Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mary's Booknerd Lent Challenge 2016

Oh it's that time of year again!!

I have to say this is one of my fave challenges we do. Last year I read 40 books, but sadly, I'll not be able to do the same this 2016!

However, I thought I would do a 'theme' Lent Challenge. I currently have 12 paranormal books listed on my Kindle as 'unread'.

There it is...I will read all 12 paranormal books and get you all snappy/funny/serious reviews (whatever the book brings!!)

Happy Ash Wednesday!!!

Flo's Book Nerd Lent Challenge 2016!

I explain these at the bottom of the post... :)
You may or may not know that we have been blogging for more than 5 years! And we're still here! We just love it so much.

In 2012, the Book Nerds decided to do different challenges for Lent. We had a lot of fun with it! Here was mine: Read a Stand Alone book. I picked that because trilogies and series were all over the place (they still are!) and I wanted to enjoy a single book with a single story that ended there. As you can see, I hit the jackpot with my choice of The Fault in Our Stars. This was the first John Green book I read, and the rest is history! I encourage you to click on 2012 on the sidebar at the right hand side of the page, and then click into March to see what Jacque, Mary, and Teri did.

We had so much fun with the Lenten challenges that we decided to do them again for 2016! Lent this year starts on February 10th and goes until the end of March. (If you are interested in the religious explanation behind Lent, you can read that here.) This year, for my Book Nerd Lenten Challenge, I am going to...

****Drum roll****

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Jacque's Book Nerd Lent Challenge

Shade Me 

It is once again time for the Book Nerds Lent challenge.  I am currently knee deep in books I "NEED" to read for one challenge or another.  For example, I have been reading a ton of ebooks and listening to audio books lately for the COYER (Clean Out Your E Reader) challenge.  As a result, this review copy Flo sent me is still sitting on my desk unopened. 

 My first goal will be to complete Shade Me by Jennifer Brown.  I've only read one of her books in the past, Bitter End, and really enjoyed it.  Her books often deal with difficult topics, so they are definitely outside my comfort zone, but are usually well worth the read.  

Elegy (Hereafter #3)

Part two of my challenge will be to read Elegy by Tara Hudson.  This is the third and final book in the Hereafter series.  I read the first two books shortly after they were released and was REALLY excited when I received this ARC at the RT Convention in.......2013.  No, that is not a typo.  This book has been sitting in my home office for almost 3 years now.  I definitely think it is time to see how this series concludes.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Starflight by Melissa Landers

Flo's Review
We shared the book summary for Starlight when it was released on Tuesday. So let's jump right into my review! 

First of all: Cover love! I really like how the stars are shimmering in an arc and the contrast it provides on the purple and black cover. High five cover designers!

This book is about Solara's and Doran's journey around the universe, and as a reader I really did feel like I was on a journey. This was a bad and a good thing. I almost felt like I was reading not one cohesive story, but a mash up of different events that took place at different times on different planets. I don't know why, but it kinda felt like, "Okay, there's at a new planet and here's a heist/scene where everything goes wrong. They escape. A few weeks goes by on the Banshee, but we are told about it, we don't read about it. Then here we are a new planet and a here's the new heist that they need to pull off..." And repeat. Not that I didn't enjoy reading about the different happenings, because I did. 

For some reason, I wasn't really into Solara either. I think there was potential to make the reader emphasize with her more by telling more of her backstory or showing us more how she came to be the handy mechanic that she is. But there was kind of a disconnect there, and it left me feeling indifferent towards her. I did really enjoy watching Doran's story unfold and seeing his character arc from beginning to end. Doran and Solara also had hot, amazing romantic tension! Whew! Those two really had some great scenes.

It's a testament to how well Melissa Landers did in getting me to know her characters that I got teary eyed at he end. Someone at the end -- Solara, I think? -- says that the Banshee crew is a family, and they really are. They all have skeletons in the cloest and they are far from perfect, but they have each others' backs. It looks like this is the start of a trilogy or a series or something, so I'm interested to see what's in store for them next.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Happy Book Birthday: Starflight by Melissa Landers


A very happy book birthday to Starflight by Melissa Landers! Here is the synopsis:

Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She's so desperate to reach the realm that she's willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.

When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he's been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world—and each other—the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe...

We are currently reading and enjoying it! Look for our review this week. (While you wait, you can check out our review for Melissa's book Alienated.)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

First Family by David Baldacci

First Family (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #4)

Jacque's Review: 

First Family is the fourth installment in the King and Maxwell series.  Sean King and Michelle Maxwell were both members of the secret service and now run their own private investigation firm.  This time around they are hired by the First Lady to help find her twelve-year-old niece, Willa, who was kidnapped from her home. On the surface it appears to be a plot against the president, who is well on his way to reelection.  

Shortly into their investigation into Willa's disappearance, Michelle receives a phone call from one of her brothers.  Her mother passed away unexpectedly.  After a brief examination of the scene of death, Michelle begins to wonder if foul play may have been involved.  She calls Sean and they begin looking into her mother's case in addition to Willa's.

The closer Sean and Michelle get to uncovering the truth, the more resistance they receive from the First Lady.  She says her number one priority is returning Willa to her family safely, but that doesn't appear to be her only motivation for hiring Sean.  The two have known each other for years and it becomes clear that she is banking on that friendship once again.

I was extremely surprised by how this book ended.  In my opinion, Sean made the correct decision.  I don't want to spoil anything, so I will simply leave it at that.  I was also happy to see Michelle come to terms with her past.  She spend quite a bit of time in one of the previous books seeking counseling for an undisclosed reason.  We are finally clued into the events in her past that caused the emotional distress.  Now that everything has come to light, I believe she is well on her way to recovery.  The final scene also sets up a potential change in the status of Sean and Michelle's relationship.  I felt like this was a long time in coming, but the timing seemed to be perfect.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

February's Read Along: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell


The Book Nerds will be reading Attachments by Rainbow Rowell as our February Read Along, and we'd love for you to join us! If you're like me and this has been on your TBR for awhile, now may be the perfect time to read it!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Bookish Sibling Tag hosted by Another Bookish Blog


I'm doing a tag!  This tag was created by Caroline from Another Bookish Blog!  If you don't know who she is, I recommend check out her blog!

Rules
1. Answer all the questions.  Repetitions are fine!
2. You can put yourself in any of the categories.
3. Tag others!
4. Fill in the categories with bookish characters!  These characters don't have to feel sibling-esque.  If you don't know, you can say, for example, "A character that... I can't stand is___"

The Questions

1. Your Older Brother
I think someone asked me this before and I said Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I have no brothers, but I think he'd be a fun one to have.

2. Your Younger Brother
Sam from The 5th Wave! He is one tough little kid, and he never gives up hope in Cassie. He also inspires the best in both Cassie and Ben. And I'd think he'd inspire the best in me, too.

3. Your Sister
What's a book with a character who talks everyone into a random road trip? I feel like I've heard several books or book synopses with that plot line, but I can't think of any right now. That would be my RL sister -- especially if a boy band was involved.

4. The Popular One
Sam in Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. 

5. Parent's Favorite
Q from Paper Towns. There was a deleted scene in the movie where his Mom is basically like (I'm paraphrasing), "Um...don't you want to even try to do something irresponsible and crazy while you're still a teenager?" 

6. The Little Rebel
Cammie from the Gallagher Girls series. She even annoyed me at some parts of the story because she kept deliberately disobeying her Mom and teachers.

7. Your Twin
Cara from Alienated by Melissa Landers. I was a lot like her in high school and I could see the exact same thing happening to me that happened to her if aliens showed up at my high school.

8. The One You Can't Stand
Clarisse from Percy Jackson. She can be not nice and hot-headed, but I feel, like Percy, I'd probably end up feeling like I should help bail her out of situations anyway.

9. The One You Could Prank the World With
I'm going to have to agree with Jacque here: Fred and George Weasley from the Harry Potter series.

10. The Shy Introvert
Again, going with Jacque :) -- Cath Avery from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

11. Your Ultimate Book Sibling
Bex from Gallagher Girls -- oh the hijinks that would ensue! Bex would always have my back no matter what crazy thing I wanted to do.

12. Your Blogging Sibling
Cress from the Lunar Chronicles. With her computer skills, she could make sure EVERYONE would see our posts.

Tag You're It

Thanks to Jacque @ Jacque's Book Nook for tagging me!

Movie Review: The 5th Wave

Movie Synopsis from IMBD
Four waves of increasingly deadly alien attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Cassie is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother.

Flo's Review
So, The Fifth Wave is our monthly read along for January on Book Nerds Across America. We chose it with the express goal of having the book read before the movie was released. I was successful and was also lucky enough to win tickets to a pre-screening of the movie on Wednesday night.

This was an interesting situation for me because I literally just finished the book a few days ago. Usually with these book to movie adaptations, it's been years since I've read the book. But I went into this movie with Rick Yancey's words very clear in my mind. And I can say that they did a very good job sticking to the story line in the book. There was one big thing that was missing and a few smaller events that were slightly altered, but for the most part it was spot on. Unfortunately, there was also some cheesy dialogue added that didn't need to be there. 

That time I met Chloe Grace Moretz
The movie moved along at a fast pace but not too fast. (Again, with book to movie adaptations, I often find myself thinking in the movie, "We're at this part already?!" I didn't do that with The 5th Wave.) As is almost always the case, we lost some of the depth that the book provided. I didn't feel like we got to spend much time with Cassie and Evan at the house or with Zombie's squad. So, unfortunately, when something big happened within Zombie's squad, it didn't have the effect that I felt in the book and that I felt it should have. 

Little thing I missed? Zombie trying to make Ringer smile. That was cute. I wish they'd kept that in there. The Scene of Realization (which is what I'll call it in hopes that I'm being non-spoilery, but those that have seen it will still understand what I mean) seemed too big and too out of nowhere to really ring true and inspire subsequent events to me.

But, overall, I was very entertained and I'm glad I saw the movie. I think book fans will not be disappointed. I'm curious about those who haven't read the book.

Please let me know your thoughts on the movie in the comments below!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Book Summary
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

Flo's Review
I've found my audiobook length limit. Apparently it's 23 hours. I'd listened to the rest of the Lunar Chronicles books on audio -- I adore Rebecca Soler, who has an amazing range of voices and really brought these characters alive for me. When I heard of the length of this installment, I cowboyed up and starting listening. But I just couldn't do it, guys. On average, it takes me about 2 weeks to get through an 8 hour audiobook. This is 23 hours. You can imagine. I was enjoying hearing the story, but it was also starting to feel like there was no end in sight. So a little more than halfway through, I switched to the 824 page book.

Since they are based on fairy tales, I feel it's not a spoiler to say I was quite happy about the happy ending! This installment came together so nicely and really left all of our young heroes in a good place. Even though the book was really long, there was never a lag in the action. I never had a point where I was ready to put it down. I always wanted to continue reading so I could know what happened next. (Though there was a scene in the middle that left me quite disheartened.) The resourcefulness and courage of all of these characters was always fun to read, and I admire them all for everything they were able to accomplish. 

The connectedness of this entire series never ceased to blow me away. Things that were mentioned in passing in an earlier novel would come to play in a little one. Like, small details. They'd come back and be highly relevant. And, on top of that, they would fit perfectly with the fairy tale! The Lunar Chronicles are clever, well-written, and fun. I've really enjoyed reading this series and see why it comes so highly recommended.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

ALA Midwinter 2016 -- Part 2: Book Awards

There was an award show one of the nights I was in Boston attending the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting. Since I missed it, I figured it appropriate to do some mini awards with the books I got. Disclaimer: As I mentioned in the last post, the majority of my books are still in transit. So this post, while wholly accurate, is pulling from only the sample of books I was able to bring home with me in my suitcase.

Now, without further ado, the winners are...

Most Anticipated (I'll probably read this next): Heir to the Sky by Amanda Sun

Book I'm Most Excited About That I Didn't Know Existed Until I Saw It: A Tyranny of Petticoats, edited by Jessica Spotswood

Cover Love: And I Darken by Kiersten White

Non-YA Read that I'm Looking Forward To: Your Favorite Band is Killing Me by Steven Hyden

Best Surprise (you should have seen our reactions when they pulled this one out!): Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

Save the Best of Last (the last book I picked up from the show): Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

Which of these are you most looking forward to?

ALA Midwinter 2016 -- Part 1: Swag


Oh, I love book conferences! I was able to attend the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting in 2015 for the first time, and I had to go back to this year. Definitely one of the hardest parts about book conferences is shipping your books back to you and then having to wait for them to arrive! The 5 boxes (in my defense, some of the boxes are small -- lol!) I sent myself are set to arrive Tuesday. I've been stalking the tracking in hopes that they get here early and magically show up today, but I don't think so,

However, I still need to do my review and I need to do it today, so I will improvise! I'll talk about a couple of random things that are here and there in the next two posts, and I hope you enjoy having this look at it.

Swag is a fun bonus for upcoming releases. I have soo much swag, and I always like seeing the creative things that people will come up with to promote books. So I wanted to share with you some of my favorite swag that I got at the conference:
Starting at the top -- a duffel bag! I'm used to getting totes, which are nice, but I didn't have a useful duffel bag until now. Thank you, Simon!

Bottom row, from left to right -- These "Read" prints are actually really beautiful and are on nice quality card stock. We were commenting how they are perfect for framing. I might just do that. The 5 Hour Energy just made me laugh! Apparently they understand how intense conferencing is! Both of those are also from Simon and Schuster.

The Passenger notebook is a nice notebook, perfect size for sticking in my purse and carrying around. Also, I really enjoyed the book, which I had an opportunity to read a few weeks ago. The pamphlet next to it is a Magnus Chase guide to Boston. I haven't read this book yet, but I am looking forward to doing so! Apparently it takes place in Boston, so Disney put together a guide about all the places you can visit that are featured in the book. Props to Disney for both the little journal and the Boston guide.

Next to it are Boxcar magnet bookmarks. As in, the Boxcar Children! Throwback to my childhood! I can't remember where I picked them up, but I am pretty excited about them. Finally, AW Teen had these cute starfish bookmarks (pictured above the Boxcar Children). I love it! I am definitely using it with my next read.

In the next post, you'll see some books :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Queen's Army by Marissa Meyer

The Queen's Army (The Lunar Chronicles, #1.5)

Jacque's Review:

The Queen's Army is a very short (18 page) story that is 1.5 in the Lunar Chronicles series.  If you read Cinder, you will remember them mentioning The Queen's Army in passing, but I anticipate it will have a much larger presence in Scarlet.  This book shows how the members of the army are selected, physically altered, and trained.

Z is selected at the age of 12 and is taken from his family to begin training.  He is subjected to ruthless physical and mental challenges/abuse as part of the development process.  As he grows and matures he becomes one of the strongest members of his "pack"....yes, think werewolves.  One day, the queen arrives and wants to see two members from each pack demonstrate their skills.  Will Z be able to stand up to the test?

Overall this was a great introduction and behind the scenes look at what the Queen has in store for Earth.  We have already witnessed her mental manipulation and this army will add the physical force she likely needs to take over Earth.  I really hope Cinder, Emperor Kai, and the rest of the characters we met in Cinder are able to conquer this ruthless dictator.

I strongly advise reading this short story if you plan on continuing the Lunar Chronicles series.  There is a lot of background information that likely isn't presented in Scarlet.  It is a free download and should take less than 30 minutes of your time to complete.  The knowledge gained is well worth the investment of your time.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Until Midnight by Melissa Landers

Until Midnight (Alienated, #1.5)

Jacque's Review:

Until Midnight is a short story that bridges the gap between Alienated and Invaded.  It was a free download from Barnes & Noble, so of course I had to pick it up.

Cara and Aelyx spend their last day together on a transport ship before he has to return to Earth to repair human/alien relations.  The humans are still leery of the aliens after some of their crops mysteriously started dying and the aliens are more than resentful for the loss of one of their exchange students.  Aelyx has his work cut out for him if he is going to be able to return to Cara on L'eihr.

To spice up this short story, it takes place just prior to Christmas.  To make it a special occasion for Cara, Aelyx researches ALL of the Christmas traditions and tries to recreate them on the ship.  Of course, resources are limited so he does the best he can.  I literally laughed out loud a few times during the Christmas festivities.  My husband's family is from Belgium/Germany, so I could appreciate some of the European traditions Aelyx discovered, but Cara was more than confused by a few of them.  She did appreciate his thoughtfulness and tries to come up with an equally meaningful gift for Aelyx.

This was a very entertaining story and a great refresher since it has been a little while since I finished reading Alienated..  It was nice to return to the Alienated world and I can't wait to start reading Invaded.  I was equally excited to discover there will be a third book in this series.  United is scheduled to be released in August 2016 and will be the conclusion of this series.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Secrets of Valhalla by Jasmine Richards

Book Summary
Two friends awaken a world of myth and magic in this clever middle grade fantasy perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and Anne Ursu.

It’s not every day that you find a famous weatherwoman bound by magic to a tree deep in the woods. Or discover that the weatherwoman is in fact Sunna, the Norse Goddess of the Sun, and one of the seven day guardians who keep time in order. But that’s just what happens to new friends Buzz and Mary—and it’s only the start of their adventure.

Now, as the people of Earth are forced to repeat the same Saturday over and over again, Buzz and Mary must journey to collect the Runes of Valhalla and awaken the other day guardians, before vengeful god Loki can get to them first.
 

Flo's Review
Gah. I'm really not a fan when a book claims to be "for fans of X and Y." Then I go in thinking I am going to read that other book, and it influences my opinion of what I'm reading. Anyone else feel that way?

Anyway, I really enjoy reading books based on Greek mythology, as it has been a trend to publish YA novels based on these stories. But that can only be done so much, and now it looks like the trend is to turn to other cultural myths. This is my first experience (that I can recall) reading a book based on Norse mythology, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I struggled in the beginning of the book, but I understand it was necessary background and character introduction. However, I didn't really start enjoying the story until Buzz and Mary were traveling amongst realms and trying to save the world. The two kids went to the sky, to the sea, and the underworld, and all of these settings were wonderfully described. There were several plot twists in the story -- some were predictable, but some really did take me by surprise. I did have to remind myself while reading, though, that this is a middle grade story, and so wasn't as rich with some of the character depth and detail that I'm used to with young adult.

Finally, I always have to acknowledge and appreciate a beautiful standalone story when it comes along, because sometimes I like to read a book and then set it down with everything wrapped up and the world and characters in a good spot to say goodbye.

Thank you to Harper Collins for providing me with an Advanced Reader's Copy in exchange for my honest review.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Book Summary
"I might be Cinderella today, but I dread who they'll think I am tomorrow. I guess it depends on what I do next."

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it's Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain's future king. And when Bex can't resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick's sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he's fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she's sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.

Flo's Review
This has been on my TBR for awhile, but after finishing The Heir and the Spare, I was inspired to keep going with my royal reading. For the first 100 pages or so, the two stories were almost identical. Strong, sassy American girl goes to college in England. There, she is immediately enveloped into a group of friends that includes the royal heir or spare (heir in this case, spare in case of the Emily Albright book.) Hot royal guy actually turns out to be really down-to-earth and has a great rapport with the girl, and they quickly develop strong feelings for each other.

But after that, the similarities end. While The Heir and the Spare takes place within a year, The Royal We spans about eight years of the lives of Bex, Nick, and their family and friends. The story starts in present day and then is told in flashbacks, leading up to the closing scene which again takes place in present day. The technique works well here, because the relationships I started reading about in modern day are quite different from where they started. I liked this book because it wasn't a "She met a prince, they fell in love, she married him and became queen, and they both ruled the land happily ever after." Oh no. This is real life, and I love it! It's full of high highs, low lows, betrayals, keeping up appearances, relationship fatigue, family drama, and so many other things that go wrong in a real life love story.

Unfortunately, I think it might have been a bit much, as it failed to really keep my attention. I found myself skimming the middle part and then picking back  up at the end. If this were to be adapted, it would be a good TV show as opposed to movie. Ultimately, I did enjoy it when I was reading it, but it could have perhaps moved along a bit faster to keep me turning the pages instead of jumping over them. 

I'm on a roll now! Do you have any other royal recommendations for me??

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Rooms

Jacque's Review:

I've read Lauren Oliver's Delirium series and Panic, so I am well aware of her YA books.  I knew this was an adult book when I tried to pick up a copy at BEA a couple of years ago, but I obviously forgot in the meantime.  I downloaded the audio book and started listening to it on a road trip with my ten-year-old son and quickly discovered that it is NOT appropriate for younger readers.  After a couple of "bad words" and some content he hopefully didn't understand, I had to pull the plug for the rest of that trip.  

Rooms is told from multiple character's points of view, which I found to be very entertaining.  Alice and Sandra are both ghosts who were former residents of the home they "haunt", for lack of a better word.  Richard Walker was the most recent owner of the home, but he recently passed away and his ex-wife, Caroline, teenage son Trenton and adult daughter Minna are there to settle his affairs.

Trenton and Minna haven't been to their childhood home in years, so their return stirs up a number of old memories.  In addition, Trenton was involved in a car accident prior to the start of the book that nearly killed him.  He believes it was this near death experience that is causing him to hear ghosts in the house.  Caroline, Trenton, and Minna are all battling their own demons, but hearing ghosts is even a stretch for them.

The majority of the book is an unraveling of the lives of the ghosts as well as the living.  There are a number of finely woven details that link the past with the present and several surprising revelations.  I don't think I was quite as close to the edge of my seat as I was reading Panic, but this was still an excellent ghost store and a solid debut into the world of adult fiction for Lauren.

The only negative that I perceived was the somewhat crude language that was dispersed throughout the book.  I read a lot of YA and NA, so I'm definitely not used to it.  Some adult content and language is fine, but I thought it was excessive in places and could have been toned down.  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black


Book Summary
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?
 

Flo's Review
What an interesting, unique story. Holly Black does a great job of intermixing regular, modern high school drama with fairies and fantasy. I really liked the way she was able to seamlessly meld the two together. This is one of those novels where you don't know the full story up front -- as you read on, nuggets of what happened in the past are revealed to you. I am about 50/50 on that approach (sometimes it works for me and other times not), but I thought it was done well here.

Unfortunately, even with all that, the book could not hold my interest. I was listening to the audiobook and got about 2 hours in when I had to stop the first time. I believe Jacque asked me how it was and my only response was: "Weird." I gave it another two hours, and thought, "Okay." I set it aside and thought about coming back to it....but that was the last time I thought about it. If I can set a book aside and not even give it a second thought, then it's not for me. My library loan expired and I did not renew it.

Jacque's Review:
Hazel and Ben are a brother and sister who have grown up in the unusual town of Fairfold.  The locals know all of the "rules" to keep yourself safe from the monsters that live in the forest, but it is never safe for a tourist.  The faeries prey upon the unsuspecting visitors who come to visit the prince, who has been sleeping in the forest for generations.  The local high school students routinely gather around his glass casket to party, but the prince has had an even greater impact on the lives of Hazel and Ben.  While their parents were busy working, the siblings spent hours talking to the prince and pretending to kill the monsters in the forest.
 
One day, it is discovered that the prince is no longer in his casket.  Where did he go?  How did he escape? Is his disappearance related to the increase in violence in Fairfold?  
 
Holly weaves a wonderful tale that connects the human world with that of the faeries.  There is a boy named Jack, who is considered to be a "changeling".  He is an immortal faerie who has grown up with a human family in Fairfold.  Through him we are able to see how life on the other side really is.  While the faeries are known for their trickery, they aren't all bad.  There is more to the mystery of the "monster" than one can imagine and his or her true identity is not as obvious as it first appears.
 
The book started out a little slow for me, but it really took off about 100 pages in.  Once Hazel and Carter began working together to solve Farifold's mysteries, I simply could not put it down.  There are a couple of love stories that add an additional element of interest as well.

I haven't read Holly's Modern Faerie Tale series, but I am definitely intrigued by it now that I have completed this book.  I have added the first book in the series to my TBR list and hope to get to it soon.  Well...that is a relative term when your TBR list contains over 300 books, but I do look forward to reading it some day. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review and Giveaway: Curio by Evangeline Denmark

Book Summary
Grey Haward has always detested the Chemists, the magicians-come-scientists who rule her small western town. But she has always followed the rules, taking the potion the Chemists ration out that helps the town’s people survive. A potion that Grey suspects she—like her grandfather and father—may not actually need.

By working at her grandfather’s repair shop, sorting the small gears and dusting the curio cabinet inside, Grey has tried to stay unnoticed—or as unnoticed as a tall, strong girl can in a town of diminutive, underdeveloped citizens. Then her best friend, Whit, is caught by the Chemists’ enforcers after trying to protect Grey one night, and after seeing the extent of his punishment, suddenly taking risks seems the only decision she can make.

But with the risk comes the reality that the Chemists know her family’s secret, and the Chemists soon decide to use her for their own purposes. Panicked, Grey retreats to the only safe place she knows—her grandfather’s shop. There, however, a larger secret confronts her when her touch unlocks the old curio cabinet in the corner and reveals a world where porcelain and clockwork people are real. There, she could find the key that may save Whit’s life and also end the Chemists’ dark rule forever.

Flo's Review...
In a world where trilogies and series are the fad, there's something to be said for a good standalone. I really like the way Evangeline was able to set up this complex and fantastical world, give us a story filled with action, and leave us with a good ending -- all in the span of one book.

I also love the concept of a Defenders and how they are triggered by standing up for or wanting to take the place for someone else.  Curio City is sooo interesting. There are "porcies" -- porcelain people who are made to be pretty and there are the functional "tocks." Then, of course, we have have Blaise, the only one who really understands Grey in Curio City. I really like Blaise and Grey together -- they are a good, equally matched pair. 

I think the only problem I had with it was that is was so intricate and so detailed, that I often found myself getting lost. It was a lot to take in, understanding the history and current state of two new worlds. And we had three story lines from three different characters (although Grey's and Blaise's were intertwined), which meant once I got a little comfortable in one spot, I was being moved along somewhere else.


These characters did a great job of making you feel. They all had distinct personalities that you either admired or or were disgusted by: Nettie, Lord Blueboy, Whit, Fantine, to name a few. Steampunk is not something I read a lot, but I think that fans of steampunk will enjoy this story. 

Curio will be released January 5, 2016.

Thank you to Blink YA books for providing me with an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

...and now for the GIVEAWAY
Thanks to Blink YA books, I have an extra ARC. One for me, and one for you! :) Enter via the Rafflecopter. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 14, 2015

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Boy Meets Boy

Jacque's Review:

I have read several of Levithan's collaborations (Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and Invisibility) and really enjoyed them, so I decided it was time to read one of his solo books.

Boy Meets Boy tells the story of a high school boy named Paul who has known and embraced the fact that he is gay since kindergarten.  While I have lived in a very accepting area near Columbus, Ohio for sixteen years, which received a brief mention in this book, I don't think I have ever experienced a town or school like Paul's.  For example...the starting quarterback is a drag queen as well as the homecoming queen.  It seemed like most of the town was openly LGBT, or perhaps that is just the side of things that is presented from Paul's point-of-view.  Everyone seemed so supportive and accepting until we meet Tony's parents.  Tony is Paul's long time friend, but he is a sharp contrast to Paul.  His parents are very religious and believe Paul is the devil's influence on their son.  It was great to see how Tony slowly asserted his independence and stood up to his parents.

The remainder of the story is a love story.  Paul first meets Noah at a book store and quickly discovers he is a new student at his school.  It takes a few days for Paul to reconnect with Noah, but their relationship soon escalates until Paul manages to botch everything up.  Now he has to figure out how he can earn back Noah's trust.

I honestly didn't realize this book was written in 2003.  I added it to my TBR list in March 2014, so I guess I was assuming it was written shortly before then.  If that were the case, I don't think this story would have been such a far reaching piece of fiction.  With the legalization of gay marriage and other recent events, I don't think Boy Meets Boy is that far from today's reality.

Overall, this was a short and very entertaining story that kept me engaged from start to finish.  It was a very eye opening read that I will not soon forget.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Blood Kiss by JR Ward



About the Book:


The legacy of the Black Dagger Brotherhood continues in a spin-off series from the #1 New York Times bestselling author…

Paradise, blooded daughter of the king’s First Advisor, is ready to break free from the restrictive life of an aristocratic female. Her strategy? Join the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s training center program and learn to fight for herself, think for herself…be herself. It’s a good plan, until everything goes wrong. The schooling is unfathomably difficult, the other recruits feel more like enemies than allies, and it’s very clear that the Brother in charge, Butch O’Neal, a.k.a. the Dhestroyer, is having serious problems in his own life.

And that’s before she falls in love with a fellow classmate. Craeg, a common civilian, is nothing her father would ever want for her, but everything she could ask for in a male. As an act of violence threatens to tear apart the entire program, and the erotic pull between them grows irresistible, Paradise is tested in ways she never anticipated—and left wondering whether she’s strong enough to claim her own power…on the field, and off.




Mary's Review:



O...M...G...



I have been a fan of the Black Dagger Brotherhood for a long time, and I was a bit concerned because spin-offs can be amazing or dull as paint drying. 



This was ... AMAZING!!! I can see a whole new series begin created right before my eyes and I love it. JR Ward introduces us to a whole new crew in the Brotherhood's training program. Of course the one that stands out the most is Paradise, who we were introduced to in BDB. Plus, I can't forget to tell you about Craeg. I wasn't his biggest fan in the beginning, but there's more that meets the eye on this guy. 



The one thing I did love is JR Ward didn't forget our guys. We get to see a few of the BDB's and I'm so thankful. Of course, you can't have the BDB Training Program with the Brothers. 



Overall, this is a big 5 stars!! There's several twists in this one, and I can't wait to see what else is going to come from it. 



Best of 2015 Giveaway Hop: Seriously Wicked!


2015 was a good year! I read 130% of the books I challenged myself to read. *pats self on back* And, luckily, I enjoyed the majority of them! For this hop, I'm giving away an ARC of Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly. Remember when I did this thing?
                                                   
Yep, this was Seriously Wicked. Click here to read my review. It was fun book, and I enjoyed reading it, writing my review, and even posing for this crazy picture.

Wanna win it? Enter via the Rafflecoper below. Thank you for stopping by, and may I wish you all the bookish best in 2016!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
When you're done here, please do Hop On:
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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Spotlight and Giveaway: This Is Where It Ends

THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp
January 5, 2016; $17.99; Hardcover
9781492622468; Young Adult Fiction
Agent: Jennifer Udden, Donald Maass Literary Agency

10:00 am:       The principal of Opportunity High School in Alabama finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 am:       The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 am:       The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05 am:       Someone starts shooting.

Told from four perspectives over the span of 54 harrowing minutes, terror reigns as the students at Opportunity High struggle to survive—and to understand why one boy started shooting.

“THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS is simultaneously heart pounding and heart wrenching. Every words hits frighteningly close to home and is tragically too familiar. This book will leave you asking questions that we as a society should have answered a long time ago.”
—Julie Murphy, author of DUMPLIN’
“As long as there are Newtowns and Columbines there will be a desperate need for gripping, well-written, and poignant novels like this one… Hopefully a book like THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS will make the problem more real to a generation that still has the time, energy, and willpower to do something about it."
—Todd Strasser, author of GIVE A BOY A GUN and FALLOUT

Stunning, diverse, and unforgettable, THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS is a book everyone should read to better understand each other and the world around us.”
— Robin Talley, author of LIES WE TELL OURSELVES

Entirely gripping and fast-paced.”—Lucy Christopher, author of STOLEN

Marieke Nijkamp is a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, geek. She holds degrees in philosophy, history, and medieval studies, and is an executive member of We Need Diverse Books, the founder of DiversifYA, and a founding contributor to YA Misfits. She lives in the Netherlands. Visit her at mariekenijkamp.com.


Get details on how you can get score some pre-order goodies or win a copy of HIS IS WHERE IT ENDS after the break:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Heir and The Spare by Emily Albright

Book Summary
Family can be complicated. Especially when skeletons from the past pop up unexpectedly. For American Evie Gray, finding out her deceased mother had a secret identity, and not one of the caped crusader variety, was quite the surprise. Evie’s mom had a secret life before she was even born, one that involved tiaras.

In this modern day fairytale, Evie is on a path to figure out who her mom really was, while discovering for herself what the future will hold. Charged with her late mother’s letters, Evie embarks on a quest into her past. The first item on the list is to attend Oxford, her mom’s alma mater. There, Evie stumbles upon a real life prince charming, Edmund Stuart the second Prince of England, who is all too happy to be the counterpart to her damsel in distress.

Evie can’t resist her growing attraction to Edmund as they spend more time together trying to unravel the clues her mother left behind. But, when doubts arise as to whether or not Edmund could ever be with an untitled American, what really ends up unraveling is Evie’s heart. When Evie uncovers all the facts about her mom’s former life, she realizes her mom’s past can open doors she never dreamed possible, doors that can help her be with Edmund. But, with everything now unveiled, Evie starts to crack under the pressure of new family responsibilities and the realization that her perfect prince may want her for all the wrong reasons.

Flo's Review
I'm not sure where to start with this review. I apologize in advance -- I think it's going to be pretty disjointed. I'm just going to type stuff as I think of it. OK? OK! Here goes!

First of all, the blurb above is MUCH better than the blurb on the back cover of the book. The back cover blurb described the book, but almost too much, and not the important things? It was weird. To me it didn't read as a teaser to make you pick up the book. It read as a slightly-off summary or something. I have an ARC, so I'll be curious to see if they edit it on the actual book. 

This book flew by and had good pacing. The first time I set it down was not because I wanted to, but because I had to go to bed or something equally important. (Lol). I loved this book when I first started reading it because I really enjoy reading books that take place at college or in boarding school. Emily also did a good job with English slang (although this seemed to taper off a bit as the book went out.) Jax was quite horrible and she was a good villain, if you will. Chloe, too. I enjoyed disliking them greatly. 

The tension between Edmund and Evie was deliciously tempting! It was a touch too insta-infatuation, but not enough to be unrealistic. Evie was so stubborn and impulsive that I found myself frustrated with her a lot of times. I'd think, "Evie, what are you doing?!? Whhyyy??!" and then, of course, she'd cool down and feel remorse for what she did and I'd think, "Well, yeah, that's what you get..." 

Sorry to go back to the blurbing and all, but I also don't understand the tagline: "He's Secretly Loyal"? That makes zero sense to me. I enjoyed the ideas of the birthday letters and the quest letters. (I told you this review would be all over the place. Sorry about that!) My understanding through the letters was that Evie's Mom was giving her this information and then setting this big choice in front of her...but when the time came in the book, it wasn't really treated like it. For it being a big choice, the decision was made quickly and without pomp and circumstance. I think it either should have been presented as a big deal and then treated as big decision/dilemma for Evie, or it shouldn't have been presented as a big deal and it could be presented as it was. Does that make sense at all? I'm also trying not to come outright and say it, because I want to be cautious of spoilers. I also kind of have the same thoughts regarding another choice Evie makes at the end. It seems to come out of nowhere, she presents it to her friends who are like, "What?!" and then it's squashed in a sentence or two toward the end of the book. Also, it's mentioned on the ARC blurb and I don't think it's an important enough plot point to be mentioned there. (See? I'm kind of coming full circle!)

Speaking of her friends, I did really like them! The gang is great, and I loved reading her interactions with Preston, Suzy and the others. I also really enjoyed the views we got of London and Paris. I loved reading the fun facts that Edmund had for Evie and reading about those places made me really, really want to be there! The scene at the Eiffel Tower was perfection. *Sighs*

I guess my summary, if I can try to bring my thoughts together, is that while some of it felt a bit disjointed and off, and I didn't agree with some of the marketing text, The Heir and the Spare was a fun and delicious read! The pacing was great, and I finished this book easily within a few reading sessions. It makes for a great escape to (though the eyes of Evie) travel to London, find out you're royalty, and fall in love with a handsome prince! 

Thank you to Merit Press for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.