches on all of these deep subjects while also bringing out the “silver-lining.” This book won’t make you cry, but it’ll make you self-reflect. And also, it’ll make you swoon because the main romance is filled with all sorts of geeky adorableness :)

A breathy laugh escapes me. “Don’t be nervous. It’s just me.”
“Exactly,” he says, and his face is flushed as he looks up and adds, “It’s you.”

Review & Giveaway: Heart & Soul by Lee Strauss

Heart and Soul

One of my favorite indie authors is Elle Strauss, who typically writes Young Adult science fiction romances. My favorite novel of hers is Clockwise, a story about a high schooler who frequently and unintentionally time travels to the Civil War era. But Elle Strauss also writes adult fiction under the pen name Lee Strauss.

Lee Strauss’s most recent series, The Minstrel Series, is a clean romance series that focuses on the lives of aspiring singer-songwriters. There are currently three novels in the Minstrel Series. The first two, Sun & Moon and Flesh & Bone, take place in Dresden, Germany and follow the lives of German twenty-somethings whose paths intertwine.

sun and moon
Sun & Moon: She has a past. He has a secret.
Katja’s a risk-taking singer-songwriter hoping to make it in the indie music scene in Dresden, Germany. Micah’s a brooding uptown banker on a quest.
There’s an undeniable attraction between them, a gravitational pull they both struggle to resist. Katja knows she mustn’t fall in love with this handsome enigma. There’s something dark lurking beneath the surface. He could be dangerous.
And even if her life isn’t on the line, her heart most definitely is.
flesh and bone
Flesh & Bone: She can’t remember. He can’t forget.
Eva Baumann is invisible. Sebastian Weiss is famous. In a perfect world Eva would be fearless and Sebastian would be guiltless.
It’s not a perfect world.
Singer-songwriter Eva Baumann has a celebrity crush on Sebastian Weiss. He’s perfect to love because there is no way they could ever be a thing. She’s a nobody. He’s a heart-throb. Hiding an infatuation is easy for her because, since her accident, hiding is what she does best.
Sebastian Weiss’s band climbed the charts, seemingly overnight, and he’s finally living the dream. All he has to do is write enough songs to produce a second album. The bad news is he hasn’t written a song in over a year…
But then Sebastian stumbles into the Blue Note Pub in time to hear Eva Baumann perform a hauntingly beautiful song. Could this girl be the answer to defeating his writer’s block?
Eva and Sebastian begin a complicated writing relationship that leads to more. But Sebastian has a secret that will devastate them both.

Flesh & Bone has been my favorite installment so far in this series. I had a hard time putting it down! I loved the characters and the story line was very moving. I loved the way it dealt with forgiveness and redemption, and I also really enjoyed how the main characters grew and changed during the novel.

The third Minstrel novel, Heart & Soul was released yesterday, and I volunteered to receive a free copy in exchange for a review. Heart & Soul is a spin-off of Flesh & Bone and it follows the life of the main character’s sister, Gabriele. That being said, I felt that this novel could stand-alone (but definitely read Flesh & Bone, either before or after!).

Heart and Soul Heart & Soul: She’s heartbroken. He’s heartless.
Gabriele Baumann-Smith is deliriously in love with her young husband Lennon. Except, it turns out that Lennon Smith isn’t his real name. In fact, he’s full of secrets: a cottage on the southern British coast, an old girlfriend and…an identical twin brother.
Callum Jones—not his real name—can’t believe his brother’s widow came to England. He’d warned Mick—Lennon—that an inheritance could put the girl’s life in danger, and he was right.
“Mrs. Smith” is the last thing Callum needs to worry about right now. She’s beautiful, sure, takes his breath away at times. But when she looks at him, who does she see?
Gabriele’s heart is battered and bruised. Can one brother fix what the other left behind? And will they live long enough to find out?

This novel was much more suspenseful than the previous two, which I enjoyed because it changed things up a bit. Heart & Soul, like its predecessors, has lots of descriptive imagery. The first two novels take place in Germany, and you can easily imagine the European architecture and city-life. Heart & Soul is set in England, in a small seaside village where everyone knows everyone else. The minstrel/singer-songwriter motif isn’t so much in the spotlight, but there are still a few songs included. Now normally I don’t enjoy reading through song lyrics in a novel, but this series has been different for me; I really like the lyrics and I even take my time reading through them :)

If you are looking for heartwarming novels to read this summer, I recommend you grab one of the Minstrel Series installments to take with you to the beach or the pool! And I’ll even make it easy on you by offering a giveaway of the entire series! The giveaway also includes the original mp3s that go along with the series, as well as a $25 Amazon gift card. (Scroll to the bottom for the link to the Rafflecopter giveaway)
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Heart & Soul

Heart & Soul is the third book in The Minstrel Series 

(This is a connected book series – while each book can stand alone, they are best enjoyed in sequence.)

She’s heartbroken. He’s heartless.
Gabriele Baumann-Smith is deliriously in love with her young husband Lennon.
Except, it turns out that Lennon Smith isn’t his real name. In fact, he’s full of secrets: a cottage on the southern British coast, an old girlfriend and… an identical twin brother.
Callum Jones—not his real name—can’t believe his brother’s widow came to England. He’d warned Mick—Lennon—that an inheritance could put the girl’s life in danger, and he was right.
“Mrs. Smith” is the last thing Callum needs to worry about right now. She’s beautiful, sure, takes his breath away at times. But when she looks at him, who does she see?
Gabriele’s heart is battered and bruised. Can one brother fix what the other left behind? And will they live long enough to find out?

BUZZ for Heart & Soul

“…this took a turn for the spy/thriller genre, which surprised me, but still carried the strong romantic flavor and wonderful accompanying music, like the first two books. I think this is a great series and would recommend it to contemporary romance fans.” Denise Jaden, author of Foreign Exchange

Another great book by Lee! This one had action, wit and a forbidden love! Love the characters and their interaction with each other! Can’t wait to see what she has in store for us next!” Tressa Sager, Amazon reviewer

I don’t want to give away what the danger is, but suffice it to say, it’s a real and plausible threat. Gabrielle is a good leading lady. She doesn’t back down from anything or anyone in this book, but she’s still vulnerable, making her well-rounded and likable.” J Harrell, Amazon reviewer
AMAZON | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | itunes | Google Play
Heart & Soul in Print
The Music fromThe Minstrel Series Volume 3 Heart & Soul
Featuring the author’s daughter, Tasia Strauss!

Lee Strauss’ thoughts on The Minstrel Series and Heart & Soul:
My musician husband and I just randomly started talking about the idea of working on a project together – wouldn’t it be great if we could collaborate and merge our two artistic worlds? Writing and Music? That was the seed that started the muse talking, and soon afterward The Minstrel Series was born!
For Heart & Soul, I knew I wanted to move the series from Germany to England (next to Ireland and Boston!) and that I needed a small coastal town not far from London. I used Google Earth to examine the British coastline to search for the perfect town and found it in Emsworth. Living in Germany part-time has its advantages and one of them is its proximity to England. My husband and I did a quick five day research trip. (It also came in handy for the next book, a Christmas novella set in London – stay tuned!)
Because of the musical aspect of this series, I’m always on the prowl for songs and singers. My connection to the singer-songwriter world via my musical husband has been a big advantage. My husband’s musical genes have also been down to our kids, so it’s exciting to involve my daughter Tasia in the project to be the singing voice of Gabriele.”
Click HERE to read the first chapter of Heart & Soul. 
**One of the entry options will ask a question from the above chapter.
About The Minstrel Series:
The Minstrel Series is a collection of contemporary romance novels set in the singer/songwriter world. The books are companion novels, with shared settings and characters, but each is a complete stand-alone story with a HEA (happily ever after) and no cliffhangers!
The books include MP3 links to original music by talented Indie Artists, so you can hear the characters sing!
#1     Sun & Moon
#2     Flesh & Bone 
#3     Heart & Soul 

#3.5  Peace & Goodwill (Christmas Novella coming Fall 2014)

It also has its own FACEBOOK (link) page and its own BANDCAMP (link) page where you can listen to the original music associated with the books. Albums are also available on AMAZON.

About Lee Strauss:
Lee Strauss is the author of The Minstrel Series (contemporary romance), The Perception Series (young adult dystopian) and young adult historical fiction. She is the married mother of four grown children, three boys and a girl, and divides her time between British Columbia, Canada and Dresden, Germany. When she’s not writing or reading she likes to cycle, hike and do yoga. She enjoys traveling (but not jet lag >:0), soy lattes, red wine and dark chocolate.



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