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Susan Mallery Appreciation Day + Evening Stars Review/Giveaway

Susan Mallery Appreciation DayYay! Welcome to Susan Mallery Appreciation Day, celebrating the romance writer who got me back into the romance genre a little over two years ago! I’m happy to spread the love and share a review of her latest, Evening Stars. (Spoiler alert: it’s really good.) To Susan, thanks for all the fun and I look forward to more sweet and sexy moments in your books!

MalleryEvening Stars by Susan Mallery ( web | tweet )
Part of the Blackberry Island series. (For reference I did not read Book 2.)
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 368
Target audience: Adult romance
Keywords: sisters, mother/daughters, old romance, moving forward
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary:  At thirty, Nina is tired of having to take control of everything like her Peter Pan syndrome mother and her younger sister, Averil, who she is always fighting with. When Averil returns to Blackberry Island for an undisclosed amount of time, escaping a life that should make her happy but doesn’t for some reason, everything starts to hit the fan. Add in two mysterious men from Nina’s last, an antique store hanging by a thread, and an unexpected treasure and this family is forced to make some decisions about their futures and their connection to one another.

You have to be the queen of your own life.

This is a theme in Evening Stars, and I loved it. While Mallery’s latest does give a reader a great fill of romance, this book is really about different generations of women in one family owning their mistakes, taking responsibility for their futures, and finding the confidence to stand by their decisions and accept happiness.

The truth is it can be downright annoying for the people in your life and for yourself when you just cannot make a decision. Why are you unhappy in your career or your marriage? Why can’t you reevaluate the roles with the people in your family and just lean on each other? When people are stuck in this purgatory of indecision, there are a lot of repetitive excuses, actions, and conversations until someone decides to take the plunge and move forward. Nina, Averil, and their mother, Bonnie, ping pong between past and future a lot during Evening Stars but it only helps them to breakdown their weaknesses and discover what it is that they need.

Nina and her family own an antique store on Blackberry Island, and it was one of my favorite settings in the book. I get so caught up in places in books that need a little TLC and it was great to read about the progress of the store once they made a new hire, and even after a certain, unassuming painting makes a big splash. This painting catapults Nina and her family into unexpected conflict and it was a great catalyst, as it brought many truths to light.

Evening Stars does switch POV between Nina and Averil, who is taking a break from her marriage and trying decide what she needs to make her life feel more fulfilled. Her and Nina fight like cats and dogs because they continue to go back to the big sister / little sister dynamic and fail to really grasp on to some kind of friendship. It was interesting to see them work through this, and this is what I like about the Blackberry Island books over the Fool’s Gold series — we get a better glimpse into familial relationships and fuller pictures of the characters.

In addition to all the above, Nina is balancing a romance with a surprising guy from her past (he’s super suave and charming) and the return of her first love, who totally broke her her heart. It’s rare to see this kind of pseudo-love triangle (I say this because it was very calm and not like she was actively going between the two. It was more emotional.) in a novel like this and I was very curious how Mallery would wrap it up. (Unsurprisingly, there was one guy I was rooting for the whole time.)

Evening Stars was definitely full of high drama but it was well-balanced by a cute puppy, relatable insecurities, that awesome antique store, and the adorable community of Blackberry Island.

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The lovely folks at Harlequin are providing a copy of Evening Stars to a U.S. or Canadian resident! Be sure to enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

March 2, 2014 - 1:53 pm

Sarah - I love settings in foreign cities! It’s like I’ve traveled somewhere new without leaving my house! :-)

February 27, 2014 - 4:01 pm

Alexa S. - EVENING STARS sounds like a wonderful book! I love that it does have romance in it, but that it also focuses on the relationship that a person has with family and with his or her self.

As for settings I love reading about? It’s always between London and New York for me. I can NEVER get enough :)

February 27, 2014 - 7:30 am

Amy @ bookgoonie - Water always makes for fun, whether ocean, lake or river. I’d like to see more mountains.

February 26, 2014 - 4:51 pm

Ginger @ GReads! - Do I really need to answer that question?? haha of course SUMMERTIME (at the beach, lake, any body of water)! Thanks for hosting this giveaway. I have yet to read a Susan Mallery book and I need to rectify this soon.

February 26, 2014 - 1:13 pm

Julia Alvarez - To answer the giveaway question, I like reading my books in my room and most of the time whenever I wake up because the light the sun gives is cool. =)))

February 25, 2014 - 5:38 pm

Kate I. - In response to the question posed by the Rafflecopter, I most enjoy stories set in small towns.

February 25, 2014 - 12:32 pm

Kelley - To answer the rafflecopter question, I really enjoy lakeside or beachside settings.

Estelle: Returning to Shore by Corinne Demas

Returning to Shore by Corinne DemasReturning to Shore by Corinne Demas ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: March 8, 2014
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Pages: 208
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: parents, summer, remarriages
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley! (Thanks!)

Summary: Clare is not exactly thrilled with her mother’s decision to marry for the third time. Thankfully (or not?) her mom is off to her fancy honeymoon and Clare is off to spend a summer in a seaside town with her father, a man she hasn’t seen since she was 3 years old. She’s not exactly what is in store for her summer, if her and her father will even get along. But without much choice, she’s about to find out.

There was something so quiet about Returning to Shore. Not many action packed scenes, instead the distant lap of the tide in the background as a father unsteadily attempted to bridge a gap with his estranged daughter, teaching her the routines of the sea turtles and hence, his research in the small town he grew up in.

Clare was already filled with emotions on her way to Cape Cod. Not only was she not entirely thrilled with her mom’s new pick for a husband but she was also mourning the loss of a yet another person in her life. Someone her mom chose to leave; someone Clare wished to be a “real” daughter to. Even though there was a lot of feeling to go around at the start of Returning to Shore, Corinne Demas gave us a character wading through her all this change and uncertainly in a thoughtful, calmly-paced manner.

Even when Clare was suddenly in a car with her father, Richard, and living in his home for the summer, the situation was  never highly dramatic. Instead the two danced around one another, slowly getting to know who the other had become. The bond between them was gradual and almost so silent, you had to really pay attention to see that it was happening. Clare was super insightful and also very careful but I also applauded her when she openly asked for honesty from Richard. She didn’t go into a summer with him thinking there would be a happily ever after, but she wasn’t against having a relationship with him either.

Returning to Shore explored acceptance, rediscovering connections, and love in this vividly painted portrait of a summer between two people who are essentially strangers, learning to be a father and a daughter. I’m not sure if this book would be everyone’s cup of tea but it felt like a surprise gem in my pile of books. So much observation and feeling packed into a short novel laced with purposeful scenes and lots to learn about the wonderful sea turtle (and how their behaviors can sometimes parallel our own).

There was one thing I was left to wonder (and hoped to be true): would Clare’s relationship with her mother change once she returned home?

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March 1, 2014 - 2:54 pm

Maggie @ Just a Couple More Pages - I think I told you this, but Corinne Demas was a professor at my college and I took my first year seminar course with her. I’ll keep certain thoughts to share with you over DM or in person, but I think it’s interesting to this book because the class I took with her was called Daughters and it explored the relationships of daughters and mothers (I think it was mothers and not mothers and fathers, but the class was 11.5 years ago and I don’t really remember). I had requested this book on NetGalley and was declined, but then the publisher approved me for a few other titles on EW (including ones I was declined for on NG), but I didn’t request this one because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read a book by Demas. You make me want to read it, though.

February 27, 2014 - 3:11 pm

Alexa S. - I hadn’t heard of RETURNING TO SHORE before reading your review, but it sounds like a book I could love. It’s always interesting for me to read novels that explore the relationships between parents and children (particularly with fathers), so I do love that aspect! Plus, quieter would be different from in-your-face, which is a lot of what I’m reading these days. Thanks for getting this on my radar!

February 24, 2014 - 11:45 am

Lucy @ The Reading Date - You are so right to call this a surprise gem! I just finished this book a few days ago and liked it a lot. Loved watcher the father-daughter bond develop throughout the book, and the picturesque setting. Lovely book and lovely review.

Shelve It: Zac Efron and Breaking Book Bans

weekly feature to share the books magan and estelle are adding to their bookshelves each week

Hiya! Tell me if I’m alone: you know you have to do a v-log but you are either not showered, just came back from the gym, or too darn tired to collect the books all over your apartment. This was me, so now it’s Sunday morning and I’m giving you a pajama party v-log. My hair looks a little movie star-ish. But there are exciting things to talk about (as I hint in the title of this post) and it’s been a fun week. I wrote guest posts for Gaby (help me decide what to buy with my B&N coupons — you have 5 days left) and Cassie (my favorite Queens restaurant spots for Foodie February). And, of course, reading!

Best book I read in the last week was: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy. Can’t wait to share that review with all of you and something else special. (I’m so mysterious!)

Check out the v-log:

Books I bought (gasp! yes, it’s true):

You and Me and the Space In Between by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
September Girls by Bennett Madison
A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents by Liza Palmer
How I Came to Sparkle Again by Kaya McLaren
Muppet Character Encyclopedia by Craig Shemin

Books I was gifted:

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone (Thanks Rachel!)
Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess (Thanks Alexa!)
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick (Thanks Nisha!)

Books I won:

The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes (Thanks Leah!)

Books for review:

The Hit by Melvin Burgess — releases April 4, 2013 — thanks Scholastic!
Only Everything by Kieran Scott — releases May 6, 2013 — thanks Kieran!
(and how I totally forgot this in the video!) The Geography of You & Me by Jennifer E. Smith (NetGalley) — April 15, 2013.

On the blog this week:

These Broken Stars review (with a Pixar picture!) | See Jane Run by Hannah Jayne (YA thriller-ish)

What’s exciting in your book world lately?

(BONUS: I added the answers to the Guess the Baby Blogger game!)

February 27, 2014 - 5:59 pm

Leah - I can DEFINITELY get behind pj party vlogs!

Okay Liza Palmer – I need to see what all the fuss is about! At this point I think I’m the only person who hasn’t read her stuff. I’ve checked a few times and my library has a few of her books, next time I stop by I’ll have to (finally) pick one up!

Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to how to pronounce Moyes. I default to Moy-es, though I’ve heard others say Moys. :( Who knows!

February 27, 2014 - 2:16 pm

Alexa S. - I still think you look pretty cute, E! I rarely have makeup on in my vlogs, so I think I’m just used to being on camera without it at this point ;) Anyway, your book buying to break your ban sounds epic! HAPPY READING. (PS – Read Brooklyn Girls! I’m reading the sequel now and it’s SO FUN.)

February 24, 2014 - 12:06 pm

Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook - So I’m at work right now, so I can’t watch your vlog :(

I’ll have to watch it when I get home. I’ve only done a few vlogs, but not in ages, because, like you, I’m in my PJs and just not looking good. Although from the thumbnail, you are looking very glamorous and I LOVE your glasses.

I had decided to NOT request The Geography of Me and You, because I’m trying to not go crazy with the requesting of ARCs, but I totally caved and requested it the other day.

February 24, 2014 - 7:36 am

Alice - Brilliant haul Estelle! :D :D SO jealous of the gorgeous books. Pajama party vlogs are awesome! Who cares anymore anyway. You gotta vlog when you gotta vlog. ;) And your hair looked fabulous in it anyway. No biggie at all!

February 23, 2014 - 6:11 pm

Melissa @ Writer Grrl Reads - I love watching your v-logs, and honestly wouldn’t notice (or care) if your hair was messy! Looks like some great books for you this week … I hadn’t heard about the controversy over September Girls, but I’m not super interested in mermaid books anyways, so it wasn’t on my radar to begin with. But I’ll look forward to reading your review!

Also, YAY — I’m SO glad that you read (and loved) Me Before You. That was, hands down, one of my favourite reads of 2013 and I’m looking forward to reading some more of her books.

I’ve read Smack and Doing It by Melvin Burgess. He’s definitely a very “out there” YA writer because he writes about really heavy topics. I thought for some reason that he was dead, but I guess not if he’s coming out with new books?

February 23, 2014 - 4:47 pm

April Books & Wine - The Geography Of You And Me has such delicious prose, I hope you love it!

MATTHEW QUICK! My 2013 favorite!

Hah, I have not done a vlog in months because I am always just coming in from the gym or in PJs or do not feel like putting on makeup. It’s awkward. Alas.

Enjoy the new books!

February 23, 2014 - 3:29 pm

The Bookish Manicurist - I have done the same thing with September Girls, I added it, removed it, and now I want to add it again. I think I let negative reviews put me off a little too quickly!

Good to see your face, lady ;)

Estelle: These Broken Stars by Kaufman + Spooner

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/these-broken-stars-amie-kaufman/1114702233?ean=9781423171027These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman ( web | tweet) and Meagan Spooner ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: December 10, 2013
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 374
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: journey, survival, space, romance
Format read: Paperback ARC borrowed from Rachel. (Thanks!)

Summary: When the big ship in the sky, Icarus, crashes, Tarver and Lilac seem to be the only two survivors. As the days after the crash continue, the two must work together to get to the ship if they have any hope of being rescued.

I know everyone is comparing this book to Titanic. I get it. I totally do. But did anyone else think of Wall-E, and the big ship in the sky that all the humans have escaped to? (The roll-y humans who can’t even stand on their own?) Here’s a picture for reference:

Wall E Axiom

Anyway! I’m not much of a science fiction reader. Pretty much at all. But after reading countless reviews stuffed with high praise for this book and being constantly distracted by the beauty of this book cover, I decided to give it a whirl and I’m really happy that I did.

I did a lot of repeating while I read this (like hyperspace, pod, terra-forming.) I was nervous I just wouldn’t “get it”. (I would imagine this is a common fear when we are not comfortable with certain genres.) While my whole reading experienced started a little slow, when I finally had a good chunk of time to dedicate to this book, I was super swept up and couldn’t put it down until I reached the ending.

Tarver and Lilac. These two have some great bantering moments. They both come from totally different backgrounds: Lilac is a rich kid with a daddy who built the Icarus and Tarver is a soldier who, despite being the recipient of a lot of praise lately, is still from just a regular family in the country. The dual POV worked so well here because we were able to learn more details about each of their childhoods and also get a clue into what they thought of the other. Tarver had been instantly taken with Lilac when he first saw her on the Icarus and Lilac with him but when classes and expectations got in the way, she totally turned him off with her haughty attitude. So OF COURSE the two are stranded together and must somehow overcome their differences to survive this horrible crash.

I honestly thought they would kill each other. But you know, when you are stuck with one person for a number of days, it’s probably better to make the most of it. And slowly but surely, they do. Nothing about their affection for each other is instantaneous and I really liked watching them learn to trust each other and form some kind of lasting bond. Even though they were both fearful for the future and what getting closer could mean for them, the pacing of their romance felt natural and was super well done.

And then I got to THE PART.  My confidence in my sci-fi reading experience completely waned here, and I felt myself grasping for meaning and not understanding where the story was going. I’m not sure I understand this choice unless it will somehow influence the upcoming books in the trilogy but it did make me deeply feel the connection Tarver and Lilac had and also how utterly lonely this journey was for both of them.

So basically I’ve learned this: a strong, beautifully written story with lively characters can make me comfortable and interested in any genre. I have no idea what to expect from the rest of the Starbound series but I will definitely be picking them up.

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February 27, 2014 - 1:04 pm

Alexa S. - I’m sincerely happy that you enjoyed THESE BROKEN STARS! It’s definitely a beautifully written tale, and I loved the way that Meagan and Amie told Tarver and Lilac’s story. Even though I’m still not convinced by that one big (it really just makes me confused), I’m definitely invested in this series. Super excited for the next one!

February 25, 2014 - 6:53 pm

Jamie - YAY! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one knowing you don’t read this genre much! I did think you might dig it because for a good chunk of it it was more of a survival story rather than hardcore sci-fi (something I don’t really read either…EEEP. SOME DAY MAYBE).

I felt the same way re: that part! I was like waiiiiit what what why?

I like what you said about not knowing where the rest of the series will go because that’s so true…I really can’t even speculate which is kind of cool because I feel like so often I can really kind of guess!

February 23, 2014 - 4:57 pm

Danielle @ Love at First Page - THE PART was totally shocking. It took me a while to come to terms with it.
The romance is one of my favorites from last year. I adored Lilac and Tarver. :)

February 23, 2014 - 3:30 pm

The Bookish Manicurist - Yes! I’m not a Titanic-fan, so I kept thinking of the Wall-E ship, not the Titanic. I enjoyed this but the ending confused me, too

February 23, 2014 - 11:59 am

Shelve It: Zac Efron and Breaking Book Bans, Estelle - […] These Broken Stars review (with a Pixar picture!) | See Jane Run by Hannah Jayne (YA thriller-ish) […]

February 22, 2014 - 1:19 pm

Alexa - I really did try to like this story but I just didn’t love it in the way that everyone else loved it. I felt there was too many times where the authors repeated the same thing over and over again as if the reader wouldn’t catch on the first time about terra-forming a planet. I got a little sick of the repeats but it did get better with time. I’m interested to read the second book but it is about different people so now that I finally liked these characters they are going to become secondary.

I’m glad you enjoyed the book though! Thanks for the great review!

February 21, 2014 - 11:59 pm

Lisa is Busy Nerding - So proud of your for stepping outside of your comfort zone! SFF is my bread and butter, but I know it can be intimidating. Well done, E!

February 21, 2014 - 8:56 pm

Kelly - If the PART is the part I’m thinking of, I would love more explanation for it too! I’ve got some many ethical and philosophical questions left either completely untouched or unsatisfactorily mentioned, that I would love to see explored, and then there’s wondering about why it was included, unless it somehow affects the next book(s)?

Anyways, so glad you enjoyed something out of your comfort zone Estelle! I really loved this one, mostly because Lilac and Tarver were so fantastic!

February 21, 2014 - 1:27 pm

Meg - That cover is magnificent, isn’t it? Totally draws me in every time. I’ve had this one on my radar for quite a while after enjoying similar stories (the titles of which escape me . . .), and I’ll probably give it a try sometime soon!

February 20, 2014 - 7:39 pm

Jessica - Hey Estelle,
I was conflicted with this book. It started out as a cool science fiction book then progressed to a survivor-esque romance and then back to weird sci-fi. I don’t think I have yet to figure it out. I was compelled to read it though.

I highly recommend the Lunar Chronicles as does Quinn in the above comments. It is spectacular.

Jess

February 20, 2014 - 11:08 am

Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook - Science fiction isn’t usually my thing either, Estelle. Although I have fallen MADLY in love with The Lunar Chronicles. But that’s pretty much the exception, and truthfully, The Lunar Chronicles aren’t too heavily science fiction.

But, I’ve been really interested in These Broken Stars. Like you said, I’ve heard such great thingsa bout it, and also – pretty cover!

I’m glad you liked it, even if this isn’t your typical genre. It makes me more comfortable giving it a try.

February 20, 2014 - 9:18 am

Alice - Brilliant review Estelle! I’m glad you decided to pick this one up despite it not being your normal genre. That’s what the book community is for! To push the books we wouldn’t normally grab into our hands! ;)

As I haven’t read the book yet, but if you adored it, and you’re not normally a sci-fi reader, I know I will most likely enjoy it too. And that cover. GAH.

Estelle: See Jane Run by Hannah Jayne

See Jane Run by Hannah JayneSee Jane Run by Hannah Jayne ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: SourceBooks Fire
Pages: 288
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: family, friendship, secrets
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: Riley’s parents have always been overprotective but when she finds a birth certificate in her baby book for someone named Jane, who is the same age of her… she starts to wonder if her whole life is a lie. Determined to find out who Jane is and what her parents have been hiding, Riley decides to do her research any way she can.

 

Did you read The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney when you were a kid? That was a popular pick in my elementary school, and I couldn’t help but think of it when Riley discovers this birth certificate in her own baby book, a book that contains no pictures of her as an actual baby.

I was a little nervous that See Jane Run would end up all too similar to Cooney’s book and was ultimately relieved to see that it went in a completely different direction. I was so far off base, and while it was nice to be shocked and surprised… the execution was a little rough.

From the beginning, I really liked Riley’s best friendship with Shelby. Even though Riley had recently moved far away from where she lived before, Shelby always made an effort to stop in and despite her over active imagination, her heart seemed to be in the right place. She’s with Riley when Jane’s birth certificate is found, and I’m not sure just how curious Riley would have been about it without Shelby’s proposed scenarios (as wild as they were). So now Riley is curious bordering on scared, piecing together small inconsistencies from conversations with her parents and wondering just what the heck is going on.

Even though Riley’s parents are super strict about her going out, they seemed to really mean well and love her so it was sad for me to think they were the villains of the story. I was just as confused as Riley, especially when she continued to hit brick walls in her search to find the truth. JD, a guy Riley met in detention, pitched in to help and I really liked him. He was funny and sweet and thoughtful, and nothing like Riley imagined. But their potential love connection took a backseat to the creepy situations unfolding in Riley’s life: the weird car that keeps following her, the web page that pops up on her computer unprovoked, etc. As See Jane Run continued, Riley’s life grew to be more and more dangerous.

Unfortunately, the slow pacing and lack of development in some of the story never left me feeling on edge enough. In fact, scenes would build up only to fizzle in a sluggish way and it had me questioning if this could be categorized as a true thriller. I was concerned for Riley, who had no idea who to turn to and who to trust. It seemed like everyone was lying to her at one point, and that’s a lonely place to be. But it wasn’t until the final chapters that I felt super wrapped up in the action and the potential hazards of this situation. (I probably could have done without the epilogue too.)

On the plus side, See Jane Run worked better for me than Jayne’s debut, Truly Madly Deadly. Why? This story line felt more relatable, and I must applaud an ending that comes out of left field like this one did. Still, pacing and development is so imperative to making a thriller thrilling and I needed more.

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February 23, 2014 - 12:06 pm

Shelve It: Zac Efron and Breaking Book Bans, Estelle - […] Broken Stars review (with a Pixar picture!) | See Jane Run by Hannah Jayne (YA […]

February 19, 2014 - 1:13 pm

Alexa S. - SEE JANE RUN has quite an interesting premise, and it makes me curious to see how it plays out. I really do wonder how it all ends? Sounds like it would at least be entertaining and maybe slightly thrilling to read!

February 18, 2014 - 10:04 pm

Ellice - I honestly hadn’t heard of this book until just now. I must have overlooked it (or it wasn’t publicized much?). The premise itself sounds like it has potential. If my TBR list wasn’t sooo long, I would probably give it a try. Maybe in the future when I’m looking for something a little bit different from the usual contemporary books that I love so much :)

Oh, and the sentence where you’re talking about the creepy car that keeps following Riley? I read that as a “creepy cat” kept following her. I was thinking a “creepy cat” is a very strange plot device for this particular book… hahahah

February 18, 2014 - 3:14 pm

Maggie @ Just a Couple More Pages - I loved The Face on the Milk Carton as a kid. Have I ever told you the 2 really random things I remember from it? I told someone recently. I’d like to go back and re-read it as an adult and see if I like it as much.

I did not like Truly, Madly, Deadly at all and it sounds like you had a lot of the same issues with See Jane Run as I did with her first book. I love the ideas that Hannah Jayne has for her stories, but the execution just doesn’t seem to be there.

February 18, 2014 - 11:51 am

Cassie Gutman - I actually hadn’t seen or heard anything about this book, so your review was my first run in with this. The premise sounds interesting, but that’s sad that it just didn’t quite measure up. maybe i’ll try and find it at the library? (i love that you give hints at the bottom about whether it’s worth it to borrow or buy, they are incredibly helpful!)