Friday, April 20, 2018

Audiobook review -- This Is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today by Chrissy Metz

Book Summary
A prescriptive and inspirational book of life lessons from the breakout star of television's #1 hit show, NBC's This Is Us. Debuting in fall 2016, This Is Us quickly became America's most watched-and most talked about-network television show. Within weeks of its premier, actress Chrissy Metz and her character, Kate, were embraced by countless fans. Seemingly overnight, Chrissy found herself on magazine covers and talk shows, walking red carpets, and the subject of endless conversations on social media.

Chrissy chalks up her popularity to the authenticity of the role. She believes that fans sense she is playing a character whose life is not so very different from her own. It is a performance that comes from her heart and gut, from a universal place that rings true. In reality, Chrissy's presence, her perseverance in Hollywood, and her success story is as genuine-and as inspirational-as it gets. There is no better person to represent and speak out for the everywoman and her experiences.Embracing the spirit of Shonda Rhime's Year of Yes, Chrissy's touching, wise, and honest book speaks to all of us. Blending love and experience, Chrissy encourages us to to claim our rightful place in a world that may be trying to knock us down from all sides. Throughout, her positivity, confidence, and humor are infectious, whether she's talking about her past or present, and she offers amazing one-liners such as: Who needs to fit in when you're meant to stand out?

You need to both know better and do better!

The key is to act deserving, but not entitled.Not your standard celebrity memoir or essay collection, Why Fit In When You're Meant to Stand Out is a smart and helpful guide for living through tough stuff and coming out the other side, written by a woman who has done just that. Grounded and spiritual, Chrissy teaches each one of us how to find our own unique voice-and pursue our dreams.

Flo's Review
I am all here for This Is Us. I absolutely watch it religiously every week (when I can), getting comfy on the couch with my Kleenex and a glass of wine red. And I pretty much cry every time. So when I discovered that Chrissy Metz had written an autobiography, I immediately wanted to read it. And then when I found the audiobook available from the library?! I jumped on it! Not to mention -- read by the author. Audiobooks read the authors are pretty much one of my top five favorite things in this world.

I knew that Chrissy had 81 cents in her bank account when she landed the role of Kate, but I knew nothing about her back story. And what a doozy it was! I hate to use the cliche "Rags to Riches" line, because she busted her butt to get where she is today. Hers is a story of perseverance and hope, and I am so glad she shared it.

It's hard sometimes for people writing autobiographies to not get preachy -- everyone does it, because I think it's our instinct to try to make sense of our lives. And so many of us want to share what we've learned in our journey. So this did that a little bit, but nothing too much more than usual. A lot of things Chrissy said really spoke to me, especially about romantic partners and doing what you love. She talked a lot about showing up for yourself, which is a really great concept. She asked, why would anyone else take a chance on you if you're not willing to take a chance on yourself? I also loved two quotes of her so much that I recorded them as voice memos on my phone so I could jot them down when I got home.

"Make a little change and the universe will shift to conspire with you." -- This one may not be exact, because I was already forgetting it as a I fumbled for my voice recorder, but it's close. I love this idea that the universe is Team You. If you put a little bit out there, the Universe will follow suit for you. It's like a company matching your contribution into your 401K. 

"How do you neglect something so firmly placed on your heart?" -- Yes. This. So much this. I recently, after much time and debate, switched careers. Because what I'm doing now is that thing that was me. It was firmly placed on my heart. I had to make sacrifices to remain true to it, and I did. 

It's always great when actors do their own audiobooks because it's like they're acting as they read. I don't think I would have had the same fun experience with this one if I had been reading it and not listening to Chrissy tell it to me.

If you love This Is Us like I do, pick up this audiobook! And even if you don't, and you just enjoy a good story about a good person working hard to achieve her dreams, then you will enjoy this, too.

Audiobook review -- Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham

Book Summary
In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).

In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).

Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.

Flo's Review 
So after listening to the audiobook for In Conclusion, Don't Worry About It, I found that I wanted to listen to Lauren's autobiography. Luckily, the audio was available to download from the library right away. And coming in at just over 4 hours, I was able to fly through it in a matter of days.

Lauren is funny, y'all! She read the audiobook and I love that she did because her acting skills came out as she did it. It was fun to listen to her describe her thoughts on things. I never knew that the medical part of  TV show scripts are filled in later by medical professionals and the filler in the script is written as "medical, medical." She said that became a thing between her and her sister, and I could see it becoming a thing I pick up, too. Old Lady Jackson had some good observations without being preachy. Nicely played, Lauren! And I loved hearing about her editor Jennifer E. Smith, because I love Jennifer as an author, and apparently she is a great editor, too. 

This book makes me want to go back and binge the entire Gilmore series. I won't, but I wish I had the time to do so. The only thing I missed with the audiobook were the fun-sounding pictures! I may have to try to pick up a physical copy of this so I can see them.

For now, I am off to Google "The Royal We, Mae Whitman" and "Gilmore Girls Last 4 Words."

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Audiobook review: Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Book Summary
Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she'll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru's doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don't believe her claim that the museum's Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.

But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it's up to Aru to save them.

The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?

Flo's Review
Quite simply: if you loved the Percy Jackson books, you'll love this one. I don't want to simplify it so much, but it read to me as an Indian Percy Jackson. Rick Riordan's books are fun -- and all the ones I've read follow the same general formula, with different heroes and gods changed out. This is not a bad thing. I adored both Percy Jackson series. I did notice the formula of Riordan's stories in this first Aru Shah book.

That being said, Roshani Chokshi's own style did come through. I loved The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes because of the richness of the imagery, and we see the same beautiful descriptions in Aru Shah. Minnie and Aru made a great team, though I did miss the romantic tension that comes with having leads who are romantically attracted to each other. However, this is a middle grade book, and I think the intended audience will not miss that element like I did.

I listened to this audiobook and felt that the reader did a good job in making us feel like were in the story, and not just listening to it.

Related Reviews
The Star-Touched Queen: http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2017/05/book-review-star-touched-queen-by.html 

A Crown of Wishes: http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2017/06/audiobook-review-crown-of-wishes-by.html

Rick Riordan Author Event: http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2012/10/rick-riordan-author-event.htm

Book review: Salted Caramel Dreams by Jackie Nastri Bardenwerper

Book Summary
Jasmine and Kiara have been best friends forever. They've always shared everything, down to their favorite salted caramel dessert. But this year, everything changes -- Kiara joins the school basketball team, and is suddenly too cool to be friends with Jasmine. Jasmine has never felt more alone.

Her mom signs her up for a dance class against her will, and she hates it at first, but it starts to grow on her. One of the other girls in class, Ava, is really nice, and her best friend, Joseph, is very cute! Things are looking up.

But just when Jasmine is starting to be comfortable with her new normal, Kiara reaches out. Can the girls help each other when they need it most?

Flo's Review
What an adorable book! I really enjoyed this little story. First of all, I was spoiled by the author who sent me these goodies:


The salted caramel hot chocolate was DELICIOUS! And you should have seen me when I figured out the connection of the Plum Perfect lip gloss from the book. Anyway, thank you again, Jackie <3

I knew that Jasmine and Kiara were going to have a falling out, but it still hurt my heart to see it all go down. Jasmine's mom gave her a good and realistic talk after hearing about what happened, and it was nice to read. She was honest in her response, and then took action. Go Mom! 

It was fun to read about Jasmine sliding into a new group of friends (luckily it was easy) and I really enjoyed reading about her first-time experience with the school play. The pacing on the story felt a little awkward though. We would read a scene and then it would be like, "And then three weeks went by." And then there was another scene, and then another two weeks would go by in a single sentence, and then another scene. It was like Vignettes of the Year, kinda. 

The ending was both happy and realistic, which are my favorite kind. It didn't tie together perfectly with a bow -- because that's not how life works. But it was happy in how Jasmine and Kiara evolved separately and also within their bestie relationship.

I think I might try to find the other Swirl books, because this one was fun!


Read our review of Jackie's other book On the Line: http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2012/04/on-line-by-jackie-nastri-bardenwerper.html.

Book review: White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig


Book Summary
Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian—the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to "talk." Things couldn’t get much worse, right?

But then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. And then he and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife, beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.

April swears she didn’t kill Fox—but Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth. April has something he needs, though, and her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to prove his sister’s innocence…or die trying.


Flo's Review
White Rabbit publishes in less than a week and I don't have my review up! Whaaa?! Okay, first of all, if you have Twitter and don't follow Caleb Roehrig, go do so now. I'll wait. (His Twitter handle is @mikalebroehrig). He's fun, insightful, and civic minded. He'll have you nodding in agreement, laughing along, shaking your fist...all the feels.

Speaking of feels, can I just give Rufus a hug?! I love him. He is honest with himself, and that is an admirable quality. Because that makes him raw and vulnerable at times. It's a hard place to be in, but I love that he is blatant in his thoughts about how he's feeling. I just adored the story between him and Sebastian, too. I won't say too much about it because I don't want to give away how it all ends up, but it was a journey between the two of them that had me continually holding my breath and wanting more.

Then, of course, there's the murder. I'll be honest with you: I had NO IDEA who the killer was until that person was revealed. The night was so carefully plotted that I found myself getting confused with the sequence of events as Rufus and Sebastian kept hearing different stories from different people. But I enjoyed it -- it was intricate yet simple at the same time. Well done!


White Rabbit comes out Tuesday, April 24th and I recommend picking it up!


See our review of Caleb Roehrig's first book, Last Seen Leaving: http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2016/07/review-last-seen-leaving-by-caleb.html.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Book Review: Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade

Finding Felicity

Goodreads Overview:

Caroline Sands has never been particularly good at making friends. And her parents’ divorce and the move to Arizona three years ago didn’t help. Being the new girl is hard enough without being socially awkward too. So out of desperation and a desire to please her worried mother, Caroline invented a whole life for herself—using characters from Felicity, an old show she discovered online and fell in love with.

But now it’s time for Caroline to go off to college and she wants nothing more than to leave her old “life” behind and build something real. However, when her mother discovers the truth about her manufactured friends, she gives Caroline an ultimatum: Prove in this first semester that she can make friends of the nonfictional variety and thrive in a new environment. Otherwise, it’s back to living at home—and a lot of therapy.

Armed with nothing more than her resolve and a Felicity-inspired plan, Caroline accepts the challenge. But she soon realizes that the real world is rarely as simple as television makes it out to be. And to find a place where she truly belongs, Caroline may have to abandon her script and take the risk of being herself.

Jacque's Review:

I have to thank Stacey for an advanced copy of Finding Felicity.  I took it with me on spring break and enjoyed this wonderful story while basking in the sun.  It has been a long winter in Ohio and this was a great way to kick off the spring/summer season.

Caroline Sands is happier watching Netflix on her laptop than interacting with others.  It is safe within the confines of her bedroom and there is no chance of rejection.  The real world isn't so kind.  She gets nervous around others and often stumbles upon her words.  She wants to make friends and become part of the popular crowd, but she doesn't know how to go about it.  When she leaves for college she is determined to play the part of various characters to make friends and attain the life she thinks she wants.  

When her plan doesn't go as she envisioned, she has to improvise.  She always believed all of the other students had life figured out and she was the only one scrambling to stay afloat.  She begins to realize everyone else is scrambling as well.  They are just better at faking it.

While she always thought she wanted to be part of the partying crowd, she soon discovers where she truly belongs.  

I thought this was a great story that any teen should read and would likely enjoy.  Unless you are one of the few super popular kids at school, the grass always seems greener in someone else's shoes, but that rarely is the case.  I enjoyed seeing Caroline take some risks and assert herself.  It wasn't easy for her, but once she began establishing connections with some of the girls in her dorm she gained some confidence.  She learned some valuable lessons and discovered who she really is and where she best fit in on campus.

It has been several years since my college days, but I could relate to many of the events and found certain scenes to be ridiculously funny.  If you are looking for a fun summer read, I would look no further.   

    

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Audiobook review -- Assume the Worst: The Graduation Speech You'll Never Hear by Carl Hiaasen

Book Summary
This is Oh, the Places You’ll Never Go–the ultimate hilarious, cynical, but absolutely realistic view of a college graduate’s future. And what he or she can or can’t do about it.

“This commencement address will never be given, because graduation speakers are supposed to offer encouragement and inspiration. That’s not what you need. You need a warning.”

So begins Carl Hiaasen’s attempt to prepare young men and women for their future. And who better to warn them about their precarious paths forward than Carl Hiaasen? The answer, after reading Assume the Worst, is: Nobody.

And who better to illustrate–and with those illustrations, expand upon and cement Hiaasen’s cynical point of view–than Roz Chast, best-selling author/illustrator and National Book Award winner? The answer again is easy: Nobody.

Following the format of Anna Quindlen’s commencement address (Being Perfect) and George Saunders’s commencement address (Congratulations, by the way), the collaboration of Hiaasen and Chast might look typical from the outside, but inside it is anything but. 

This book is bound to be a classic, sold year after year come graduation time. Although it’s also a good gift for anyone starting a job, getting married, or recently released from prison. Because it is not just funny. It is, in its own Hiaasen way, extremely wise and even hopeful. Well, it might not be full of hope, but there are certainly enough slivers of the stuff in there to more than keep us all going.

Flo's Review
This. This audiobook for the win! It was only 15 minutes long, but it was a delightful 15 minutes. I literally laughed out loud while listening to it as a drove to my book club on Saturday. But then, Carl Hiaasen through in some utter truth. So it was funny, but it was also honest and realistic. He takes some popular modern sayings and dashes them with some #realtalk. Here are a fews good example:

Live each day as if it’s your last
"As wise and appealing as this might sound, it’s actually terrible advice. If you live every day as if it’s your last, you won’t accomplish a damn thing. ... Spending all your waking hours doing only what feels good is a viable life plan if you’re a Labrador retriever, but for humans it’s a blueprint for unemployment, divorce and irrelevance."

Try to find goodness in everyone 
A waste of time, says Hiaasen. "If it requires the psychological equivalent of a metal detector to locate somebody’s true self, then they’re not worth the trouble."

Don't be quick to judge other people
"Are you kidding? If you don’t learn how to judge others — and judge fast — you’ll get metaphorically trampled from now until the day you die. ... Your future colleagues will judge you, your future loan officers will judge you and your future spouse’s family will judge you. Get used to it, and tune yourselves to judge back."

You get the idea. Hiaasen himself read the audio, making it that much more delightful. Grab this one if you can.

Audiobook review: In Conclusion, Don't Worry About It by Lauren Graham

Book Summary
Advice for graduates and reflections on staying true to yourself from the beloved Gilmore Girls actress and New York Timesbestselling author of the memoir Talking as Fast as I Can and the novel Someday, Someday, Maybe.
 
“If you’re kicking yourself for not having accomplished all you should have by now, don’t worry about it. Even without any ‘big’ accomplishments yet to your name, you are enough.” 
 
In this expansion of the 2017 commencement speech she gave at her hometown Langley High, Lauren Graham, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, reflects on growing up, pursuing your dreams, and living in the here and now. “Whatever path you choose, whatever career you decide to go after, the important thing is that you keep finding joy in what you’re doing, especially when the joy isn’t finding you.” In her hilarious, relatable voice, Graham reminds us to be curious and compassionate, no matter where life takes us or what we’ve yet to achieve. Grounded and inspiring—and illustrated throughout with drawings by Graham herself—here is a comforting road map to a happy life.
 
“I’ve had ups and downs. I’ve had successes and senior slumps. I’ve been the girl who has the lead, and the one who wished she had the bigger part. The truth? They don’t feel that different from each other.”

Flo's Review
Tis the season for graduation books and speeches! I enjoyed listening to this one by Lauren Graham. She read the audiobook, which I always love it when the author reads. You know how they mean things to sound (inflections and such) because it's literally their own voice. 

I also enjoyed the message of the speech. I know that when I was a graduating high school senior, I certainly did not have a laid-out plan for my life. It was refreshing to me, and I'm sure to the graduating seniors to whom this was directed, to hear someone say, essentially, "If you have a plan for your life, that's great. If you don't have a plan for your life, that's great too." (I paraphrased, but kept the spirit of the message.) 

If you get the opportunity to listen to or read this little insightful volume, I definitely recommend it. And not just if you're graduating -- his has good stuff for anyone at any time.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Book review: Meet Cute

Book Summary
Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of "how they first met" from some of today’s most popular YA authors. 

Readers will experience Nina LaCour's beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard's glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon's imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno's story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick's charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants. 

This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.

Flo's Review
This was certainly a cute little anthology! (Sorry for the bad pun! There was really just nowhere else to go.) I enjoyed the 15 stories, though was interested in the format of some of them. I mean simply that some of these stories felt like complete stories in themselves, while others just read like they were a section literally pulled from a larger story. I guess the second method is okay, but the first I found more enjoyable. 

Another thing I noticed about the story set was the variety of main story points. For some, the meet cute was the point of the story; while for others, the meet cute was really just a plot point in the story to get the main character to learn more about herself. Again, I enjoyed the former better, but that didn't mean I disliked the latter simply for what it was. 

Finally, the diversity of settings was great. These weren't all contemporary rom coms. There was sci-fi, there was fantasy, there was magical realism. But they all still had meet cutes! Very cool.

I adored the final story in the anthology, by Nicola Yoon. That is the one I'd like to see expanded out to a full book, or even to a set of stories within that one world. There is just so much that could be done there! Dhonielle Clayton's story as well. My other favorite stories were the ones by Jennifer L. Armentrout and Jocelyn Davies. 

The good thing about an anthology book like this is that it's very easy to read a little at a time. It was so easy to pick up the book and read a story or two at lunch or right before bed. 

Final verdict: Yes, you should meet this cute book. (See what I did there?!? Thank you, folks, I'm here all week! 😂)

Audiobook review: Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Book Summary
Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they'll find seven months after the invasion? 

Meanwhile, Kady's cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza's ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha's past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. 

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken.

Flo's Review
I'm going to miss these audiobooks. What an enjoyable 33+ hours of my life! Even in this book, I still got chills listening to AIDAN. I loved the main analyst's voice. And I even got used to the creepy "Briefing Note" voice. 

Obsidio was a delightful ending to this trilogy. There were several things that had me literally gasping as I listened to them. The twists! The surprises! I was sad at the deaths, teary eyed at some of the reflections of the characters, and always cheering on these great heroes! 

First of all, it almost seems too obvious to comment on the timeliness of reading a book about a group of teenagers who are smarter than the adults surrounding them and are not afraid to stand up to them to save the world. Yeah, I'm just going to leave that right there.

Secondly, I was definitely teary at a few points in this book -- mostly listening to things Kady's dad wrote and said to the main characters. Thanks Mr. Grant! *tears* 😭 But I loved how he wrote to Hanna about how he and her dad would have conversations about these girls they were raising and how they were basically growing up to kick butt and be more awesome than they were. I just loved that.

I want to gush about a lot of things, but I also want to keep this spoiler free, so just know that I finished listening to this audiobook a few days ago and I am still thinking back on it about things that made me swoon, laugh, cry, rage. That's the sign of a good book right there. This series earned my mad respect for sci-fi, a genre that I don't usually read. The audiobooks were great. The books were great. Both were creatively and uniquely done. It's been a good ride with the Illuminae group, and I will be recommending their story to others.

Our other review of the Illuminae trilogy books:
Gemina 
Illuminae

Book review: Everywhere You Want to Be by Christina June

Book Summary
From author Christina June comes Everywhere You Want to Be, a modern tale inspired by the classic Red Riding Hood.

Matilda Castillo has always done what she was told, but when she gets injured senior years, she watches her dreams of becoming a contemporary dancer slip away. So when Tilly gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend the summer with a New York dance troupe, nothing can stop her from saying yes--not her mother, not her fears of the big city, and not the commitment she made to Georgetown. Tilly's mother allows her to go on two conditions: one, Tilly will regularly visit her abuela in New Jersey, and two, after the summer, she'll give up dancing and go off to college.

Armed with her red vintage sunglasses and her pros and cons lists, Tilly strikes out, determined to turn a summer job into a career. Along the way she meets new friends ... and new enemies. Tilly isn't the only one desperate to dance, and fellow troupe member Sabrina Wolfrik intends to succeed at any cost. But despite dodging sabotage and blackmail attempts from Sabrina, Tilly can't help but fall in love with the city, especially since Paolo, a handsome musician from her past, is also calling New York home for the summer.

As the weeks wind down and the competition with Sabrina heats up, Tilly's future is on the line. She must decide whether to follow her mother's path to Georgetown or leap into the unknown to pursue her own dreams.

Flo's Review
Everywhere You Want to Be is the second book by Christina June. A fun thing about it that I was n0t expecting was the connection to her first book, It Started With Goodbye. I really enjoyed seeing Tatum, her hottie boyfriend, and some of the other characters from her first book in this sophomore effort. 

Just like the first book was loosely based on Cinderella, this book was loosely based on Little Red Riding Hood. Tilly's signature accessory is a fun pair of red sunglasses, which I love. Her nemesis is a girl named Sabrina Wolfrick, a play on the Big Bad Wolf. But it felt a little forced. Tilly becomes almost obsessed with Sabrina in an unnatural way. I understand the conflict she brings to the story, but with everything else going on, I felt Tilly stressed and obsessed about it unnaturally too much.  In that aspect, it felt like June was trying a little too hard to match Tilly's story to a fairy tale. 

But this was fun story nonetheless. I enjoyed reading about Tilly falling in love New York City, and her romance played out at just the right level. (Not too much, not too little.)

I finished reading this book on the way to Apollycon, where I got meet Christina June for the first time! She was so nice, and I was delighted to learn that she has another fairy tale based book with a familiar character in the works!



Read our review of It Started With Goodbye here.

Everywhere You Want To Be comes out on May 1, 2018. Thank you to Blink YA Books for sending me an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Audiobook review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Book Summary
A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
 

Flo's Review
This book spoke to me on many levels. Mostly, as a poet. It has been awhile since I've done so, but I used to write a good deal of poetry. Xiomara's story took me back to the summer between high school and college, when I finally felt confident enough to actually share my words for the first time. It was slam poetry, but I did read a poem aloud. So as I was reading about The Poet X, the Poet Flo was relating.

 I love poetry because of the beauty in the assembly of words. With a poem, you can have no idle ones -- every word counts. And when you read them aloud, how they come together, the rhythm they make, counts too. This is an entire book of verse and I was here for it for 100%.

Especially the audiobook! The audiobook is read by Elizabeth Avecedo, so I really felt like I was hearing things the way she heard them when she first wrote them down. Want to see what I mean? Elizabeth Acevedo came to my favorite local bookstore Books & Books and I snagged this video of her reading from The Poet X. Enjoy!


Monday, March 19, 2018

Upcoming Book Release: Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade


Description:

Felicity meets Fangirl in this contemporary novel about a young woman who must leave behind her fantasy life—inspired by her favorite WB show from the 1990s—and create a real one at college.

Caroline Sands has never been particularly good at making friends. And her parents’ divorce and the move to Arizona three years ago didn’t help. Being the new girl is hard enough without being socially awkward too. So out of desperation and a desire to please her worried mother, Caroline invented a whole life for herself—using characters from Felicity, an old show she discovered online and fell in love with.

But now it’s time for Caroline to go off to college and she wants nothing more than to leave her old “life” behind and build something real. However, when her mother discovers the truth about her manufactured friends, she gives Caroline an ultimatum: Prove in this first semester that she can make friends of the nonfictional variety and thrive in a new environment. Otherwise, it’s back to living at home—and a lot of therapy.

Armed with nothing more than her resolve and a Felicity-inspired plan, Caroline accepts the challenge. But she soon realizes that the real world is rarely as simple as television makes it out to be. And to find a place where she truly belongs, Caroline may have to abandon her script and take the risk of being herself.

Why you should read Finding Felicity:

I have read almost all of Stacey's books and enjoyed each and every one of them.  She has said on more than one occasion that readers will enjoy Finding Felicity even if you haven't watched the television show, but I felt like I needed to have a basic understanding of the characters if I wanted to fully appreciate the book.  All of the episodes are available on the ABC app, so I watched the first two and was pleasantly surprised.  I had no idea what the show was about, but I found it to be very funny and highly entertaining. Now I can hardly wait to read Finding Felicity!  The timing couldn't be any better because I leave for spring break the Thursday after the release.  Thanks to Stacey I already have a copy of the book downloaded to my eReader, so you can count on a review shortly after my return. 

Links to Purchase the Book:

If you would like to purchase a copy of Finding Felicity here are a couple of links.


Chapter One Excerpt:

Bustle posted an excerpt from the first chapter, which can be found here.



Thursday, March 8, 2018

Audiobook review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Book Summary
Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Flo's Review
Obsidio, the final book in the Illuminae trilogy, comes out next week, so I wanted to get Gemina under my belt so I'd be ready. I listed to Illuminae and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to learn that my library had Gemina on CD. 

If you are not familiar with this trilogy, the book is composed of documents and other forms of correspondence. It's a visual experience, so it is interesting to hear it translate to audiobook. Somehow, it is always fantastic! I really enjoyed listening to Gemina! The voice of Hanna sounded exactly as I thought she would, and I always love listening to Steve West (even despite the character he voiced!) And the Analyst, too -- I love hearing his voice! But if I'm being honest, my favorite part of the audiobook was being able to hear "I Wanna Lick Your Lollipop" sporadically throughout the story! (I kid, I kid...kind of.)

Even though the story felt a little long, a common and unfortunate side of listening to more than 650 pages being read to you, it never lagged. Several twists kept surprising me throughout the story. I loved to hate Cerberus. Who knew the word "Bless" could ever annoy me so much?! And, WOW, on the plot twist at the end! So creative and fun. I loved it.

I am very happy that I will soon have Obsidio, so I can how this whole crazy saga shakes down. If you haven't read or listened to any of the Illuminae books, you are coming in at a good time -- you can marathon them. If you have read them, which did you prefer: Illuminae? Or Gemina?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Review: Invaded by Melissa Landers

Invaded (Alienated, #2)

Jacque's Review:

Invaded is the second book in the Alienated series.  In the first installment, we were introduced to some L'eihr exchange students who were sent to earth to help foster an alliance. We didn't really know why their leaders were interested in an alliance, but it was clear none of the exchange students really wanted to be there.

Things didn't exactly go as planned during the exchange.  As a result, Cara is sent to L'eihr to help establish the new colony that is intended to integrate the humans and L'eihrs.  Her boyfriend Aleyx and his friend Serene must return to earth to repair the alliance.  As much as he hates life on earth, he will do anything to be able to return to L'eihr to be with Cara. Cara, however, is beginning to question her decision to move to L'eihr.  The food is terrible, there is no privacy, their version of gym class is equivalent to boot camp, and someone is trying to set her up for failure.

I enjoyed learning more about life on L'eihr and seeing what it was like for Cara to try and blend into such a different culture.  It is never easy being different, but this was taken to a new extreme.  She was top in her class at her high school on earth, but she is nowhere near as advanced physically or academically compared to her new peers.

Aleyx has his own issues to deal with.  There is an extremist group that continues to jeopardize his safety and the success of the alliance.  We also learn more about Serene and her abilities as an emotional healer.  She does a great job of helping others, but she doesn't have anyone on earth who can return the favor.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and have already started reading the final book in the series.  As you can imagine, a long distance relationship spanning a galaxy can certainly put a strain on a things.  Cara and Aleyx survived this difficult period and it is now time to sit back and relax on their new colony.  Unfortunately, the last few chapters hinted that there may be more drama to come and life on the colony may not be a walk on the beach like they are hoping for.