Friday, October 9, 2015

Fierce Reads Fall Tour 2015 at Books and Books Week Blitz! Author Spotlight: Josephine Angelini

You've seen me post on here time and time again about many great author events and signings that I (Flo) am fortunate enough to attend. Let me tell you, a large number of these happened at my favorite bookstore in Miami: Books and Books. Next Monday, October 12th they are bringing us the Fierce Reads Fall 2015 tour and we all are super excited! So for this week, a few of the Books and Books South Florida Bloggers are going to spotlighting the authors on our blogs. (Check out some of other others: Owl Always be ReadingBooks & SwoonBookcrastinators In WonderlandDapper Animals blog, and Once Upon a Twilight.)

Today, we have the opportunity to ask Josephine Angelini a few questions about Firewalker. Without sharing spoilers, I have to say this book left me with some massive feels at the end! Here's Josie:

1. What were your biggest challenges in writing Fire Walker?
The beginning! For me, getting the beginning of a book right is so hard. I’m a plotter, so I always know what my major turning points and reversals are going to be, and as a result I always rush the start of the book so I can get to the juicy bits. I always have to go back and fix my beginnings.

2. Has Lily changed at all from Trial by Fire to Firewalker?
Enormously. She’s suffering from PTSD, and who wouldn’t be after what she went through? I have a hard time believing books that ignore the messy fall-out of a tortured main character. One of the things that I wanted to do with this series was to test the validity of the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Lillian isn’t stronger after what she went through. Is Lily? Let’s find out.

3. I've got to ask a fun question. If you could have a super power, what would it be? 
I used to always say flying because of my first series, Starcrossed, but now I’m thinking it would be mindspeak.

If you live in the South Florida area, I hope to see you at Books and Books next Monday night at 7 p.m. If you don't live here and still want in, you can totally watch the livestream! Here's the link for that: Also, you can call Books and Books to order a signed, personalized copy of any the Fierce Reads books before the event! Call for more info: 305 - 444- 9043 ext 7

Because of Anya by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Because of Anya

Jacque's Review:

Because of Anya is a short story that my fifth grade son's teacher read to the class.  My son was in and out of school for the better part of a week and ultimately spent four days in the hospital before we got him back on track.  He is doing great now, but he was behind on this assignment and needed to catch up, so we read this book together.

The story is told from both Anya and Keely's point of view.  The girls are in fourth grade and have been in the same class since kindergarten.  They aren't close friends, but they have played together at school for almost five years.  One day, Keely's friends notice that Anya is wearing a wig and assume she must have cancer.  They are concerned about her, but don't know how to handle the situation.

We discover that Anya actually has a condition known as alopecia areata, which is an allergic reaction to her own hair.  We see how Anya and her family cope with the situation and the fears they experience.

I was not aware of this condition prior to reading the book.  The story is very informative and a great way to broach the subjects of illness, empathy, and compassion with young readers.  My son could easily relate to the story since the characters are close to his age.  He understood how something like this could happen to him or one of his friends and the importance of supporting one another.  

I was originally concerned that it would be sad and depressing, but it wasn't.   I would definitely recommend sharing and discussing this book with middle grade children.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fierce Reads Fall Tour 2015 at Books and Books Week Blitz! Author Spotlight: Leila Sales

You've seen me post on here time and time again about many great author events and signings that I (Flo) am fortunate enough to attend. Let me tell you, a large number of these happened at my favorite bookstore in Miami: Books and Books. Next Monday, October 12th they are bringing us the Fierce Reads Fall 2015 tour and we all are super excited! So for this week, a few of the Books and Books South Florida Bloggers are going to spotlighting the authors on our blogs. (Check out some of other others: Owl Always be ReadingBooks & SwoonBookcrastinators In WonderlandDapper Animals blog, and Once Upon a Twilight.)

Today, we have the opportunity to ask Leila Sales a few questions about Tonight the Streets Are Ours. Here's Leila:

  1. What are 5 random facts about yourself?
1 – I type using only two fingers.
2 – My middle name is a boy’s name.
3 – I can recite the name of every student in my high school class in alphabetical order.
4 – I own more than 100 original My Little Ponies.
5 – For five years I received so many text messages from strangers that I started a blog about them:

  1. If you were hosting a literary dinner party, which six authors or characters would you invite?
I’d invite my closes author friends: Rebecca Serle, Lauren Oliver, Jocelyn Davies, Courtney Sheinmel, Lexa Hillyer, and Jess Rothenberg. Whenever we hang out together, we always have a blast and laugh so hard and inspire each other. What more could I want out of a dinner party?

  1. What can you tell us about your new book, Tonight the Streets Are Ours and what do you hope readers take from it?

TONIGHT THE STREETS ARE OURS is about a teen girl who becomes fascinated with a blogger from afar. Based on what he writes about his life, he seems perfect—he seems to get her in a way that nobody who knows her in real life does. So she sets out on a road trip with her best friend to track him down in person. Over the course of one epic night in New York City, she comes to realize that he’s not exactly who she expected him to be based on his online persona. There’s a lot that I’d like readers to take away from this book, but one of the main ideas is that everyone lies by omission online. The way people present themselves online is a curated version of themselves, and you should try to understand that whatever you’re seeing there is only one part of their whole life story.

If you live in the South Florida area, I hope to see you at Books and Books next Monday night at 7 p.m. If you don't live here and still want in, you can totally watch the livestream! Here's the link for that: Also, you can call Books and Books to order a signed, personalized copy of any the Fierce Reads books before the event! Call for more info: 305 - 444- 9043 ext 7.  

Books To Movies Giveaway Hop: The Hunger Games

Just today one of my friends made the comment about how Hollywood is running out of ideas because there are so many books to movies these days. What do you think? Do you agree? Are you loving it, or is it a little bit of overload?

At any rate, you may know that the I (Flo) love, love, love The Hunger Games! I read all the books before any of the movies came out, and I loved them as I was reading them. But the movies have also intensified my love for the trilogy. So it's not surprising that I'm doing a Hunger Games giveaway as part of the Books to Movies Giveaway Hop!

The WINNER gets a copy of The World of the Hunger Games and a DVD of the first movie! US only. Enter via the Rafflecopter:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now, hop on:

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Book Summary
Callum Hunt’s summer break isn’t like other kids’. His closest companion is a Chaos-ridden wolf, Havoc. His father suspects him of being secretly evil. And, of course, most kids aren’t heading back to the magical world of the Magisterium in the fall.

It’s not easy for Call . . . and it gets even harder after he checks out his basement and discovers that his dad might be trying to destroy both him and Havoc.

Call escapes to the Magisterium -- but things only intensify there. The Alkahest -- a copper gauntlet capable of separating certain magicians from their magic -- has been stolen. And in their search to discover the culprit, Call and his friends Aaron and Tamara awaken the attention of some very dangerous foes -- and get closer to an even more dangerous truth.

As the mysteries of the Magisterium deepen and widen, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare take readers on an extraordinary journey through one boy’s conflict -- and a whole world’s fate.

Flo's Review
I loved, loved, loved The Iron Trial. Jacque and I got the ARC for that one at BEA last year and the Book Nerds decided to make it a read along when it came out. Once again, I was lucky enough to snag an ARC of the second book in the series, The Copper Gauntlet. And once again, we decided to make it a Book Nerd read along. This second book jumped right back in where the first book left off. As I reading this one, I was reminded just how much happened in the first book. I had to stop and at several points and try to recall who and what certain things were, as they were mentioned again in this book after being introduced in the first. This book starts in the summer after Call's first year at the Magisterium. He is struggling with new information that he learned about himself at the end of his Iron Year, the first year at his magical school. The thing Call is struggling with is huge and serious, but Black and Clare made it fun to read about Call's struggle with how he approaches it. The humor in this book is subtle, but I often found myself chuckling.

This book takes us back to the Magisterium for awhile, and then the young heroes go out on an adventure. It was great to see Tamara, Call, Jasper, and Aaron grow into their magic. Yes, Jasper. He ends up being on the journey with them, adding another line to the commentary that this book brings forth about good versus evil. In other words, are the good characters purely good? Are the evil characters completely evil? The main characters had their disagreements, but at the end of the day they had each other's backs in a heartwarming way.

One small point was integrated into this story and then brought up again at the end of the book, so we have a clear lead into book three. Which I totally cannot wait for. I am loving this series so much! The Copper Gauntlet was one of those books where I'm like, "I'm just gonna read for a few minutes while eating..." and then 45 minutes later I'm done with lunch and still with my nose in the book. I hadn't planned on finishing it today, but I literally couldn't put it down. I cannot wait to continue this story in The Cosmos Blade.

Jacque's Review

I enjoyed the Iron Trial, but I felt like there were a lot of similarities with the Harry Potter series.  This book, however, took the series into a direction completely its own.  Instead of focusing on Callum's second year at the Magisterium, The Copper Gauntlet follows the characters as they set out on a mission to find a stolen magical object.  This object could cause significant harm to two of the characters, but they put their own safety aside for the greater good.

As Flo mentioned, good vs. evil is an important theme.  Callum discovered the real reason his father didn't want him to attend the Magistarium at the end of the Iron Trial.  He has been processing this information, but he is not willing to share this knowledge with even his closest friends.  Instead, he keeps an internal log of all of his good and evil thoughts and actions in the hopes that he can prove his father wrong.  His internal dialog is absolutely hilarious and helps to lighten up an otherwise serious situation. 

I often struggle with finding books my ten-year-old son will enjoy.  He likes the Percy Jackson series, but he was a little overwhelmed by the size of the Harry Potter books once he was further along in the series.  This series is fast paced, action packed and should easily capture the attention of young girls and boys alike.  It will not intimidate young readers and is a great introduction to fantasy worlds.  I will definitely recommend it to him.  Hopefully we will be able to read the third book together!!

Fierce Reads Fall Tour 2015 at Books and Books Week Blitz! Author Spotlight: Emma Mills

You've seen me post on here time and time again about many great author events and signings that I (Flo) am fortunate enough to attend. Let me tell you, a large number of these happened at my favorite bookstore in Miami: Books and Books. Next Monday, October 12th they are bringing us the Fierce Reads Fall 2015 tour and we all are super excited! So for this week, a few of the Books and Books South Florida Bloggers are going to spotlighting the authors on our blogs. (Check out some of other others: Owl Always be ReadingBooks & SwoonBookcrastinators In WonderlandDapper Animals blog, and Once Upon a Twilight.)

Today, we have the opportunity to ask Emma Mills a few questions about her new book First and Then. This will be released right around our event on the 12th and it sounds like a great story! Here's Emma:

1. Describe your book in 5 words?

Family, football, romance, and feels! (I’m counting the ‘and’)

2. Without spoilers, were there any scenes you had to cut that you wished you could have kept?

There was a quiet sort of scene between Devon and Ezra in the back half of the book that I really liked-- one in which some things about Ezra were revealed. Most of the content of this scene got threaded in elsewhere, and I think the storytelling is much stronger for it… but it hurt a bit to let go of that one at the time!

3. Do you have any future writing projects in the works?

I do! I’m working on another YA right now that I’m very excited about!

If you live in the South Florida area, I hope to see you at Books and Books next Monday night at 7 p.m. If you don't live here and still want in, you can totally watch the livestream! Here's the link for that: Also, you can call Books and Books to order a signed, personalized copy of any the Fierce Reads books before the event! Call for more info: 305 - 444- 9043 ext 7

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fierce Reads Fall Tour 2015 at Books and Books Week Blitz! Author Spotlight: Leigh Bardugo

You've seen me post on here time and time again about many great author events and signings that I (Flo) am fortunate enough to attend. Let me tell you, a large number of these happened at my favorite bookstore in Miami: Books and Books. Next Monday, October 12th they are bringing us the Fierce Reads Fall 2015 tour and we all are super excited! So for this week, a few of the Books and Books South Florida Bloggers are going to spotlighting the authors on our blogs. (Check out some of other others: Owl Always be ReadingBooks & SwoonBookcrastinators In WonderlandDapper Animals blog, and Once Upon a Twilight.)

Today, we had the opportunity to ask Leigh Bardugo a few questions about the amazing Six of Crows! I loved this book so, so much! If you haven't had the chance to read it yet, I suggest you remedy that situation ASAP! For now, here's Leigh:

Six of Crow was EPIC! I am however curious about the total of the main characters. Why SIX? Not four nor five? 

Thank you! I don't have a great answer to that question except that six served the story. I wrote the "zero draft" of Six of Crows in about a week (it's more like an outline than a real first draft) and the characters arose very naturally. I'd get to the end of a scene and another character would step up and say, "Oh let me take it from here." I will say that Jesper's role got a lot bigger as the story progressed, and each of their voices became more distinct. Now I can't imagine Kaz's crew of criminals any other way.

What inspired you to write Six of Crows? 

Truth? I was driving down a street in Los Angeles and saw a billboard for a movie called Monuments Men. I thought, "Wow, I have no interest in seeing that, but I should watch Oceans 11 again." And then I almost drove off the road because all I could think was MAGICAL HEIST. Looking back, I think I was also just a little burned out on "chosen one" stories. They're resonant for a reason, but after the Grisha Trilogy, I was ready to write about people who weren't trying to save the world.

This one is hard one. I loved all the character but Matthias had me drooling all over the book. But who's your favorite? Who was the most challenging one to write? 

You know, Matthias was actually the most fun to write. He's so intense. about. everything. I think he has the heart of a knight, but he was just born into the wrong circumstances, so I'm glad you enjoyed him. Kaz was probably the toughest to write because his backstory is so dark. I couldn't work on it for too long a stretch at a time.

I cannot talk enough about how great this book is! If you live in the South Florida area, I hope to see you at Books and Books next Monday night at 7 p.m. If you don't live here and still want in, you can totally watch the livestream! Here's the link for that: Also, you can call Books and Books to order a signed, personalized copy of any the Fierce Reads books before the event! Call for more info: 305 - 444- 9043 ext 7

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

 Cover love! It's so bright and colorful!
Book Summary
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy. 

Flo's Review
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. And this book is exactly what I needed to be reading right now. I'll explain why more as we get into this review. 

The thing I loved most about this book was its honesty. This is not a book for a 20-something, straight out a college. A 20 something needs the pep talk that says, "Work hard and chase your dreams! You can succeed at anything you put your mind to! Follow your passion with everything in you and you will change the world!!" Because in your 20s, you have that time and energy and that vibrant passion.

But this book is for the 30+ crowd, I believe. This book is for the woman or man who has a full-time job, a family, a mortgage. And I'll speak for myself here. Yes, sometimes you might want to quit everything and start over in search of your 100% perfect dream life. But the reality is you have a job that you like or love, you have friends and family and commitments that fill your soul. Your life is already full, and you just don't have the time or the ability to drop everything and decide to write a book for 8 hours a day or travel to Europe to paint the beauty countrysides. Big Magic says, "Yes, live the life you're living, but integrate your creativity into it." If the only time you can write your poetry is at night with a glass of wine after the kids are in bed -- do it. Or the only time you can dance is to wake up early in the morning and attend the early morning session at the gym or studio -- do it. This book is saying that you will have to make sacrifices and squeeze it in when you can: but do it because you love it. Not because it's going to be your life's work.

Jumping off that, there's a big emphasis in the book to doing your creative thing for no other reason than you love doing it. Not because you're trying to make the NY Times bestseller list. Because you may not...and then what? I see this book has gotten a little bit of flack for being pessimistic, and I can see that it is very brutal at times. Gilbert does say that you can work and work and work on being creative for your entire life and never get published or recognized in any kind of way. I see how that is hard for some people to hear, but I like the honesty of it. I like that this book says: go to work, take care of your family, continue going out and having fun with friends -- and within all that, find the space for creativity, too.

There were a couple of things that didn't really mesh with me about this book. For one, this book was kind of like how you're single and your friends in happy, perfect relationships are like, "It'll happen for you, too! I was literally picking my nose when Romeo found me and we now have a perfect life and live happily ever after! Chin up!" It's true....but I also know that it could be a little frustrating to hear that over and over again. "Just wait! It'll happen!" Elizabeth Gilbert was very successful and does make a living with her creative life, so this book sometimes gave me that same feeling. There was also a whole analogy about living life as a trickster that just didn't connect with me...I can see what she was going for there, but it fell a little short, in my opinion. Finally, she went on a really long tangent about "don't go to college for your passion, you'll just get debt and unhappiness." I understand the idea of not straddling yourself with debt because you think if you get this certain degree you're guaranteed the million dollar job -- that's definitely not true, I agree. But I also don't think going to school for your passion should be discouraged. If you can do it -- do it! For me, going to school for my writing gave me connections that I would not have made otherwise. These helped hugely in the "it's all who you know" game. Also, school was one of the few uninterrupted periods of time when I could just focus on my creative gift.

So, back to how this book  was exactly what I needed right now. I mentioned before that I'm writing a book and talked briefly about some of my struggles there. The update is that I came to a point in the story where it's not not moving. It's standing still, and I'm trying to figure out how to breathe life into it again. Well, first of all, my wonderful #otspsecretsister actually seems really interested and is encouraging me to talk about it more. Nothing excites an artist more than talking about his or her work! Second, I just started taking a MOOC on fiction writing last month. Third, NaNoWriMo is next month. And then I start reading this book. Basically, from all sides the universe is telling me: Flo, write your story. So I shall. With the help of the MOOC, I am looking more closely at my characters, because I decided on my own a few weeks ago that what I need to do is to bring my life into characters in order to bring more life into this story. 

And just like that, I'm back in the game. And I know, like Big Magic says, that I may finish the story and it may be a dud. Or I may finish it and it may be amazing. But either way, it's about the process: I am having fun with it and learning more about myself as a creator. And like a lot of people and their creative endeavors, it's almost become less of a "I want to write because it's fun" and more of a "I have to write because these words have to come out of me, and my soul won't be able to rest until they do." Which, I believe is exactly what Elizabeth Gilbert means by the term "big magic."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

RELEASE DAY SPOTLIGHT: Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

Happy book birthday to Menagerie! I was immediately intrigued by the unique-sounding premise when I first heard about this book. I didn't get it finished by today like I had planned, but I am currently reading it and will look forward to reviewing it when I'm done.

Here's the Book Summary:

When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger's Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah in her black swan burlesque costume is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she's forced to "perform" in town after town. 

But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other "attractions"—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she'll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed. 

Renowned author Rachel Vincent weaves an intoxicating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity in this intricately woven and powerful tale.

Will you be picking up Menagerie?

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

Book Summary
A thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell – weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish. 

On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.

Lavishly produced, packed with glorious Chris Riddell illustrations enhanced with metallic ink, this is a spectacular and magical gift.

Flo's Review
So...I had no idea what I was getting into when I opened this book. Honestly, I just picked it up because it was pretty. And because I've been wanting to read a Neil Gaiman book for awhile. But if we're being honest? Because it's pretty. Don't mind if I intersperse random book images throughout this review to drive my point home.
The illustrator of the book is Chris Riddell.
What an interesting take on a fairy tale! It was kinda dark. (I mean, there are skulls on the queen's blanket in that picture up there, let's be real.) But not really dark. The tone of Neil's writing was to the point, but with a little element of snark. Gaiman described fanciful fantastic things in a simple, straight manner. The descriptions were clean -- not flowery. This was interesting because usually fairy tale lands are described in a flowy, full-of-wonder, full-of-awe tone. 

But here you had lines like, "They had names, the dwarfs, but human beings were not permitted to know what they were, such things being sacred. The queen had a name, but nowadays people only ever called her Your Majesty. Names are in short supply in this telling." I love it! Definitely chuckled at that.

Then there's the famous element that has been reported about quite a bit (that I've noticed on my post-read Google searching) -- Snow White's kiss is the one to wake Sleeping Beauty.

Neil Gaiman says in this article in the Telegraph: "You don't need princes to save you. I don't have a lot of patience for stories in which women are rescued by men." (In the same article, he describes The Sleeper and the Spindle by saying, "I feel like some kind of alchemist. I have to go to the cupboard and take one ounce of Snow White and two ounces of Sleeping Beauty, and heat the Sleeping Beauty and froth the Snow White and mix them together: it's kind of like fusion cuisine. It tastes like both of them but it's actually a new dish.")
This is what happened to the last dude who tried to rescue the sleeping princess.
True to form in surprising me, the end of this story was not at all what I was expecting! Neil Gaiman throws in an interesting and creative twist. All in all, this is definitely worth your time. It's a unique and surprising story, and the artwork is awesome.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken

Book Summary
Acclaimed, New York Times best-selling author Alexandra Bracken delivers a captivating retelling of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope like you've never experienced before, infusing the iconic, classic tale of good versus evil with a unique perspective and narrative style that will speak directly to today's young readers while enhancing the Star Wars experience for core fans of the saga. 

This illustrated novel is the first in the highly-anticipated series and features richly detailed art by celebrated Star Wars concept artist Iain McCaig. Fans old and new will be delighted by this beautifully crafted book and the unexpected twists in this retelling of a beloved story.

Flo's Review
I have to start by saying I've never really seen Star Wars. I mean, technically I have. One of my first memories of my childhood is my sister and her friends locking me in the bedroom and popping in The Return of the Jedi VHS tape so that they could play without interruptions from the annoying little sister. (She may deny this, but it totally happened.) Then a few years ago an ex-boyfriend made me watch A New Hope after I made him watch Twilight. But by the time we started A New Hope it was super late and I admit to being asleep for most of it. Needless to say, I couldn't tell you much about either movie. Of course, by nature of being alive in this day and age, I knew the characters enough to understand cultural references. And I knew the general idea of the story. But that's where my Star Wars knowledge ended when I opened The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy.

The first thing about this book? It's so pretty! Illustrator  Iain Mccaig did a great job! I'd recommend reading this book just because it's pretty, honestly. There are two-page color illustrations before each of the 4 sections of the story, and throughout the book there drawings scattered. I really like it. (I tweeted a pic on our Instagram page.)

When I picked it up, I admit I thought, "Oooh these words are big! This won't take me long to read at all!" It's true. The typesetting is a little larger and combined with the pictures, you are not looking at a big, heavy read. Which I thought was refreshing, because the reality is -- I'm not a huge sci fi fan. I've enjoyed some Beth Revis, Pierce Brown, Meagan Spooner & Amie Kaufman, and my #otspsecretsister just got me a Silvers book. But, for the most part, sci fi is not what I'm reaching for first in the bookstore.  But what Alexandra Bracken did was tell the story not as a straight narrative, but as the story of these people -- Leia, Han, and Luke. This story was their story, through their eyes, at the forefront. Yes, it's the story of the Rebellion and all that. But it's told as the characters' story, not as a story with characters in it. I really liked it. This made me connect with the characters right away. And I can't speak from the perspective of a Star Wars fan, but I think this will make a story that they already love seem kind of new of them. (I am so curious to know if this is the case, so if you are a Star Wars fan and you do read this, please let me know.)

The only downside of not being a Star Wars fan and reading this is that some details were not fully explained. I mean, I basically figured things out and made conclusions on what must be happening and what had happened, but things weren't necessarily spelled out for me. The story started right in the middle of the action. It didn't seem to have a beginning, and I don't know if that's how the movie is? (Maybe, since they made prequels, right!? Star Wars fans are reading this and freaking out on my lack of knowledge right now -- lol. Sorry guys!) But the point is, Alexandra Bracken may have converted me! The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy was a fast and easy read that made me invested in the characters. I finished it and now I want to watch the movie. And I am certainly looking forward to Star Wars Illustrated Novels. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Stuck In A Good Book Giveaway Hop!

Who doesn't love to get stuck in a good book?! The one we're giving away features history, mystery, and more!

Sweet Madness by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie
Seventeen-year-old Bridget Sullivan is alone in Fall River, a city that sees Irish immigrants as nothing more than a drunken drain on society. To make matters worse, she's taken employment with the city’s most peculiar and gossip-laden family—the Bordens. But Bridget can’t afford to be picky—the pay surpasses any other job Bridget could ever secure and she desperately needs the money to buy her little sister, Cara, passage to the states. It doesn’t hurt that the job location is also close to her beau, Liam. As she enters the disturbing inner workings of the Borden household, Bridget clings to these advantages.

However, what seemed like a straightforward situation soon turns into one that is untenable. Of course Bridget has heard the gossip around town about the Bordens, but what she encounters is far more unsettling. The erratic, paranoid behavior of Mr. Borden, the fearful silence of his wife, and worse still…the nightly whisperings Bridget hears that seem to come from the walls themselves.

The unexpected bright spot of the position is that Lizzie Borden is so friendly. At first, Bridget is surprised at how Lizzie seems to look out for her, how she takes a strong interest in Bridget’s life. Over time, a friendship grows between them. But when Mr. Borden’s behavior goes from paranoid to cruel, and the eerie occurrences in the house seem to be building momentum, Bridget makes the tough decision that she must leave the house—even if it means leaving behind Lizzie, her closest friend, alone with the madness. Something she swore she would not do.

But when Bridget makes a horrifying discovery in the home, all that she thought she knew about the Bordens is called into question…including if Lizzie is dangerous. And the choice she must make about Lizzie’s character could mean Bridget’s life or death.

SWEET MADNESS is a retelling of the infamous Borden murders from the point of view of Lizzie’s Irish maid, Bridget Sullivan.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)

Jacque's Review

With the upcoming release of the final book in this series, Winter, Flo and I decided to join the Lunar Chronicles Read Along hosted by The Book Addict's Guide.

Cinder is a unique twist on the traditional Cinderella story.  Cinder is a cyborg, which is someone who is part human and part machine.  Her step-father died from an illness shortly after her arrival and her step-mother blames her for no apparent reason.  There are of course two step-sisters to keep with the original story.

Rather than having to scrub the floors and clean the house, Cinder is one of the best mechanics in the area.  She can repair just about any mechanical device, but all of the money she earns goes to her step-mother.  As a cyborg, she is technically the property of her step-mother and is not considered a free citizen.

The story is set well into the future in New Beijing, which is one of the rebuilt cities after the fourth world war.  Earth has been trying to establish a treaty with the Lunar people for over a decade, but the Lunar Queen's demands have been unreasonable.  The Lunar Queen hopes that the newly crowned Emperor of New Beijing will finally be her chance to control Earth as well as the moon.  With a plague spreading across Earth, the Queen may have something to offer that the Emperor will not be able to refuse.

Overall, I found this book to be very entertaining.  I loved "prince charming" (Emperor Kai) and can't wait to see how things unfold her him and his people in the next book in the series.  He is in a very difficult spot with the manipulative queen, but I feel like he will have some leverage as this series progresses.  There is also hope for Cinder.  She is more valuable than she ever imagined and may finally be able to gain her independence and more.  I wish there had been a little more to this love story, but hopefully that will escalate throughout the series.  

Flo's Review
Cinder, Cinder, Cinder...I'm glad to have finally read this and know what all the talk is about! And especially as we come closer to Winter! This story is so unique. One of my best said to me, "I love how she takes this story and makes it her own." And it's so true! Prince Kai is so swoonworthy and Levana is so evil and Iko is so cute and fun! I listened to the audiobook, which has a great narrator, but found myself so invested in the story that I finally had to read the last part in my book because I couldn't wait to be driving around to see what happens! With a re-imaging of an established story, it's always fun to see how memorable plot points and elements translate, and I enjoyed that aspect of Cinder, too.

Onward to Scarlet!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Book Con 2015
Book Summary
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. 

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. 

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

Flo's Review
I am pretty sure that if you haven't read this book yet, then you've heard about it. And if you haven't heard about it -- well, let me tell you! I cannot even put into words how impressed I am with the level of detail in this story. Not only is it in a completely different world, but it also involves a scheme with so many moving parts. I am seriously in awe of Leigh Bardugo. 

There was so much to love about this book. My favorite part was definitely that the characters were real. They didn't become insta-friends or completely trust each other  just because they were working together. They all had things they were telling the others; they all had personal agendas. They all had flaws. They all had pasts. But the way they came together for this task was completely honest and satisfying. Not only did each one of the characters grow individually, but together they grew as well. There was a progression there from looking out for numero uno to looking out for the other five. I don't want to give too much away from the story, but I really loved Inej's journey especially.

I was pretty much holding my breath for this entire story! I lost count of how many times I said to myself things like, "Nooooo!" or "What?!?!" or "OMG!!!" I am positive that there are things that I missed with this first read -- I am definitely going to try to read it again before Book #2 comes out.

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Truly, Madly, Famously by Rebecca Serle

Book Summary
In this romantic sequel to Famous in Love, new Hollywood "It Girl" Paige must navigate love with her co-stars, both on and off screen and all in the public eye.

Lights, camera, love!

After being plucked from obscurity, Hollywood's newest starlet, Paige Townsen, has a hit film to her name and Rainer Devon on her arm. But being half of the world's most famous couple comes with a price, and soon Paige finds herself dodging photographers; hiding her feelings for her other costar, Jordan Wilder; and navigating tabloid scandals that threaten to tear her and Rainer apart-and end her career as quickly as it began.

Rebecca Serle's sequel to Famous in Love is filled with the kind of celebrity drama and swoon-worthy romance fit for the silver screen.

Flo's Review
I loved Famous in Love. The scenes with both the boys were amazing -- because they're both amazing -- and it was just fun to read about a regular girl's rise to stardom. So I was all ready to love Truly, Madly, Famously as well...

...I wanted to love it. I really did.

But...I didn't. This book starts with Paige being a full-blown celebrity. And she doesn't like it. She is so miserable about being famous, that she made me, the reader, miserable too. Now I fully realize that being a celebrity is hard: your whole life is out there, you have no privacy, people believe whatever about you -- regardless if it's true or not. But you know what? I'd still do it. Right now, if you asked me if I wanted to be a celebrity? Yeah! Let's do this thing! Because for the regular Flo who works a 9 to 5 office job, there is glamour in being a celebrity. But all Paige does is hate it. I don't want to escape into a book about, "Oh I'm a multi millionaire and my life is soooo hard! It's so annoying that I have to hide out in this big, beautiful home and spend my days and nights doing what I love" when I crack open this book after a long week of work, bills, home repairs, car troubles, and every day living. Paige was so thoroughly miserable that I had to force myself to open the book and read more about how she had to hide away at a friend's fancy house and how, if she must, she will travel across the world and attend the MTV Movie Awards. 

I thought this might be a duology, but it looks like there will be a third book. I'll be honest -- I don't know if I can do it. However, I do enjoy these boys: Rainer and Jordan. If I see this story through to the end, it will be for them and not for Paige.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Flo's Review
I went into the library a couple of weeks ago to return a book and saw this audiobook on display. I grabbed it on a whim. As I was driving home listening to it, I thought, "I don't know if I can do 12 + hours with this narrator. She talks so slow." Let me tell you, today as I was driving around everywhere and not even caring because it meant I could listen to more of the story, it didn't even seem to me that she was speaking slowly. Usually my audiobook limit is about 7 CDs, 8 hours. This one was 10 CDs and almost 13 hours. But I was so engaged in the story that it didn't feel long at all.

Sydney Stanford is used to being invisible. Her brother, Peyton, has gotten in scores of trouble with the law, which culminated in him hitting and paralyzing a teenage boy while driving drunk. He is now in prison for it. Sydney's mom is a planner and likes to spend her time organizing things around Peyton. Her Dad works a lot and usually just goes along with what his wife says. Sydney spends her days obsessing over the fake version of The Real World and being creeped out by her brother's best friend Ames.

But this book is about Sydney's journey from invisibility to visibility; from being looked over to looking out for others; from sitting back and taking it to standing up and taking action. She starts by switching schools from the fancy prep school she and her brother went to to the larger Jackson High. Here she fast becomes friends with the Chatham family.

As a writer, this story inspires me and scares me. I am writing a YA contemp. This is the level I am striving for. Sarah Dessen's characters are not just characters. By the end of the story, I felt like I intimately knew this family and their friends. Like I could walk out of the door of my apartment and see Laila, Mac, Eric and Irv hanging out and I would already feel like part of the fold. Sydney's mom made me so mad and Ames really creeped me out. I developed legit feelings for these people!

I've confessed in the past having trouble with Sarah Dessen's flashbacks. Saint Anything is not without them. But they didn't really annoy me here. Maybe because I was expecting them? Or maybe because the flashbacks were usually short snippets and not lengthy scenes?

Saint Anything also takes a couple of different-than-average viewpoints, which I like. First, with the saints. The saints are talked about a bit and play a decent role in the weaving of the story. Yet not in a full-on religious way. I think no matter what your religious beliefs, it wouldn't be hard for you to get on board with the idea of saints and their roles in the lives of some of these characters. Secondly, we are seeing the fully human side of the perpetrator of the crime. We are all familiar with the idea that the victim is not in isolation -- whatever happened to him or her affects his/her family and friends. But this looks at the family and friends of the drunk driver. They are deeply affected, too. Sydney definitely is.

Mac Chatham. <3

I just finished this tonight and am already in full book hangover mode! I kind of what to go ahead and pick up another Sarah Dessen book. Which one do you recommend?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

#ARCAugust Aftermath

So, if you remember, I (Flo) decided to take the plunge into Read. Sleep. Repeat's #ARCAugust this year! I had some books that I really wanted to get read ahead of their release dates, so this was a perfect challenge.

The quick update: I did it! And then some!! My original goal was to read 3 ARCs. I did so, and I even managed to throw in an extra one I've been wanting to read as well! Let me pat myself on the back for a minute! *pat, pat*

How did you do? Remember, regardless of how you fared against your goal, you succeeded simply by going for it in the first place! Here are my #ARCAugust reviews:

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between by Jennifer E. Smith:

Firewalker by Josephine Angelini:

Serpentine by Cindy Pon:

...and the BONUS one, Everything, Eveything by Nicola Yoon:

See you all next year for #ARCApril!