Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Looking Ahead: 2017 Mini Reviews

Look who’s alive! I’ve gone back and forth recently about whether or not I should keep blogging. I still haven’t made up my mind but since I’m still paying to host my blog, I figured I should use it.  I’m also still reading a lot and still getting books for review so I figure it’s only fair.  If you want to stay more up to date with me though, follow me over on my Instagram. I post multiple times a day and have been reviewing over there every now and then.

As I said, I’m still getting books for review and since I don’t feel such an obligation to stick to a schedule, I’ve been able to read whatever I feel like.  Since I’ve already started in on my 2017 ARCs, I figured I’d share some of my thoughts so you guys can decide whether or not these should be on your TBR.

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The Valiant by Lesley Livingston
Rating: 4 Stars
Release date: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Razorbill Books
Preorder here

Lost to history, the story of the female gladiator has never been told. Until now.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed while defending their home from the armies of Julius Caesar.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in her father’s war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured by ruthless brigands who sell her to an elite training school for female gladiators owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon s family might be her only hope of survival.
Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.

A richly imagined fantasy for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Cinda Williams Chima, “The Valiant” recounts Fallon s gripping journey from fierce Celtic princess to legendary gladiator and darling of the Roman empire.”

I knew I wasn’t going to be waiting on this one as soon as I got an ARC.  I’m a huge fan of historical fiction so this one was always at the top of my TBR.  Obviously this one is more fiction than history but it’s still amazing.  The historical aspects add just enough to it that it’s a little more than your typical YA novel.  While the history parts can be a little weighty at times, it’s definitely necessary to the story.  It ended up being one of my favorite things about The Valiant.

I also couldn’t help but love all the girls.  Fallon is a fierce young woman who has been trained her whole life to join her father’s war band.  She knows that fighting is her future and she is excited about it.  When she’s kidnapped and sold as a slave, her future changes but the fighting aspect stays the same.  As a gladiatrix, Fallon isn’t part of the war band but she may just be part of something bigger.  Every woman that Fallon interacted with was crazy fierce and Fallon was no exception. She only got better as the book went on.

The romance (both of them) were a little far-fetched and moved far too quickly.  The whole plot with someone trying to get rid of Fallon was pretty predictable.  None of the relationships were really fleshed out and I found myself not really caring all that much about any of them.  The Valiant reads much like a first book in a series and I really hope it’s not the end of Fallon’s story.

Fireworks by Katie Cotugno
Rating: 3 Stars
Release date: April 18, 2017
Publisher: Harper Teen
Preorder here

From Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days, comes Fireworks—about a girl who is competing with her best friend to become the new pop star of the moment—and all the drama and romance that comes with it—set in Orlando during the late-’90s boy-and-girl-band craze.

It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.

But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.

It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.

Set in evocative 1990s Orlando, New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno’s Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.

I’ve been very torn about Katie Cotugno. I loved How To Love, did not care for 99 Days, and had really high hopes for Fireworks.  I found Fireworks to fall right in the middle for me and I’m still not sure if I’ll keep going with Katie Cotugno’s books.

Fireworks held such promise! Best friends both get picked to join a singing group and they are off to spend the summer of their lives together.  Add in the other two members of the group and some very fun, attractive boys and things don’t go quite according to plan.  Not to mention that the actual singing group requires a ton of work.  Dana and Olivia are slowly being torn apart and their friendship may not be as strong as they think.

I loved Dana and Olivia, at first.  Their friendship was amazing.  They were always there for each other and they wanted what was best for the other one, no matter what it meant for them.  Dana was so selfless, always looking out for Olivia.  It was pretty easy to see from the start that Olivia didn’t care quite so much about looking out for Dana.  I could see the end coming from a mile away but I just kept hoping for the best.  I loved Dana and I wanted to see her happy.  Her relationship with Alex was the start to that happiness and I loved them together.  They were adorable and Alex may have seemed a little too perfect but I liked him.  He made Dana think about the future and he really brought out a better side of her.

The ending is what really made me want to throw this book at a wall.  I obviously won’t spoil anything but holy crap, I totally saw it coming and yet I couldn’t stop reading.  I was so mad when I finished this book.  It’s a fun read but it will definitely bring out some emotions.

A Lie for a Lie by Robin Merrow McCready
Rating: 2 Stars
Release date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Preorder here

A gripping YA mystery about seventeen-year-old Kendra, an amateur photographer who discovers her father is leading a double life.

Kendra Sullivan loves taking pictures. But when a photograph reveals that her father is leading a double life, she sets out to investigate the situation. Before long, Kendra discovers her father’s second family, which he has hidden for years. Kendra’s knowledge soon turns into power; she is torn between exposing her father and destroying her family as she’s known it, or looking deeper for the truth and suffering that outcome. This emotionally charged mystery pushes the boundaries between truth and deception, and the consequences one faces when dealing with life-changing information.

I’m going to keep this one short because otherwise I will just go off on a tear.  A Lie for a Lie held so much potential but I knew from the start that it wasn’t going to live up to it.  The main character, Kendra, was so immature and oblivious.  She only cared about herself.  She could not put two and two together to see what was right in front of her face.  It got old real fast.  It didn’t help that the story was super predictable and the writing didn’t add anything to it.  It was very stilted and all over the place.  The only thing going for this one is that it was short and pretty quick.  You guys know I have a problem with DNFing books so I stuck with this one even though I knew it wasn’t going to get better.  This is one that I really wouldn’t recommend.

 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Blog Tour: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland | Review + Favorite Quotes

Blog Tour: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland | Review + Favorite Quotes

Blog Tour: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland | Review + Favorite QuotesOur Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on October 4th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again.

Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can't-eat-can't-sleep kind of love that he's been hoping for just hasn't been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he's been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper.
Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything's about to change.

Grace isn't who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys' clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It's obvious there's something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn't your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland's brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love,

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Ignoring the whole John Green/Rainbow Rowell comparison made in the synopsis, I went into Our Chemical Hearts not really knowing what to expect but with an open mind.  I’m the kind of person who doesn’t necessarily like those comparisons because it can give people unrealistic hopes.  That wasn’t the case with this one because I definitely think that fans of the two authors will enjoy this one though Krystal Sutherland brings her own flair to the story.

Pros:

  • Henry: Henry was a very mixed bag for me.  He had his good parts and his bad but I honestly think that is why he is in the pros column.  He was really well developed as a character.  He’s not your typical boy.  He’s very focused on school, worrying about getting into a good college, and becoming the editor of his school paper to help with that whole good college thing.  He gets the editor position but it’s got a co-editor attached and that’s Grace.  Grace isn’t really his idea (or many people’s) of a dream girl but Henry is very intrigued and quickly becomes quite enmeshed in her life.  Grace has a lot of baggage and Henry finds himself wanting to know everything about Grace and wanting to basically help fix her.  He was a little obsessed with Grace (to me) but you could tell his heart was in the right place so it’s easy to get past that.
  • Realism: This is not your romantic, happy ever after, high school love story.  Hell, I’m not even sure I’d call it a true love story because it focuses on so much more than that.  The romantic feelings that Henry has for Grace were an important part of the story but not the focal point here. Grace and Henry both have their issues and maybe putting them together wasn’t the smartest idea but they were both able to help each other.  I feel like Grace taught Henry a lot and not so much Henry teaching Grace.  However, both Henry and Grace’s stories were really true to life and that’s what I loved about them.

Cons:

  • Grace: While I liked Grace, I didn’t feel like I really knew her.  The hardest thing for me was only ever seeing Grace through Henry’s eyes.  He didn’t always think great things about her and when he did, it was sometimes almost idealistic.  I wanted to know more about Grace from Grace’s perspective.  I feel like there was so much more to her character that I never really got to see.  I just couldn’t see her as a fully formed character while only getting Henry’s thoughts on her.

I also kinda want to add the ending to the cons list but I’m not going to because I think it’s just my thoughts influencing it.  I liked the ending, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not what I had hoped for.  I think it’s a great ending and such a realistic one but boy was that not what I wanted.

Overall, Our Chemical Hearts (I keep wanting to say My Chemical Heart. I’ve got My Chemical Romance on the brain.) is one that I think will really shock readers and make them think.  Like I said before, Rainbow Rowell/John Green fans will find this one right up their alley but I just love what Krystal Sutherland brought to the table.  I can’t wait to see what this Aussie author does next.

Overall reaction:

Be prepared for a little of this or maybe a lot!

What others are saying about Our Chemical Hearts:

Mollie The Reader’s review: “Overall, Our Chemical Hearts was a unique, fast paced and quirky read, I would really recommend this to those that love John Green (to be honest its heaps better than his books oOPS DONT HURT ME) and also to those that love quirky characters with a really deep and meaningful plot.”

The Innocent Smiley’s review: “Although I do believe that fans of John Green would love this, it’s the opposite of a John Green novel. It is everything you expect it not to be.”

Favorite Quotes

While I could go on and on, I really don’t want to overwhelm you, so have just a couple favorite quotes from me!  I wanted to include Henry’s humor since Our Chemical Hearts really isn’t quite as heavy as I made it out to be but I couldn’t pass up the quote about love either.  It’s so gorgeous!

(All quotes are from the ARC and could differ slightly in final versions.)

“You could say I looked something like a male Summer Glau crossed with Severus Snape. Subtract the hook nose, add in some dimples, and hey presto: the perfect recipe for one Henry Issac Page.”

“You know I’ve made it through seventeen years of my life without being peer pressured? My parents warned me about it in elementary school, but I never experienced it. I was starting to believe it was a myth. And, like, it’s a really accurate description of what it is. I’m feeling very pressured by my peer right now.”

The greatest love story ever told doesn’t have to be about two people who spent their whole lives together. It might be about a love that lasted two weeks or two months or two years, but burned brighter and hotter and more brilliantly than any other love before or after. Don’t mourn a failed love; there’s no such thing. All love is equal in the brain.”

Monday, September 12, 2016

99 Days by Katie Cotugno | Review

99 Days by Katie Cotugno | Review99 Days by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 21st 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: BEA
Goodreads
2 Stars

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

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I can’t even begin to tell you how much I wanted to love this book.  Katie Cotugno’s debut novel, How To Love, is on my favorites shelf.  I adored everything about it.  I put off reading 99 Days because I was saving it for a day when I needed a really good book to read.  I definitely set my expectations way too high for this one.

Pros:

  • Pacing: I read this book in just over two sittings.  While there may not have been many things I liked about it, at least I was able to power through it.  It’s an extremely quick read that is paced just right.  The book takes place over 99 days (I bet you never would have guessed that) and those 99 days seem to fly by for both the reader and Molly.  A lot happens throughout the course of the book and I never felt like the story got too slow or lagged.  I also liked that the flashbacks Molly had from her relationship with Patrick were woven into the story.  I feel like it would have bogged things down if the chapters alternated between past and present so I appreciated that.
  • Romance: The romance between Molly and Gabe was super cute and I loved Gabe.  Yes, even at the end when things came out about him, I still liked him.  I felt like he was good to Molly and good for her.  He wasn’t always an angel but he was never really a bad person.  He was sweet and super hung up on Molly.  He made her happy and he looked out for her.  The start to their relationship may not have been the best thing but I didn’t think it was all that bad.  I wanted to see him and Molly get a happy ending together.
  • Characters: 99 Days had a pretty even mix of characters that I loved and characters that I hated.  Gabe was on the list right in the middle since I liked him but had issues with him too.  My list of characters that I loved contained two awesome females, Imogen and Tess.  Imogen was Molly’s friend before everything went down and she would have been Molly’s friend after, if Molly hadn’t run away.  She wasn’t willing to just overlook things when Molly came back but she was willing to move past them and let Molly earn her forgiveness.  Then there was Tess.  Tess was Patrick’s new girlfriend.  She didn’t know Molly before everything happened but she wasn’t willing to judge her without getting to know her.  They became friends and Tess was always there for Molly.  Tess and Imogen knew what it was to be a good friend.

Cons:

  • Characters: The list of characters that I hated makes me want to rant.  Let’s start with Molly.  That girl had some serious issues.  She was so extremely selfish.  I don’t blame her for what she did with Gabe when Patrick broke up with her.  Patrick broke up with her!  They were not together when she slept with his brother.  Yeah, it wasn’t really classy but as I read more about Molly and Gabe, I could see that they really cared for each other and I could get over that.  It was everything else Molly did that bothered me.  She was jealous of Tess even though she was the one who ruined things with Patrick and was dating his brother.  She clearly wanted what she couldn’t have and she was willing to do whatever it took to get it.  She threw Tess under the bus and took what she wanted from Patrick.  She didn’t even think about Gabe while she screwed him over and yet she claimed to be falling in love with him.  Then there was Patrick.  He was a jerk and I honestly couldn’t see what Molly ever saw in him.  He treated her like crap and she kept crawling back to him.  Oh and don’t let me forget Patrick’s twin, Julia.  Julia was supposedly Molly’s best friend but she was the first to slut shame Molly for what she did with Gabe.  I understand that family comes first but that’s no reason to act like Julia did.  And then there is Molly’s mom who was the one who outed Molly’s night with Gabe, not just to Patrick but to the whole world.  Her mom wrote a bestselling novel based on Molly’s love life torn between Patrick and Gabe.  Then she went and told everyone that it was based on her daughter.  Who does that?
  • Cheating: I can sometimes look past cheating in books and still be able to enjoy the book but not this time around.  Molly had no sense of morals when it came to cheating.  She just kept doing it, over and over again.  Sure she’d feel bad about it later but that didn’t do anybody any good then.  Too little, too late.  I don’t want to get into this too much because it is very much a spoiler but just know that it was really bad.
  • Ending: The ending is very similar to Katie Cotugno’s debut, How To Love, in that it’s up in the air.  It’s pretty much up to the reader to decide what comes next for Molly and the boys in her life.  I wanted some concrete answers and I know Katie Cotugno has said there is always the possibility of a sequel but that’s not what I want.  I just want to know exactly how things ended for Molly and all of the Donnellys and it doesn’t look like I’ll get that.

Overall, 99 Days is not one I recommend reading.  Check out Katie Cotugno’s debut, How To Love, for sure, but let’s just pretend like this one didn’t happen.  I’m waiting on her third book so I can see if it will redeem her!

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about 99 Days:

The Perpetual Page-Turner’s review: “While on the surface this book might just seem like a romance with a love triangle between two brothers but it is SO much more than that.”

The Novel Hermit’s review: “99 Days seemed promising at first, but with a snap of a finger, the story turned boring and didn’t really resolve anything.”

Reading Lark’s review: “Overall, I loved watching Molly work through the ghosts of her past and start to make plans for a better future.”

Monday, August 29, 2016

Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis | Review

Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis | ReviewCrow Mountain by Lucy Inglis
Published by The Chicken House on May 31st 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 414
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
3 Stars

A sweeping tale of love, legacy, and wilderness set between the present day and 1866 in the dramatic landscape of modern-day and territorial Montana.
While on a trip to Montana with her mom, British teen Hope meets local boy Cal Crow, a ranch hand. Caught in a freak accident, Hope and Cal take shelter in a cabin, where Hope makes a strange discovery in an abandoned diary. More than a hundred years earlier, another British girl -- Emily -- met a similar fate. Her rescuer, a horse trader named Nate. In this wild place, both girls learn what it means to survive and to fall in love, neither knowing that their fates are intimately entwined.

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Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genres and it’s one that I feel does not get enough love.  I picked up Crow Moutain because it had been so long since I’d read anything historical fiction and this one seemed really unique.  I was definitely right about that.

Pros:

  • Story:  The story was the best thing Crow Mountain had going for it.  I lumped this into the historical fiction genre but it’s not only historical fiction.  The story alternates between present day Montana and 1866/67 Montana.  Since I felt there was more focus on the past than the present, I considered it historical fiction.  You could really classify it as both historical and contemporary. The story follows Hope/Cal in the present and Emily/Nate in the past.  Hope is spending some time in Montana with her mother while she does research on the land.  Cal is the son of the ranch owner they are staying with.  Emily is a young British girl traveling to San Francisco to meet her future husband.  Nate is a former soldier she briefly sees at one of the stops along the way.  When Emily’s coach crashes, Nate is there to rescue her.  However, he doesn’t return her to town so she can be on her way.  Instead he takes her home with him and teaches her the ways of the land.  Hope and Cal’s story is almost identical to Emily and Nate’s.  As Hope reads Emily’s journal she starts to see the similarities between the two stories and wonders if she discovered the journal for a reason.  Cal’s family has been feuding with the Hart family for centuries and it may be up to Emily and Cal to put an end to the feud before it kills any more people.
  • Characters:  To be completely honest, I liked Emily and Nate but Cal and Hope were a bit lacking, in my opinion. I’ll get to that part later though.  Emily and Nate were in an odd situation.  Emily didn’t know her future husband but she assumed she would be fine with him.  She was drawn to Nate from the moment she first saw him but that doesn’t mean she wanted to run away with him.  He essentially kidnapped her.  He didn’t force her to stay with him but he knew there was no way she could leave him.  She would have died in the wilderness on her own.  He used that to his advantage, that’s for sure.  He figured if he bided his time, she’d eventually come to love him.  I wouldn’t normally be okay with a situation like that but Nate was a good guy and he never took advantage of her.  He took care of her and he taught her how to take care of herself.  Emily was pretty helpless at first but Nate didn’t allow that for long.  It was easy to see that Emily really liked learning how to do things for herself.  She didn’t want to have to rely on Nate and eventually, she didn’t have to.
  • Romance: This is definitely one of those slow burn romances.  Emily and Nate are attracted to each other but they don’t act on it.  Rules were very different back in the 1800s and Emily was a proper lady.  She wasn’t sure she’d ever make it back to her fiance but she knew that if she did, she had to be pure.  She wanted to do what was right for her family and she wasn’t willing to risk that even though her feelings for Nate kept growing.  She also didn’t know anything about love or relations between men and women.  She was pretty clueless when it came to that so of course she wasn’t making any moves on Nate.  It was kind of adorable how awkward she was about it all.  As for Hope and Cal, they had a similar attraction but they knew they could act on it if they wanted.  There was an age difference between the two and Cal had lots of secrets from his past but that didn’t really slow them down all that much.  Their relationship moved a little too quickly for my tastes but I blame part of that on their situation.  It forced them to really get to know each other and in a really short period of time.

Cons:

  • Characters: Like I said, Hope and Cal didn’t hold as much appeal to me as Emily and Nate.  Hope was very sheltered and she could come across as kind of snobby.  Cal was blatantly rude to her at times.  While I felt like I could understand both of their issues, I would have been better with it if I felt like I knew them more.  Most of the book was set in the past and I felt like Hope and Cal’s stories sometimes got pushed aside.  I just didn’t feel the same connection to them as I did to Emily and Nate.
  • Ending:  The whole feud with the Hart family was not really explained very well and felt almost like an afterthought.  Everything tied together really nicely at the end but I felt like it just came out of nowhere.  I also felt like it was very rushed and some of the things were just not very believable.  It’s already a pretty long book so I understand why things needed to wrap up quickly but I would have liked a bit more backstory as far as how things got started between the Harts and the Crows.

Overall, Crow Mountain had things that could have been improved upon but was still an enjoyable read.  I loved that Lucy Inglis based a lot of it off of true events.   I’ll have to see what else she has written and look for more historical fiction from her in the future.

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about Crow Mountain:

The Review Diaries’ review: “A surprising read that really crept up on me when I least expected it with a beautiful love story woven through its pages.”

Daisy Chain Book Reviews’ review: “Crow Mountain is far from perfect, but it has drama, a wonderfully unusual setting, and a great story for fans who loved True Grit and The Next Together.”

Friday, August 26, 2016

Disney’s The Jungle Book on Blu-ray & DVD | Giveaway

Jungle Book

In an epic adventure directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), Mowgli, a man-cub raised in the jungle by a family of wolves, is forced to abandon his home when fearsome tiger Shere Khan promises to eliminate him. Guided by stern Bagheera and free-spirited Baloo, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery.

If you remember, back when The Jungle Book came out in theaters I had it as my movie of the month. I’ve adored the animated version and I’ve checked out the classic book but I never actually got to go see the new live action film in theaters.  I’m eager to see it when the Blu-ray/DVD is released on August 30th!

I’m also so happy to be hosting a giveaway for a copy of the Blu-ray/DVD for one lucky reader!

In addition to the film, you’ll be able to check out many special features such as an interview with the director, the journey of the 12 year old selected from thousands to play Mowgli, and even an audio commentary from the director about each scene in the movie.

So what do you have to do to be entered to win The Jungle Book?  Fill out the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston | Review

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston | ReviewExit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on March 15th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 248
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

Veronica Mars meets William Shakespeare in E.K. Johnston’s latest brave and unforgettable heroine.

Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don't cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team's summer training camp is Hermione's last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there's a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They're never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she's always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn't the beginning of Hermione Winter's story and she's not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

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I finished Exit, Pursued by a Bear a few days ago but I haven’t been able to properly put my thoughts into words.  I still can’t really do that but I’m going to try.

Trigger warning: As noted in the synopsis, this book deals with rape and teen pregnancy.  If those aren’t things you can handle reading about, this book is not for you.

Pros:

  • Characters:  If I had all the time in the world and I thought you guys would read a breakdown of each and every character in this book, I would give you one.  That would take so long though so I’m just going to focus on some of the key players and their strengths and weaknesses.  Hermione is obviously the most important person in Exit, Pursued by a Bear.  She is the captain of her school’s cheerleaders and she is a pretty popular girl at her school.  She’s still very down to earth though.  She knows what people think about cheerleaders and she is there to prove them all wrong. She’s smart and funny and amazingly strong.  She doesn’t just want to be another statistic but she also doesn’t want her rape and pregnancy to define who she becomes.  With the help of her family and friends, she’s willing to do what it takes to get the guy but also move on.  Her family is a huge help but it’s her best friend, Polly, who really helps her through.  Hermione and Polly are best friend goals.  They love and support each other through everything.  When Hermione can’t be strong, she has Polly.  Same goes for Polly.  The two of them love each other unconditionally.  It’s not often you see friendships like theirs portrayed in YA books but I loved seeing it.  And right now I can’t think of his name but I adored Hermione’s psychiatrist.  He was exactly what she needed.  He helped her feel like even though everything was wrong in her life, she wasn’t doing anything wrong and she was on the path to where she needed to be.  You could see that he really wanted to help her.
  • Story: I knew going in that this would be a tough story to read and I was right.  I cried so many times.  I’m glad I read it though.  Not only is Hermione raped, everyone knows about it.  It happens at cheer camp and quickly spreads around school and their small town.  She has no choice but to be faced with peoples’ pity.  She knows that she could let this be the moment that defines who she is or she can find a way to make herself known for something else, something good.  When she finds out she’s pregnant, it makes things even more difficult for her.  She never lets this stop her though.  She still cheers, gets good grades, and focuses on her future.  E.K. Johnston showed a very different side of the story than I ever expected and it showed that a terrible event doesn’t have to be the defining moment of your life.
  • Romance:  I’m just briefly going to mention this because there wasn’t much romance in Exit, Pursued by a Bear.  At the start of the book Hermione is dating fellow cheerleader, Leo, but that doesn’t last and I was happy about that.  They were not good for each other.  After the rape, Hermione is a little hesitant to have anything to do with boys her own age.  She puts up with it for cheerleading but that’s pretty much all she is doing.  However, Dion, a fellow cheerleader, is the only boy who really makes Hermione feel safe and like she might be okay with guys in the future.  Their friendship and possible romance is sweet and perfect for the story.

Overall, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is going to the top of my highly recommended list.  I know my review doesn’t even come close to doing it justice but take my word, you should read it.

Overall reaction:

 

What others are saying about Exit, Pursued by a Bear:

The Book Wars’ review: “In Exit, Pursued by a Bear, we see how the truth loses none of its potency when surrounded by people who are willing to trust in it. Highly, highly recommended!”

Pretty Deadly Reviews’ review: “This is a very different, very uplifting story about a girl coming to terms with being raped, and it is a necessary voice in a world telling girls they don’t own themselves.”

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne | Review

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne | ReviewThe Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on August 9th 2016
Genres: Romance
Pages: 384
Format: ebook
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

Nemesis (n.)
1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual.

Trapped in a shared office together 40 (OK, 50 or 60) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything—especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking.

If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong.

Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

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The Hating Game, Sally Thorne’s debut novel, has been generating a lot of buzz lately.  I kept seeing it mentioned on my Twitter feed so I decided to check it out.  It’s not my typical read but I ended up loving it and I’m glad I branched out a bit for this one.

Pros:

  • Characters:  Lucy and Joshua are the main characters here and honestly, there weren’t really any other characters I cared that much about.  It’s not that the others characters sucked, it’s just that Lucy and Josh really took the spotlight and their story was the one I really cared about.  Lucy seemed really carefree at first.  She was a total sweetheart but also a little bit of a pushover.  She let people (other than Josh) walk all over her.  She wanted everyone to like her and she put her own needs second because of that.  She was lonely and homesick and totally overworked.  She just hid it really well.  Josh was an ass and it was pretty easy to see that it was because he had feelings for Lucy.  I admit, I didn’t care much for Josh’s approach.  He was just another person who didn’t treat Lucy right.  Everything made more sense once more of his story came out but I still didn’t approve of his mean streak towards her.  However, that’s not to say that I didn’t still like him because I totally did.
  • Banter: Josh and Lucy may not have been nice to each other and I may have had some issues with how they treated one another but the banter between them was too perfect.  Josh may have been mean but Lucy could hold her own against him.  She always had a sassy comeback for anything he may have said.  Even as their relationship changed, the banter never did.  It was easy to see from the start that they had chemistry but it really showed when they were going back and forth in a battle of wits.  They were pretty evenly matched.
  • Romance:  I’m torn here because for a while it seemed like nothing happened but I also liked that Sally Thorne took the time to build up to their relationship.  I don’t think I would have found it as easy to believe if it just popped up at the very start of the book.  The build up was one of the best parts.  However, the sexual tension between Josh and Lucy had me wanting to shove them together from the very start.  It was just so easy to see that they needed to get together!  And boy did they ever.  If I thought they had chemistry when they were just bickering, it was 10 times better when they finally got together.

Cons:

  • There wasn’t really anything I absolutely hated about this book.  All my problems with it were already mentioned.  Yes, Josh was kind of jerk.  The secondary characters were a little non-existent and I couldn’t find much to make me care about them.  These were all little things though and they didn’t detract much from my enjoyment of the book.

Overall, The Hating Game really did impress me.  Josh and Lucy are right up there with some of my favorite couples.  I’m quite eager to see what Sally Thorne is going to do next.

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about The Hating Game:

Harlequin Junkie’s review: “The Hating Game turned out to be quite a lovely adventure.”

Book Thingo’s review: “I’m not yet convinced this book is a keeper for me, but it gets pretty damn close.”

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay | Review

The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay | ReviewThe Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on August 2nd 2016
Genres: Suspense
Pages: 325
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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3 Stars

Who will be left after lights out?

At Cate's isolated boarding school, Killer is more than a game- it's an elite secret society. Members must avoid being "Killed" during a series of thrilling pranks, and only the Game Master knows who the "Killer" is. When Cate's finally invited to join the Assassins' Guild, she know it's her ticket to finally feeling like she belongs.

But when the game becomes all too real, the school threatens to shut it down. Cate will do anything to keep playing and save the Guild. But can she find the real assassin before she's the next target?

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With a title like this one, I had some pretty high hopes.  The Assassin Game is my first time reading a book by Kirsty McKay and while it wasn’t all I had hoped for, it was enough to get me to check out some of her other books.

Pros:

  • Mystery: There were times when I totally thought about setting aside The Assassin Game and adding it to my short list of DNFs.  I admit, there were times when I was just plain bored.  Things moved at a slow pace with this one.  However, I could not stop reading this one because there were so many things I still needed to know.  Yes, there was a killer in the game but there was also someone attempting to kill people in real life too.  And let me tell you, I didn’t have a clue who either killer was.  These kids were pretty ruthless and they each wanted to be the last one standing at the end of the Game.  They were willing to do a lot of stuff in the name of the Game and it looked like someone was taking the Game a little too far.

Cons:

  • Pacing: I already mentioned this briefly but the pace of this one was ridiculously slow.  I honestly felt like nothing happened for the first half of the book.  The synopsis tells you about someone taking the Game a bit literally and trying to kill people but the first attempt doesn’t even happen until halfway through the book.  The first half just focuses on Cate and her many romantic entanglements as well as the progression of the Game.  I was extremely bored with that.  Which brings me to my next point.
  • Characters: I was not impressed with any of these characters.  Cate, for instance, was immature and obsessed with the Game.  I think she saw it as a way of fitting in which was something she had always been trying to achieve.  She was the kid that wasn’t really supposed to be at Umfraville but since her family owned the island she got to attend the school.  Everyone there was snobby and rich and she didn’t feel like she belonged with any of them except maybe Marcia and Daniel.  Also, she may have considered those two friends but they were anything but.  Marcia was self-centered and totally not there for Cate at all.  Daniel, on the other hand, was completely obsessed with her.  He was creepy.  As for Alex and Vaughn, Cate’s other possible love interests, I wasn’t really impressed with either of them.  Alex was the popular guy who was a total player but for some reason, Cate never wanted him.  They hooked up once and that was the end for her.  Vaughn was her childhood friend who reappeared after years and they immediately fell for each other.  I didn’t really have any problems with the two of them together but I didn’t feel any sort of investment in their relationship.
  • Writing: I wasn’t terribly upset with the writing in The Assassin Game but I was far from impressed with it.  It was very stilted and straightforward.  I felt like I was being told everything outright rather than having things shown to me through descriptions.  It was a really dull way of telling this story.

Overall, The Assassin Game may not have a lot of pros going for it but it was an entertaining enough story for me.  It’s not something I’ll ever re-read but it was a good mystery for a rainy day.

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about The Assassin Game:

Flavia the Bibliophile’s review: “McKay did an exceptional job at keeping me guessing until the very end, and I commend her for that!”

The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh!’s review: “Overall, this is a case of a fun book that would NEVER happen in real life.”

Novelgossip’s review: “I had hoped that there would be some originality in this one, but alas I was left disappointed and irritated.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hurricane Kiss by Deborah Blumenthal | Review

Hurricane Kiss by Deborah Blumenthal | ReviewHurricane Kiss by Deborah Blumenthal
Published by Aw Teen on May 1st 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
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2 Stars

For sixteen-year-old Jillian McKay, the threat of Hurricane Danielle means a long car ride with her neighbors including River Daughtry, the former star quarterback of Harrison High. The guy who was headed to glory until suddenly he disappeared to a West Texas juvenile detention center. Once cocky and flirtatious, he's now silent and angry. When their evacuation route is gridlocked, River is the first to recognize the danger they're in. Together he and Jillian set out to seek shelter in their abandoned high school. As they wait out the storm, they confront the past and realize survival is about more than just staying alive it's about fighting for yourself."

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Oh how I wanted to love Hurricane Kiss.  I don’t know what it was about this book but I was really drawn to it (despite the embarrassing cover).  I figured this would be a quick, fun read with some good secrets and romance.  It was quick but that was about all I got right about this one.

Pros:

  • Pacing: Let’s be real here; the only good thing about Hurricane Kiss was that it didn’t take long to read.  It was slow to start but once I got about 40 pages in, things took off.  It’s pretty clear from the summary what you’re getting into as far as the hurricane and the survival part of the story.  I will admit that I was so not impressed with the time spent in the car trying to get out of Houston but once River and Jillian took off on their own, things really started to move.  Survival stories always intrigue me while also creeping me out.  Hurricane Kiss definitely did both of those things.  I have to say that that is probably one of the main reasons I didn’t just give up on this one.  I wanted to see what would happen to River and Jillian and everyone else in their lives.  If nothing else, the story is very captivating.

Cons:

  • Characters:  I felt nothing for River or Jillian.  Jillian was judgmental and very closed off.  River was tortured and messed up and every other thought in his head was about how bad he was for everyone around him.  Put them together and they were not any better.  And don’t get me started on their parents.  Jillian’s mom would rather stay behind to report than take her kids to safety.  Sure she sends them off with someone else so they aren’t trapped in Houston with her but I could not believe that any mom would do that.  As for River’s dad, he didn’t even like his son.  He wasn’t willing to listen to him and he just believed what everyone else had to say about him.  Then he let him run off (literally, run off) in the middle of an evacuation.  He didn’t try to stop him or go after him.  What kind of dad does that?  So yeah, while I disliked both Jillian and River, I disliked their parents even more.
  • Romance: Can you say insta-love that is totally based on looks alone?  Maybe there was more to it than that but all it seemed these two ever thought about was how attractive the other was.  I couldn’t see any other good reason they might be interested in each other.  They had nothing in common (except for the single parent thing) and to make matters worse, Jillian had a boyfriend!  Yeah, she didn’t feel much for him but that doesn’t mean she should just go for another guy without breaking up with him.
  • Story: There were two parts of the story that I just couldn’t get behind.  One: I don’t think Jillian and River would have survived the storm.  They holed up in their high school and they weren’t prepared at all.  They stayed in rooms with windows (isn’t that a big no-no during tornadoes and hurricanes), they had almost no food, and they kept going out into the storm for completely stupid reasons.  Oh and when the roof would collapse or windows would shatter, instead of just leaving it alone, they would go to check it out.  That makes a lot of sense.  The second part was River’s story about what happened to land him in juvie and his time in juvie.  His dad is ex-military.  I find it hard to believe that he just took the schools word for his sons actions and didn’t fight him getting sent to juvie.  Then there were the stories about what happened at juvie.  I know I have never spent any time in a juvenile detention facility but it seems like beating them, drugging them senseless, and feeding them food crawling with worms would be frowned upon and easily discovered.  What do I know though?

Overall, Hurricane Kiss is not something I’d recommend reading.  I could go on and on about this book but I’m going to stop here.  I’m just really happy it was a quick read and I didn’t waste too much time with this one.

Overall reaction:

 

What others are saying about Hurricane Kiss:

A Belle’s Tales’ review: “I really enjoyed Hurricane Kiss; it was a fast read, and the writing and characters were captivating.”

The Reader and the Chef’s review: “All in all, I believe Hurricane Kiss will attract readers in search of books inspired by events as real as natural disasters, brooding hot guys with a dark past, personal obstacles, light romance, and revelations until the very end of the book.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Underwater by Marisa Reichardt | Review

Underwater by Marisa Reichardt | ReviewUnderwater by Marisa Reichardt
Published by Farrar, Straus on January 12th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
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5 Stars

Morgan didn’t mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive—first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then, herself.

But Morgan can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school.

When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside.

Underwater is a powerful, hopeful debut novel about redemption, recovery, and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on.

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I’ve always been the queen of contemporary but it’s not often that I find a contemporary novel that I adore.  That was the case with Underwater.  Marisa Reichardt’s debut novel completely blew me away.

I’m always a big fan of books that are fast paced and have a lot going on.  Underwater is not one of those books but it’s got a lot of other things going for it.  Marisa Reichardt’s writing is phenomenal.  It seemed a little wordy at first but once I got reading, I saw how it made everything come together.  The writing style just worked for this story.  Marisa Reichardt’s writing managed to capture exactly how Morgan felt after the school shooting and convey them perfectly for readers.  It took very little time for me to feel like I could understand exactly what Morgan was going through and how she was feeling.  It takes real talent to make that happen in such a short period of time.

The events that led to Morgan’s agoraphobia (I think that’s pretty much what she had) were a mystery for most of the book.  Readers can tell early on in the book what happened at the school that day but it’s not so obvious why it affected Morgan the way it did.  While other survivors embraced life and decided to take chances, Morgan did the opposite.  She shut herself away from everything that could hurt her, including other people.  Evan, her new neighbor, forces Morgan to reevaluate her choices and actually consider coming out of her apartment for the first time in months.  Evan was a total sweetheart.  He didn’t know what Morgan was like before the shooting but he quickly came to care for her, even with her quirks.  And honestly, Morgan’s quirks made me like her even more.  Sure I felt for her from the start but I only grew to really like her once I started to understand exactly what she thought about herself, the shooting, the shooter, and what her future might hold.

To some, Underwater might seem a little slow and a little lacking in action.  I did mention earlier that that is normally what draws me too a book but I didn’t mind the pace or the lack of action in Underwater.  There was some mystery (not much) which did keep my interest piqued but it was the characters that really kept me reading this one.  Like I said earlier, I felt emotionally connected to Morgan from the start so I never once considered putting Underwater down because of it’s pace.  I do think it’s a good thing to know going in though that Underwater is not necessarily a book you are going to be able to power through and read in an hour or two.  Take your time with this one.  It’s worth it.

I also really loved all the family dynamics in Underwater.  Morgan lived with her mom and little brother and they were all very close.  Her mom was extremely understanding about Morgan’s condition and her little brother was adorable.  Evan was also very close to his mom and aunt.  There wasn’t a ton of interaction shown between them but it was easy to see how they cared for each other and helped each other out.

Overall, Underwater is a fantastic debut that I can’t help but recommend.  I look forward to seeing what Marisa Reichardt does next.

What others are saying about Underwater:

My Friends Are Fiction’s review: “What a beautifully developed and executed debut Underwater was.”

bookstacked’s review: “Everything about this story was amazing: the writing, the theme, the dialogue, but one of my favorite things about this story was the underlying message. The message that having hope is one of the best things in the world.”