Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris

The Fine Art of Pretending (The Fine Art of Pretending, #1)

Jacque's Review:

Aly is the one person Brandon connected with after his father died three years prior to the start of this book.  Since then, they have become best friends, but dating has been out of the question.  He is the star of the baseball team and is part of their school's A-list.  He isn't interested in a serious relationship and chooses to casually date a variety of girls.

Aly is friends with some of the elite, but doesn't consider herself part of that group.  With only her senior year remaining, she decides it is time to get noticed.  She buys all new clothes and makeup, gets a new hair style, and begins to step out of her comfort zone with one goal in mind.  She wants to land a date to homecoming with the hottest guy in the school, who is none other than Brandon's friend Justin.  What better way to get Justin's attention than to pretend to be dating Brandon...Right?  WRONG!!! Aly and Brandon's entire plan backfires when they begin to realize there may be more to their relationship than either of them is willing to admit.

This was a cute and entertaining story, but I felt like the drama dragged on a lot longer than it should have.  The reader, as well as all of Aly and Brandon's friends, could see what was going on, but Aly and Brandon were too stubborn or afraid to propel the story forward.  I felt like I was stuck in a rut for the longest time, but when I finally broke free....it was over.  The ending was what I expected, but after all of the drama, there should have been a few more chapters to cap things off.  Perhaps that is part of Rachel's plan with the companion novel that is scheduled to be released in 2016.  It will focus on Justin, but hopefully there will be some updates on Aly and Brandon to provide some sense of closure to their story.

I ended up giving this book 3 out of 5 stars because it didn't quite live up to my expectations.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Naturals (The Naturals, #1)

Jacque's Review: 

The Naturals is one of those books that I noticed on several Stacking the Shelves posts a couple of years ago.  I picked up a copy, but it wasn't really at the top of my TBR pile until now.  I'm participating in the COYER scavenger hunt and needed to read a book written by an author with three names.  I scanned all of my unread books and this one practically jumped out at me.

I can't believe I didn't start this series sooner.  I have been reading the Stephanie Plum, Women's Murder Club, King & Maxwell, and Kay Scarpetta murder mystery series for years, but this is the first time I have come across a YA version.

Cassie is a seventeen-year-old girl with a natural ability to read people.  Her mother was murdered five years ago and her father is overseas in the military.  When she is asked to join an FBI program for teens with various natural abilities, she jumped at the opportunity.  The program is supposed to sharpen their skills while helping the FBI solve cold cases.

Dean is the only member of the group who is a natural profiler like Cassie.  Michael is a natural at reading emotions, Leah is a walking lie detector, and Sloane is an encyclopedia who can spit out facts and statistics on just about anything.  One day, The Naturals stumble upon an active murder investigation their supervisors are working on.  Cassie is immediately drawn to it because of the similarities with her mother's case.  They begin working the case and are pulled further into the killer's world than any of them could have imagined was possible.  I was completely shocked when I discovered who the killer was and couldn't believe the lengths he/she went to.

Overall, this was an excellent start to the series.  I was completely captivated throughout the book and I loved the characters.  I gave the book 4 stars and I can't wait to see what happens next in Killer Instinct.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Book Summary
Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?
In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I've Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

Flo's Review
I gave the first book in this duology, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, 3 stars. And I think that rating will stay steady for this book. I got all caught up in the rush of excitement for this release that what I forgot for awhile was that while I liked the first book, I didn't love it.

Then when I started reading this one, I remembered. Again, it was cute. This is a cute story. Lara Jean is cute and her family is cute. It's kind of hard to describe, but even though there were things happening in the story, I kind of felt like there weren't. I felt as I was reading through it that I was just reading Lara Jean's diary or seeing a snapshot of her day to day life. Which is okay, I guess. But it didn't really hold my interest. This book took me a long time to get through. I never felt like I had to pick up to see where the story was going to go. In the end, what motivated me to pick it up was that it was due back to the library.

All the above being said, I enjoyed many things about this book.  It has an overall safe and homey feel to it. Lara Jean reminisces a lot with other characters, and it's to happy, carefree childhood days. I loved hearing the stories from her and John Ambrose McClaren. Speaking of John Ambrose McClaren, he's the best. And there is a line from Peter at the end of this book that still makes my little heart swoon just thinking about it.

Conclusion: Not a page turner, but a smile bringer. And that's good, too :)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter

Book Summary
When Cammie "The Chameleon" Morgan visits her roommate Macey in Boston, she thinks she's in for an exciting end to her summer break. After all, she's there to watch Macey's father accept the nomination for vice president of the United States. But when you go to the world's best school (for spies), "exciting" and "deadly" are never far apart. Cammie and Macey soon find themselves trapped in a kidnappers' plot, with only their espionage skills to save them.
As her junior year begins, Cammie can't shake the memory of what happened in Boston, and even the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women doesn't feel like the safe haven it once did. Shocking secrets and old flames seem to lurk around every one of the mansion's corners as Cammie and her friends struggle to answer the questions, Who is after Macey? And how can the Gallagher Girls keep her safe?
Soon Cammie is joining Bex and Liz as Macey's private security team on the campaign trail. The girls must use their spy training at every turn as the stakes are raised, and Cammie gets closer and closer to the shocking truth.

Flo's Review
On the whole, I'm enjoying this series a lot. I already have the next audiobook in my car and ready to start listening to, and Book #5 is in the mail. This story was a great one for learning more about Macy -- we got to really see more into her character and I really enjoyed that. Also, the love between the best friends is great.

But, honestly, this book bugged me. I just could not with Cammie. I think I'm getting old, because my main issue was that she BROKE EVERY SINGLE RULE BASICALLY. REPEATEDLY. And then -- she NEVER got punished for it! Basically, the book went like this.

1. Cammie is told specifically not to do something.
2. Cammie does it anyway
3. Cammie is caught and then brings up how her dad is dead and cries so she is consoled and not punished.
4. Repeat.

Sometimes in there she is given a talking to from her Mom and/or aunt. Which is basically like, "That was bad, Cam. Okay, moving on!" Of course she is going to keep breaking rules if she is never punished for doing it. (Listen to me: I'm not even a Mom yet and I sound like a Mom! Lol. But for real though...) There is one particular instance where her Mom was like, "If you do this again, you won't be able to do X." So what does Cammie do? The same thing again! And does she still get to do X? Yes, she does! 

I understand from a literary standpoint that Cammie can't be stuck at school for the action of the story to move forward, but I also think it's very unrealistic that she basically just breaks rules left and right with her roommates and whatevs, that's cool. 

Let's see how I feel in Book #4. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Soundless by Richelle Mead

Okay, Richelle Mead is actually signing The Ruby Circle here, but see that stack of books next to her? That's Soundless. And I got one. So this picture totally works for this review.
Book Summary
From Richelle Mead, the #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, comes a breathtaking new fantasy steeped in Chinese folklore.
For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.
When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.
But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.
Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever...
 

Flo's Review
I devoured this book in a day. It was a crazy, crazy travel day full of unpredictability and literally including trains, planes AND automobiles. But I started Soundless earlier in the day and finished it that night when I finally, finally made it home.

My favorite thing about this book was the uniqueness. I have not read a lot of books based in Chinese folklore, so I really enjoyed the images that this world painted in my mind. Secondly, I was impressed with the amount of research this story must have taken. According to her author bio, Richelle "has always had a particular fascination with mythology and folklore." But I'm sure this unique story probably took some research. Then, there's the idea of being soundless. How do you describe sound? It had been gone from Fei's village so long, that there weren't even words for it. All the ways I can think of describe a sound right now involved these type of sound words, so it was really neat to read about Fei's challenge with this. Finally, if Richelle wasn't a rock climber, then she had to have done some research on techniques and challenges to help her with Fei's trips up and down the mountain.

The beginning felt a little bit rushed to me. Fei makes a really quick choice in what may have been a few hours or even an afternoon, but to the reader it felt instantaneous. I wasn't expecting the ending, and it was entirely magical. It left me with a smile on my face. 

Soundless will be released in November 2015, and it's worth you picking up. This story is a fast read and it's unique and magical. Also, what a pretty cover!


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter

Book Summary
Cammie Morgan is back, and it's clear that her life hasn't calmed down since the events of I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You. At first, giddy anticipation is in the air. Gallagher Academy, Cammie's elite spy school, is hosting a visit from a covert training center for boys. Soon after the boys' arrival, though, everything goes dangerously awry when a series of security breaches are discovered at the academy. Worse yet, teenage agent-in-training Cammie is being blamed for the penetration. With the school's top-secret status at risk, the Gallagher Girls have to work quickly to save their beloved school. 

Flo's Review
A great book second book! Now that we are familiar with Cammie's world and the cast of characters, it was really nice to enjoy their interactions and shenanigans. I have so many questions, though! If you've read the book and want to help a girl out, my spoilery review is on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1283816804

This book continued the theme that being a teenage girl can seem just as hard as being a spy. This is what makes the series, but that being said, there was kind of an overuse of the phrase: "The girl in me..... The spy in me..." 

I am really enjoying this series! Cammie and her friends are fun, dedicated, and loyal. Reading about their classes and assignments is fascinating. On to Book 3!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Book Summary 
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Flo's Review
I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of this ARC at ALA Midwinter in Chicago this January. I had heard such great things about it was always "one of the next books" I was going to read. Then I discovered that author Sabaa Tahir was going to be one of the authors signing at an event at McNally Jackson's bookstore in New York City while I was there for BookCon. I brought my copy of Ember to get signed, and I ended up choosing it as the book to read while I traveled, based entirely on the fact that it was the largest book I was carrying. (Well, also because it's my book club's read for June.)

I didn't expect to finish it so quickly but due to traffic and weather and other uncontrollable things, I spent a lot more time traveling than I expected. Thank goodness for this book! There were several times where I was sitting in a cab freaking out that I wouldn't make it somewhere on time and then I thought to myself, "There's nothing I can do about it, so let me just read." In the anxious state I was in, not all books would be able to completely take my mind away from the present. But Ember did.

I think my favorite part of this book was that I continuously switching my ships! Basically, whenever there was a romantic scene I was like, "Aww! I like these two together!" Then the next romantic scene, even if it was one of the same characters as the previous and a different character, I thought, "Aww! But I like these two together, too!"

The world was action-packed and terrifying. I would never ever ever want to live in it.  We got such great backstory on these characters, that with the exception of a few, I understood their actions and sympathized with them. The things these characters were asked to do were horrifying and fascinating -- I was so sad for them, but I couldn't stop reading. I was impressed with how they handled them. 

It looks like the sequel finally got the green light, and thank goodness! I don't think anyone would be okay with leaving the story how the ended. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Duff: Movie Review and #DuffParty Giveaway!


The Duff by Kody Keplinger was one of the first books I reviewed for Book Nerds Across America. I enjoyed it, and I was interested to learn that they were making it into a movie. I vaguely wondered how exactly they would translate the book plot to a movie, and I later learned that they did not. I won't get into how the book differs from the movie -- you can simply Google "the duff movie versus book" and you'll be bombarded with the differences.

Unfortunately, I never got to see the movie in the theaters, so I was scoping out when it would be available in digital and DVD format so I could rent it. Enter The Duff Twitter account: https://twitter.com/TheDUFF. They asked me how I would throw a #DuffParty and I answered them -- and then I won! All the goodies you see listed above!

The official The Duff Viewing Party was on 5/30 when I was at BookCon, but I invited a friend over the following weekend for our belated #DuffParty:

Popcorn is popped, nail polish and manicure kit is out and ready...

...and drinks are served! Cheers!
We both agreed that the movie was cute and Robbie Amell is adorable. My friend recognized Bella Thorne from Blended, which I've never seen. We thought all the actors gave great performances. Overall, this is a cute, fun movie to watch with your girlfriends on a chill night in...

The Giveway!
...so we're going to help you do just that! Two (2) winners will each receive:

  • 2 Duff popcorn cases
  • 2 Duff manicure kits
  • 2 Duff nail polish sets

We'll run this contest until June 22. To enter, simply do what I did to win -- tell us (in the comments) how do you do a Duff viewing party? Be sure to include your email address so we can contact you if you win!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

BookCon 2015!

Awesome lanyard, amirite?!
I was super sad that I couldn't go to BEA this year because of work, but I was excited to see that BookCon was going to be 2 days this year. All day Saturday and all day Sunday? I could do that! I hopped the first flight out Saturday morning and made it to the Javits Center in New York City around 11:30 a.m., about an hour and a half after the Con began.

I went to the exhibit hall first, where the publishers started strong -- books, t-shirts, and all types of swag were being handed out! There were a LOT of people at BookCon and the lines were crazy long, but everyone was really nice. One of my favorite parts about book conventions is actually meeting new people in line. It's just so much fun to talk about your favorite books and book characters with people you GET YOU, you know?!

Saturday was a fun day, but it took me awhile to get into my groove. I missed out on some books and some signings that I was hoping to catch, but that's just part of it. I definitely still got some great books and signings. I was wandering around the exhibit hall when I saw Leigh Bardugo in the Macmillan booth! She wasn't signing books yet, but I was able to get the cutest picture ever:

Friday, May 29, 2015

Juneterview! Meet Sara at The Great Catsby


Happy almost-June everybody! Can you believe 2015 is almost halfway over?!? Well, as I was wandering around the blogging world I learned of Book Bloggers International Juneterviews. The idea is bloggers interviewing bloggers in a fun and creative way. I was paired up with Sara from The Great Catsby, and first of all -- I love her blog! Cats! Drinks! Books! What's NOT to love?!

For our Juneterview, we came up with the questions to ask each other and decided to answer them visually. (Side note: This is super fun and everyone should try it!)

The questions:

1. What is your favorite emoticon and why?

2. Favorite book/drink pairing?

3. What five books do you always find yourself recommending to people who ask you for book recommendations?

4. You somehow roped someone into writing your memoirs. What's the name of your book?

5. Other than old books, what would you say is the best smell in the world?

6. Which title in your bookshelf are you least likely to read in public?

7. If you could pick any character from a book to be your sibling, who would you pick?

8. If you were to imagine the pages of the book you are currently reading to be miles, what is the furthest place you could get to? (aka 300 pages is 300 miles.... what's 300 miles from you....)

The answers:

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Blog Tour with GIVEAWAY: Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

Nowhere But Here RDL Banner  

We are absolutely thrilled to bring you the Release Day Launch for Katie McGarry's NOWHERE BUT HERE! NOWHERE BUT HERE is a Young Adult Contemporary Romance and is a part of Katie McGarry’sThunder Road Series, published by Harlequin Teen. Grab your copy today!!

Nowhere But Here - cover

Amazon ** Kobo ** BAM ** Barnes & Noble ** iBooks ** IndieBound

Add it to your Goodreads Now!


About NOWHERE BUT HERE: An unforgettable new series from acclaimed author Katie McGarry about taking risks, opening your heart and ending up in a place you never imagined possible  Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she's curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn't mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both. Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They're the good guys. They protect people. They're…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club's most respected member—is in town, he's gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it's his shot at his dream. What he doesn't count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down. No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.

See an except from NOWHERE BUT HERE after the jump.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

On the Fence by Kasie West

Book Summary
For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn't know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she's spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.
To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can't solve Charlie's biggest problem: she's falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.
 

Flo's Review
What a cute and fun story! I had started this back when I had a copy of the e-book ARC a year ago. I stayed up late one night reading it because it was going to expire off my Nook and I wanted to finish it before that happened. Unfortunately, I couldn't do it, and the book was gone with me only about halfway through. Fast forward to ALA Midwinter this January when I was able to pick up a copy of the book from the Harper booth. I was on a cruise this weekend and needed something fun and light to read while sunning on the cruise ship deck. On the Fence came with me. 

Even though it had been several months since I had read it last, I was able to pick up the story right where I had left off. I loved the relationship between Charlie and her brothers. Being a girl who often finds herself hanging out with just guys and has even heard the comment, "You're like one of the guys!" I could relate to Charlie in some way. But what I really enjoyed about this book was Charlie coming into her own. At the beginning she only sees herself as this tomboy type, but as the story develops she taps into her feminine side and has to learn how to meld the two. There is something almost magical about having these secret conversations in the middle of the night, back to back on the fence. It facilitates an openness and honesty that real life cannot. Charlie and Braden may have gotten to the point where they end up by the conclusion of the story, but it would have taken a lot longer without the fence.

This was my first Kasie West book and I'm ready for more! I have The Distance Between Us on my Nook and a physical copy of The Fill-In Boyfriend, and next time I want a fun read, I'll have to reach for one of those.

Monday, May 18, 2015

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

Book Summary
Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school-that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it's really a school for spies. Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real "pavement artist"-but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her? 
Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she's on her most dangerous mission-falling in love.

Flo's Review
I unfortunately was not connecting with All Fall Down, another book by Ally Carter, so I DNF it. But I had heard a lot about this series and the first audiobook was available at the library, so I decided to give it a try.

I am so glad I did! This story is heartwarming and just completely fun! I love that it plays on the concept of "normal" -- a "normal teenage boy" or "normal teenage girl." Cammie has grown up in this life of spies and spy training, and she is enjoying the opportunity to spend time with a regular teenage boy from the town and do things like go on dates to movies and dances and such. But Cammie's world is far from "normal," so everything she experiences is told through the lens of spy training. Which makes it completely fascinating! I loved hearing about the different classes and the different things the teachers at the Gallagher Academy had done. They had a Career Day at one point, and it certainly did not look like any type of career day I'd ever experienced!

Bex, Liz and Macy and wonderful friends, and I am so looking forward to reading more about these girls in the next books. The end of this story was so so emotional, but so perfect. I think I have found my next series to binge read! I already have a hold on the second book, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, and I am impatiently waiting for it to be ready for me to pick up at the library!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

All Fall Down by Ally Carter

Book Summary
This exciting new series from NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter focuses on Grace, who can best be described as a daredevil, an Army brat, and a rebel. She is also the only granddaughter of perhaps the most powerful ambassador in the world, and Grace has spent every summer of her childhood running across the roofs of Embassy Row.
Now, at age sixteen, she's come back to stay--in order to solve the mystery of her mother's death. In the process, she uncovers an international conspiracy of unsettling proportions, and must choose her friends and watch her foes carefully if she and the world are to be saved. 

Flo's Review
I'm having bad luck with books lately and this one was another DNF for me. I've said over and over again that I have a hard time with a book if I don't like the main character, especially if it's written in first person. Grace is struggling with the death of her mom, which I understand. But I made it about a third into the book and it wasn't getting any better. On top of that, I thought she was mean. And then she started doing things that didn't make sense even for her -- like not caring about someone but then freaking out and chasing him when he left her, and I just couldn't do it anymore. I think Alexei was supposed to be dark, hot, and mysterious, but he annoyed her and he annoyed me. I liked Noah, but that alone wasn't enough to keep me going. 

But let's end on a positive note. I really enjoyed hearing about life on Embassy Row. I love the backdrop for this story because at its best it has normal high school antics but definitely not in a normal high school setting. The descriptions of living at the embassy and the scenery around it were absolutely fascinating to me. I've decided to try reading Ally's Gallagher Girls series since I didn't finish this book, and so far I'm enjoying it. With that book, too, the setting and scenery are so unique and entertaining.

Jacque's Review

All Fall Down is the first book in Ally Carter's new Embassy Row series.  We are introduced to Grace, who is the sixteen year old granddaughter of the U.S. Ambassador to Adria.  At the age of thirteen she witnessed her mother's murder and now she is determined to find the killer.  Her family insists it was an accident.  They want her to move on and take over the responsibilities of the lady of the house...A.K.A. embassy...now that her grandmother and mother are no longer around.

While attending a formal event at the palace with her grandfather, Grace is positive she spots her mother's killer.  Her friends, several teens from some of the other embassies, volunteer to help with the investigation.  She needs to prove the "scarred man" killed her mother and stop him from killing again.

I loved seeing how all of the teens used their unique abilities and skills to work together regardless of their nationality.  Megan is a genius who can hack into just about any computer system.  Rosie is a former gymnast who is great on her feet and can tail just about anyone without being detected.  Noah has not only the resources of one embassy, but two.  His Mom is the ambassador for Israel and his father is the ambassador from Brazil.

By the end of the book we discover that appearances are often deceiving.  I don't want to give away any spoilers, but there was a surprise revelation at the end of the book that sets up an entirely new angle for the series.  I can see this turning into the next Gallagher Girls/ spy series with global issues at stake.  While the Russians and Americans may still walk a fine line politically, the children and grandchildren within their embassies see no problem in working together to protect their loved ones.

Ally is off to another great start with this series and I look forward to reading the next Embassy Row novel.  I just hope she will continue to write some additional Heist Society novels as well.  I love Kat and Hale and don't want to see their story end any time soon.  Perhaps they could even make an appearance on Embassy Row someday!  Hint...Hint... That would be an exciting twist for your fans, Ally.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Heir by Kiera Cass

Book Summary
Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she'd put off marriage for as long as possible.
But a princess's life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can't escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests.
Eadlyn doesn't expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn's heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn't as impossible as she's always thought.

Flo's Review
Ahh! So much love for this book. I read the majority of this in one sitting. I couldn't put it down! I kept wanting to know how the next Report was going to turn out or what Eadlyn was going to do next. I loved that we got to see so much of Maxon and America and how their life turned out. The ending wasn't a cliffhanger, but left us on a good place for Book 5 to start. If you read and enjoyed the first 3 books in the series, then definitely pick this one up. In fact...

I think The Heir is currently my favorite in The Selection Series and I think it's because of the following reasons:

WARNING: These will be spoilers for this book and the other books in the series from here on out, so proceed with caution after the page break.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Sweet by Tammara Webber


Sweet (Contours of the Heart, #3)

Jacque's Review:

I would like to thank Tammara for providing a review copy of Sweet in exchange for an honest review.  I have been a fan of hers since I had the pleasure of reading Easy a few years ago.  I have recommended her books to countless friends, but I should warn the younger readers that this is a New Adult series.  There is adult language and content that is not appropriate for all ages.

Sweet is the third book in the Contours of the Heart series, but each book can be enjoyed separately.  They are all stand-alone novels focusing on a different character.  For those of you who have read Easy and Breakable, Lucas and Jacqueline do make an appearance in this book, but it is very brief.  This is by no means a continuation of their story.

Tammara changed things up a little with this book and used dual narrative instead of just one character's point of view.  Boyce Wynn is Lucas's best friend from high school.  At the age of seven he saved the life of a younger girl who was drowning.  That girl was Pearl Frank, the step-daughter of a local surgeon.  He has been in love with her since the day he pulled her out of the ocean, but he never felt like he was good enough for her.  He grew up with an abusive father who owns the local auto repair shop.

Pearl has been attracted to Boyce since she awoke from her near death.  She went on to become her class valedictorian and was accepted into several medical schools, but she decides to return to her hometown to pursue a graduate degree in marine biology.  Boyce and Pearl have been close friends over the years, but neither of them believed the other was interested in a relationship.  They suppressed their feelings for over a decade, but unforeseen circumstances finally bring them together in this novel.

There are several flashbacks that provide the history of their individual lives as well as their relationship from the time of the accident.  Boyce comes off as a little rough around the edges compared to Lucas, who is personally more my style.  He didn't always make the best choices as a child/teen, but he has come a long way since then.  He is a very hard worker and is motivated to overcome his past.  

Tammara wove a couple of twists into the story that I never would have anticipated.  Both situations added a considerable amount of drama and even danger to what I thought was going to be a "sweet" love story.  I enjoyed seeing these characters grow throughout the book and I felt like the ending was perfect.  I just wish would could have had a little bit more of Lucas ;)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tessa Ever After by Brighton Walsh: Blog Tour, Review, & GIVEAWAY!


In this grippingly emotional New Adult novel from the author of Caged in Winter, what you want isn’t always what you need…
Jason’s been living (and loving) the rich playboy lifestyle for five years, but now his parents are pressuring him to get involved in the family business. The last thing he wants is another obligation, but when his best friend moves out of state and asks Jason to look after his sister, he can’t just say no.
Tessa had to grow up way too soon. After dealing with the aftermath of her parents’ deaths, then becoming a teenage mom, she knows the meaning of responsibility. Which is why, at twenty-two, she’s looking for so much more than a party boy. She’s looking for someone who can stand by her and her daughter…forever.

A relationship between them is doomed from the start, but who says they can’t have a little fun? But as Jason gets closer to Tessa—and her daughter—fun starts to turn into something else… Something Jason’s not sure he’s ready for.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Until the Beginning by Amy Plum


Book Summary
When Juneau's clan disappeared, she lost so much more than her friends and family. She soon discovered everything she thought she knew about her life was a lie. Her people's gifts were actually secret abilities that others wanted, desperately enough to kidnap an entire village.
Juneau and her new companion Miles's cross-country journey to find her clan has led them to a game preserve in New Mexico. Now Juneau's people are finally within reach, and she will stop at nothing to save them. But she has a target on her back too, because unbeknownst to her she is the key to unlocking everything. To rescue her people - and herself - Juneau must discover what she, and her abilities, are truly capable of.
 

Flo's Review
It took me a little while to get into After the End, but after I finished that book I found myself invested enough in the characters to see their story through. Until the Beginning picks up right where After the End left off, which is great because that was a cliffhanger. The theme that ran strong in this book was belief. Throughout the book, Juneau is trying to figure out what she believes. She is discovering that the life she has known up to this point has been lies...but how much of it? Everything? Was there some truth in there? Juneau's journey is one of figuring out her relationship with Whit and the Elders in her clan, knowing that they deceived her for what they felt was good reason. It was also working through everything she has been told and everything she knows and deciding what is Truth to her, through experience and feeling. She had a great arc and I was really happy with where she ended up. 

Miles's journey was belief in himself. He spends a large amount of the book admiring Juneau, and from that feeling worthless and not good enough. He feels out of place in Juneau's world, which is now also his. There is an interesting passage in the book where Miles is explaining to Juneau that it makes one seem arrogant to brag and she doesn't understand it at all. In her mind, you've got to know what your own strengths are so you know what you can contribute to help out. That makes sense and was actually pretty cool. I also felt we left Miles in a good place at the end of this book.

Unfortunately, I had a little trouble getting into this book. I felt it a little slow in the beginning, and I sadly was never fully invested in Miles and Juneau's relationship. But I did enjoy the multi-layer theme of belief,  and I did  like the way the story wrapped up.

Until the Beginning comes out tomorrow, so if you've been waiting for it, you shall wait no more! Thank you to the publisher for providing me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

Jacque's Review:

Nick and Norah meet at a club under unusual circumstances.  Nick is the straight bass guitar player in a local NYC "all gay band".  He just finished his set and is more or less flipping out because his ex-girlfriend, Tris, was at the show with another guy and is now approaching.  He spontaneously asks the girl standing next to him to be his "five minute girlfriend."  Her response was to kiss him, which they were both surprisingly turned on by.  

It turns out that Norah, Nick's five minute girlfriend, is sort of friends with his ex.  They attend the same school and have known each other for years, but I wouldn't say that they are BFFs by any means.  Norah is in the midst of getting over a breakup of her own and decides to help Nick get over Tris by taking him out for the evening.  

The entire book is one really long date that goes well into the following morning.  They both make several mistakes in the process of getting to know each other, but their mutual love of music keeps pulling them back together.  

I decided to read this book because I loved Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, which was the second collaboration between Cohn and Levithan.  The narration alternates between the two main characters/authors each chapter, which was an essential part of the story.  This book simply would not have worked without hearing both characters' inner dialog.  As is often the case, men and women see things differently.  There was quite a bit of humor in hearing the two vastly different interpretations of the same conversation or event.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Image from deliciousreads.com
Book Summary
Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.
She has seen both these dreams come true.
At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.
Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.
(Includes Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions on Breastfeeding, Princesses, Photoshop, the Electoral Process, and Italian Rum Cake!)

Flo's Review
Oh man...I gave Yes Please 5 stars and it was an amazing book, but if that one was 5 stars then this one is 5 stars plus? I really really enjoyed this book. Like with Yes Please, I listened to this on audio. I think I especially love doing that with autobiographies/memoirs because how you are receiving it is exactly how the author intended it. I think it especially helps with comedians because they have the perfect timing, pacing and voices for the different stories. This one didn't have guest appearances, but so many of the stories literally have me laughing out loud as I drove around.

I loved the chapters on photo shoots, Tina's responses to Internet comments, and the holidays. The chapter on Oprah, Sarah Palin, and Alice's birthday party was perfect. Like with Amy's book, I enjoyed the behind the scenes glimpses of life at Saturday Night Live.  The only thing I don't love about Bossypants is the cover. Which is why I didn't use it in this blog post.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Book Summary
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography.

Flo's Review
So I've met Ransom Riggs and we have a cute picture together, but I'm having computer problems and can't find it :( Boo! So this will have to suffice for now:

Anyway, the point is I met Ransom in 2013, so my reading Miss P was long overdue. A couple of things pushed me in the right direction. 1) Quirk Books kindly sent me a review copy and 2) I learned that the movie was filming in Florida

As you may know, this book was written around several old school pictures, which are featured throughout the book. Because of that, listening to it on audio doesn't seem to make much sense, but it ended up working out for me. The narrator of the audiobook was really fantastic, and I would flip through the book to see the photographs. 

I really enjoyed Jacob's voice, and that is what kept me going through the story. The layout (because I can't think of the proper word right now) for the story didn't really sit well with me, but there's no way I can explain why without giving away spoilers. If you've read the book already, and you're curious, you can click here for my spoilery review.

Hollow City, the next book in the series, seems like it is going to be a lot of fun. I'm eagerly awaiting the audiobook from the library so I can jump back into the action with the children. 

Jacque's Review:

Jacob is a sixteen year old high school boy that has never really fit in.  He is the only person in his family that has a strong relationship with his grandfather, but even he hasn't been able to believe his grandfather's outrageous stories for years.  After his grandfather dies, Jacob is determined to uncover what his final words truly meant.  

His grandfather grew up during World War 2 and fled to an orphanage off the coast of England for refuge as a boy.  He always described it as paradise with all sorts of peculiar children.  He showed Jacob pictures of the children, but nobody in their right mind would have believed the photos were real.  Bees flying out of a boy's mouth, a girl floating in thin air, another child that is invisible, etc.  This is the best part about the book in my opinion.  Ransom Riggs used dozens of unaltered old photographs from collectors and wove the story around the images.  It was very creative, imaginative, and unlike anything else I have ever read.

The majority of the story is spent on the island as Jacob tries to discover the truth behind his Grandfather's past.  I really enjoyed the story, but I would have been disappointed if I read this book when it was first released.  I didn't realize until the end of last year (three years after the release of this book) that there was going to be a sequel.  The ending is left wide open and there are a million loose ends, which would have been extremely frustrating to the reader that believed this was a stand-alone novel.  As it stands today, I am anxious to pick up where this story left off and already requested a copy of Hollow City from the library.  

The movie version of this book is currently in production and scheduled to be released in March 2016.  I'm not sure how they will incorporate the pictures into the film, but I am excited to see how this story will be depicted on the big screen.  The setting will be very unique with the old school and the island with its ever changing weather.  There is a lot of action and several "monsters" at the end of the book, which should appeal to a wider audience than just the YA reading population.  With the hit or miss success of YA books to movies in recent years, I really hope this movie will get the support it deserves.       

Friday, April 24, 2015

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Book Summary
In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book is full of words to live by.

Flo's Review
I've been itching to read Yes Please for a little bit now, and I'm not completely sure why. I like Amy when I see her, but I don't think I'd describe myself as an Amy fangirl or anything. Maybe it's the cover. It's bright and fun. I was able to snag the audiobook from my library and decided to go that route. I really, really, really enjoyed this book.

The audiobook was so so fun. There was music and guest appearances, and the last chapter was a taped reading that Amy did for an audience. I was wanting to drive around so I could listen to more of it. Yes Please is divided into sections and doesn't go in chronological order of Amy's life. I liked that. One chapter we were listening to her talk about being pregnant and the next we were hearing about her early days learning improv in Chicago. We went from hearing about SNL to hearing about her divorce. I really enjoyed how it wasn't all, "Here is my famous life." A lot of the chapters were dedicated to discussing at length the everyday joys and heartaches that anybody experiences -- first jobs, not getting enough sleep, mission trip. But then, because of the non-chronological order, we would get to hear about really cool celebrity stuff like stories from when she was working on SNL and Parks and Recreation. 

Yes Please made me laugh a bit, but mostly it made me smile. I think Amy would be a fun person to go have a beer with and just shoot the breeze.