Sunday, September 25, 2016

Banned Book Week Giveaway Hop


It's Banned Book Week! If you haven't heard about it before here's the brief gist:

"The Banned Books Week Coalition is a national alliance of diverse organizations joined by a commitment to increase awareness of the annual celebration of the freedom to read. The Coalition seeks to engage various communities and inspire participation in Banned Books Week through education, advocacy, and the creation of programming about the problem of book censorship. The 2016 celebration will be held September 25-October 1.
Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association."

I grabbed that from the Banned Books Week website: http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/. The site also includes a list of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2015:
  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
  3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
    Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
  6. The Holy Bible
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
  7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
  8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
    Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
    Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”)
For the giveaway, I am going to be giving away a book that was one of the top ten challenged titles in 2014 for reasons of  "drugs/alochol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: date rape and masturbation." (*source). Marshall University has a good timeline of events surrounding this book. Geekade also has a detailed blog post about this.

I thought it was interesting that this title was also chosen as a World Book Night U.S. title for 2014. So that is the edition I am giving away. Without further ado...

The Perks of Being a Wallflower 
by Stephen Chbosky

I simply adored this book! The movie, too. (I also have not had such a linktastic blog post in a long time! Sorry, random aside.) Anyway, you can enter via the Rafflecopter:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thank you for stopping by! And now you can hop on:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Book Summary
The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Flo's Review
By now, I am sure you have heard a lot of opinions about this one. I finished reading it about a week after its release, but I stopped myself from reading other reviews until I wrote this. My initial thought after reading this was...I liked it....but....

I think I really liked it for nostalgic purposes. I liked seeing Harry and the gang, and what their life looks like now. And I did enjoy reading about Albus, Scorpius and Rose -- though I wish we saw more Rose! But what I couldn't really get behind was the storyline. It just wasn't really sitting with me...it felt very fan fictionish. 

There could be several reasons for the disconnect. It is a play and not a novel, so it lacked J.K. Rowling's rich details from the first seven books. Also, it is a play, and maybe I need to actually see it. Maybe when it comes to NYC? (A girl can dream!!)

Overall, I would put myself at a solid 'I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it.' I liked it okay. It made me feel sad at parts and smile at parts. I don't regret reading it, and I definitely would love, love, love to see the play. I'm curious to know what you thought! Please let us know in the comments.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Book Summary
Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor
... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
 

Flo's Review
It can be hard going into a book when you have super high expectations. Rainbow Rowell is a fantastic author. I really enjoyed Fangirl. I LOVED Attachments. But I didn't like Landline. I have a copy of Carry On, but I haven't read it yet. So that leaves me with Eleanor & Park. I had heard so many great things about this book, so I was definitely excited when I was able to get a hold of the audiobook, thus bumping it up on my TBR.

And I liked it. I did. It was cute, and I will go into what I loved about it momentarily. But did it blow me away? Nah. It was hard reading Eleanor. I absolutely understand why she was so insecure, but it was just exhausting to read her. Over and over and over Park affirmed her, but she kept continuing to fish for compliments.

This book was in slow motion, in a good way. In a VERY good way. The pace while reading it didn't feel like a pace at all. I felt like I was there with them, living the moments. I felt like I was Eleanor. I felt like I was Park. Rainbow doesn't just show us a scene. She doesn't just tell us a scene. She immersed us into every single detail. I can remember scenes in that book as if they were moments that I lived in my own life. I don't think I have ever read a book that did this so, so well.

If you like Rainbow's books, then you should read this one. If you like YA contemporaries, you should read this. If you like reminiscing about the 80s, you should read this. If you like reading about and reliving the awkwardness and wonder of first love, you should read this. Most importantly, if you want to read some of the best writing I have ever read in my life, I think you should read this. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3)

Jacque's Review:

City of Glass is the third book in the Mortal Instruments series.  It is my understanding it was originally a trilogy, which Cassandra decided to expand into a 6 book series.  The ending definitely felt like the conclusion of the series.  Everything comes together nicely and I was very content with how she left each of the characters. 

From what I have heard, that isn't the feeling readers have had that continued reading books 4 through 6.  For that reason, I am going to consider this series complete for the time being and move onto Cassandra’s Infernal Devices series, which Flo and Teri told me I HAVE to read.

I love the Shadowhunter world Cassandra has created.  The battles against Valentine and his demons added the necessary danger and excitement to keep the pages turning.  I also enjoyed watching the characters grow though out the series.  Simon gains a tremendous amount of confidence in this installment as he comes to terms with being a vampire and embraces his new talents.  I also enjoyed seeing Alec open up about his relationship with Magnus.  Perhaps the greatest revelation was discovering who Sebastian really is and how that news impacts the rest of the Shadowhunters. 

What I enjoyed the most about City of Glass is that it brought the Shadowhunters and Downworlders together to fight for a common cause.  They all have unique abilities, so it always surprised me that the Shadowhunters looked down upon the vampires, warlocks, fae, and werewolves.  If only they would have aligned themselves sooner, a great deal of death and evil likely could have been prevented.  The alliance also makes it possible for all of our favorite characters to live together peacefully, which definitely contributes to the warm and fuzzy ending to this trilogy.


I would definitely recommend this series to any YA fan.  If you have read the last three books in the series, I would love to hear your thoughts.  Should I read them or not?

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

Book Summary
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
Flo's Review
Let's start with the cover love! It's so colorful and pretty!
I simply adored Nicola Yoon’s first book Everything, Everything. I loved the way she was able to capture so much emotion in beautiful, yet uncomplicated writing. So I was really looking forward to seeing if she would be able to do the same thing in her new book The Sun Is Also a Star. The answer is YES! She was, and maybe even more so. The Sun Is Also a Star was the book that I couldn’t put down – I just kept flipping the pages because I wanted to see how Natasha or how Daniel would react to what was going on. And when I finished it, my heart was full of fuzzy and happy.
There were so many things I loved about this book. I loved that Nicola flipped the stereotypes all over the place – the Korean boy was the dreamy poet and the Black girl was the super smart scientific one. I loved how Natasha and Daniel had these completely different worldviews, but they tested each other and truly considered what the other was saying. I loved the idea of fate, as this is a question I’ve thought about all the time, and I bet a lot of other people have, too.
There is a scientific study talked about in the book that I remember reading before, so it was really cool to see that come back up in the story.
And there is, in particular, one great scene where Natasha walks by a couple and sees them one way, and then Daniel walks by the couple and sees them completely differently. The same thing happens with a street musician. This one scene is a perfect illustration of us, of life -- how different people see things differently and it shapes the way we act, react, and interact.
I loved how this story was heartbreaking and hopeful all at the same time. I loved that we got to see a little bit of how all our actions count – even the little ones – and how certain plot points intertwined, giving us (humanity) a feeling of connectedness. The theme of loneliness came up, and this book seemed to say, “You are not alone. People notice you. What you do affects others.” I actually didn’t expect the ending, even though it was a possibility based on what we were read earlier. It was a pleasant surprise, and definitely went along with the theme of how life can pleasantly surprise you.  
The Sun is Also a Star comes out in November and I can't recommend it enough! 5 of out of 5 big sunny stars!!

Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth


Jacque's Review:

I loved Divergent and gave it 5 stars.  There were some things I didn't really care for in Insurgent, so I gave it 3 stars and was REALLY hoping the series would end on a solid note the way it started.  I pre-ordered Allegiant, but was reluctant to read it after so many readers gave it mixed reviews.  People seemed to either love it or hate it, with the majority of my friends being on the latter end of the spectrum.  

As part of the COYER (clean out your e-reader) challenge, I decided it was time to finally complete this series.  I managed to avoid spoilers with one not so minor exception.  I did hear that someone significant dies, I just didn't know who it would be until I actually read the book.  All in all, that is pretty remarkable since the book was released almost 3 years ago and sparked a ton of conversation and debate in the blogging world.

I'm not going to give a synopsis like I usually do because I honestly don't feel like I have anything to say.  At just over half way through this book, I sent a message to Flo and said "Literally nothing has happened so far."  She said she felt the same way when she read the book.  Until the last 75 pages or so I felt like I gained next to nothing from the time I had invested.  Then there is a major twist that nobody would have seen coming, which is what lead to all of the debate.  I personally did not care for how the series ended and would not recommend reading beyond the first book in the series.  



I think Veronica could have wrapped things up in two books instead of three.  Readers could have saved their time and money and the majority of people would be able to look back on the series in a far more positive light. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Spotlight: Dessert First by Dean Gloster


Flo's Note
My fiance makes fun of me all the time because I tend to look at the dessert menu before the food menu at the restaurant. Some of my favorite restaurants made the list simply because of their desserts. So the first thing I said when I saw this book was, "Perfect!" The summary sounds poignant and feel-good, and I just had to share with y'all.

Book Summary
This is a story about family, friendship and love that illustrates just how much you can accomplish on this earth with people you are connected to you, regardless of the time you share with them.

Kat is the big sister and, as a bone-marrow match, the only hope for saving her little brother, Beep, whose leukemia has relapsed for the second time. In the face of her family’s tragedy, Kat has been the problem-solver cheerleader, so now she can’t tell anyone, even the boy she loves, that it’s all been an act. When even her heroic effort to save Beep fails, so does Kat’s irreverent sense of humor, and she spirals downward, until help comes from an unlikely place.

Dean Gloster New Photo 1 smaller.jpgDean Gloster (Berkeley, CA) is a former law clerk to two U.S. Supreme Court Justices and a former stand-up comedian. When not writing YA novels, he ski races during the winter (Super-G is his best event) and is enrolled in the low-residency MFA program in writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. His wife, Nancy Ricci, works at a children’s hospice and respite care center, and inspired him to write the book. When Dean is not at home in Berkeley, California, Saucy the dog guards the commas in his manuscripts. Dean thinks that writing, flying, and ski racing have lots in common: According to Douglas Adams, all you have to do is throw yourself at the ground—and miss.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Spotlight Tour: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova




Book Summary:

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives. 

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Goodreads Link:
Buy Links:

Book Trailer Link:

Labyrinth Lost Coloring Page:

About the Author:
Zoraida Córdova was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. She is the author of theVicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and the Brooklyn Brujas series. She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic. Send her a tweet @Zlikeinzorro or visit her at zoraidacordova.com.

Social Media Links:

Twitter:  @zlikeinzorro
Labyrinth Lost Tumblr: http://labyrinthlostbooks.tumblr.com/

Read an excerpt from Labyrinth Lost (and enter to win a copy!) after the page break:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Heist Society by Ally Carter

Book Summary
When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.
 

Flo's Review
This is one of those books that has been on my TBR for the longest time. I actually own all three books in this series -- the second one is even signed and personalized by Ally Carter. But the series never quite made it too far up the TBR list. Then I found a sale on the audiobook for Heist Society for $6. Whoo hoo! I jumped on it....and that was almost a year ago. But finally, a few weeks ago, I was looking for a quick audiobook that I was sure I'd enjoy to tide me over as I waited for one from the library. This seemed like the perfect bet.

Unfortunately...

This fell into so many of my Flo traps. First of all, the trap of (1) Expectation. I was so sure I would love it. I adored the Gallagher Girls series, and flew through all 6 books on audio in a matter of months. But to me this book had an (2) Unlikable Main Character. Those who are familiar with my reading style and reviews know that I commonly say if I don't like the main character, or any character, in the book, I struggle with it. Especially here, because we are talking (technically) about a crime. In order to cheer for something that is fundamentally wrong, I have to want to root for the characters. (Note: I am just talking wrong on a very, very basic level. I don't think Kat's motivations in this story were wrong at all. I'm just saying stealing in general is wrong.) I wanted this to be an Oceans 11 or a Six of Crows, where I was holding my breath throughout the plan and crossing my fingers that they were able to pull it off. But Katarina Bishop....I couldn't root for her. To me she came off as selfish, demanding, and not really friendly. I am assuming that the Kat that Hale and her family knows was maybe, I don't know, nice to them. But the Kat as written in the pages of this story wasn't. She was mean to Gabrielle, did things she knew would upset Hale and others, and decided to do things on her own without talking to anyone about it. If anyone in Kat's gang had gone off and made decisions that affected them all, she wouldn't like it. But she can do it, just because - why? Because she's Kat Bishop? I guess. (Note: I had this same problem with Cammie in one of the Gallagher Girl books. She just kept disobeying her mom. Jacque told me it was showing her independence. I just thought she was being a bad girl by blatantly disregarding her mom's rules.)

I, of course, had heard a lot about Hale. I was ready to add him to my book boyfriend list. But...I couldn't. To me, he had no other personality besides being obsessed with Kat and rich, because it helped the plot along. Give me a characteristic of Hale besides rich and obsessed with Kat?! And Kat's gang was almost developed enough to be unique and fun and want me to root for them. Almost. They just fell short for me, and honestly I don't know why. And the villain just seemed to cliche. Like, everything about him -- what he said, what he did = cliche. I think we were supposed to be scared or intimidated by him, but I kind of just kept rolling my eyes.

All that being said, I do really like the idea for this series. And I honestly am a little curious to read the next book in the series. But at the end of the day, I think I will champion Gallagher Girls from here until forever. You should read that series! It is so fun! Here are some links:

Book Nerd Jacque's review of the second Heist Society book, Uncommon Criminals. (Spoiler: She loved it!) http://jacquesbooknook.blogspot.com/2013/03/uncommon-criminals-by-ally-carter.html

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls #1):
http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2015/05/id-tell-you-i-love-you-but-then-id-have.html

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls #2): http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2015/06/cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-spy-by-ally.html

United We Spy (Gallagher Girls #6): 
http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2015/07/united-we-spy-by-ally-carter.html

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Maximum Ride Forever by James Patterson

Book Summary
THE NINTH AND ULTIMATE MAXIMUM RIDE STORY IS HERE! Legions of Max fans won't be disappointed by this encore episode in the beloved series about the incredible adventures of a teenage girl who can fly. As Maximum Ride boldly navigates a post-apocalyptic world, she and her broken flock are roaming the earth, searching for answers to what happened. All will be revealed in this last spectacular "ride"- a brand-new grand finale featuring all of the nonstop action, twists and turns that readers can rely on in a blockbuster Patterson page turner! 

Flo's Review
I'm disappointed :(  I wanted to like this one. Though it had some "ehhh" moments/books, I enjoyed listening to this series on audio. So when I found the audio for this new one, I went for it. I was a little cautious about it because it seems like the series was meant to end with the 8th book. (Without giving anything away, that book ended with a pretty clear ending type event!) Sometimes extra, unplanned series books go well, but a lot of times they don't, unfortunately. It was so obvious that this wasn't meant to be a story. It felt like the author was just making up stuff to have a plot line. In order to accomplish this, he took a lot of things that were resolved by the end of the 8th book and opened them back up again. Resolutions? Nope. Just bring back the same issues for another book. And Max was pretty unbearable in this one. What I loved about the series, what made it dynamic and fun to read was how kick-butt Max was. She was a great leader and a great warrior. She really cared about her flock and I loved to see how that manifested in her adventures. I also enjoyed finding out about her family. Later on in the series a romance element was added. I didn't like it at first, then came to accept it. But that's not what Maximum Ride is about. But enter this book. Max is helpless and depressed and only thinking about herself. There are shades of a love triangle,which groan. This Max wax not the Maximum Ride that I had come to love through the series. 

Combine the unlikeable Max, the useless love story element, the regurgitation of plots that had already been resolved, and the feel that there wasn't really a plot to move this story forward, and that is the experience I had with Maximum Ride Forever. I DNF around 30 percent. It's a shame, and I've decided to just pretend like this book doesn't exist.

Here are some reviews of the earlier books in the series:

The Angel Experiment: http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2011/09/maximum-ride-angel-experiment-by-james.html

School's Out - Forever: http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2011/09/maximum-ride-2-schools-out-forever.html

Nevermore - http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2012/08/nevermore-by-james-patterson.html

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Whatever.: or how junior year became totally f$@ked by S.J. Goslee

Book Summary
Hilarity ensues when a slacker teen boy discovers he's gay, in this unforgettably funny YA debut.

Mike Tate is a normal dude. He and his friends have a crappy band (an excuse to drink cheap beer and rock out to the Lemonheads) and hang out in parking lots doing stupid board tricks. But when Mike's girlfriend Lisa, who knows him better than he does, breaks up with him, he realizes he's about to have a major epiphany that will blow his mind. And worse--he gets elected to homecoming court.

It's like the apocalypse came, only instead of nuclear bombs and zombies, Mike gets school participation, gay thoughts, and mother-effin' cheerleaders.

With the free spirit of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the raw voice of Winger, and characters reminiscent of Freaks & Geeks, this debut YA offers a standout voice and a fresh, modern take on the coming-out story.

Flo's Review
It was interesting that I just happened to read this one so shortly after Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall. The two boys in BHAA are both simply huggable and adorable. I wouldn't call Mike or Wallace huggable or adorable. But what I liked about Mike were his group of friends. They were constant and dependable. Even those that struggled a bit with Mike's news came around in the end. Lisa was interesting. Despite her craziness, you can tell she really does care for Mike. This was an easy and fast read, which I largely completed in the span of a few hours. 

The play on the title is great because at the core level, Mike says "Whatever" a lot. But on the deeper level, this book is a lot about things changing and being able to roll with the punches -- being able to say, "Okay, whatever" and embrace the crazy roller coaster that is emotional, beautiful unpredictable life.

Thank you to Macmillan for providing me with an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest review.

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Book Summary
Lin-Manuel Miranda's groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary as its subject, the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, this once-in-a-generation show broadens the sound of Broadway, reveals the storytelling power of rap, and claims our country's origins for a diverse new generation.

HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION gives readers an unprecedented view of both revolutions, from the only two writers able to provide it. Miranda, along with Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages--"since before this was even a show," according to Miranda--traces its development from an improbable perfor­mance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here.

Their account features photos by the renowned Frank Ockenfels and veteran Broadway photographer, Joan Marcus; exclusive looks at notebooks and emails; interviews with Questlove, Stephen Sond­heim, leading political commentators, and more than 50 people involved with the production; and multiple appearances by Presi­dent Obama himself. The book does more than tell the surprising story of how a Broadway musical became a national phenomenon: It demonstrates that America has always been renewed by the brash upstarts and brilliant outsiders, the men and women who don't throw away their shot.

Flo's Review
My fiance always makes fun of me because I am kinda obsessed with special features on DVDs. I will buy or not buy movies based on what extras they can show me. I just think it's really cool to see the behind the scenes, see the actors as people and not just their characters, see how the world-building translated from book or screenplay, and so forth. So when I saw that there was a book about my new obsession Hamilton, I wanted to read it right away.

I really enjoyed it. There were two elements. First, all the lyrics for the musical numbers were included. But in addition to those, Lin added notes in the margins. It was like reading an annotated book from the author. I was fascinated! I loved hearing more about the history, Lin's thought process, behind the scenes tidbits, and such. The other element was the story of how the play came to be, and more about the actors. These were interspersed throughout the musical numbers, so you never got bogged down in one element or the other. It was set up very nicely and made this big book very easy to fly through. My other favorite part was all the pictures of the play. Having never seen the play, I really liked seeing how things were actually staged and how they appear on stage. I also enjoyed the little surprise that's in the book and play, and not the cast recording CD.

If you are a Hamilton fan, I think you will really enjoy this. And if you are not a Hamilton fan, this could easily become your way in. Either way, it was fun and definitely worth picking up! 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall

Book Summary
Gideon always has a plan. His plans include running for class president, becoming head of the yearbook committee, and having his choice of colleges. They do NOT include falling head over heels for his best friend and next door neighbor, Kyle. It’s a distraction. It’s pointless, as Kyle is already dating the gorgeous and popular head cheerleader, Ruby. And Gideon doesn’t know what to do.

Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. Then, both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, and Kyle can’t quite figure out what he did wrong…
 

Flo's Review
You guys. Can I gush for a few minutes here?! I opened up Been Here All Along after having finished a book I was "meh" about.  And--and--it was like I couldn't read this one fast enough! I flew through about 60% of it, and then forced myself to go to bed because it was a school night. Then the next day (today) I easily finished off the rest. I think this book was just what I needed right now! It was full of so many good feels!! Gideon and Kyle are the cutest boys ever and I just love them individually and together and want to hug and kiss them both! Seriously, though, on the feels. The full range! I laughed at the phrase "Kyle-sexual" and was scared for what I knew was going to happen toward the end. I was nervous when the boys were nervous. They are both awkward and imperfect, but they fit together so well. There were two things I didn't quite jive with, but they are minor -- first, we find out something about Kyle around halfway through that I don't know how it wasn't discovered before. They try to explain, but ehh.... And second, I didn't quite get Esra's role in the story. Did we need to be outside of the Gideon-Kyle-Ruby circle a little? Maybe that was the thought, but I don't think we did. Esra just seemed a little random to get so much space and his own POVs. But, like I said, those are minor concerns. Overall I am sitting here thinking about this book with a huge smile on my face. It is simply ADORABLE.

 Been Here All Along comes out August 30, 2016 and you need to make it happen! There's a giveaway for it on Goodreads - go forth and enter!  

Thank you to Macmillan for providing me with an advanced reader's copy in exchange for my honest review.

The Baby by Lisa Drakeford

Book Summary
When Olivia opens the bathroom door, the last thing she expects to see is her best friend Nicola giving birth on the floor – and to say Nicola is surprised is an understatement. She’s not ready to be a mum, and she needs Olivia’s help. But Olivia has her own problems – specifically her bullying boyfriend, Jonty, and keeping an eye on younger sister Alice. And then there’s Nicola’s friend Ben, who’s struggling with secrets of his own … 

Flo's Review
This was a unique concept. Parents are gone and teenager throws big party at house? Not uncommon. Best friend has baby in your bathroom? Not common! This was a fast read. I read the majority of it in a day. It was light and easy, which sometimes you just need. 

My favorite part of it was the 5 separate POVs telling the narrative straight through. Each of them took a month: Olivia, Nicola, Jonty, Alice, Ben. Instead of having the 5 POVs tell the same story, we started with one and ended with the fifth, five months later. Unfortunately, while the idea was neat, it made the story feel a little disjointed. The different POVs connected, of course, but loosely. I actually kind of feel like it would have been better to hear the whole story from the five different POVs. I also had trouble bonding with any of the five. I don't know....none of them really stood out for me where I was rooting for her or him strongly. I think maybe the actual birth of the baby was the biggest part of the story, and the rest of the it just felt like extended character descriptions. It might actually have played out better to have the five different POV/character descriptions leading up to the party and then ending with the birth. Then some sort of epilogue or "Where Are They Now?" to show us that they've all grown from the experience. 

The Baby releases in the U.S. on October 25th, 2016. Thank you to Scholastic for providing me an advanced reader's copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

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

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

Flo's Review
There is always that nervousness that comes with reading the final book in a trilogy or series. Unfortunately, this book can have the power to make or break everything that has come before it. (No pressure! Lol). So I was both excited and nervous when I picked up The Raven King. But I had no cause for worry. Honestly, this book may have been my favorite of the four. I was really into the character's relationships, dynamic, growth. I tweeted Jacque at one point that I had so many feels about this book. I simply loved how the relationships progressed, especially one that I did not see coming. (Even though it was hinted at in the other books. I just missed it.) The end was realistic, painful, and honest; and I appreciated that about it. It was also complete. I closed the book happy to have left everyone in a good spot. (Although one I still hurt about.) Then Maggie tweeted about this coming up:
Eeeep! Sign me up!! 

Overall, I was super impressed with this series. Because when I started it I was like, "It's pretty good, I guess, but a little odd." By this book, I was all in. The writing is beautiful and lyrical, the characters are hopeful and flawed, and there is enough to make the imagination smile. If you are looking for something completely different from anything you have read before, then I'd recommend you pick up this series.

On a side note, if you have read the first three books of the trilogy and just need a refresher before you start TRK, Maggie wrote summaries of The Raven Cycle on Recaptains that are past awesome: 

The Raven Boys
The Dream Thieves
Blue Lily, Lily Blue

And here are our reviews of The Raven Cycle:

The Raven Boys
The Dream Thieves
Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee


Jacque's Review:

I received an ARC of Katharine McGee's debut novel, The Thousandth Floor, at BEA.  The August 30th release date is less than two weeks away, so you will not have to wait long if you don't already have a copy.

The story is set in New York City in the year 2118.  The majority of the city has been taken over by a MASSIVE tower that is 1000 stories tall. There is transportation within the tower, schools, restaurants, businesses, etc.  The more affluent you are the higher you live in the tower, which brings me to an introduction of the characters.

Avery and Atlas Fuller live on the 1000th floor.  They are siblings by adoption and have just about everything they could ever want.  They are extremely wealthy, attractive, and popular, but there is one think they can't have that could destroy them both.

Eris Dodd-Radson lives on the 985th floor.  She is a social butterfly and is Avery's oldest friend.  Life as she has always known it is threatened by a secret that is revealed early on in the story.

Leda Cole lives on the 962 floor and is Avery's best friend.  They have never had any secrets between them until Leda returns from her summer away from the tower.  The secrets compound throughout the story and neither girl can trust the other by the end.

Cord Anderton lives on the 967th floor.  His parents died in a plane crash, so he lives by himself in the massive apartment until his older brother shows up unexpectedly.  

Watt Bakradi lives on the 294th floor and is a computer genius.  He developed a quantum computer that can hack into just about any system, which allows him to generate some additional income.  His "online services" brings him into contact with some of the upper floor kids previously mentioned.

Rylin Myers lives on the 32nd floor.  She had to quit school to support herself and her younger sister and takes a job working as Cord Anderton's maid.  Their relationship becomes more complicated as they begin to develop feelings for each other, but Rylin still has unresolved "issues" with her not quite ex-boyfriend.

Throughout the book we discover that everyone within  the tower has a secret.  There is a very delicate balancing act that must be maintained or everyone will come crashing to the bottom.  If they do not play their cards perfectly their secret may become exposed and life as they know it will cease to exist.

Katharine told the story from a number of the characters' points of view.  This allowed the reader the opportunity to witness all of the drama as it unfolded from just about every possible angle. If you think the Real Housewives have drama, you haven't seen anything like this.  I can't wait to see how everything will play out in the next book in this series.