Monday, June 6, 2016

Blog Tour: The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone | Review + GiveawayThe Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone
on June 7th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: PLA
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O'Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie's closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie's plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret "death with dignity" cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way - and give the O'Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.

Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.

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The Loose Ends List is one of those books that you will either love or hate and I am definitely on the love side.  I knew from the moment I read the synopsis that this was going to be a book for me.  While it had it’s flaws, I truly enjoyed Carrie Firestone’s debut novel.

Pros:

  • Story:  It takes a lot to switch things up with contemporary novels.  I admit that even though it is my favorite genre, I can really get bored with the books because they all seem to be very similar these days.  The Loose Ends List really brings something new to the contemporary genre.  I’ve read tons of books dealing with death in the family but nothing like this.  Maddie’s grandma is a force to be reckoned with and she’s not gonna let cancer bring her down.  She’s going out the way she wants to and that’s on a cruise with her family by her side. While it’s definitely a sad story, there are so many fun and happy moments to balance it out.
  • Romance: I knew from the start that Maddie’s boyfriend wasn’t going to be the one she ended the summer with and I was glad for that.  He was terrible and her reasons for being with him were terrible.  Enzo, on the other hand, was good for her.  They were going through similar situations and they both needed someone.  Their relationship was sweet and fun and I loved watching Maddie cross things off her loose ends list with Enzo.
  • Writing: I really liked Carrie Firestone’s writing style.  The story never drags and a lot of that has to do with the writing.  It’s not overly descriptive or wordy but it’s also not sparse in descriptions.  I think it lends itself well to contemporary stories although I say that without having read any other kind of story from Carrie.  It really helped keep my interest in the book even if I had issues with some other things.
  • Humor: This is not just a sob story.  There is so much humor woven into the story that it’s almost easy to forget that one of the main characters in the story is going to die.  I loved how Carrie Firestone managed to balance the humor and the heartache.  I never expected to laugh as much as I did throughout The Loose Ends List.  That’s not to say I didn’t cry a ton too but it was pretty even.  A lot of that had to do with Maddie’s grandma.  She was a hoot.  I loved her and I could see why Maddie did too.

Cons:

  • Characters: While most of the characters were awesome, I had some issues with a few.  Take Maddie, for instance.  She was so superficial.  I was beyond annoyed with her attitude at the start of the book.  She admits to dating a guy just because he’s popular and the captain of the lacrosse team.  It’s like she’s always trying to prove herself to someone.  I wanted her to grow up and start doing things just for herself.  Her friends were the same way.  It seemed like all they cared about were boys and parties.  All except for Rachel, Maddie’s friend but not really.  They grew apart because Maddie became popular and Rachel cared about comic books and things like that.  What a lame reason to grow apart.  Why can’t you do both?  Yes, Maddie grows up a lot throughout the book but she really annoyed me for a lot of it, as did the people she chose to hang out with.

Overall, The Loose Ends List is a wonderful read that had me laughing, smiling, and crying quite a bit.  I look forward to reading more from Carrie Firestone.  Check this one out and don’t forget your tissues when you do pick it up.

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about The Loose Ends List:

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff | Review

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff | ReviewPlaces No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff
Published by Delacorte Press on May 17th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

For fans of Lauren Oliver and E. Lockhart, here is a dreamy love story set in the dark halls of contemporary high school, from New York Times bestselling author Brenna Yovanoff.

Waverly Camdenmar spends her nights running until she can’t even think. Then the sun comes up, life goes on, and Waverly goes back to her perfectly hateful best friend, her perfectly dull classes, and the tiny, nagging suspicion that there’s more to life than student council and GPAs.

Marshall Holt is a loser. He drinks on school nights and gets stoned in the park. He is at risk of not graduating, he does not care, he is no one. He is not even close to being in Waverly’s world.

But then one night Waverly falls asleep and dreams herself into Marshall’s bedroom—and when the sun comes up, nothing in her life can ever be the same. In Waverly’s dreams, the rules have changed. But in her days, she’ll have to decide if it’s worth losing everything for a boy who barely exists.

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Places No One Knows is a step out for Brenna Yovanoff.  I’ve only read one of her other books (The Space Between, which I loved) but I felt like I got a sense of her writing from that one.  Places No One Knows is a completely different story from anything she has done before and anything I have read before.

Pros:

  • Writing: Brenna Yovanoff’s writing is what really grabbed me when I read The Space Between and while Places No One Knows is a completely different story, Brenna’s writing shines through.  Her writing is descriptive and can sometimes come across a little heavy but I have always loved that style and think it really worked well with the story here.  I can see why Brenna Yovanoff is Maggie Stiefvater’s critique partner because their styles of writing are similar.  Even if I had hated the story in Places No One Knows, I would have kept reading for the writing alone.
  • Story: The story had it’s strong points and it’s weak points.  When I started Places No One Knows, I was looking for a contemporary story set in high school.  Places No One Knows fits those criteria but it’s a lot more than that.  Waverly doesn’t sleep and in an attempt to get some sleep, she ends up visiting another classmate, without ever having left her room.  He’s the only one who can see her and he’s the only one she visits this way.  He doesn’t run in her circle at school but she is drawn to him for some reason.  They come from very different walks of life but they have more in common than either of them think.  Brenna Yovanoff doesn’t spend much time detailing exactly what Waverly does to be able to visit him but that’s okay because that’s not what the book is about.  It’s more about what happens when Waverly does spend time with Marshall and how that time together (away from everyone else) brings out the truth of who they are and who they want to be.
  • Characters: Pros and cons here, that’s for sure, especially with Waverly.  It’s odd because the thing I hated about Waverly also made me really like her.  She was very much a high school girl.  She let Maribeth put her down all the time, she cared so much about what everyone else thought of her, and she participated in all the cheesy school functions even if she didn’t care about them.  It may not be the case for everyone but I could relate to Waverly so much about those aspects.  It was almost exactly how I felt in high school.  As for Marshall, he was probably my favorite although Autumn gave him a run for his money.  I could understand why they were friends.  Autumn did what she wanted and didn’t care what anyone thought.  She was genuine and she cared deeply for her friends.  Marshall was the same way.  He had a seriously messed up home life and it showed through in everything he did.  He was a slacker and a bit of a nobody and he didn’t mind that until Waverly came into his life.  They both made each other stronger and brought out new sides of each other.  Waverly was finally willing to just be herself with him and he was willing to want more out of life when he was with her.  I loved that about their relationship.

Cons:

  • Waverly: While Waverly did have some pros about her, she also had some very big cons for me.  I almost gave up on this one at one point because I did not like Waverly at all.  She was so shut off from the world that she was kind of impossible to like or sympathize with.  I couldn’t understand her.  I didn’t get why she didn’t sleep and I think that impacted how she acted with people.  I would have liked a little more background about that.  I also would have liked more background about her friendship with Maribeth because it was obvious that she didn’t like Maribeth but she just put up with her, no matter what she said or did.

Overall, Places No One Knows may not be my favorite from Brenna Yovanoff but it’s still a solid addition to her books.  I think it really shows that her talent lends itself to any style story that she chooses to write and I look forward to seeing what she does next.

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about Places No One Knows:

  • Wrapped Up In Books’ review: “It’s a complicated and nuanced look at how difficult it can be to inhabit your own skin, especially in high school, and how sometimes, the right person can make it easier to breathe.”
  • BookPage’s review: “Few writers delve as intimately into raw emotion as Brenna Yovanoff as she strips her characters of their practiced self-delusions and faulty coping strategies.”
  • Read.Breathe.Relax’s review: “Places No One Knows offers an intriguing mystery, romantic tension and incredible writing, and if you don’t mind the inclusion of some tough topics then I would definitely recommend it.”
Monday, May 23, 2016

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson | Review

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson | ReviewThe Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 519
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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4 Stars

Andie had it all planned out.

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.
Amazing friends? Check.
Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.
Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected.

And where’s the fun in that?

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It’s been a while since I’ve read a Morgan Matson book (I know, I fail at life) and I’d forgotten how much I loved her writing, her characters, and the way she writes romance.  The Unexpected Everything was just what I was looking for in a summer contemporary novel.  I can’t help but smile just thinking about this book!

Pros:

  • The characters: This one is a little odd for me because some of the characters are on my pro and con list.  Take Andie, for instance.  I mostly loved her but she had some moments where I could not stand her.  I’ll get to that part later though.  For most of the book, I loved Andie.  I think the best part about her was the development she went through over the course of the novel.  She was almost a completely different person by the end of The Unexpected Everything and I think a lot of that had to do with her friends, her family, and Clark.  It just goes to show how the people around you help shape who you are.  Speaking of the people around her, I adored her friends and Clark.  Her friends were all really well-rounded and they were all so different but they just worked together.  I never had issues telling them apart because their personalities were so well developed.  As for Clark, he might be my dream guy.  He’s totally shy and nerdy and a little awkward and just so dang cute.
  • Family: Family plays a huge role in The Unexpected Everything and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first because Andie and her dad had a very weird relationship.  I didn’t like how her dad all of a sudden cared so much about what she was doing when he never had before.  He was a total absentee parent and then he decided to take a really active role in Andie’s life and came off a little overbearing at first.  However, once Andie and her dad hashed some things out between the two of them their relationship changed a lot and definitely for the better.  There were some absolutely adorable moments between them (the scavenger hunt!)
  • Friends: Andie and her friends were extremely close.  I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that showcases a friendship like theirs.  These girls interacted with each other daily.  They told each other almost everything and they had these rituals (like talking about love lives at the diner) and their friendship was seriously adorable.  They had issues (boy did they ever) but they were pretty much always there for each other.  Friendship goals right here guys!
  • Romance: I’m just going to gush here.  Clark and Andie were so adorable.  They had probably one of the most awkward first dates ever but I knew that couldn’t be the end for them.  Bertie (the dog that Clark is dog sitting) brings them back together and things really took off from there.  They didn’t have a picture perfect relationship and that is what I loved so much about them.  They had issues and they disagreed on things and they didn’t have to spend every waking moment together.  They were so real and neither of them was perfect.

Cons:

  • The characters: Like I said, a couple of the characters fit on both my pros and cons list.  Andie was one of them.  She was so uptight at first.  She was so unwilling to accept changes and she kept everything bottled up.  So many things could have been solved so easily if she was just willing to say something about it.  Her relationship with her dad was one of those things.  She was never willing to tell him how she felt about her mom’s death or their relationship without her and it finally just all bubbled over and she couldn’t keep it inside anymore.  She was closed off and just unwilling to let people in and it really bothered me.  But like I said earlier, she developed a lot throughout the book and by the end of it, I really did like her. One character that I still didn’t really like at the end of the book was her friend Toby.  I’m not going to spoil anything but Toby did some really crappy things and she was so selfish.  She only ever thought about herself and she made that very clear.  Also, I think I may have liked her even less by the end of the book.  She was a minor issue for me though.

Overall, The Unexpected Everything is another stunner from Morgan Matson.  I couldn’t read it fast enough and I never wanted it to end (and that’s saying something for a 500+ page book!)  If you’re looking for the perfect summer read, this is it!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Blog Tour: Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins | Review

Blog Tour: Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins | ReviewSummer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories by Stephanie Perkins
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on May 17th 2016
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom.

Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.

picadillyblueWhen I heard that Stephanie Perkins was editing (and contributing to) another collection of young adult short stories, I was beyond ecstatic.  I was a fan of My True Love Gave to Me and I’ve really come to love collections like this one.

This is a little hard for me to review since if I had the time, I’d review each story separately.  Who knows, maybe I’ll get around to doing that eventually but today I’m just going to touch on the book as a whole!

Pros:

  • Authors: Summer Days and Summer Nights has a wide variety of authors, some I’ve read before and others that were new to me.  It’s also great that it’s not just one genre represented.  It didn’t hurt that a few of my favorite authors were included here (Leigh Bardugo, anyone?)  I feel like readers who already love these authors will enjoy getting even a little bit more from them and if the book includes new authors for you, maybe you’ll find some new books to check out.

Okay, that’s really the only point I can make in a pros and cons review.  The rest is just going to have to be more traditional.  I tried but I just don’t know how to word it to make things fit with all the stories.

Let’s break it down here:

My favorite story would have to be Stephanie Perkins’ (no surprise there) but I also loved Brandy Colbert’s and Tim Federle’s and I’ve never read any of their books.  I also really enjoyed Nina LaCour’s and look forward to reading more of her work.  A few others that were up there on my list were Lev Grossman’s, Jennifer E. Smith’s, and Jon Skovron’s.

Stories that were right in the middle for me were Libba Bray’s and Francesca Lia Block’s.  I’m not really a huge fan of either author so I didn’t know what to expect with these two which actually helped me like them more, I think.  I went in with no expectations so they couldn’t really disappoint me.  I know that’s sad but it’s true.  I think if you enjoy either (or both) author you will like these stories from them.

I was let down a bit by both Leigh Bardugo and Cassie Clare’s stories.  I think for Leigh Bardugo’s it had more to do with the subject than the author.  I still love her writing but I wasn’t impressed with the story and just didn’t get into it.  As for Cassie Clare, I think I’ve just read too much of her work and need a break from it all.  I find her stories to be really fun and that’s what I expected from this one but it just didn’t hit the right note with me.

Overall, while Summer Days and Summer Nights had a few stories I didn’t love, I really did enjoy it as a whole.  Overall, take some time to read through this one.  Not only did I get the chance to read some new things from some of my favorite authors, I got to read a couple new authors (Lev Grossman is a new one for me) that I’ll have to check out more from now.  Summer Days and Summer Nights really is the perfect book to take out with you on a summer day!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater | Review

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater | ReviewThe Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4) by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #4
Published by Scholastic Press on April 26th 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 438
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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4 Stars

Nothing living is safe. Nothing dead is to be trusted.

For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey…and is certain she is destined to kill him.

Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.

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I’m still a little in shock that this series is over so forgive me if my thoughts are all over the place.  I finished this last week and this is the first time I’ve even felt like I could string together coherent sentences about it.  That should tell you plenty about the finale to the Raven Cycle.

Let me start off by saying that this will be spoiler free as far as The Raven King goes but I make no promises for the other books in the series.  If you haven’t read them, I urge you to stop reading my review and go read them.  Or just go read my review for The Raven Boys to see if it might interest you.

Pros:

  • Characters: These characters hold a special place in my heart at this point.  I’ve grown so attached to them over the past 4 books and I was so happy with how Maggie chose to end their stories.  I’m not saying that everything that happened to them was happy.  What I appreciated about how she ended everything was that it felt true to each of the characters.  I also loved that she could introduce new characters in the final book and make it feel like they had been there the whole time.  Henry Cheng may have been introduced in an earlier book but The Raven King is really where he made his grand entrance and he grew on me in no time.  I loved the relationship he built with everyone but Blue especially.
  • Romance: Y’all already know how I feel about Gansey and Blue (I adore them!) but I’ve never really been vocal about anyone else.  After reading The Raven King, I may like Ronan and Adam more than I like Gansey and Blue and that is really saying something.  Gansey and Blue have always had this chemistry that pulls them together and a curse that pushes them apart.  I’m a sucker for forbidden romance and that was another big appeal for them.  Ronan and Adam have a completely different type of relationship.  I wouldn’t even say they are that close as friends.  It’s more that Gansey brought them all together and they found each other through that weird friendship.  The tension between them just permeates everything they do and I just wanted to reach in the book and push them together.  Gah!  I can’t even talk about it anymore because I’m out of words.  Oh and then there was Maura and the Grey Man.  They were oddly cute together.
  • Writing: I bet this one is a big shocker to you guys.  Well, okay, maybe not really.  We all know I love Maggie Stiefvater’s writing.  It’s a style that might be a little more wordy than some authors but I love that.  I feel like every word she writes should be savored and she somehow manages to string them all together perfectly.  She is beyond talented.  It’s no surprise that the writing in The Raven King is flawless.

Cons:

  • Story: The story was not bad, it was just a little all over the place.  I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t quite what I got.  I said no spoilers so this part of the review is a little difficult.  Maggie Stiefvater tied up all loose ends which pleased me, definitely, but how she went about it wasn’t perfect, in my opinion.  And to be quite honest, if I took my time and re-read the whole series, I may not find the story to be a problem at all anymore.  I think it may have been that I took so much time between the first 3 books and this one that the confusion was only on my part.  I know there were things I forgot from the first books and when I eventually go back and re-read them, maybe things will make a bit more sense.

Overall, The Raven King will surpass expectations for fans of The Raven Cycle.  Maggie Stiefvater impressed me once again and I cannot wait to see what she does next.  The Raven Cycle will forever be up there on my list of favorites.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Blog Tour: Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano | Review + GiveawayHolding Smoke by Elle Cosimano
Published by Hyperion on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Suspense
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

John "Smoke" Conlan is serving time for two murders but he wasn't the one who murdered his English teacher, and he never intended to kill the only other witness to the crime. A dangerous juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado, known as the Y, is Smoke's new home and the only one he believes he deserves.

But, unlike his fellow inmates, Smoke is not in constant imprisonment. After a near death experience leaves him with the ability to shed his physical body at will, Smoke is able to travel freely outside the concrete walls of the Y, gathering information for himself and his fellow inmates while they're asleep in their beds. Convinced his future is only as bright as the fluorescent lights in his cell, Smoke doesn't care that the "threads" that bind his soul to his body are wearing thin-that one day he may not make it back in time. That is, until he meets Pink, a tough, resourceful girl who is sees him for who he truly is and wants to help him clear his name.

Now Smoke is on a journey to redemption he never thought possible. With Pink's help, Smoke may be able to reveal the true killer, but the closer they get to the truth, the more deadly their search becomes. The web of lies, deceit, and corruption that put Smoke behind bars is more tangled than they could have ever imagined. With both of their lives on the line, Smoke will have to decide how much he's willing to risk, and if he can envision a future worth fighting for.

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Elle Cosimano became one of my favorite authors with her Nearly duology (possibly trilogy?)  When I first heard about Holding Smoke, I was extremely excited and immediately added it to my TBR.  I got my hands on an ARC and I read it immediately.  While it was very different from her first books, I liked the new direction her writing took.

Pros:

  • Characters: Smoke stole my heart from the very start!  He comes across as a bit of a bad boy but he has a heart of gold.  His circumstances were beyond crappy.  He was not a completely innocent man but he was not as guilty as you’d first think.  He had quite a few layers to him and I never knew what side he was going to show next.  I liked that he was able to keep me guessing.  As for Pink, she was a bit of a mystery.  She came across as this badass female but she also had quite a shy, scared side.  She knew when she could handle herself and she knew when she needed help.  She and Smoke weren’t always good for each other but they worked past that.
  • Story: The story was both a pro and a con for me.  It was so unique and so twisted that I was kept guessing until the very end.  Not only could I not figure out who committed the crime Smoke was in jail for, I also couldn’t figure out the exact nature of the crime Smoke actually committed.  He was good at hiding things and Elle Cosimano is good at twisting things so much, you’ll never see it coming.
  • Romance: Smoke and Pink didn’t have a traditional romance.  For one, Smoke wasn’t actually physically there for most of their interactions.  With his ability, he came across as a ghost to Pink most of the time.  Because of that, their relationship developed mentally way before it did physically and I really liked that.  They weren’t exactly a cute couple (they got on each others nerves quite a bit) but they had their own charm.

Cons:

  • Story: Like I said, the story was both a pro and a con for me and it’s actually the only con I had with Holding Smoke.  I felt a little confused at times.  Smoke’s ability was very unique but also very odd.  I didn’t understand it all the time and some of the scenes when he was separated from his body threw me off.  I think it was how they were written and how Smoke looks at things when he’s like that.  It wasn’t bad, by any means, it just took some getting used to.

Overall, Holding Smoke isn’t my favorite from Elle Cosimano but it held up to my expectations pretty well.  Elle Cosimano is a name to know if you are a fan of YA suspense.  If you were a fan of her Nearly books, check out Holding Smoke.  I think you’ll find you enjoy it.

Giveaway

3 winners will receive copies of Holding Smoke.  US only.

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Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour!

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Friday, April 22, 2016

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi | Review

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi | ReviewThe Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 26th 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you're only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire...

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.

A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-Touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.

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The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi’s debut novel, will have you shaking your head in disbelief that it is, in fact, a debut novel.  The Star-Touched Queen reads like Roshani Chokshi has been writing her whole life and I’m sure this will not be the only wonderful, heartbreaking book we get from her.

Pros:

  • Romance: While it might come across a bit like insta-love at first, that really isn’t what is going on. Amar and Maya didn’t really have much of a choice when it came to starting up a really quick relationship.  They got married the first time they met.  That’s just how it was.  However, their attraction made their marriage not quite as tough as it could have been.  Amar and Maya’s personalities fit together and they each brought different things to their relationship and their roles as leaders.  While Amar was quite closed off and a bit hard to read, Maya was the opposite.  She had a bit of a temper and she wasn’t afraid to say what she wanted and to go after it.  It also didn’t hurt that once they got to know each other, their chemistry was even better.  Roshani Chokshi managed to make all of their scenes together both steamy and sweet.
  • Characters: It’s not often that I like all the characters and find them to be well-developed but that was the case with The Star-Touched Queen.  Maya was dealt a poor hand in life due to her horoscope and the kingdom she lived in.  It was predicted that she would bring death and destruction to whoever she married.  It made many people scared of her and needless to say, made marriage kind of out of the picture for her.  Not that she minded that.  She smart and witty and fierce.  Amar, like I said, was kind of mysterious, in a tall, dark, and handsome way.  His personality was hard to gauge at first but once in his kingdom, he started to come out of his shell more.  He was sweet but also smart and cunning.  The harem wives were all very superstitious women who were pretty terrible.  Gauri, Maya’s half-sister, was adorable at first and fierce later on.  She was strong and smart and willing to do whatever it took for her kingdom and the people she loved.  Gupta was funny and a little odd.  Kamala had to be my favorite though.  I can’t even begin to describe her but she was funny in a morbid and quirky way.  She was fiercely protective of Maya and yet managed to keep a sense of humor even when defending her.  I wasn’t sure it was possible that even demon animals could be well-developed characters but Roshani Chokshi proved me wrong.
  • Setting: The Star-Touched Queen is set in both the kingdoms of Bharata and the kingdom of Akaran.  Both settings were extremely vividly detailed.  Bharata was both a gorgeous kingdom and a kingdom torn apart by war.  The Night Bazaar seemed like an awesomely creepy place but maybe could have used a little more development.  Akaran was, by far, my favorite though.  There were mirrors showing everything but your reflection, gardens made out of glass, and a tapestry full of mystery and fate.
  • Plot: At first, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to get with The Star-Touched Queen.  The synopsis on the back of the book doesn’t really say much and I actually really like that about it.  I went in not knowing what to expect and I felt like I got more mystery out of it.  There were a few things that I guessed along the way but I think if I had actually read the full synopsis, I would have guessed them a lot sooner.  However, I think I only guessed those things because of my knowledge of some Indian folklore.  If you don’t know any Indian folklore, you are in for a lot of twists and turns and I was still shocked by a lot of things.  Things are a little slow to start but not very.  Maya’s story really starts to take off early in the book and since it is a standalone, everything has to happen pretty quickly.  That’s not to say that anything is rushed though because it’s not.  And since it is a standalone, everything was wrapped up quite nicely and while I would never say no to more stories set in this world, I was happy with how things ended.

Overall, The Star-Touched Queen has a spot on my favorites shelf, that’s for sure.  I highly recommend it, especially for fans of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.  While the stories are each uniquely different, I couldn’t help getting the same type of vibe from this one and that is high praise.  I look forward to more from Roshani Chokshi.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum | Review

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum | ReviewTell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Published by Delacorte Press on April 5th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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4 Stars

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Julie Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and elation, in her debut YA novel filled with characters who will come to feel like friends.

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I’m a huge advocate for contemporary young adult literature.  I love it and I think it doesn’t get enough recognition or love from a lot of readers.  Tell Me Three Things is probably going to the top of my list of recommendations, especially for those readers that don’t necessarily like contemporary.

Pros:

  • Characters: All of the characters in Tell Me Three Things were pretty much perfect.  Don’t get me wrong, they had their flaws but that only made them better.  Jessie was a little self-centered but she kind of deserved it.  Her whole life had been uprooted and things were not great at her new school or home.  Theo was one I wasn’t sure about at first but he grew on me quickly.  SN was so funny and clever and adorable.  Dri and Agnes were great friends to Jessie although I really wasn’t sure they would be at first.  The same goes for Scarlett.  She and Jessie may have been separated by thousands of miles but they worked past that.  Ethan and Liam were so cute.  Liam was a little airheaded and Ethan was a little closed off but I liked them both a lot.  Probably Ethan more though because of the whole reading thing.  I’m all for the nerds.
  • Romance: The romance in this one was different.  Jessie and SN start out flirting and then it becomes something so much more than that.  Jessie doesn’t even know who SN is but she’s attracted to him on an intellectual level and their conversations were so cute and so real.  Not knowing who he was allowed her to open up to him in a way she wouldn’t have in real life.  It was a little stalker like at times since he knew who she was and sometimes made comments about what she was wearing that day or doing but it was a cute stalker way.  And once I found out who SN really was, I could see how they were perfect in real life too.
  • Family: Jessie’s family is broken and put back together in a new way and it was definitely weird for her.  Her mom died (I’ll get to that next) and now she’s living in LA with her dad’s new wife and her teenage son.  Pretty much none of them (except her dad and his wife) want anything do with each other and I really wasn’t sure how it was going to work out.  I appreciate that Julie Buxbaum didn’t make it work out perfectly.  They were a broken family when the book started and they were still broken when it ended but they were working on it and that’s what I loved.
  • Grief: Julie Buxbaum did a fabulous job with her representation of grief in Tell Me Three Things.  Jessie wasn’t the only one dealing with the loss of someone.  Her dad lost his wife.  Theo lost his dad.  Theo’s mom, Rachel, lost her husband.  Ethan lost a sibling.  Each of them dealt with it differently.  There is no right way to grieve someone and I loved that Julie Buxbaum could show all the different ways.
  • Pacing: Tell Me Three Things is a fast-paced contemporary novel.  At no point does it drag.  I couldn’t stop turning the pages.  The mix of texting, IM’ing, and email messages interspersed throughout the novel also helped to move things along making it an extremely quick read.

Cons:

  • Mystery: Let’s be real, here.  I figured out who SN was pretty early on and I think most readers probably will.  It’s not that great a mystery.  It was just a little too perfect and while there were some red herrings thrown in, I never really thought they were him.  I’m not really complaining though because the mystery wasn’t what kept me reading.  The story was and knowing who SN was before the big reveal didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story.

Overall, Tell Me Three Things might just make you change your mind about contemporary novels.  Julie Buxbaum’s young adult debut hit it out of the park and I can’t wait to see what she does next.  I hope this isn’t her only foray into the YA world.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead | Review

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead | ReviewThe Glittering Court (The Glittering Court, #1) by Richelle Mead
Series: The Glittering Court #1
Published by Razorbill on April 5th 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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5 Stars

Big and sweeping, spanning from the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.

Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. Adelaide naturally excels in her training, and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.

When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise—first as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and then when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.

But no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An attraction that, if acted on, would scandalize the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands…

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Richelle Mead made me fall in love with her writing years ago when I read Vampire Academy.  I never expected to find something of hers that I loved more than that series (c’mon, Rose and Dimitri?  Can it get any better than that?) but I was wrong.  The Glittering Court is Richelle Mead’s best book so far, in my opinion.

Pros:

  • The romance: Richelle Mead’s books never lack in the romance department and that’s the same with The Glittering Court.  While the attraction between Adelaide and Cedric is immediate, the romance is not.  In fact, I was really hoping something would start up between them way before it actually did.  They built up a wonderful relationship as friends (kind of) before they ever became romantically involved and it just made it that much sweeter when they did get together.  They had some serious chemistry and some wonderful banter.
  • The story: The Glittering Court is classified as fantasy but it’s almost like an alternate history.  Adelaide and the other girls in The Glittering Court travel to a new land where they will no longer be bound by their original stations in life, whether it be a maid or servant like most of the girls or a noblewoman such as Adelaide.  While they do have to marry once they reach the new land, they get to choose their husband and can even buy their own way out of their contracts if they can come up with the money.  This new land offers religious freedom for some of them as well as a chance at wealth.  The Glittering Court almost reads like historical fiction which I loved.
  • The suspense: I never knew what was coming next and I’m still reeling over some of the things that happened.  Let me just say, if you want a neat and tidy ending with all your questions answered, this is not the book for you.  The Glittering Court is very much the first book in a series and it sets readers up with quite a few questions and only some of the answers.  Richelle Mead definitely knows how to keep her readers guessing and coming back for more.
  • The friendships: I think this is one of the big reasons The Glittering Court will appeal to Richelle Mead’s previous fans.  If you’ve read Vampire Academy, you know that Richelle Mead writes about strong bonds between friends (Lissa and Rose) and that those bonds are always amazing. That’s the same with Adelaide, Mira, and Tamsin.  They couldn’t be more different but they become fast friends during their time at the Glittering Court.  They have their fights and they keep their secrets sometimes but they always come back to each other and each girl has something unique and important to offer to the friendship.

Overall, there are no cons with The Glittering Court.  It’s perfection in book form.  Fans of Richelle Mead will find many things to love about it that will remind them of their favorite book from her.  New readers of Richelle Mead will seek out more of her work after reading this one.  You can’t go wrong with The Glittering Court.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Blog Tour: Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn | Review + GiveawayHot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn
Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books on March 22nd 2016
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

Prepare to be blown away—or rather, carried away on huge muscular wings—by this blissfully outlandish, bracingly-smart, tour de force about a teen who has to come to terms with relinquishing control for the first time as she falls for the hot new…pterodactyl…at school. After all, everybody wants him!

Sheils is very pleased with her perfectly controlled life (controlling others while she’s at it). She’s smart, powerful, the Student Body Chair, and she even has a loving boyfriend. What more could a girl ask for?

But everything changes when the first-ever interspecies transfer student, a pterodactyl named Pyke, enrolls at her school. There’s something about him—something primal—that causes the students to lose control whenever he’s around. Even Sheils, the seemingly perfect self-confident girl that she is, can’t keep her mind off of him, despite her doting boyfriend and despite the fact that Pyke immediately starts dating Jocelyn, the school’s fastest runner who Sheils has always discounted as a nobody.

Pyke, hugely popular in a school whose motto is to embrace differences, is asked to join a band, and when his band plays at the Autumn Whirl dance, his preternatural shrieking music sends everyone into a literal frenzy. No one can remember what happened the next day, but Shiels learns that she danced far too long with Pyke, her nose has turned purple, and she may have done something with her boyfriend that she shouldn’t have. Who’s in control now?

Hilarious and relatable (despite the dinosaur), Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend is about a teen who must come to terms with not being in control of all things at all times, break free of her mundane life, discover who her true self is, and, oh, finding out that going primal isn’t always a bad thing

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Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend is probably one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read.  I mean, just look at the title and synopsis.  You can’t really expect normal from a book about a hot pterodactyl boyfriend.  I had a feeling that it was going to be weird and entertaining and that feeling was definitely proven right.

Pros:

  • The story:  As bizarre as the story may seem, it’s actually quite relatable.  Shiels is a control freak in every aspect of her life and she’s at the point in her life where she feels like she really needs that control.  She’s applying to colleges and doing everything she can to make herself look good on those applications.  It’s a really common story except for the fact that her school now has a pterodactyl as a student and his entrance in her life throws it into complete upheaval.
  • Shiels:  I really liked Shiels.  Like I said, she wanted complete control and she was used to having it.  That all changed with Pyke.  She had to give up that control and she might have actually gone a little overboard (skipping school, hiding things from her parents) but she grew as a person when she did give up some of that control.  She started to see that maybe things didn’t have to be so orderly and maybe she didn’t always have to be the one to do everything.
  • The family aspect: I loved Shiels’ family, especially her brother.  Her parents were involved in her life but sometimes a little absent and sometimes a little overbearing.  I really just liked that they played a role in her life.  Her brother, Jonathan, was the best part.  They had the classic sibling relationship.  He reminded me a lot of my own brother and their dynamics were very similar to ours.  Maybe that won’t be a big deal to you guys but it was definitely a pro for me.

Cons:

  • Pyke:  I could not relate to Pyke and honestly, he was a little weird.  I mean, of course he’s going to be weird, he’s a freaking pterodactyl but I don’t know.  It was more than that.  He wasn’t very humanlike and so I didn’t feel like I ever got to know him.  I couldn’t understand how he evoked this attraction from everyone he met.  And it wasn’t always romantic attraction though that did happen.  It seemed like everyone wanted to be something to him, whether it was a girlfriend or a mother figure.  It was strange.
  • The writing: This one isn’t a huge con for me but the writing took some getting used to.  It is a little stilted and choppy but once I got used to that I could see how it actually moved the story along a little faster.  Take some time to get used to the style and it will get better.

Overall, Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend is one of those books that you should go into expecting something totally out of the norm.  It was hilarious at times while also being really heartfelt.  I can’t say it’s on my list of favorites but it has me eager to check out more form Alan Cumyn.

Giveaway

3 finished copies of Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour stops!

Week 1:
 
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