Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Book Review AND Giveaway: Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean

Book Summary 
Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.

Flo's Review
Toward a Secret Sky has many different elements -- fantasy, romance, mystery, adventure. And, of course -- COVER LOVE. Look at this beauty!

toward a secret sky, heather Maclean
So pretty!
I was talking with a friend this past weekend about books that try to be one thing when they would be better as another. This is how I feel about Toward a Secret Sky. The romance felt a little much to me. I struggle with insta-love to begin with, and I felt that so much of this novel was Maren talking about how attracted she is to Gavin. To me, there was almost more about Maren and her feelings for Gavin than about the story line. There's certainly nothing wrong with that. I just feel like it was more a romance story with a fantastical setting than a fantasy story, and I was expecting more of a fantasy story. In the end, despite the fact that Maren is also motivated by her mother and her friends, she really just does everything for Gavin. I wish I'd gotten more personal drive and character growth: I wish she'd more come into her own, so to speak, to where her big decision at the end is motivated by herself and who she has become and not by him.

The story was creative and the scenery sounded absolutely beautiful. I loved reading about Gavin's home and about Aviemore. I also do appreciate that this is a standalone novel, in the world of so many fantasy series. 

Toward a Secret Sky comes out April 4th, 2017.

Thank you to Blink YA for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Now, about that GIVEAWAY
I ended up with two ARCs of this book, so I'll give away one! To enter, leave a comment here (with your email address so I can reach you) for 1 point, follow/RT the contest tweet on Twitter (@booknerdsblog) for another point, and/or like the Instagram (@booknerdsacrossamerica) for another entry. US only and ends at midnight on publication day, April 4th. Good luck!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

COVER REVEAL: Don't Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray

Don’t Kiss the Messenger Information Sheet:

Author: Katie Ray (pen name of Katie Kacvinsky)
Release Date: 4/10/2017
Genre: Young Adult Romance
Author Email: kaz@uwalumni.com
Author Website: www.katieraybooks.wordpress.com
Author Twitter: @TheWeirdists
Author Facebook: Katie Ray Kacvinsky
Author Goodreads: Katie Ray

~A modern retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac~


For most of her teenage life, CeCe Edmonds has been dealing with the stares and the not-so-polite whispers that follow her around Edgelake High. So she has a large scar on her face—Harry Potter had one on his forehead and people still liked him. CeCe never cared about her looks—until Emmett Brady, transfer student and football darling, becomes her literature critique partner. The only problem? Emmett is blindsided by Bryn DeNeuville, CeCe’s gorgeous and suddenly shy volleyball teammate. Bryn asks CeCe to help her compose messages that’ll charm Emmett. CeCe isn’t sure there’s anything in his head worth charming but agrees anyway—she’s a sucker for a good romance. Unfortunately, the more messages she sends and the more they run into each other, the more she realizes there’s plenty in his head, from food to literature. Too bad Emmett seems to be falling for the wrong girl...

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book involves one fiercely scarred girl who wants the new guy in town, the new guy who thinks he wants the new girl, and the new girl who really isn’t sure what she wants, and the misunderstanding that brings them all together. You’ll laugh, you’ll swoon, you’ll fall in love.


Katie writes teen and new adult fiction novels. Her latest book, Don't Kiss the Messenger, is published under her new pen name, Katie Ray. She also has six books published under her legal name, Katie Kacvinsky (First Comes Love, Second Chance, Finally Forever, Awaken, Middle Ground, and Still Point).

Her books have been nominated for YALSA awards, and First Comes Love was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. She lives in beautiful Ashland, Wisconsin, on the shores of Lake Superior, with her husband, two kids, and a very high-energy dog. To find out more about Katie and her books, check out her website: www.katieraybooks.wordpress.com

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Book review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

hunted meagan spooner
Book Summary
New York Times bestselling author Meagan Spooner spins a thoroughly thrilling Beauty and the Beast story for the modern age, expertly woven with spellbinding romance, intrigue, and suspense that readers won’t soon be able to forget.

Beauty knows the Beast's forest in her bones—and in her blood. After all, her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering its secrets. So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters out of their comfortable home among the aristocracy and back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. The Beast.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange creature back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of magical creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin, or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

Flo's Review
Happy book birthday to Hunted! This is going to be an interesting review to try and write without giving away any spoilers, but here goes. Hunted is a Beauty and the Beast retelling that is just so creative. Certain elements of the story were pretty much as they are in the fairy tale we all know and love, but some elements were changed to add richness and depth. Even more elements were created to wrap the story into a whole new world (see what I did there?!?) that was powerful, magical, and unique. This story had its own skin around it, and I am really impressed with how Meagan Spooner did that. It made the story more realistic, honestly. Because, as one of the characters tells Beauty towards the end, things do not just have one nature. Okay, let me pull a quote that might help that comment make more sense:

"The world of men is so strange. For you all things have one nature. Winter is cold. Death is a tragedy. But even in the world of men, this is not true. Your warmest memories are of winter, and the times spent near hearth and home. For the sick and the old death can be gift. And yet you insist on seeing only the face of things. I am a woman. I am a dragon. I am these things all the time, and I am never one but not the other."

With this story, there is always the question of Stockholm syndrome, and I love that Meagan actually addressed this question head on in the story. Because for this story to work, we need to believe that the Beauty was not struggling with this condition. Yeva was not. She sees the Beast for what he is and what he did: he treated her wrongly. But she also treated him wrongly. For this story to work, we need to believe that there is a HEA of two equals, and here there is. Yeva and the Beast are the same in a way, in an important way, that becomes clear by the end of the novel.

This was truly an enjoyable read, and I suggest you pick it up if you can!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Book review -- Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

lean in, sheryl sandberg, facebook, feminism
Book Summary
Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is a massive cultural phenomenon and its title has become an instant catchphrase for empowering women. The book soared to the top of bestseller lists internationally, igniting global conversations about women and ambition. Sandberg packed theatres, dominated opinion pages, appeared on every major television show and on the cover of Time magazine, and sparked ferocious debate about women and leadership.

Ask most women whether they have the right to equality at work and the answer will be a resounding yes, but ask the same women whether they'd feel confident asking for a raise, a promotion, or equal pay, and some reticence creeps in.

The statistics, although an improvement on previous decades, are certainly not in women's favour – of 197 heads of state, only twenty-two are women. Women hold just 20 percent of seats in parliaments globally, and in the world of big business, a meagre eighteen of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women.

In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook COO and one of Fortune magazine's Most Powerful Women in Business – draws on her own experience of working in some of the world's most successful businesses and looks at what women can do to help themselves, and make the small changes in their life that can effect change on a more universal scale.

Flo's Review
Okay, this is going to be an interesting review to write;  I was listening to this on audiobook, and every time I heard something I wanted to comment on I thought, "I need to go home and write this down!" Guess how many times I got home and wrote things down?!? (If you guessed zero, you are 100% correct.) And since I listened to the audiobook, I don't have a physical copy of the book to refer back to. So this review will be commenting on what I can remember. Here goes!

When I first started Lean In, I wasn't feeling it. First of all the narrator was alright, but very intense sounding. Like she read every single sentence as if it was the last sentence and the most important sentence you'd ever hear. I understand why, but it translated as exhausting to listen to. Secondly, this book is very data heavy, and it hits hard in the beginning. I was just hearing a lot of numbers, numbers, data, studies, numbers and they were all just flying around my head and not sticking.

But I didn't stop, and somewhere along the way everything must have started sticking. Lean In is actually one of the books I've had the most emotional and personal response to in awhile, and that is why I giving it 5 out of 5 stars. I got the audiobook at ALA, and kept it among the many other "girl power" books I managed to pick up. 
strong is the new pretty, girl rising, here we are, feminism
Who runs the world? GIRLS.
I moved down to Florida by myself many years ago. Whenever (mostly older) people heard that I was down here single and away from my family, they would ask me with a knowing glint in their eyes, "Oh. Did you move down here for a boy??" That question upset me every time. "No," I would tell them as I tried to remain calm. "I moved down here for my career." Which is true. I moved down here because I got a great job offer. It didn't matter that I only knew one other person who lived down here at the time. (And, no, that person was not a male.) It was what I needed to do to move ahead in my work journey and so I did it. I tried not to be upset by the question because to the people asking it seemed reasonable -- a young girl moving away from her family must be because she is about to start her own family, right? This is exactly the type of built in societal mindset that Lean In discusses and wants to correct.

There were so many good points that I took to heart while reading this. The idea that we are no longer talking about climbing a corporate ladder, but instead making our way up a corporate jungle gym was fantastic. There's no one way to career success, and it doesn't have to be a straight shot. Having been in several organizations that have tried and been unsuccessful in mentorship, I found the chapter about "Are you my mentor?" interesting. The idea with that one was that mentors are needed, yes, but forced mentors won't make or break anyone. Sanberg talks about the idea that if women are going to lean in to their careers, men need to lean in to family and home life: raising the children, doing things around the house, etc. And of course the simple idea that in order to make a work environment that fosters women to grow in their careers, we need women at the top who can understand what women need. Yes and yes and yes and yes.

I did struggle with a few things about the book. Sandberg came across as preachy a lot of the times. She had a lot of "I believe..." statements, but she also had a lot of "We must..." and "This can't happen" statements, too. And a few times she did the thing where she highlighted a problem, declared that it must be changed, but offered no ideas on how to change it. One example that stands out in mind is the idea that companies are often afraid to ask women questions about their family life because they are afraid of getting sued. Sandberg was pretty much like -- and I'm paraphrasing here --, "I don't know how to fix this problem, but it's a problem, and it must be fixed."

My sister is a physician and she always jokes that people never tell her husband, "Wow, you're so lucky, you married a doctor!" Lean In is looking toward a world where women doctors, male nurses, women CEOs, male stay-at-home parents are not the exception, but the norm. I agree with Sandberg that this generation is not there yet. But we will continue to work at it and be an example for our children, and we can hope that the next generation will be closer to this ideal of equality.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns, #1)

Three Dark Crowns was one of the books I was really excited to receive at BEA last year.  I did have to wait in a ridiculously long line, but it was well worth it.

Jacque's Review:

I can't say that I have read anything quite like this before.  Every generation there is a set of triplet queens born on a small island.  Each of the girls has a special magical ability, which must be used when the girls come of age to defeat her sisters and inherit the throne.  The poisoners have been in control of the throne for several generations, but the elemental queen, Mirabella, has a distinct advantage this generation.  The poison and naturalist queens appear to have no magical ability while Mirabella is perhaps the strongest elemental in history.

Katharine has been training her body to withstand the effects of poison for years with little to no avail.  The same can be said for the naturalist queen, Arsinoe, who tried to flee the island in an attempt to save her life prior to the start of the book. Her best friend is one of the strongest naturalists in recent memory while she has no ability.  She even turns to forbidden magic, which she feels is better than having no magic at all.  At least she will have something to rely on to defend herself.

The sisters grew up together, but were separated at a young age.  They still have fond memories of each other, so it is going to be extremely difficult for them to kill one another.  This seems to be a much bigger problem than it has ever been in the past, so the leaders begin to plot ways to get around this challenge.  This reminded me a bit of the Hunger Games with the fight to the death orchestrated by the Capital..  None of the girls wants to complete, but they know there can only be one winner, so they must kill or be killed.

As the year long battle is about to begin there is a major revelation that could greatly impact the outcome.  I don't want to spoil it, but it definitely explains the discrepancy in their abilities.  I don't really have a favorite at this point, but I was rooting for Katharine and Arsinoe since they were at a major disadvantage.

The second book in the series, One Dark Throne, is scheduled to be released September 19, 2017.  I have already added it to my TBR and can't wait to find out what will happen next.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Book Review: Everbound by Brodi Ashton

Jacque's Review:

Everbound is the second book in the Everneath series.  In the first book, Nikki Beckett was saved from the Everneath, but now she needs to rescue her boyfriend Jack who took her place.  Her only hope of finding him in time is to rely on the help of Cole, the Everliving that fed off of her energy for a century.

Cole refuses to assist in Jack's rescue because he is in love with Nikki and wants her to become queen of the Everneath.  He thinks she is special since she survived the feed and may be able to overthrow the current queen.  He eventually agrees to help her find Jack, but his motives aren't pure.

The majority of the book is spent traveling down to the Everneath and navigating through the labyrinth as Cole and Nikki continue their search for Jack.  There is quite a bit of mythology tied into the story, but there are a number of surprises I never saw coming.  We learn considerably more about life as an Everliving, why they have two hearts, and what really happens when you break their surface heart.  It definitely isn't what Nikki and Jack thought would happen.

What should have been a happily every after sort of ending took a very complicated turn.  Of course, I knew there was a third book in the series.  There was no way everything was going to tie together nicely at the end of this book, but I certainly didn't expect the sort of predicament Nikki now finds herself in.  She has a long road ahead of her and I'm pretty sure Cole is going to be even less willing to help than he was in this book.  

This is a highly entertaining series any fan of paranormal YA will enjoy.  I couldn't wait to see how the series would conclude, so I have already started reading Evertrue.  I should have a review for you shortly.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Book review: Just Another Girl by Elizabeth Eulberg

just another girl, elizabeth eulberg
Book Summary
You resent her. You can't stand her. You might even hate her.

But you don't know her at all.

Hope knows there's only one thing coming between her and her longtime crush: his girlfriend, Parker. She has to sit on the sidelines and watch as the perfect girl gets the perfect boy . . . because that's how the universe works, even though it's so completely wrong.

Parker doesn't feel perfect. She knows if everyone knew the truth about her, they'd never be able to get past it. So she keeps quiet. She focuses on making it through the day with her secret safe . . . even as this becomes harder and harder to do. And Hope isn't making it any easier. . . .

In Just Another Girl, Elizabeth Eulberg astutely and affectingly shows us how battle lines get drawn between girls -- and how difficult it then becomes to see or understand the girl standing on the other side of the divide.

You think you have an enemy. But she's just another girl.

Flo's Review
Ahhh....this review is going to be hard to write because there's not a lot to write without being spoilery. I struggled with this at the beginning because I did not like Hope. But...as a I read more, I saw why Hope had to start off as she did. It was a close call, though -- I almost gave up on the book. I don't really see a way around this set up because we need to see and understand Hope's POV to understand Parker's. Maybe Parker's could have come in earlier? I don't know. At any rate, I decided to push through and I'm glad I did; I adored Parker as I got to know her. Parker is just a really great girl. She always has a positive attitude when she had no reason to, she is a hard worker, smart, independent, and always with a spirit of gratitude. 

I really enjoy what Elizabeth Eulberg did with this story. It illustrates such a good point in a simple way that any teenager can relate to. You always hear the saying about not knowing what someone is going through until you walk a mile in his or her shoes; this book shows a perfect example of that in high school. But even though it's about and geared toward young adults, the same message applies to adults in the work place, and really anyone at any time or place.

Just Another Girl is a quick read with a deep message that was a really enjoyable ride. It will be published on March 28, 2017 by Scholastic and I definitely recommend it!

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

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Giveaway: Box of Mystery ARCs!

Hi fellow book lovers! The time has come in many a book hoarder's life where she knows that she needs to get rid of some of her current books....in order to make room for more. Lol. Keepin' it real, folks.

In the spirit of book love, I wanted to share these with you, my book people, so it's giveway time!

mystery books giveaway
Here are the mysterious goodies!
The Deets
What: A box of mystery ARCs. All I'm going to tell you about them is that they were all published last year, in 2016.

Who: You!...if you live in the U.S. I'm so sorry international folks, I just can't afford to send this abroad.

When: March! Contest starts March 4th and goes through April 4th.

How: I'm giving you a few opportunities to win! You can...

1 .Leave a comment below telling me what your favorite book of 2016 was and what your most anticipated read of 2017 is. Don't forget to include a way I can contact you in the comment, like an email or Twitter handle or something. Speaking of Twitter....

2. There will be a tweet for you to RT - look for it @booknerdsblog

3. InstaLuv! There will also be a post for you to share and tag a friend. Find it @booknerdsacrossamerica

4. Facebook: There too! If you leave a comment on the post there as well, that's another entry for you!

Good luck!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Book to Movie: The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

the shack
I read The Shack a long time ago. Might have even been around the time it first published in 2007, because I cannot find a review for it on the blog -- which means I read it before I started this baby in 2010. I do remember that I enjoyed it, and I do recall being interested in seeing the movie when I first heard about it. That was awhile back, but now the movie is upon us!

the shack movie


Based on the New York Times best-selling novel, The Shack takes us on a father’s uplifting spiritual journey. After suffering a family tragedy, Mack Phillips [Sam Worthington] spirals into a deep depression causing him to question his innermost beliefs. Facing a crisis of faith, he receives a mysterious letter urging him to an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Despite his doubts, Mack journeys to the shack and encounters an enigmatic trio of strangers led by a woman named Papa [Octavia Spencer]. Through this meeting, Mack finds important truths that will transform his understanding of his tragedy and change his life forever.

And here's the trailer:

What do you think about this trailer? Have you read the book? Are you going to see the movie? Let us know in the comments.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Book review: The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

Book Summary
When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. Government is unable to help, 17 year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the sordid underbelly of Europe to rescue him. Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—she plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking. As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.

Flo's Review
I love audiobooks, so when I was given the chance to review this one, I jumped at it. Then I re-discovered that it was written by this guy. But I decided not to let that affect my reaction to the story itself, and I don't think that I did.

The Cruelty will be a good movie. It has been optioned by Jerry Bruckheimer, so it's on the way. The story is action-packed, and the physical details are very well done. Bergstrom does a great job of really showing us a scene -- Gwendolyn really takes in all the details around her, even before she starts her spy training. The plot moves forward at a good pace and I would bet it continues on a steady beat straight through the end. It's perfect for watching. The people making the movie will have a lot of detail they can re-create. The viewer won't feel that there are any lapses or drags.

But I DNF this book around page 140. The reason, I think, that a lot of people believe the book is better than the movie in most cases is because reading the book allows the author to go into more detail. The reader feels more connected to the characters because she can be inside their heads and know intimate and defining details of their lives. For me, that was missing in this story. I never found a way to connect to Gwendolyn. Yes, she is doing this because she wants her Dad back. Because she feels some sort of fire within her to take risks...but I, the reader, never felt that with her. A story like this succeeds when you want to root for the main character to pull off this crazy thing she's doing, but I honestly felt indifferent toward Gwendolyn. She read like a random person going through motions and not like Gwendolyn Bloom: daughter, brave fighter, driven by determination and fire, etc. The same goes for the secondary characters: Terence and Yael, for example, just feel like plot assists and movers to me; not really like complete individuals.

Also, I got a slight vibe from the story of: "The way to be badass is to completely transform into a fighting machine." I don't necessarily agree with that. Yes, that's definitely part of it. But all the badass female characters I admire in books and movies are not just wicked fighters. They are also passionate. They want to make the world better. They are strongly connected with who they are, and their talents accentuate them and not change them. This might evolve with the story, so it's possible I am not seeing the full picture because I did not finish the book. 

Then there were little things. The first few chapters just felt to me like that one friend who is always name dropping. It was just cities and cities and cities. "Oh this in Paris" and "when I was in Algiers" and "that one restaurant in Nairobi" and etc. And would your high school crush really be convinced to give you his life savings after one date?

As I said above, I think this will make for a good movie. It has the makings of a good screenplay. I just didn't feel it as a novel.

Thank you to Macmillan for providing me with an audiobook copy for my honest review.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Book review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Book Summary
This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.

Flo's Review
I actually was lucky enough to get an ARC of this one and have it signed by Victoria shortly after it was published. However, I heard a mediocre review from a good friend and so it fell a little bit down on the TBR. And in my world, if it's not on the top of the TBR, it's kind of out of mind.

...until I discovered that my library had the audiobook on CD. This is my preferred audiobook method, since I don't have an auxiliary cable in my car or space on my phone to download the digital versions. So any book for which I can obtain the audiobook on CD get catapulted back to the top of the TBR. This audiobook was 10 CDs long, or almost 13 hours. I enjoyed the narrator, but ultimately it just felt really long to me. It seemed like I was listening to this story forever, and that affected my feelings toward it.

I thought Red Queen was a good story. I enjoyed Mare, Maven, and Cal, and loved to hate Evangeline and the Queen. There were several moments where I was at the edge of seat and breaking a sweat because I was so nervous for Mare. I'd be sure she was going to get busted or exposed, but then she pulled through. 

I remember hearing Victoria talking about the book and explaining how she crafted it similar to how she would craft a screenplay -- three acts, with definitive things happening in each act. That stuck with me from when I heard it two years ago, and I recalled it while listening to this book because it did feel a little formulaic to me. I figured out one of the plot twists, which made me proud because I never figure that stuff out! (I didn't figure it out because I was clever and saw through it, but only because I've read so much YA dystopian that I know to be skeptical of some things. Lol.) I didn't, however, see the big twist, and when I heard it, I mentally kicked myself. She dropped so many clues and hints, but I didn't put them together. It broke my heart the way it broke Mare's, and that is a sign of a good book right there.

Red Queen is the first book in a series, and while I enjoyed it, I don't necessarily feel like I have to go running to read book 2, Glass Sword. Maybe if I can locate an audiobook CD I'll give it a go.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Book review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Book Summary
When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.

Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Jason Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

Flo's Review
I had a really long and rough week, and this book was exactly what I needed to escape into on Friday night. It is fun, powerful, geeky, sweet, and cool. This, to me, is truly a book that accurately describes an example of what it is to be living in this time. (To quote Hamilton: "Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now!") I would stick this book into a time capsule so that the generations after us can unearth it and understand a snapshot of life in 2017. 

I loved that I felt so many things Tay felt. Her disappointment over not meeting someone? Pretty sure I've been there. Excitement over the all the cool things on the Con exhibit floor? I've definitely been there. My nephew is autistic and I like to try to understand him and his experience as much as I can. I'm not saying that his and Tay's experiences are exactly the same, but she still gave me a glimpse -- and for that, I am grateful. I also adored this quote:

"Let's say someone is terrified of heights, and in order to get out of the house every day she has to walk across a tightrope from fifty stories up. Everyone would say, 'Oh she's so brave. She faces heights every day.' That's what we do. We walk a tightrope every day. Getting out the door is a tightrope. Going grocery shopping is a tightrope. Things that most people consider to be normal, daily parts of life are the very things we fear and struggle with the most, and yet here we are, moving forward anyways. That's not weak ... We are the brave ones."

Jamie is perfectly understanding, fun, and adorkable. I can see how Tay felt so comfortable around him, and I love that he was there when she needed him, but understood how to give her space when she needed that, too. I also really enjoyed Charlie. She's this new celebrity, but still very down-to-earth and easy to relate to. Her story is one that's so understandable and one I recognize from seeing it around me in people I know: namely, someone who is so strong in herself, yet manages to lose herself in her relationship. The process of recognizing this and coming out of it is a hard one, and I applaud Charlie and everyone who is struggling with that. 

I highlighted so many great lines in this! Two of my favorites:

"There needs to be an app that pops up on screens when a nasty tweet is about to sent that says, 'Are you sure you want to say that? It's mean.'"

"We strut into the party like we're Derek Zoolander."

The story had a happy yet realistic ending, and I really appreciate that. Props to Jen Wilde for her dedication, too:

"To the weirdos, the geeks and the fandom queens. To the outcasts, the misfits and the everything in between. The days of playing the sidekick are over. You are the superheros now. You are my people, and this is for you."

Queens of Geek comes out March 14, 2017 and I encourage your nerdy, awkward, lovable, powerful self to pick it up! #LoveYourWeird

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Book Summary
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

Flo's Review
You guys. You guys! I ADORED this book. I woke up this morning, grabbed the book (which I'd intuitively left by my bed the night before), and started reading. And there I stayed, reading in my bed, until I was done. (Minus one restroom break.) I kept telling myself, "Okay, after this bit I'm going to get up and get something to eat!" But then somehow I kept on reading. And I kept on jumping ahead a few pages to see when Darien and Elle would text each next - I would get nervous if it didn't happen every 2 pages or so. Like, "Oh no, he said THAT and she hasn't responded yet!! What will he think?!?!" No truer words were spoken to describe me and this book than "emotionally invested."

I think it's because this book speaks to me on so many levels. I mean, this site is Book NERDS Across America. Naturally, I'm a geek. And being all into a fandom? Yup, right here. And the description of the con? Yep! And the thing is, the fact that the story is a take on Cinderella is done so well, that I honestly didn't even notice what the parallels were right away. They just seemed like elements of this own, individual story. For example, I literally remembered reading a scene about the Magic Pumpkin driving through town and thinking, "OH! I get it! It's a pumpkin!!"

The characters were so well, too. Catherine and Chloe were definitely deplorable, but not in a fake, overdone kind of way. The emotional attachment Elle had to her father put everything into perspective and helped a lot of things add up. And Darien was very real; he felt like a regular guy and not a movie star, so it made sense that he and Elle would fall for each other. Sage was also a fantastic character and I loved seeing her get her HEA.

The ball scenes at ExcelsiCon were spot on! Poston captured the magic beautifully, and it really felt like a fairy tale to read. 

Geekerella comes out April 4, 2017; do yourselves a favor and pick it up! 

Thank you to Quirk Books for sending me an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Movie Review: Coin Heist

Flo's Review
When the lovely folks at Adaptive Books contacted me about reviewing Coin Heist, they were good to mention that it was going to be a Netflix movie shortly. I was sold! Those of you who have been with Book Nerds for many years (thank you, by the way!) will remember that we used to have a Book-To-Movie post regularly, where we would review a movie based off a book. We don't do them on a schedule anymore, but we certainly do them when we can.

Anyway, I decided to curl up this week and catch this movie. And you know what my final reaction was? It made me want to read the book! True story! Because I could tell in the movie that there was likely a lot of character development that never made it in. That could be for several reasons: it's hard to translate visually, there is no time, it interrupts the flow of the movie. But I just know that there's more to these 4 characters and I want to know it. So I'll be reading Coin Heist soon. In the meantime, I don't regret watching the movie. The heisty (I possibility just made that word up) scenes had me holding my breath, fearing that the teens would get caught and hoping that they didn't.

Here's the trailer:

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill

Book Sumary
Lydia has vanished.

Lydia, who’s never broken any rules, except falling in love with the wrong boy. Lydia, who’s been Piper’s best friend since they were children. Lydia, who never even said good-bye.

Convinced the police are looking in all the wrong places, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail begins her own investigation in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. With the reluctant help of a handsome young detective, Piper goes searching for answers in the dark underbelly of 1924 Chicago, determined to find Lydia at any cost.

When Piper discovers those answers might stem from the corruption strangling the city—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.

From the glitzy homes of the elite to the mob-run streets of 1920s Chicago, Stephanie Morrill’s jazz-age mystery shows just how far a girl will go to save her friend.

Flo's Review
You know how there are some people who are really good at figuring out whodunnit? Well, I'm not one of them. But I find it makes reading mystery novels more enjoyable, because I'm never expecting the outcome. This didn't start off reading like a mystery, which was nice. There was a good amount of world-building, I guess? We spent time getting to know Piper, her family, her personality, and her relationships. Once that was all established, Lydia went missing. 

Piper was a fun character to read. She's headstrong - almost annoyingly so - but she is also human. I thought it was nice that we see her plunge into dangerous situations, but we also see her cry a lot. This story could have worked if it was told in modern time, but having it set in the 1920s gave it an even more mysterious and seedy feel. 

I enjoyed reading about all the gentlemen, though I feel that the story lines and relationships with the ones that Piper did not end up with were a bit...incomplete? They were both introduced as being really big deals, but then after an intense scene or two just kinda faded away. But I really did enjoy the young gent she did end up with; these two have personalities that complement each other well. 

Overall, I read The Lost Girl of Astor Street pretty quickly, growing ever more invested toward the end. It's a unique YA mystery, with enjoyable characters and a very well-done historical setting.

Thank you to Blink YA Books for offering me an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Third Grade Mermaid by Peter Raymundo

Book Summary
Cora is a small mermaid with a BIG personality. But like so many mermaids in the third grade, she is struggling to truly be herself. 

She wants to be like the Singing Sirens, the most glamorous swim team in the sea. Unfortunately, an annoying road--er, seablock--keep getting in her way.

When Cora fails her spelling test, her coach says she can’t be on the team unless she gets an A on the next one!

Can Cora conquer her spelling test, make the swim team, AND stay true to herself at the same time?

Flo's Review
Happy book birthday to Third Grade Mermaid! This little book was simply adorable. The illustrations were a lot of fun and did a great job complementing the text. Cora has a boisterous personality, just as you might expect from a third grade mermaid. Hearing her tell the stories of her adventures are true to how any child might tell stories, but these are extra fun because they are all about life under the sea. What a magical little story! I can't wait to give this to my niece!

Thank you to Scholastic for providing me with an Advance Reader's Copy in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)

 Jacque's Review

The Raven King is the fourth and final book in the Raven Cycle series.  As the search for Glendower continues, time is running out for most of the characters.  Cabeswater is losing its power, Ronan's dreams are getting darker, and Gansey's days are numbered.  

I felt like this book remained true to the series.  I'm sure every reader was hoping for a happily ever after, but that was never going to be the case.  Maggie did a remarkable job of giving readers most of what they hoped for without changing the course of fate.  

There is a new romance that developed that I never saw coming.  It would be interesting to go back at some point to see if there were clues in the previous novels that I missed.  There was also the introduction of a new character, Henry, and his magical RoboBee.  His presence added a new element of magic and explained some of the history of the "art collectors" coming to town, but it was a bit too convenient for me.  Maggie needed a way to track Gansey, so here is a new character with the ability to do so.

The ending was very chaotic and confusing.  How the magic worked to reach the end result was vaguely explained.  I also didn't feel like Blue and Gansey's relationship received the level of attention it deserved.  Ronan and his family history was exciting to read about and the interactions between Ronan and Adam were touching, but the two main characters were often ignored for secondary plot twists.

Overall, this was a unique and entertaining series with lovable characters I will not soon forget.  The pacing could have been a bit quicker, but I was satisfied with how the series concluded.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

Book Summary
A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.

Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.

Do you remember your first love?

The Impossible Fortress begins with a magazine…The year is 1987 and Playboy has just published scandalous photographs of Vanna White, from the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune. For three teenage boys—Billy, Alf, and Clark—who are desperately uneducated in the ways of women, the magazine is somewhat of a Holy Grail: priceless beyond measure and impossible to attain. So, they hatch a plan to steal it.

The heist will be fraught with peril: a locked building, intrepid police officers, rusty fire escapes, leaps across rooftops, electronic alarm systems, and a hyperactive Shih Tzu named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Failed attempt after failed attempt leads them to a genius master plan—they’ll swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience store by seducing the owner’s daughter, Mary Zelinsky. It becomes Billy’s mission to befriend her and get the information by any means necessary. But Mary isn’t your average teenage girl. She’s a computer loving, expert coder, already strides ahead of Billy in ability, with a wry sense of humor and a hidden, big heart. But what starts as a game to win Mary’s affection leaves Billy with a gut-wrenching choice: deceive the girl who may well be his first love or break a promise to his best friends.

At its heart, The Impossible Fortress is a tender exploration of young love, true friends, and the confusing realities of male adolescence—with a dash of old school computer programming.

Bonus content: Play the "The Impossible Fortress" video game at http://www.jasonrekulak.com/game/

Flo's Review
This absolutely had a Ready Player One feel to it. Which is great, because RPO is a great book. I was asked as I was reading this one if it's a YA (young adult) book. It's not. The main characters are teenagers, but I think that the teenagers today would not get the fun in about half the book. Because the fun was all in the throwback. One reviewer called The Impossible Fortress "a love letter to the 1980s" and I think that is a great description. All kinds of great pop culture and political references had me saying to myself, "Oh yeah! I remember that!" (And now that I have dated myself, let's move on with the review.)

The fun in it also comes from the fact that the boys are putting together this whole elaborate scheme to get a magazine. I really enjoyed the main trio for a few reasons. First -- they are all boys. So many books have done the "two boys and one girl" thing, and so many more books have done the four girls, so it was nice to have a unique set of protagonists. Rekulak also did a great job of establishing the deep bond between the boys. 

It was also great to see Billy start falling for Mary because of her brains and her personality. He was in awe of the fact that she was a better programmer than he was, and he wanted to spend more time with her. From there, he started noticing things he liked about her -- the way her hair smelled, etc. He didn't reject her because she was fat, so good job Billy! 

I was talking with one of the Simon publicists at the recent American Library Association Meeting and telling her about how I was currently reading the book. While I explained to her how it is a cute but predictable story she said, "There's actually a twist in there that I wasn't expecting." True story! Not a huge deal, but just a little reminder that things aren't always as they seem and you never know what another person is going through.

The Impossible Fortress had a happy and realistic ending. It does well as a standalone, because I feel that I left all the characters in a good place. This book comes out February 7th and if you are a child of the 80s,  a video game aficionado, or just looking for a cute, awkward love story, I'd recommend you pick it up. I'm going to go play the game now (what a cool perk! Props!!)

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Book Summary
A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch PerfectUp in the AirTwilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

Flo's Review
There's nothing better than an audiobook that is read by the author, so I was very excited to have the opportunity to listen to Scrappy Little Nobody. I don't follow Anna Kendrick on Twitter, but I've seen a few of her tweets as they've been retweeted here and there, so I was kind of familiar with her style of humor. This was a fun book. Anna is very down to earth - she sounds like the kind of gal you'd want to go to the bar with for happy hour and throw back a few $2 local brews. It was refreshing and eye-opening to hear her experiences with big fame events like the Oscars, press junkets, and Twilight

Some parts of her life were definitely glossed over, and I'm guessing that was intentional? For example, she was in New York and then suddenly she's in L.A. with no real explanation on how? And then toward the end, there is a whole section on party planning that just straight up felt like, "this book isn't long enough because you're really not that old and we need some filler material." Same with the story about Buccaneer Days. I understand the significance of the experience, but it seemed like a really long story for the little point she makes about it. But these are minor quips. Overall, I really enjoyed hearing about Anna's life and Anna's philosophy on her life. After reading this, I'll continue rooting for her to do awesome things, and maybe win the Oscar this time.

I definitely recommend doing the audio if you can. Anna is expressive when she talks, and I think hearing how she says things placed them differently in my mind that my own reading voice would have done.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of this audiobook in exchange for my honest review.