Review: By Your Side by Kasie West

Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 352 (eARC)
Source: Edelweiss
In this irresistible story, Kasie West explores the timeless question of what to do when you fall for the person you least expect. Witty and romantic, this paperback original from a fan favorite is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson.

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~
By now, I know that if I am in need of a quick, fluffy contemporary, I can reliably turn to Kasie West. She has never let me down! And while ON THE FENCE is still my favorite of hers to date, this is definitely a close second. Plus, it helps that this is such a cute and quick read that I read it in less than six hours. Literally the perfect pick-me-up for any book lover!

This book starts immediately with the main character, Autumn, getting trapped in a library. I felt really bad for her, especially because it was cold, but as she described this library I found myself being super envious of its awesomeness. But, anyway, Autumn is obsessed with control. She has to be in control of everything and liked by everyone. This may be because she has anxiety and has a panic attack when situations become truly out of control. While her family is ridiculously supportive (more on that later), her friends don't know about her anxiety because she is scared they will treat her differently.

Then there's Dax. Dax is also stuck in the library. He is a bit cliche in the sense that he is that school bad boy that has a reputation that doesn't fit him that then falls for the good girl, but I have no gripes. I loved Dax and his hidden heart of gold and calming nature. He is so selfless, thoughtful, and kind, and made the best of a really bad hand of cards life dealt him. We need more characters like him and Autumn that allow us to explore important issues like the realities of foster care and anxiety.

A huge shout-out to Autumn's family as well. As we all know, there's a bit of a plague in the YA world full of bad parents. Autumn's family are wonderful. Her older brother Owen comes home from college to see her because he cares about her, and she can tell him anything. Her parents worry for her and support her mental health consistently, allowing her to be independent but being there for her whenever she needs them. They see the importance in mental health days and overcoming anxiety-inducing situations. I really enjoyed their dynamic and think it was very refreshing to have in this book.

I loved so much about this book it's hard to find any negatives, but there are two things I didn't like. Firstly...I didn't like how Dax and Autumn met. I mean, sure, suddenly realizing someone else is trapped in the library would probably be weird, but their meeting seemed awkward and forced and like it didn't flow with the rest of the story. And then secondly, I hated Autumn's friends! I mean, Lisa's great, but the others seemed kind of two-dimensional and boring, and they didn't even realize Autumn didn't make it to the bonfire with them and was trapped in the library! I get it, she has a reputation for running off (due to her anxiety, not that they knew that), but if you are a good friend you'd look for her or confirm her safety before, I don't know, leaving her behind on a mere assumption. Also, Dallin, Jeff's best friend, is a terribly cold person that is rude. Cold person is cold. Situations of high stress may make people act out, but I found myself sneering every time he was on the page. Not a fan, though I guess it's a positive West could incite so much animosity in me.

I wish there was more. More kissing, more Dax and Autumn, more. They work so well together and this book was so quick I was a little surprised when it ended. I want to know what happens next because so many questions remain unanswered. I know West hasn't really written any sequels since her Pivot Point duology, but this book could easily swing one.

Read this if you want a fluffy contemporary, love libraries, and a respectful handling of anxiety and the foster care system. West will never disappoint.

4 stars


FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation of any kind in exchange for my honest review.

My Ten Favorite Christmas Movies (And A Call For Recommendations)

Christmas is an awesome time of the year that I love to partake in, but I don't actually celebrate the holiday since I am Jewish. I still make it a point to go to all of the New York City Christmas decorations and to watch a ton of Christmas movies while I prep for finals. Heck, I have a very Jewish Christmas by ordering days worth of Chinese food and watching said movies with the family.

So, I thought it would be fun to make a list of my favorite Christmas movies (and the terrible ones but that's what makes them so amazing) and the ones I always watch around Christmastime and ask for future recommendations!

This list is in no particular order...


1. The Holiday- A Christmas movie with Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet as the two leads who switch places for 2 weeks over Christmas after bad breakups. I love the fact that Jack Black is in an entertaining suitor role, which is rare, and this is probably the most attractive Jude Law I have ever encountered: British book editor that's sensitive and with long hair. Sign me the heck up!

2. The Polar Express- Based on a highly beloved children's book, is there really anything more I should say? Tom Hanks killed this movie, the animation is on point, and every time I watch I find myself singing about how much I need some HOT CHOCOLAAAAAATTEEEEE.

3. The Mistle-Tones- This is ABC Family's first original musical that is available on Netflix each year. It stars Tia Mowry (of Sister, Sister fame) and a pregnant Tori Spelling as a terribly cliche evil lady, which is what makes it so perfect. Mowry is trying to follow in her mother's footsteps by singing in a Christmas acapella group. Why is the love interest so hot?! Why are her friends so perfectly dorky?! Why am I in love with this movie?! I don't know, but I am. 

4. Elf- Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel are perfect in this movie. I don't know what else to say aside from the fact that it is probably one of the most quoted and GIFed movie on the Internet. But I will never put maple syrup on my spaghetti, nope. Whoever came up with this plot is one of my favorite people ever. Son of a Nutcracker!

5. The Santa Clause- This entire series starring Tim Allen is ridiculously creative and fun, even if the mom and step-dad are overly intense in the first movie. These are Christmas classics, hands down. Plus, I love me a good play on words, and this entire movie is based off a good play on words.

6. The Nightmare Before Christmas- I have to watch this movie before both Halloween and Christmas because it is tradition. Even though I primarily associate it with Halloween, it is just the way it is. No if's, and's, or but's about it.

7. Rise of the Guardians- This is a relatively new movie in the grand scheme of things, but it follows Jack Frost and has a crazy awesome Russian gangster Santa Claus and an Australian hunter Easter Bunny and I just love it. I love it so hard. Plus, it helps that Chris Pine voices Jack Frost because everything about him, including his voice, is delicious.

8. Love Actually- The idea behind this movie spawned a ton of terrible knock off's with way too many celebrities, but this one still beats them all. My favorite couple is probably the one who stages porn because they're so delightfully awkward. But, really, this entire movie is perfection. So many attractive people, so much funny, so much perfection.

9. Home Alone- If I was left out of a family Christmas, I would not be nearly as resourceful as Kevin. I love this franchise, a true classic.

10. Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas- When I was younger, this movie used to scare me. But, as I've grown older, I literally feel like I can identify with the Grinch, now matter how weird-looking he is. Yes, I just want to eat. No, I do not want to people. Yes, I want to be left alone. No, I am not feeling cheery.

Plus, shout out to Harry Potter because I use Christmas as an excuse to watch the series every year and Frozen because a ton of kids are probably going to watch its icy shenanigans on repeat this year.


What are your favorite Christmas movies? Odds are I haven't watched them since I tend to stick to this list, so I'd love more recommendations! Do we have any favorite movies in common? Or did my list inspire you to look up some of these movies?

Waiting on Wednesday #81

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.

My pick of the week is...
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

Why I Am Waiting 

To begin, I am in serious cover love with this book! I have loved every book that Emery Lord has put out, and her writing has gotten stronger and stronger with each new release. This book is posed to be my new favorite, and my body is so ready for it. Emery Lord tackles really tough subjects in her writing with respect and grace, which is something necessary when taking on something as important as cancer. Can Emery Lord really do any wrong? The answer to that question is a hard NO.


Are you equally as excited for this book as me? Is there another book you are even more excited about? Please share your thoughts with me below!

Top Five New To Me Authors I Read in 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

As I write this post, I have only read 50.5 (working my way through CROOKED KINGDOM) books so far this year. Unfortunately, not a lot of them are from new authors. So I'm limited this to 5 because I can't say some of the new ones I have encountered are "top authors" worthy.


1. Elle Kennedy - I binged the first three books in the OFF CAMPUS series and then made grabby hands at the fourth and final one the second I could get it, which is probably my favorite of them all. Why did I wait so long to have Elle Kennedy in my life?! I need a sexy hockey player please.

2. John Corey Whaley - I read HIGHLY ILLOGICAL BEHAVIOR will studying abroad in London and loved absolutely every minute of it. I really want to read his backlist now.

3. Brandon Sanderson - The ALCATRAZ VS. THE EVIL LIBRARIANS series is one of the first major projects I did for my internship at Tor. I have picked up many of his books with the intention of just sitting down and bingeing the heck out of them, but these got to me first. If you want a hilarious and totally meta middle grade series that was ahead of its time, hunt these down!

4. Justine Larbalestier - I read MY SISTER ROSA on a friend's recommendation, not knowing how I would feel about a 10 year old psychopath. Turns out I love them. I have been aware of Larbalestier for a while, but
her books have never appealed to me. Until now!

5. Alice Oseman - I also read RADIO SILENCE at the recommendation of several of my friends in London during my time there, and loved it for all its uniqueness and differences from American publishing. Now it is on its way here, and I am excited to see it fall into the hands of even more readers!


Have you read any of these authors? What do you recommend from their backlist? If not, do you WANT to read them soon? Comment below with your own posts so I can check them out for inspiration! <3

An Accidental Hiatus

I have not posted in almost a month. 2 days short of a month to be exact. And in the last 2 months I have only managed to get a total of 8 posts up. This is something I work heavily to avoid, but I had no choice. School literally took over my life. Between my thesis and my full course load I was sidetracked from blogging in ways that have never happened before.

I just felt exhausted. If I managed to read a book, I then had to immediately dive into homework or fall asleep for the next day's early morning instead of writing a review. Thus, the blog was put on the back-burner, which I feel a little bad about.

But, on a positive note, it gave me the time to miss blogging, and to want to come back to it because I genuinely wanted to and not because it was an obligation or a chore.

The beauty of blogging is that it is a wonderful hobby connecting me to so many amazing people. It's not cool when the fun aspect of that is taken away and overrun with stress and obligation.

So, for the month of December, I am making it a point to have fun in my little corner of the Internet. Gotta end 2016 strong.

But, I'm happy to admit, I'M BACK!

THAT Point in the Semester Has Come

I recognize the fact that my blog is suffering, and it kills me a little inside. I've put so much time into my little corner of the Internet, so it's hard to not give it the attention it needs at times.


I am so happy with where I'm currently at in life. About to graduate, coming home to a new kitten, facing down the fact that my future is upon me, and temporarily working for a place I really love. But I'm forgetting about my self care sometimes. You know, doing things for me and not for others or for my education.

My thesis, my terrible group in one of my classes, my seemingly never-ending pile of homework, the whole shit-I-have-to-figure-out-where-to-begin-my-future-now moment, the expectations pushed upon me by my peers that echo constantly in the back of my mind are taking over my life. It's driving me insane. I go to bed exhausted, wake up a few hours later ready to fall over, but somehow drag myself out of bed anyway. You know, I like the people I get to see three days a week at school, I enjoy some of my classes even though I hate one with a fiery passion, I love my internship and the second family I didn't expect to make but value so much at Tor.

So. Many. Emotions. It's that point in the semester where I just slowly go insane because everything is happening at once. All stressors are a go.

The crazy part is that I know I'm not alone. Literally, this happens to all of my friends every year because of the stresses of college and the expectations that come with being a top 100 student at my university, but it just hits me out of nowhere every time. I'm exhausted. Emotionally, mentally.

I'm sad to say goodbye to college because this was a hugely important part of my life. But I am so ready to leave it behind.

Until then, I just need to be more aware of myself in the coming weeks. I need to read more, because it calms me. I need Star Wars movie days. I need to go to the movies with my best friend wearing Harry Potter gear. I need to figure out how to train my kitten to enjoy beds more than coffee tables. I have to blast 90s music and dance around my room like nobody's watching. I need to go to one of those trampoline places where you run full force into a wall and just bounce off until you hit another wall. I need to order Mexican food when I feel like it instead of worrying about cash. And I need to bring home a bottle of wine or two and stuff my face with cheese because I've earned it. Hit up a happy hour here or there, wander the streets of New York City at night, see more Broadway shows, discuss life with my most unlikely yet valued friends, beg almighty powers to give me Hamilton tickets, buy my first ugly holiday sweater, finally unearth the last few hidden British Cadbury bars I've been saving from London until I decided I really needed them.

44 days. I'll get through it.

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Diabolic by SJ Kincaid

Thank you to Irish Banana Tours for putting me on this tour! I jumped at the chance to take part because this is one of my favorite books of 2016, so I knew I couldn't pass this up.


Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 416 (ARC)
Source: From Publisher For Review
Red Queen meets The Hunger Games in this epic novel about what happens when the galaxy’s most deadly weapon masquerades as a senator’s daughter and a hostage of the galactic court.

A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

THIS. BOOK. I have no words. I freaking loved every aspect of this book. It blew me away completely, but that's something I have come to expect from SJ Kincaid after I fell so in love with her debut novel, INSIGNIA, many years ago.

My one serious complaint about this book is that it is not part of a series. This is a deliciously dark and twisted world that I could read an entire saga about. While I am satisfied to have the entire story in a standalone novel that wraps up incredibly well, I want more. This world is intriguing, and I do not want to leave it behind yet. Hidden companion novel that has not yet been announced, please?!?!

This book showcases Kincaid's vast imagination by giving us a futuristic world that has chosen to forego education and science in exchange for pleasure. And, in it, there are Diabolics. Created from human DNA but raised like machines with one mission: to kill anyone or anything that threatens their masters. Genetically programed to bond with their masters alone, these machines are deadly and very hard to control. Nemesis, our main character, is a Diabolic to a heretic Senator and soon finds herself defending her master, Sidonia, by impersonating her at court to ensure she does not die in her father's stead.

Along the way, Nemesis undergoes a complete character transformation. She kicks major butt without batting an eye and with no regret, which is amazing to see in a main character, especially one with as awesome of a name as her. But, more importantly, she learns about herself. She spent her entire life in a box: acting as a soulless, mindless killing machine because that's the box society put her into. But she can experience emotion and passion and love...maybe even be someone worth loving. This book is her journey of self-discovery and acceptance, learning to navigate the world without blind devotion and on her own, with emotions and aspects of herself the world is saying is unnatural, but is natural because of her human past. Nemesis is a girl, and she's learning to act like one.

Another major plot point in this novel is a whole ton of political maneuvering. In fact, I think the main focus of this novel is all about the politics of this universe. I freaking loved it! It's dark and twisty with behind-the-scenes deals that you never know will work out. True to the easy description of "Game of Thrones in space," there is death, doom, and destruction when it comes to this empire. You do not want to displease a Domitrian. You, your family, your friends...probably your entire planet will be killed.

The world-building is also phenomenal, but that comes as no surprise to me. Kincaid already proved she can write a cool space odyssey with her Insignia trilogy, so I knew she had that part down, but I wasn't expecting such an expansive, complicated, and intriguing empire to sprout from THE DIABOLIC's pages. It is so intense and so well done, I could picture everything so vividly in my mind. Bravo, Kincaid. I really don't know what else to say.

For romance lovers, there is a very nice romance that acts as a sub-plot. It's a nice twist in the story and very refreshing because these two political scorpions are endlessly fascinating and deserve love, but it is by no means a focus of this book, which is super refreshing. The focus of this book lies on more pressing matters, which I appreciate as a science-fiction reader.

I could sit here and write entire paragraphs about the characters, so I am choosing not to in favor of letting you discover them for yourselves. The villains are dastardly, the heroes worth rooting for, and some solid anti-heroes are thrown in for good measure. There is nothing more one could want from such a complex cast of characters.

All in all, this is a book that cannot be ignored. As the book's title implies, Kincaid is an absolutely diabolical author who knows how to keep us on the edge of our seat, turning pages at a lightning fast speed until there are simply no more pages to turn.

5 stars

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FTC Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for no compensation of any kind except for an honest review.

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Be sure to check out the final stop tomorrow at The Irish Banana!