Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Audiobook review: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

a crown of wishes, roshani chokshi, audiobook
Book Summary
An ancient mystery. An unlikely union. For one young princess in a state of peril, a dangerous wish could be the only answer…

She is the princess of Bharata—captured by her kingdom’s enemies, a prisoner of war. Now that she faces a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. But should she trust Vikram, the notoriously cunning prince of a neighboring land? He promises her freedom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together they can team up and win the Tournament of Wishes, a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor. It seems like a foolproof plan—until Gauri and Vikram arrive at the tournament and find that danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans, mischievous story birds, a feast of fears, and twisted fairy revels. New trials will test their devotion, strength, and wits. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

Roshani Chokshi is so sweet! And can we talk about these awesome boots she has on?!
Flo's Review
I adored this book, y'all. Adored. This story was everything I wanted in a magical competition. My favorite part of The Star-Touched Queen (TSTQ), the predecessor and companion novel to this one, was the beautiful, rich, lyrical writing. I'm so happy to say that A Crown of Wishes (ACOW) had this as well. Alaka was so unique and creative, and reading this story had me feeling like I was just walking around with my mouth agape, taking everything in.

But what was missing for me in TSTO was delivered in ACOW. A story that drove me forward and made me want to know its conclusion. I wondered how Vikram and Gauri would would get past the trials put before them, and I cheered them on when they did. 

My absolute favorite part of this story was the romance. Vikram and Gauri had such delicious romantic tension. Their feelings for each other felt alive in a way that Maya and Amar's never did to me. Throughout this novel I was smiling as Vikram and Gauri traded barbs back and forth. Their banter was everything. So well done! And their characters complimented each other perfectly: Gauri with her physical strength and Vikram with his mental strength. But both similar in their driven personalities. The two of them together made perfect sense.

I listened to this one on audiobook and the narrator did a great job. Vikram calls for a tone that is always slightly teasing in its cadence, while Gauri needs to be passionate and direct. The narrator, Priya Ayyar, did a fantastic job delivering both of these.

The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes came to me at the same time, with the explanation that they are companion stories and that I didn't need to read TSTQ in order to understand ACOW. This is true, but I'm so glad that I did. It was so great to see characters and refer-backs in ACOW to TSTQ and understand them.

I'd also read several reviews where people who liked TSTQ preferred ACOW, and I too fall into this category. I like TSTQ. But this book was so well done on so many levels. I adored it.

Review of The Star-Touched Queen:

Thank you to Macmillan Audio for providing me with this audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Book review: Internet Famous by Danika Stone

internet famous, danika stone
Book Summary
High school senior and internet sensation Madison Nakama seems to have it all: a happy family, good grades, and a massive online following for her pop-culture blog. But when her mother suddenly abandons the family, Madi finds herself struggling to keep up with all of her commitments.

Fandom to the rescue! As her online fans band together to help, an online/offline flirtation sparks with Laurent, a French exchange student. Their internet romance—played out in the comments section of her MadLibs blog—attracts the attention of an internet troll who threatens the separation of Madi’s real and online personas. With her carefully constructed life unraveling, Madi must uncover the hacker’s identity before he can do any more damage, or risk losing the people she loves the most… Laurent included.

Flo's Review
I was super excited for this. As you recall, I simply adored Danika Stone's first release All the Feels. So I was definitely on board with reading her sophomore release. In the beginning, I was enjoying it immensely. Laurent is super hot, and I really enjoyed reading about Madi's relationship with Sarah. (As a aunt of a child with special needs, I love that Danika included the character of Sarah in the story. And I love even more the Author's Note she included at the end of the book about Sarah. Thank you, Danika!)

So, there was family drama, online drama, school drama and a cute boy. All that was great. I think the story could have just been about those and been complete and fun. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling the troll story line. Maybe because I've never (thankfully!) had an experience with a troll. But the troll just seemed too extreme. To the point of being ridiculous. And there were a few characters in the story, 2 in particular that I can think of, who seemed underdeveloped to me. One was only shown for his personality trait and that was all we got. (It was extreme, of course.) The other seemed to be in the story -- her actions and all -- only so Maddie could wonder, "Is this person the troll?" Once she was eliminated from contention, that was it. We never got any explanation for her behavior. Mrs. Preet also seemed to me too extreme. She ended up reading to me as a character, a plot piece, and not a fully developed human being. Maybe if we got to understand her a little bit more, and maybe if we got to see her act differently at some point, she would have seemed more real to me.

The way this story was written, including texts, pictures, Tumblr posts, etc. complimented the story nicely and also made this a quick, effortless read. I enjoyed Madi and Sarah's, as well as Madi and Laurent's relationships. 

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

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Review: Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout

Obsidian (Lux, #1)

Jacque's Review:
I bought a copy of Obsidian at the 2013 RT convention to have signed.  Mary and a few others told me I had to read it, yet it has remained on my TBR shelf ever since.  In fact, I didn't have a clue what it was about until I started reading it a couple of weeks ago.

Katy Swartz is originally from Florida.  After the death of her father her mother decides to relocate to West Virginia for a change of scenery.  Jennifer Armentrout is from WV, so she is clearly giving her home state a little love, but I can't imagine how that would impact a high school senior.  In addition, her mother chose to live in a REALLY small town filled with "strange" people.
Katy is a book blogger, so it was funny to hear her geek out about her In My Mailbox or Waiting on Wednesday posts.  A shipment of books would arrive and it was like Christmas in July.  She was also worried about getting a new library card, which I'm sure would be at the top of my to-do list if I moved, so Katy should definitely appeal to most readers.
Living next door to Katy are the Black twins, Dee and Daemon.  They will be starting their senior year as well and Katy quickly becomes best friends with Dee.  On the other hand, her relationship with Daemon is very hot and cold to say the least.  He can be sweet one minute and a complete ____ the next.  Katy can't figure out why Daemon and his friends think there is something inferior about "her kind" until she begins to notice some unusual things.  Daemon and Dee seem to move faster than humanly possible at times.  Daemon can swim under water WAY longer than he should be able to.  After witnessing several more dramatic events, she take the news that they are aliens pretty well.  The fact that there are beings known as Arum trying to kill her Luxen friends, and now her due to her association with them, is a different matter. 
Overall, I thought this was an action packed and tension filled start to the series.  Once we got past the whole "you aren't one of us" issue and the truth was out there, the story really began to flow.  Katy must guard their secret with her life and she is forced to do so on more than one occasion.
The only issue I had with the book was the word choice.  I'm sure everyone has seen the posts about why moist is the worst word ever and shouldn't be used.  She didn't use that word, but there was another cringe worthy word used on at least two occasions that needed to be removed.  If you have read the book and would like to guess the word I'm referring to, please leave a comment and I will be sure to reply.  Maybe it is just me, but I'm guessing not...
There are 5 books in the series, so it is a bit of an undertaking if you want to start this series.  I can tell you that the ending of this book left me wanting to jump right into the next book, but  I'm committed to reading the books on my spring TBR list first.  I will be sure to include Onyx on my Summer TBR list!

Oh, hey! Remember that time I met Daemon Black at Apollycon?! 
Flo's Review
Literally, multiple friends have been bugging me to read this series, basically since this first book published in 2012. I even own the entire series already, in the Lux volumes and on audiobook. Several times it made it close to the top of the TBR pile, but it just never pushed through. Until now.

Like Jacque said, I love that Katy is a book blogger. I was totally understanding her activities and feelings towards her book blog. This book definitely had a Twilight feel to it: "we're obviously attracted to each other, but you're fighting it -- why?" and "what are you? I don't think you're human...?" Luckily, I do love Twilight so I was all on board. I also bring up this similarity because I think this series has the potential to get better as we get more into the story. Obsidian had to cover a lot of the exposition, so from here on out I'm looking forward to seeing the situations these characters are put into and how they'll react. I don't know that I'll be able to jump into Onyx right away, but I do think I'd like to slowly make my way through this series. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Book Review: Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter.

Out of Sight, Out of Time (Gallagher Girls, #5)

Out of Sight, Out of Time is the fifth book in the Gallagher Girls series, which is about a group of students attending an all girls boarding school for spies.  At the end of the previous book, Cammie set out on a mission to complete an investigation her father started before his disappearance.  The Circle has been after her for an unknown reason for over a year and she is finally going to take matters into her own hands.

Her first error; however, was not taking anyone with her.  I'm sure any good spy would agree that backup is essential.  She doesn't want to endanger any of her friends when the only person they are after is her.  The problem is, when she wakes up in a foreign location having no recollection of her entire summer, she has no one to help jog her memory. 

The majority of the book involves Cammie and her friends trying to piece together clues to uncover where Cammie went last summer, what she discovered, and where things went so terribly wrong.  

I have enjoyed this series from the beginning and can't wait to dive into the final book in this series.  The girls started their senior year at the beginning of Out of Sight, Out of Time and graduation is quickly approaching.  They will soon be out in the real world, but I'm not sure the real wold will be any more challenging than the missions they have already completed.

The Gallagher Girls and Cammie's boyfriend Zach, who is also a spy, have learned that there are moles in the highest levels of government all over the world.  People they thought they could trust have been working against them, but they now have the upper hand.  They can finally take the offensive to bring the Circle down once and for all.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

You Say It's Your Birthday!: The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber

sofi snow, mary weber, thomas nelson

I couldn't be more excited about the release of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber! I enthusiastically read and reviewed Mary's Storm Siren trilogy (links below), so I was thrilled to hear about her next book. Here's the description:

Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi's dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth's corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth's Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi's the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she's convinced he's been taken to the ice-planet.

Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.

For Miguel, Earth's charming young playboy, the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight's bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he's a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.

Do you plan on picking up Sofi Snow?

Storm Siren Love



Tuesday, May 30, 2017

You Say It's Your Birthday!: Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A very happy book birthday to these beauties!

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Which of these titles are you most looking forward to?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Book review: The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever! (The Wish List #1) by Sarah Aronson

Book Summary
Q: What do you need to become a great fairy godmother?

a) kindness
b) determination
c) gusto
d) all of the above

Fairy-godmother-in-training Isabelle doesn't know what gusto is, but she's pretty sure she has what it takes to pass fairy godmother training with flying colors.

But then Isabelle is assigned a practice princess who is not a princess at all. Nora is just a normal girl -- a normal girl who doesn't believe in fairy godmothers, or wishes come true, or happily ever afters.

Isabelle has to change Nora's mind about magic and grant a wish for her. If she can't, Isabelle will flunk training and never become a great fairy godmother!

Flo's Review
This was straight up adorable! All pink and sparkles! The main character, Isabelle, is not one for studying or reading the rules. But she learns really well through experience. Isabelle is a character that I think little girls will be able to relate to well. Even though her world is different from ours, she struggles with issues and temptations just like her readers. 

And would you believe that this little book ended on a cliffhanger?! It's true! I am seriously curious about what's going to happen in Book 2.

I was never reading this book without a smile on my face. I will be giving this book to my little niece in hopes that she has as much fun reading it as I did!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Book review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

star-touched queen, roshani chokshi
Book Summary
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

Flo's Review
I had the pleasure of meeting Roshani at ALA Annual this year in Orlando, and she was just the cutest and sweetest! This made me even more excited to read her books. I had heard a lot of good things about The Star-Touched Queen, so I was very glad to discover that it lived up the hype.

A lot of times we get variations of the same story in YA, and specifically in YA fantasy. I am not dissing the trend, as I love a good Greek retelling. (Remember Greek Week on the blog?) But there are two particular things I loved about The Star-Touched Queen and the first was its uniqueness. This is a not story I was familiar with, or had heard before. I did not know what it was was, so I didn't see it as trying to be something, or a twist on something. It was just a beautiful story in itself. (I should also add that I went in blind, knowing nothing about what this book was about, so every time Maya made a new connection I was completely surprised.)

The second thing that I loved about The Star-Touched Queen is the world-building. This book is rich in it. The descriptions are lush and fill all your senses. It was the imagery and the world that transported me in this story. The plot was good, the romance was good, the supporting characters were intriguing (Kamala was hilarious!), but admittedly those did not keep me turning the pages of this book. What drew me into this one was reading about the Night Bazaar and the many rooms in Akaran.

On a final note, I listened to this book on audio, and the reader did a great job! As soon as I finished this story, I immediately started listening to A Crown of Wishes, and I am so happy to be transported back into this fascinating world.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Review: The Death Cure by James Dashner

The Death Cure (Maze Runner, #3)

Jacque's Review:

The Death Cure is the third book in the Maze Runner series.  In this installment WICKED continues its research to find a cure for the Flare virus, which is threatening to eliminate the human race.  They have been studying the brain patterns of the immune population, but their tactics are becoming more and more desperate.  Thomas and his friends escape from WICKED and join the resistance, but they soon discover their end goals aren't in sync.  They ultimately decide to work with them because they feel their is safety in numbers with the hopes of converting them to their line of thinking.

Overall, I thought The Maze Runner had a great premise with the "gladers" trying to escape from the maze.  It was very original and I enjoyed the characters with their unique language and quirks.  I gave the first book 4 stars and jumped right into The Scorch trials.  I was a bit disappointed with book two and gave it 3 stars.  In keeping with this trend, The Death Cure fell even shorter from the mark and I ultimately decided to give it 2 stars.

 It felt like the author was grasping at straws to continue the series and wasn't really sure how he wanted it to conclude.  Should everything be doom and gloom to keep with the majority of the series or should there be a happily ever after?  I think he tried to give readers a combination of the two, but it came across as awkward.  I also didn't feel like there was a lot of new content to keep the story going.  We kept rehashing the same things and fighting the same people with very little progression to the story.

I realize my opinion is not part of the majority.  This was a very popular series that received a lot of hype in YA circles and was even converted into a movie series.  I wouldn't discourage someone from reading it if it is on their TBR list, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it to others.  

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Book Review: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, #2)

Jacque's Review:

The Scorch Trials is the second installment in the Maze Runner series.  While I really enjoyed the original book, there was something missing this time around.  The characters now realize they are part of an experiment, what they need to do to survive, and how long it should take them to complete "The Scorch Trials."  The element of surprise was completely eliminated, which removed all of the suspense.  Danger still presents itself in various forms, but I felt like the characters were simply going through the motions to reach the "safe haven."

We have the same cast of characters, but trust becomes a major issue for Thomas.  WICKED is supposed to be good, but they keep putting them in dangerous situations for no obvious reason.  When things don't go as planned WICKED swoops in to help Thomas, but they place him back in the trials without any explanation.  In addition, Teresa was supposed to be his best friend.  She is taken away and replaced with a boy from "Group B" who can also speak telepathically with him.  The Gladers discover there was another group consisting of all girls and one boy that went through an identical maze experiment.  They are now competing against the other group in addition to simply trying to survive the trials.

The end of the book did not provide much of a conclusion.  The "scorch trials" are complete, but it is clear there is another book in this series.  The characters aren't provided any more information than what they started with.  They have no idea what WICKED is trying to accomplish or how much longer the trials will continue.  Based on past experience, they can only believe the safe haven is a temporary reprieve and there is more to come. 

I do not feel like I gained very much from reading this story.  We picked up some additional characters along the way, but Thomas and his friends are in basically the same situation they were in at the end of The Maze Runner.  I am hopeful The Death Cure, which is the final book in the original trilogy, will provide the EPIC conclusion I am looking for.     

Friday, May 12, 2017

Book Review: Unhinged by A.G. Howard

Unhinged (Splintered, #2)

Jacque's Review:

Unhinged is the second book in the Splintered series, which is based upon Alice in Wonderland.  Alyssa is the descendent of Alice and is half human / half netherling.  She must decide if she will embrace her magic and help save Wonderland or if she will remain in the mortal world with her human boyfriend Jeb. 

When Wonderland starts to invade the human realm it is no longer an option.   Alyssa must fight to defeat Red or she will lose everyone she loves.  She also discovers that her feelings for Morpheus aren't as black and white as she thought.  Morpheus is her childhood friend from Wonderland, who has been teaching and preparing her for this moment her entire life.  She always thought his intentions were self-centered, but the more she learns about their past the more she realizes he has always protected her and had her best interest in mind.

Personally, I am on team Morpheus.  Alyssa can't live in the human world without being perceived as crazy or "unhinged".  If she were to choose to live in Wonderland she would be Queen and all would be right in that world once again.  Besides, I love Morpheus's cocky attitude and who doesn't love a British accent?

This was an excellent sequel to Splintered and I can't wait to see how this series will conclude.  Ms. Howard left most of the characters hanging in the balance at the end of this installment, which will certainly encourage readers to jump right into the final book in this series.  I gave Unhinged 4 stars and will definitely include Ensnared on my Summer TBR list.

I had the chance to meet A.G. Howard at BEA in 2014 and picked up an autographed copy of Unhinged.  I absolutely love the cover of this book and will keep the signed copy even though I have now completed it.  I typically tear out the autographed page from free books I receive at conferences to add to my collection and place the books in my local little free library.  I feel it is better to share the books with other readers than to hoard them on my shelves collecting dust, but I don't think I am going to be able to part with this one.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book review: The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen by Hope Nicholson

The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen, Hope Nicholson
Book Summary
Think comic books can t feature strong female protagonists? Think again! In The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen you ll meet the most fascinating exemplars of the powerful, compelling, entertaining, and heroic female characters who ve populated comic books from the very beginning. This spectacular sisterhood includes costumed crimebusters like Miss Fury, super-spies like Tiffany Sinn, sci-fi pioneers like Gale Allen, and even kid troublemakers like Little Lulu. With vintage art, publication details, a decade-by-decade survey of industry trends and women s roles in comics, and spotlights on iconic favorites like Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel, The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen proves that not only do strong female protagonists belong in comics, they ve always been there."

Flo's Review
I admit, I'm not the hugest comic book fan. Thanks to my fiance and Geek Girl Brunch, I'm getting more into it. I've been to New York Comic Con and I'm actually heading to San Diego Comic Con for the first time ever this year. I'm SUPER stoked! I think I was planning a trip to Florida Supercon Retro when the opportunity to review this book came up. I agreed to do it, thinking this would be a good book to skim.

The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen pleasantly surprised me! I took it on my flight expecting to read only the chapter introductions and then skim the entries. But I found myself pretty much reading it cover to cover. I learned a lot about the comic book industry in the past, and lots of random fun facts. (For example, did you know that Nurse Comics were a big thing? Yep. Who knew?? I mean, maybe you did, but I didn't.) 

I also enjoyed reading the entries about the superwomen. It was nice to see some old favorites like Supergirl and Wonder Woman for a touch of familiarity, but it was almost more interesting to see the myriad of ideas for these women: who they were, what they could do, what they did. Hope Nicholson was honest and acknowledged the flaws she saw in them: which was understandable for the older titles, as the idea of being a woman, and even more so of being a superwoman, changes literally all the time.

This book will satisfy a wide range of readers: history buffs, feminists, comic lovers, and more. It definitely makes a great coffee table book: just don't be surprised if you get sucked in!

Thank you to Quirk Books for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book review: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

the love interest, cale dietrich
Book Summary
There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

Flo's Review
The Love Interest pokes fun at YA (in a subtle, good-natured way), and it is super fun. The whole idea of a love triangle has pretty much been beaten to death. And in those you always have the safe, but beautiful, boy next door. This is the guys I usually go for, honestly. Simon in Shadowhunters. Jacob in Twilight. Et cetera, et cetera. Then the other boy is the new guy who comes out of nowhere, bringing an air of danger with him. But he's also beautifully broken. Jace and Edward, if we're continuing with my first examples. Both boys try to win the affections of the girl's heart -- and, of course, the girl is awesome and a force to be reckoned with all by herself.

So in this crazy world, there is a organization that cultivates Good Guys and Bad Guys (Nice and Bad) to battle for the affections of a girl's heart. This girl is one who will be important to society in some way, so the guy who wins will spend his life learning her secrets and sharing them with this evil organization. The evil organization then uses this information for its own gain.

And the other guy literally dies.

So there's that. 

I really like how this book very honestly explores the idea of identity and being what you are told you should be, versus who you really are. Caden doesn't think of himself as a true Nice. Dylan is not the classic Bad either. And they both struggle with that.

But then, it continues poking fun by exploring the idea of "what if the two guys fell for each other, instead of falling for the girl?" Brilliant. Brilliant premise. I was so excited to read this when I first heard about it, and I'm very happy to report that it lived up to my expectations. I spent an entire Saturday in Caden and Dylan's crazy competition and had a great time.

Cale Dietrich managed to throw in two plot twists that I wasn't expecting! I know for one, I literally put the book down and said aloud, "Plot twist!" Clever, because this just isn't a fluffy spoof story. It's a real, intense story with a well-thought out plotline and fully developed characters. There was only one aspect that seemed to be not thought out well enough to make full sense, but the rest of it did.

The Love Interest comes out May 16, 2017 and if you'd like to read a fresh spin on a familiar story, I recommend you pick it up.

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Book review: Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

windfall, jennifer e. smith
Book Summary
Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes. 

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall. 

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined…and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

Flo's Review
I adore Jennifer E. Smith and all her books! So I was, of course, very excited to read her latest story Windfall.  I struggled with Alice for a little bit of the book. She just seemed a little....I don't know...? Like she was judging Teddy for what he was doing with the money and blaming him because things were different. Of course they're going to be different! He is now a millionaire. Also, I thought her response to what he wanted to give her seemed unrealistic? Though I am intrigued by the thought around creating a character who responds that way. (Have you read the book and you think I'm being too vague? Check out my spoilery review on my Goodreads page here.)

What I love about Jennifer E. Smith's books is that they read to me like moments. Full moments that you can lavish in. It's a story, yes, but it's tied together like a bunch of robust, beautiful moments. Each scene is its own masterpiece. The pacing is slow because the reader is becoming fully involved in the moments. Jennifer is Queen at this: it's this way in all her stories and it's why I love them all so much.

I listened to this one on audiobook, and it was....interesting. The reader was female and it sounded a bit cartoonish when she was reading the male voices. Leo was too deep, Teddy was too cheesy. But she did a good job as Alice. It always sounded like there was a hint of laughter in her voice, like she was enjoying every moment. This fits perfect with a big made up of moments and all the emotions involved in them. 

This book wasn't just about the actions one takes after winning the lottery, but also about the effects. Most people have been asked the question, "If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?" But I don't know that a lot of people have pondered, "If you win the lottery, how will it affect you? Your relationships with your friends, family, and acquaintances? How you seen yourself and what you want to do with your life?" I love that this book explored all of that.

Book review: It Started With Goodbye by Christina June

it started with goodbye, christina june
Book Summary
Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

Flo's Review
I did some traveling this weekend and was happy to bring Tatum along for the journey. Honestly, I didn't like Tatum at first. She just seemed to be snarky toward her stepmother and father, so it was hard to feel sympathetic for her. However, that changed as I continued reading. Not so much the sympathy, but more that I came to like and respect her. She had a good attitude about working hard for a goal, helping and becoming friendly with her stepsister, listening to her abuela, and considering things from her stepmother's point of view.  

The title is a play on the fact that Tatum reflects a lot on how to end her emails and on how other people have ended theirs. This was a cute addition to the Cinderella story, and on a deeper level, good commentary on how what seems like the end is often not the complete end. After the salutation is written, the story is not completed but just transferred. It is now with the receiver and it carries on with how he or she reacts and possibly responds to it. 

I enjoyed the fact that the ending of this one did not mirror the ending of the Cinderella story. There is a Happily Ever After, but the relationships are different -- and I think better -- than how the relationships end up in the classic story.

This was a quick, cute read and I enjoyed it!

It Started With Goodbye comes out on May 9, 2017. Thank you to Blink YA Books for sending me an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Book Review: Lust for Life by Jeri Smith-Ready

Lust for Life (WVMP Radio, #4)

Jacque's Review:

Lust for Life is the fourth book in the WVMP Radio series, which is about a group of vampires working as DJ's at a local radio station.  I gave the first three books in this series 5 stars and eagerly picked up an autographed copy of this "recently released" final book in the series.

Well...The release date was November 2012 and I purchased my copy at the 2013 RT Convention in Chicago.  I can't believe it took me 4 years to finally read this book, but I'm certainly glad that I did.  All of my favorite characters were back for another action packed adventure.

Shane and Ciara are busy planning their wedding and their best friends/co-workers are expecting their first child.  Just when you think everyone is going to receive my version of a happily ever after, one of Shane's ex-donors calls to tell him that Jim (another vampire DJ who is being held at a Control facility after attacking Ciara in the previous book) changed her into a vampire shortly before his incident with Ciara..  Shane and the other WVMP staff take her under their wings, but that is just the beginning of their problems.  Jim escapes from the Control facility and the story takes off from there.  

I have read a lot of fiction over the years and can easily comprehend the rules of vampires.  They can't go out into the sunlight, they live forever, they have compulsions, etc.  Overall, I loved all of the characters and their stories throughout this series; however, I could not grasp the unusual turn of events that took place the last several chapters of this book.  Taking liberties with "the rules" is one thing, but this was unbelievable in my opinion.  You can rationalize why things happened all you want, but the ending of this book was a bit too unrealistic for me.  It really felt like Jeri jumped through hoops to provide the characters with her version of a perfect ending.  

Perhaps my expectations were a little high, but I ended up giving this book 3.5 stars.  It is still a very entertaining read, but I just can't get past the fact that it took the word fiction to a whole new level.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

TV Review: 13 Reasons Why

13 reasons why, netflix
IMDB Summary
Follows teenager Clay Jensen, in his quest to uncover the story behind his classmate and crush, Hannah, and her decision to end her life.

Flo's Review
I read this book back in 2011. So I remember that I loved it, and I remember the general premise, but time has faded some of the book details from my mind.

(I am kind of proud my review of this book, so check it out.)

For the past few weeks, I've seen numerous posts about people watching and loving this series, and I couldn't wait for my opportunity to dig in. That came this past Saturday, when I binged all 13 episodes. And you know what? It didn't really feel that long! I literally watched this show straight from about 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and it didn't really feel like 12 + hours had gone by. The way this narrative is set up makes it easy and seamless to move from one episode to the next. It was the same with the book -- I remember that I just wanted to keep listening to Hannah's journey, and with the show I enjoyed remembering the different characters.

The show did a great job of building up the suspense. I remembered Clay's reason for being on the tapes, but the friend who I was watching the show with had never read the book. She kept anxiously commenting about Clay getting to his tape. An advantage of the show was the ability to look beyond Hannah and Clay. I believe that you absolutely needed in the book to just be with the two leads, as the story was Clay experiencing Hannah's journey. But the TV show allowed us to see more about the culture of the school and delve into the lives of the characters. By seeing these scenes, we got to see more of them that just what Hannah saw. 

I also really enjoyed the combination of the old and new sitting side by side. I mean, a walkman and Beats headphones? Perfect. Because this story would not have the same effect if the tapes were made into a mp3: no flipping sides, no package to pass around. But at the same time, the series needed to acknowledge that we are in 2017, and the addition of the social media and advanced technology was great for that. In fact, it added to the point of the story about the interconnectedness of everything, and how small actions or inactions can have big consequences.

So, if you have the opportunity, I do suggest you watch this -- if you have or haven't read the book. It is a prevalent topic that no one likes to talk about, but is very real in our society. I do like the fact that this piece of art is bringing the discussion more to the forefront of conversation.

And if you have watched it: Season 2? Yay or nay? What are your thoughts? (No spoilers for those who haven't seen it!)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Blog Tour: The Traitor's Kiss by Erin Beaty

Book Summary
An obstinate girl who will not be married. 
A soldier desperate to prove himself. 
A kingdom on the brink of war.

With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.

As the girls' military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.

Flo's Favorite (Literary) Female Spies!
I was super excited to get my hands on this book as soon as I heard about it, because I really do enjoy a good girl spy story. "Like which ones, Flo?" you ask. Well, let me tell you!

ally carter, gallagher girls

1. Cammie, Bex, Liz, and Macy from the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter: Oh, I love these girls! This is a fabulous series that I completely binged and enjoyed every minute of it. These four girls go to the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, which is a fancy way to say 'spy school.' I really enjoyed how real to the teenage experience this story was. The girls were taking down bad guys and running for their lives at points, but they also had crushes on boys and the usual high school drama. I highly recommend this series.

harriet the spy, louise fitzhugh

2. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh: Throwback! My first experience with a female spy was Harriet. I may not remember all the details of the story, but I definitely remember reading it as a little girl and loving it. 

nancy drew, carolyn keene

3. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene. From Harriet to Nancy Drew! If Harriet was for the little girl me, Nancy was for the preteen. I had to include this stylish 80s cover, because these are what the versions I read looked like.

you don'w know my name, kristen orlando, black angel chronicles

4. You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando: I simply adored this book. Reagan is kickass as a spy, but also as a friend and a daughter. I really hope to see more of The Black Angel Chronicles.

5. And two more Worth Mentioning: I have also recently read a little bit of the Gail Carringer Finishing School series, and The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom is about a female spy-in-training, if you will.

I think that's all for me! LitReactor has a good little list of YA books with kickass female spies. But who are some of your favorite literary lady spies? Let me know in the comments! 

Oh, and about that Secret Message.... :)

"Had paper scraps with personal information about nobles"

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Movie review: Before I Fall

Flo's Review
I love Lauren Oliver. I feel like she has been most well-known for the Delirium series and things after that, but Before I Fall has always, always been my favorite book of hers. I was so so excited when I heard that it was going to be a movie. And then I was happy to see some actresses that I'm familiar with and enjoy cast, like Zoey Deutch and Halston Sage. Life being the crazy thing it is, I was able to just make it to see this one in the theater before it left.

I read the book in 2010, so as you can imagine, I don't remember a lot of exact details. This was nice because it meant I wasn't sitting there in the movie comparing it to the book. I just remembered the general premise of the book and that I absolutely loved it. I was left with a good feeling, and I took that same feeling away from the film.

The actors and the director did a good job in making each day seem very different. I can imagine it would be repetitive to watch the same day over and over, but it never felt like I was seeing the same thing. And like I said, I left with the same feeling of, "Wow..." that I had when I read the book.

If you've read Before I Fall, I'd recommend giving this a watch when it comes out on Digital HD and DVD. And even if you haven't, I still think you'll find this enjoyable.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book review: Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

alex & eliza by melissa de la cruz

Book Summary
Their romance shaped a nation. The rest was history.

1777. Albany, New York. 

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball. 

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

Flo's Review
You know as soon as I discovered that this book was going to exist, I added it to my TBR. I love Hamilton and was really excited about the opportunity to delve more into their love story. My fiance was a history major and always delights in reminding me that everything about the play is not 100% factual. Creative liberties were taken for the sake of the story and the presentation. So it was good for me to read another take, another version of the story. I found myself comparing the differences in this book to the differences in the play, thinking: "That's not how it happened!" But then I would have to remind myself that the play isn't exactly how it happened either. It was an interesting experience and I really enjoyed it.

I listened to the audiobook and the narrator takes on a tone of speaking to match the old world style of writing. At first I thought to myself, "I can't do this." Between the audiobook reader's obvious affected tone and the older style of speaking in the writing, I felt like I was listening to a history book. But I kept on listening. I found that I enjoyed Eliza's spirit and intelligence and Alex's endearing character. And the more I listened, the more it made sense to me that the audiobook narrator was speaking as she was. It added an extra layer of seeming authenticity to the story. It still would have worked with someone speaking regularly, but it honestly sounded more realistic in the more formal tone. I appreciate what she did; it really worked for this story.

The end of the story was interesting. I enjoyed how de la Cruz was able to incorporate another famous person into the story that most Americans remember from their history lessons (and pop culture phrasing). But some of it was random. Why all the focus on her mother's thoughts all of a sudden? I feel like this could have ended with the wedding and been wrapped up perfectly, without the extra bed chamber and honeymoon scenes.

Eliza's sister Peggy is hardly mentioned in the play, so it was nice to learn her story and see her personality. We got to really see the Schuyler sisters together; and they fit together so well. The bad guy was baaaad. Well done! I really did not like the guy.

Alex & Eliza is definitely enjoyable for fans of Hamilton, and I think it will be definitely interesting for history buffs. We got a good bit about the war and a very nice feel for what it was like to live during those times.