Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before #3) by Jenny Han

You can find the reviews of the previous two books:

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
P.S. I Still Love You

Always and Forever, Lara Jean
(To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before #3)
by: Jenny Han

Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding. But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to? – Goodreads

There’s something so grounded about To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before book series. Whether its about popularity or finding your place, dealing with family pains or facing your feelings or trusting your heart. On top of the teenage woes that are very much relatable or reminiscent, the array of characters are wonderfully well-written, especially our two main characters, Lara Jean and Peter. These love birds have gone through high school at this point and they are at the point where the next big stage in life is here and its a decision to choose to be together and how to do it so that both sides can face their own fears but still hold on to what matters to them and taking the leap of faith. College (or as I call it university in Canada) is a huge step which does have all these realistic ideas that insecurity comes into play and uncertainty also comes along as well making decisions that are true to what you like and accepting the disappointment of rejection and the joys of new doors opening. All this is so well-portrayed in Always and Forever, Lara Jean.

Jenny Han sculpts these two fantastic characters but also all the supporting ones are equally as engaging to read because the stories are not about just teen romance but also embodies a lot of other factors that create these characters including family and other factors. While this story does follow quite the expected storyline of love and loss, big decisions and disappointments that I mentioned before, it somehow feels even more grounded than its previous two stories and that is because through the last two books we’ve bonded with Lara Jean and suddenly these events she goes through feels very real as well. Its the beauty of reading really well-executed books that make them both incredibly fun to read but also have its fair share of heartbreak and heartwrenching decisions and the uncertainty of whether some decisions are worth it while other characters also end up getting this bigger part of their goals and motives that change the dynamic of the situation.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean is a really  great read. Its probably not as engaging as the first book but this one is much more grounded in a very real teenage situation and growing up and being able to making these tough choices. This trilogy has been solid through and through, bring alive some wonderfully colorful characters with still a decent amount of room for development and depth.

The books are now done

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A Series of Unfortunate Events Collection: Books 10-13 by Lemony Snicket

If you missed the previous books reviews in A Series of Unfortunate Events, you can find it below:

Books 1-3
Books 4-6
Books 7-9

A Series of Unfortunate Events Collection: Books 10-13
By: Lemony Snicket

A Series of Unfortunate Events

If, by chance, your moaning and weeping is more or less under control, there is no need to further risk your physical, emotional, and literary health by reading the four remaining volumes in the series. It would be better to regain your strength by spending your time indulging in less alarming activities, such as whistling or making cupcakes for the elderly. After all, this collection contains all of the calamities in the last four volumes of A Series of Unfortunate Events, including abandoned condiments, cigarette smoking, a shocking revelation, a ridiculous laugh, a fearsome storm, a herd of wild sheep, a truly haunting secret about the Baudelaire parents, another shocking revelation, and Phil. There is no need to exposure yourself to such atrocities, not after all you’ve been through already. – Goodreads

Book 10: The Slippery Slope

The Slippery Slope picks up exactly there the previous book ended with Violet and Klaus Baudelaire rolling down a mountain backwards as Count Olaf takes Sunny and his crew up the mountain. Just like how the story starts, the mystery of VFD takes a big leap forward in quite a quick pace. It isn’t in just a literal sense of them sliding down the mountain and Violet and Klaus finding another intelligent way to escape their demise but also introducing one more character in there that makes it a rather sweet turn of events that takes another turn at the end.

The Slippery Slope might be one of my favorite books in the series mostly because of the adrenaline rush and the secrets unveiled and the questioning of their morals and values through all of these efforts of running from Count Olaf. At the same time, Sunny also gets a much bigger role than just being the toddler but also realizing that  she is quite smart and has grown up as well in her own way to the point of having her own narrative plot.

Book 11: The Grim Grotto

From the land now to the sea, The Baudelaires head underwater as the river or stream or whatnot carries them out to a bigger body of water where they get saved by a submarine run by some more VFD members. In exchange of getting them to the Last Safe Place, they end up helping Fiona, the daughter of a Captain that disappears shortly after they board. At the same time, they end up being pursued at sea by Count Olaf yet again with the help of another familiar face from a previous book.

The Grim Grotto gets way more deadly especially because they are sent to explore a grotto under a burnt down research facility run by VFD and also where they learn more about the schism. The danger here elevates even more. The Baudelaires are nifty and smart as always and Fiona becomes an interesting additional character in this serious endeavor which also brings up another relationship link between some supporting characters. That is what makes these stories so fun is the link between all the characters existing and added in along the way to the big picture. There’s a lot of scheming and counterscheming to try and survive and escape a dire situation.

Book 12: The Penultimate Peril

The Penultimate Peril takes us into the Last Safe Place and lands back at where the whole story began. The idea of justice and literal and figurative terms as well as Count Olaf and everyone on the path of the last twelve books gets put together into one and ties both VFD, still with its secrets and the Snickets as well as all the other characters together. Its not exactly the story that shares all the secrets but it also put together both the things that The Baudelaires have learned and also puts into question the final question of whether they are also as guilty as Count Olaf is because of the things they’ve had to do to protect themselves and whether that makes it more right than wrong. The means and all that, right? This one has its whimsical and clever moments and in the end does unlock a few important things however the pacing of it also does have its effect but then its execution of one specific part which lets the reader choose the order of reading simultaneous events is one that is quite unique to say the very least. Its a charming and fun read as always and it seems that more is at stake than ever before and that The Baudelaires and these easily manipulated group of people that they’ve met on their journey since their parents’ death are ever so abundant and how hopeless it must feel for them.

Book 13: The End

The End is an interesting take. On one hand, it moves Count Olaf and The Baudelaires onto another closed in island completely and brings together a group of strangers but in my mind, these people who wash on the shores  of this island all seem to be connected in one way or another, at least one character in particular definitely seems like there is an obvious thread that connects it even if its not specifically mentioned. Of course, we do learn that whether its VFD or the Baudelaires both have their connection to this island where everything eventually gets washed up on and that is what makes it full of secrets as well. In one way, stepping back from VFD and its schism brings forth a bigger picture of how the world itself and any place in general could be as dangerous as VFD because schisms can happen when someone tries to rock the boat as described in this boat. Of course, there is a lot more to the story but I’m not doing spoilers here. I liked The End because it doesn’t give all the answers to enough to feel satisfied with where it all goes. For a book like this, it really is all that we can ask for.

Overall…

The last four books of A Series of Unfortunate Events is exactly those reflected in the last season of the tv series. I’m not going to compare the tv series just yet but will take a look at that in the TV Binge. However, these last four books is a change yet again in the tone and direction of the story because yet again, Count Olaf is more ruthless, there are characters with darker backgrounds and the Baudelaires have grown from their last situations and being stronger and smarter and even more sly as they start thinking like their enemy to win and struggling as whether that is the right thing to do. There are a lot of positive messages to contemplate here while bringing in friendship, alliances, enemies and relationships in general (family, friends, even a hint of romance). There’s a lot to love about these books, especially the whole collection as its a story that tells an intriguing story but also uses its narrative to expand the reader’s vocabulary and popular sayings and descriptions and such that has its own educational value while bringing up some contemplative questions about right and wrong.

Blog Tour: Ginger Snapped by Chloe Sunstone (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Ginger Snapped Blog Tour

Ginger Snapped: A Cybercrime Thriller with a Shocking Twist
by: Chloe Sunstone

Ginger Snapped

Publication Date: October 22nd, 2018
Genre: Thriller

SYNOPSIS

How does an amazing professional opportunity descend into a living nightmare?

Carefree Ginger’s motto of “Work Hard, Play Harder” shapes her life. So when her husband, Jake, gets a job offer on the other side of the country, she is up for the adventure.

But after Jake accepts the promotion, nothing is as expected. While Ginger remains in Cleveland to sell their house, she is plagued by strange prank calls, premonition-like nightmares, and the feeling that she is being watched. Is Jake’s new job putting her in danger?

Unfortunately, she ignores her intuition and soon finds herself face to face with a ruthless killer. Trapped in a deadly world of corporate corruption and murderous greed, she must overcome her own fears and rely on her wits if she plans to survive.

Although the first in the Ginger Gibson series, this is a standalone book.

Goodreads

Purchase Links

Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon UK

EXCERPT

Oh No! I’m back. I am surrounded by inky black nothingness. The air is musty…damp, my nostrils fill with the smell of dank basement. Like in a haunted house, filled with saws and chains and bloody hooks, this is the perfect place for any psycho to hide his tools of the crazy trade. I’m trembling, from the all-encompassing fear, eating at every cell in my body. Where am I? My fingers search out for clues. Beneath me is a thin mattress on a hard surface. My head rests on a concrete-like pillow. My breathing escalates as the panic rises in my chest. I open my mouth to scream, but only a muted croak escapes. Over the thunder of my pounding heart, I hear a booming crack, a gunshot. I recognize the sound from a trip to the range with Jake years earlier.

I swing my legs over the side of my perch, thinking in my blind panic to run even though I cannot see. I can’t ignore this intense urge to flee. But my impulse is thwarted by an unknown restraint trapping my left arm, a rope? Panic has me in its grip. I gasp for air to fill my lungs but produce only whimpers and muted pleas.

A loud screech reverberates through the darkness. Rats? Oh, please, no rats! Could this get any worse? Hysterical, I yank relentlessly on the rope tethering me. With each tug, the line cuts deeper into my skin. My arm warms as blood seeps from the gouges, coating my hand and fingers. Behind me, the pounding sound of footsteps startles me. Before I can turn to confront my visitor, I feel the rush of air preceding the impact to the back of my head. A blaze of bright stars then, a different blackness envelopes me.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chloe Sunstone

After over twenty years in Human Resources, Chloe decided to make a change. She returned to her first love of writing. She combined her corporate experience with her love for the written word to create engaging cyber-crime thrillers.

On a personal note, Chloe lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her loving husband, Mike. They spend their free time boating, scuba diving, and of course, reading. Her latest cybercrime mystery, Ginger Snapped, is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1732013608

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GIVEAWAY

Giveaway: Signed Print Copy of Ginger Snapped (North America Only). Sign up HERE.

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Blog Tour: To Dream the Blackbane by Richard J. O’Brien (Excerpt & Giveaway)

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To Dream the Blackbane
By: Richard J. O’Brien

tdtb book cover

Publication Date: December 29th, 2018
Genre: Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

SYNOPSIS

A cosmic event in 2015 fused Earth with the faerie realm. Scientists referred to the event as The Anomaly. A byproduct of The Anomaly was the advent of hybrid beings—people who became mixed with whatever animal or object was closest to them the moment the event occurred. Humans, or pedigrees, soon relegated fairy refugees and hybrids into ghetto zones in large cities.

Seventy years later, Wolfgang Rex, a second-generation hybrid—part human, part Rhodesian Ridgeback—is a retired police detective who runs a private investigation business in Chicago’s Southside. It’s a one-hybrid show; though Rex couldn’t survive without his assistant, the faerie Sally Sandweb.

One night, two vampires visit Rex and offer him a substantial reward for the recovery of a stolen scroll. Later that same evening, Charlotte Sweeney-Jarhadill, a pedigree woman from Louisiana, visits Rex and hires him to exorcize the headless ghost of a Confederate soldier from her home.

To complicate matters, the private detective ends up falling for Charlotte. Meanwhile, the vampires demand results in the search for the missing scroll. When Rex’s assistant Sally goes missing, he must stay alive long enough to find her. Charlotte and the vampires, however, have other plans for Rex.

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EXCERPT

My name is Wolfgang Rex. I am a private detective. Once upon a time I’d been a police lieutenant. After twenty-five years of service to the city of Chicago, I retired in 2063 and opened up Chi-town Detectives, a private investigation firm.

I’m what they call in the medical books a second-generation Anomalous cross-breed. My father was a cop like me. One night he was out walking his dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Rex. My mother hated that dog. After she died I learned that she had always wished that Rex would meet some unfortunate demise. She got her wish on the night of The Anomaly. My father came home from his walk without the dog—in a manner of speaking. For lack of a better term, he and the dog had fused. And the result was a humanoid—with a hairy body, a tail, and the head of his old dog Rex. My mother was horrified, but my parents were both Catholic. So they stuck it out. I was born in the tenth year of The Anomaly. When I was a kid, my mother used to read me fairy tales. She died before I finished high school. So it goes, like Kurt Vonnegut once wrote. I turned out to be the spitting image of my father post-Anomaly. I lucked out with being born without a tail. My father had somehow managed to keep his human vocal cords. My face was less hairy than his, but our snouts were nearly identical.

Learning to speak with a dog’s mouth was tricky when I was coming up, but I eventually got the hang of it. And thank Christ I’d been born with opposable thumbs; otherwise, I would’ve starved to death a long time ago. Still, given that many people melded with inanimate objects—much like that poor bastard who became a stone gargoyle—I constantly considered myself lucky. My father cursed his lot for the rest of his life. Some people, like my old man, never learned to adjust.

Available on Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

author pic

Richard J. O’Brien is a graduate of the Fairleigh Dickinson University MFA in Creative Writing Program. Richard’s novels include Under the Bronze Moon, Infestation, and The Garden of Fragile Things. His short stories have appeared in The Del Sol Review, Duende, Pulp Literature, The Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review, Weirdbook, and other magazines. Richard lives in New Jersey, where he teaches at Rowan College at Gloucester County and Stockton University.

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GIVEAWAY

International Giveaway: For your chance to win 1of 2 digital copies of To Dream the Blackbane, click on the link below!

North America Only: Win 1 of 2 print copies of To Dream the Blackbane, click the link below!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/0e7c6a8f55/?

TOUR SCHEDULE

Jan 7th

Reads & Reels (Excerpt) http://www.readsandreels.com
Life at 17 (Review) https://lifeat17.wordpress.com/
Tranquil Dreams (Excerpt) https://klling.wordpress.com/
The Invisible Moth (Review) https://daleydowning.wordpress.com/

Jan. 8th

On the Shelf Book Reviews (Excerpt) https://ontheshelfreviews.wordpress.com
Jessica Rachow (Review) http://jessicarachow.wordpress.com
Your Books, My Reviews (Review) https://yourbooksmyreview.wordpress.com

Jan. 9th

I Smell Sheep (Excerpt) http://www.ismellsheep.com/
The Voluptuous Book Diva (Excerpt) http://www.thevoluptuousbookdiva.com/
Rockabilly Spoonie (Interview) https://lauramorningstar.com
Splashes into Books (Excerpt) https://splashesintobooks.wordpress.com/

Jan. 10th

Anthony Avina (Excerpt) http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com
The Bookworm Drinketh (Review) http://thebookwormdrinketh.wordpress.com/
The Return Cart (Review) http://thereturncart.com/
Didi Oviatt (Excerpt) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

Jan 11th

Reading Nook (Excerpt) http://readingnook84.wordpress.com
Cats Love Coffee Book Reviews (Review) https://catsluvcoffeez.blogspot.com
J. Bronder Book Reviews (Review) https://jbronderbookreviews.com/
Sammie Reads (Review) https://sammiereadsbook.wordpress.com

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Christmas 2018: A Kiss For Christmas by Melody Grace

A Kiss For Christmas: A Holiday Collection
by: Melody Grace

A Kiss For Christmas

In Holiday Kisses… Writer Dash needs peace and quiet to finish his new script, but he wasn’t betting on inn-keeper Ellie and the local Starbright festival to give him a jolt of holiday inspiration.

In Unexpectedly Yours… Sophie has been dreaming of a magical winter holiday in New York City. Can a chance encounter with musician Austin bring her festive dreams to life?

In Unwrapped… When a unlikely couple gets snowed in on the way to the wedding, a flirty game of truth-or-dare sends temperatures soaring. – Goodreads

A Kiss For Christmas are three novellas set during the holidays and bring two unlikely people together in whichever scenario describe above. Technically, that is alright. It is usually how these sort of contemporary fictions work and they can be really predictable. Which don’t get me wrong, these three are very predictable. My deal is that I’ve never seen anything more formulaic in my life. When something falls into formula too much: disagreement or conflict or some sort of mismatch feeling in the beginning, a hidden physical attraction to each other, a situation that brings them together, some fun sexy bed time, a misunderstanding and then happily ever after. I’m serious, each of these three are structured that way just wrapped up in their different world of one of the series that Melody Grace has created. For people who like this sort of thing, I’m sure it works absolutely. For myself, too much structure and formula really does feel insulting to my intelligence and in turn it gets boring.

I’m not going to look at each of these one by one because there really isn’t’ that much difference to it. The only difference is that the level of hotness of each is supposed to increase from one to the next. I don’t argue that Melody Grace has a knack for writing out these fairly drawn out sexy moments. It is one of the better structured ones. I just have grown out of stories like this where you have two incredibly beautiful people who get attracted to each other physically and then spend time together for like one night and feel they are soulmates then after one night of sexy fun, they believe they are meant to be forever. I’m a romantic but even that seems a tad too much to take in.

However, looking past the romance which is about 85% of this novel, it does deliver on a lot of holiday moments. The first story Holiday Kisses sets itself in a town that probably seems to be inspired by Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls and the Starbright Festival and all the little Christmas gestures here are rather sweet. The second Unexpectedly Yours is set in New York and brings in a lot of the Serendipity inspired activities: snow, ice skating, etc. The last one Unwrapped takes a snowed in situation at the airport at a hotel so it has the least Christmas elements here.

Thank goodness I got this one for free. That is all that I have to say. I would be even more frustrated with A Kiss For Christmas if it wasn’t. But I’m cheap and only grab free stuff on wherever I got this one from which I can’t remember. I’m not the audience for something like this It is the official last book of this contemporary romance that I am reading for a good while (at least a year if not more). Next year will be something moving in another direction and might not even have any straight romance stuff and nothing with sex scenes probably. I can’t know those things in advance so I’m done with this genre for a while.

Book Blitz: In Servitude by Heleen Kist (Excerpt & Giveaway)

in servitude book blitz

In Servitude
by: Heleen Kist

In Servitude

Publication Date: August 23, 2018
Publisher: Pollok Glen Publishing (self-published)
Pages: 338

Recently voted Top 50 Best Indie of 2018 on Read Free.ly

SYNOPSIS

Do you owe your family your life?

Grace thought her sister led a charmed existence.

She was wrong.

Now she has to pay the price.

When Grace’s beloved sister Glory dies in a car crash, her carefully planned life spirals out of control. She discovers Glory had been manipulated into illegal activities at her trendy vegan café. What’s worse, Grace finds herself an unwitting accomplice now forced to take over her sister’s shady dealings.

Determined to keep her fingers clean and protect those Glory left behind, Grace plots to escape the clutches of Glasgow’s criminal underworld. But her moral certainty is challenged when more family secrets emerge and her sister’s past intentions remain unclear.

Grace grows convinced Glory was murdered. Why won’t anyone listen?

Seeking justice, she finds betrayal…

Goodreads

For a limited time, you can purchase In Servitude on Amazon (everywhere) for only $2.99!
Paperback also availabe at Barnes & Noble and other outlets.

EXCERPT

Blue pulled at the lead. I let him off once I’d scanned the area and noted no loose dogs. Only a lone figure loitering. His eye line crossed mine as he also examined the park, and paused on me long enough to raise a creepy sensation.

I moved to a bench by the play park and pretended to tie my laces. When I straightened up, the man was striding straight towards me. I searched for Blue, hoping for a semblance of protection, but he was nowhere to be seen. Nor was anyone else.

Before I could stop him, the man sat down next to me. He whistled and shouted, ‘Here boy!’ then faced me with a disturbing grin. As if he knew the dog wouldn’t come. I jumped to my feet and looked around. What had he done?

On the second blow of silent air through my dry mouth, Blue appeared from behind a tree thirty yard away. Safe. He showed no interest in me or the man, instead sniffing out the ground’s many treasures.

I turned back to the intruder. Standing over him gave me an edge—at least I thought it did—and I raised my chin and my voice when I asked, ‘Do I know you?’

He chuckled. ‘Nah, hen. I’m only the messenger.’

‘What?’

His smile faded. ‘We’re not very happy about you closing the café for so long. You need to open up again. There’s a delivery coming on Thursday.’

‘What do you mean? How do you—’

His eyes turned to ice as he grabbed my wrist in a flash. ‘We’ll be very disappointed if you’re not there to receive the goods. Ken what I’m saying?’

He rushed off, his dark coat billowing behind him like a cape, almost engulfing Blue who circled his legs, tail wagging, until he turned towards the road.

About the Author

heleen kist

Heleen Kist is a Dutch businesswoman who lived all over the world while growing up and for her career. Then she fell in love with a Scotsman and his country, and now writes about its (sometimes scary) people from her garden office in Glasgow.

She was selected as an ‘up and coming new writer’ and awarded a Spotlight at Bloody Scotland 2018, the International crime writing festival.

Her debut psychological suspense novel ‘In Servitude’ was inspired by Heleen’s expertise in small business finance mixed with her friend’s courageous idea to open a vegan cafe in a city renowned for its dubious diet. She is currently working on her next book, which will be dark women’s fiction.

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Media Contact: hk@heleenkist.com

GIVEAWAY

2 paperback copies of In Servitude by Heleen Kist are up for grabs!!!

Winners will be selected at random on 23 December and notified personally, only your initials will be used in the winner’s announcement.

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Christmas 2018: Stinky Santa by Otto Fishblanket

Stinky Santa
by: Otto Fishblanket

Stinky Santa

Jingle bells, Santa smells –
he smells of mouldy cheese.
He doesn’t wear any trousers
so you can see his knees.
A new work by renowned poet and part-time aeronautical escapologist, Otto Fishblanket, Stinky Santa is a book about a smelly Santa. It is illustrated by celebrity childen’s book illustrator, Gerald Hawksley. – IMDB

It seems like I’m taking a childish turn of events over here. Its not a bad thing at all. I was going through my Kindle and realized I had at some point gotten this Stinky Santa book for free. Its two short stories set in rhyming poetry about the holidays. The first is called Stinky Santa which talks about Santa who doesn’t like to shower and smells a lot but then gets all nice for Christmas to deliver the gifts and goes back sweaty and dirty and goes back to his usual routine. Its a little silly but somehow quite fun and satisfying to read. Plus, the drawings are done pretty cute as well. It fits into what I think kids will enjoy. Plus, the writing runs off the tongue well especially because it does rhyme well so never feels too forced.

The second story or poem (not sure what to call it yet) is what they say is a “surprise gift”. Its a nice little perk called Santa’s Grotty Grotto. Most people probably wouldn’t refer to Santa’s workshop as a grotto but here it works a little like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves or something where the place is usually empty and desolate and then it comes to life when it snows. Its a nice thought because even for myself, living in Canada, there is more Christmas spirit and holiday cheer when it snows outside and it just feels more suitable for the holiday season the way that I like it.

Both of these stories is just fun and entertaining. It has some funny bits and a lovely reading experience. Plus, its quick and quirky which also fits into something similar to Dr. Seuss. I mean, there is no comparison because Dr. Seuss is always a gem to read and irreplaceable but I had some similar vibes here and there with the creativity and the silly nature of the material. It is a nice break from the novels and romance and all that stuff that I’ve been reading and watching so the change of pace works for me.