Sunday, December 28, 2014

Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini

Book Summary
This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.
Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily's other self in this alternate universe.
What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.

Flo's Review
The Book Nerds love us some Josephine Angelini! She is super adorable and super sweet and we loved the Starcrossed series! So we were very excited to get our hands on Trial By Fire at BEA this year. (Especially Jacque, who had flight issues and literally walked into the hall and straight to this line.) We decided to wait to review it until around its publication date. 

It's a very cool concept. Lily Proctor is a teenager in Salem, Massachusetts. She had a Very Bad Day and the next thing you know -- voila! She is in alternate universe. And the crazy thing is, a version of herself exists in this universe! In fact, it is she who pulled Lily here. And not only Lily -- her mother, sister, and best friend also exist in this alternate universe. Craziness!

But for some reason, I had a bit of a hard time getting through it. I think that while this alternate universe is a a really cool concept that I like, it also took a lot of exposition to set it up. I mean, there was action and things happened, but it really was a lot of Rowan just explaining things to Lily. And I understand why, because by the end I really did feel like I had a strong sense of the world -- like I was there. I am looking forward to how this plays out for Lily and Rowan. And even more so -- I am super curious to know more about Lillian. I think that's another thing I was missing. We learn at the beginning (and later as well) that she feels like she did what she had to do -- but why?! I really wanted to get into her head, and I really hope we get to do that in the next book.

Jacque's Review:

I have to agree with Flo that the concept is great.   Witches are the rulers of the cities in the new universe.  They can convert heat into energy to power the cities, grow food, heal the sick, etc.  Josephine did a remarkable job of incorporating the history of the Salem Witch Trials into this very unique story.  As much as I wanted to love this book, it was a slow read for me.

A good story, in my opinion, is built around the relationships between the characters.  For a large portion of this book there were trust issues, so the relationships were slow to develop.  Also, Lily had a lot to learn about witchcraft and how things worked in the new world.  This required a lot of detailed explanation which at times was lengthy and confusing.

On a positive note, I did find the ending to be very exciting.  If the sequel picks up where this book left off, we should have a continuous progression to the story without all of the history lessons.  I also hope there will be more to the romance to help keep the pages turning.  If both of those things happen, I think it was well worth persevering through Trial By Fire.  This series has a lot of potential and I look forward to seeing what will happen next.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

Book Summary
The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out.  But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship. Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together....

Flo's Review
Adorable! This was the perfect read for a Lazy Sunday in bed. I was absolutely intrigued when I read the premise for this book, and I thought the execution was very well done. By hearing the other characters' viewpoints, we didn't just get to learn more about Gabe and Lea -- we also learned about those characters. I think the teacher and Lea's roommate were my favorite, but I really enjoyed the classmate Victor, Gabe's two friends and brother, and the Starbucks barista. Could have done without the squirrel, I think. I understand the need for the bench viewpoint. 

The interview at the end of the book revealed that the story was cut down from 23 viewpoints to 14, and I think that was the right decision. Twenty-three would have gotten to be too much jumping around, I think. I always have a soft spot for the obviously infatuated by slightly awkward boys in books, so I thought Gabe was just adorable. The moments between he and Lea were just so cringe-worthy and cute at the same time, and I like that Victor and some of the others acknowledged this fact. I liked both their friends and the camaraderie they shared. 

This book gets 4 adorable stars from me!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

A Snicker of Magic

The librarian at my son's school selected A Snicker of Magic for their fourth and fifth grade book club.  Both the parent and child had to read the book.  We then attended a discussion with other students, parents, and teachers.  I thought it was a great opportunity for my son, so I signed us up.

The book had a nice message, but it was a very slow read.  There were a couple of main characters, Felicity and Jonah,  who traveled around town and met several additional characters.  Jonah shared magical ice cream with the people they met, which caused them to remember stories from their past.  This led to the introduction of even more characters.  It was difficult for an adult to keep track of all of the characters and next to impossible for my nine year old son. 

Felicity Pickle comes from a wandering family.  Her mother is constantly moveing her two daughters from one town to the next.  The girls never have a chance to develop friendships or get used to a school.  One day, they arrive in Midnight Gulch.  The town used to be filled with magic, but the magic left a long time ago.  It is believed that two local musicians known as the Weatherly brothers took part in a duel years ago.  The person who lost the duel was destined to have a wandering spirit and could not return to Midnight Gulch.  Without the Weatherly's music the town lost its magic.  There is still a "snicker of magic" left, but not enough to entice anyone to stay in this mountain town.  It becomes Felicity's mission to solve the riddle and restore the magic to Midnight Gulch.   

The book never really captured either of our attention.  We probably would have stopped reading altogether if it weren't for the book club.  The only portion that Preston seemed to enjoy was the reenactment of the duel at the end of the book.  He also enjoyed the unusual words Felicity invented, such as spindiddly.  The words were fun to say and added some originality to the story.  I just wish there was more to the plot and the pace was a lot faster.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

Book Summary
Tired of memoirs that only tell you what really happened?
Sick of deeply personal accounts written in the first person? Seeking an exciting, interactive read that puts the “u” back in “aUtobiography”? Then look no further than Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography! In this revolutionary, Joycean experiment in light celebrity narrative, actor/personality/carbon-based life-form Neil Patrick Harris lets you, the reader, live his life. You will be born in New Mexico. You will get your big break at an acting camp. You will get into a bizarre confrontation outside a nightclub with actor Scott Caan. Even better, at each critical juncture of your life, you will choose how to proceed. You will decide whether to try out for Doogie Howser, M.D. You will decide whether to spend years struggling with your sexuality. You will decide what kind of caviar you want to eat on board Elton John’s yacht.
Choose correctly and you’ll find fame, fortune, and true love. Choose incorrectly and you’ll find misery, heartbreak, and a hideous death by piranhas. All this, plus magic tricks, cocktail recipes, embarrassing pictures from your time as a child actor, and even a closing song. Yes, if you buy one book this year, congratulations on being above the American average, but make that book Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography!

Flo's Review
So I've been in that phase for the past week or so where none of the book's I'm reading is really holding my attention. My solution to this is to put each book aside and start a new one -- so I am now currently on page 100ish of about four books. Oy! But this one was different. I picked it up on a Lazy Saturday -- and I couldn't put it down! I ended up reading all night long, and even though I was tired, I kept staying up so I could read each possible scenario.

I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, and that's what this book is. I enjoyed doing the thing where I would make one choice and read it, but then come back and go to the other choice and read that. Then I'd decide which path I liked better and take that one. It's Choose Your Own Adventure reading strategy, you could say. 

Format aside, Neil Patrick Harris is of course hilarious, and I was laughing out loud many times while reading this. At the same time, his story is very honest and emotional at times, and I came to really respect the struggles he went through and how he went through them. His love for his parents, brother, partner, and children is deep and really sweet to see. 

I definitely recommend this one! Because of the format you can read as much or as little as you want. So if you want a quick read, it can be that. If you have more time and want to really dive in, you can do that, too. But either way, I don't think you'll regret it.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

Book Summary
I never believed in ghosts. Until one tried to kill me.
When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy’s room and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon — a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.
Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon — battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.
Suspense, romance, and the paranormal meet in this chilling urban fantasy, the first book in a new series from Kami Garcia, bestselling coauthor of the Beautiful Creatures novels.

Flo's Review
So much love for this one! It was a quick, easy, but most importantly FUN read, which is exactly what I was needing when I read it! I know, you're thinking, "Demons? Fun?? Um, Flo..." But it was! The characters were really fun to read about. I loved reading about the different members of the Legion, their different talents, and seeing how they work individually and together. I finished this book in no time. And with the ending -- thankfully I already have Book #2, Unmarked, on hand!

It was really neat because not more than a week after I finished reading this book, I got to hear Kami talk about it at the Miami Book Fair. She's hilarious and I really enjoyed hearing her story about how this series came to be. (Basically, it involves all of her favorite things: a historical back story, killing, food -- you know, the usual!) She also wanted to create a story where her characters could not do it on their own: they had to work together. She definitely succeeded, as you can plainly see from how well the Legion works together. Even with Kennedy being new to the fold, she learns quickly and jumps right in to help the others. And they help her in return.

Also: the brothers. Is is awkward that I'm in love with both of them?? Their relationship was strong but was being tested in this book, and it broke my heart to read about it. I just read the first chapter of Unmarked and OMG! I'm thinking I will be continuing to gush about this series shortly. 

Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof

Book Summary
From debut novelist Martha Woodroof comes an inspiring tale of a small-town college professor, a remarkable new woman at the bookshop, and the ten-year old son he never knew he had. Tom Putnam has resigned himself to a quiet and half-fulfilled life. An English professor in a sleepy college town, he spends his days browsing the Shakespeare shelves at the campus bookstore, managing the oddball faculty in his department and caring, alongside his formidable mother-in-law, for his wife Marjory, a fragile shut-in with unrelenting neuroses, a condition exacerbated by her discovery of Tom’s brief and misguided affair with a visiting poetess a decade earlier. Then, one evening at the bookstore, Tom and Marjory meet Rose Callahan, the shop's charming new hire, and Marjory invites Rose to their home for dinner, out of the blue, her first social interaction since her breakdown. Tom wonders if it’s a sign that change is on the horizon, a feeling confirmed upon his return home, where he opens a letter from his former paramour, informing him he'd fathered a son who is heading Tom's way on a train.  His mind races at the possibility of having a family after so many years of loneliness. And it becomes clear change is coming whether Tom’s ready or not. A heartwarming story with a charmingly imperfect cast of characters to cheer for, Small Blessings's wonderfully optimistic heart that reminds us that sometimes, when it feels like life has veered irrevocably off track, the track shifts in ways we never can have imagined. 

Flo's Review
I didn't expect to enjoy this one as much as I did. There were just really some great characters and some great surprises! This novel seems like it will be your usual warm, fuzzy fiction read, perfect for blankets, tea, and rainy days. But several times throughout the book Martha Woodroof threw in a new plot twist that I absolutely was not expecting! I loved the surprises!

Another thing I really enjoyed about this novel was the idea for Rose that it would be taking a risk to stay in one place. This plays against the idea that usually it takes courage to leave and go someplace new. But for Rose, moving around is her safety. It takes courage for her to stay in one place, set up roots, and -- more commonly -- open herself up to deeper connections. I also found it interesting how her mother, Mavis, was presented in the book. Except for two instances, she is just a voice of reason in Rose's head -- but still, she is very much a character in the story.

Henry seems to good to be real for a 10-year-old boy, but he was endearing and I think that's what the author was going for with him. All of the main characters experience tremendous growth during the time frame of the novel and it was just really enjoyable to experience it with them.

This book is definitely worth reading! 5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you to Macmillan Audio for providing me with the audiobook.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review: 4th of July by James Patterson

4th of July (Women's Murder Club, #4)

Jacque's Review:

This is the fourth book in the Women's Murder Club series.  Lindsay Boxer is a homicide detective for the San Francisco police department.  While off duty she was having a couple of margaritas with the other members of the murder club...chief medical examiner Claire Washburn and Cindy Thomas, a local reporter.  The three women often collaborate on cases, so this was par for the course until Lindsay's former partner called.  He found a car matching the description of the car spotted leaving two murder scenes and he was on the way to pick her up.

The events that transpire leave Lindsay in the hot seat.  She is accused of wrongful death and is on trial for a large portion of the story.  We are introduced to her attorney, Yuki Castellano.  I'm confident we will see a lot more of Yuki throughout this series as the newest member of the Women's Murder Club.

Lindsay was advised to take some time off to relax and prepare for her trial.  Her sister offers Lindsay her beach house as a place to escape the media circus until the start of the trial.  It doesn't take Lindsay long to notice that several murders that occur while she is visiting this small coastal town have similarities to one of her cold cases.  She begins investigating and eventually earns the trust and respect of the local sheriff.  Together they work to solve the viscous murders.  

From the beginning we are able to see the murderers plot and execute the crimes.  We know that three people are working together, but we have no idea who the perpetrators are until the very end.  I never would have guessed one of the character's involvement, but the other two I considered suspects from the very beginning.  The one twist that I did find interesting was the reason for the murders.  These weren't random acts of violence like they appeared to be.  

It looks like there are now 14 books in this series, so I have a long way to go if I'm going to catch up. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shatter Point by Jeff Altabef

Shatter Point

Jacque's Review:

I have been a fan of murder mysteries for a long time.  I'm currently reading the Kay Scarpetta series, The Women's Murder Club, the King and Maxwell series,and a few others.  Shatter Point is very well written and kept me engaged from start to finish.  Very few authors write stand-alone mysteries, so that in and of itself is note worthy.  It is nice to be able to read a book and not feel like I'm on the hook for the next several years.

The book bounces between a few different stories which converge about two thirds of the way through.  I found this to be a little confusing at first.  Once I worked through the first several chapters, I began to connect with the characters and everything fell into place.

The story is set several years into the future in a country that is clearly divided.  There are the extremely wealthy and the poor.  The government is run by the wealthy, so there is very little advancement opportunity for those who are not part of the elite.  Dr. Beck is one of the few exceptions.  He grew up in an orphanage, but his exceptional test scores earned him the opportunity to attend college.  He is on the verge of creating a cure for Alzheimer's, but the government has alternate plans for his research.

Cooper first met Maggie while his family was vacationing at a resort for the summer.  Her parents worked at the resort, but Cooper took an interest in her.  He quickly became obsessed with her, but she could see past his good looks and charming personality.  He had an explosive temper that she couldn't ignore.

When Maggie disappears her two sons, Jack and Tom, turn to the Fourteenth Colony for help.  This is an underground resistance to the over powering government that has taken over the country.  The organization's goal is to restore democracy and the chance for the American dream.  Tom and Jack quickly discover that their great aunt Jackie and mother have been hiding family secrets since well before they were born.  
The link between Dr. Beck, Cooper, Maggie, and the underground resistance was intricately woven throughout the story.  With surprises around every corner, I found this to be a very fast paced story that I simply could not put down.  I would highly recommend this book to any adult who enjoys murder mysteries.  (There is some graphic violence, so this is not for younger readers.)  

I've already added Jeff Altabef's Fourteenth Colony to my to-be-read list.  While Shatter Point is a stand-alone novel, Fourteenth Colony appears to provide the back story.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez

Book Summary
Valentina Cruz no longer exists.
One moment, she was wrapped in Emilio’s arms, melting into his kiss. The next, she was witnessing the unthinkable: a murder in cold blood, ordered by her father and carried out by her boyfriend. When Emilio pulled the trigger, Valentina disappeared. She made a split-second decision to shed her identity and flee her life of privilege, leaving the glittering parties and sultry nightlife of Miami far behind.
She doesn’t know how to explain to herself what she saw. All she knows now is that nothing she believed about her family, her heart, or Emilio’s love, was real.
She can change her name and deny her past, but Valentina can’t run from the truth. The lines between right and wrong, and trust and betrayal, will be blurred beyond recognition as she untangles the deceptions of the two men she once loved and races to find her own truth.

Flo's Review
This was an interesting one for me, in that it took me literally months to read the first third of the book. I was not connecting with Valentina at all. She didn't seem to have too much of a personality at the beginning...I felt like I was just reading about her poor miserable life and seeing her revisit the past over and over and over in her head. Except, she wasn't even revisiting the past concretely. She was hung up on one event and feeling sorry for herself because she didn't have the money and the easy life she did before. There was really nothing about her that made me think, "Oh poor Valentina -- I wonder how things turn up for her."

Until about halfway through the book. It was almost night and day for me. There comes a point in the story where Valentina decides to stop waiting and to take action. THIS is where the story begins. From there, I flew through the rest of the book. There were several mini twists throughout the story that were quite surprising, and then a BIG twist toward the end that I didn't see coming. And by this part of the story we've gotten to Action Valentina. She is conflicted because of her love for people who have basically lied to her for her whole life. But she makes a decision and goes with it and I admire her for following through. 

It was a hard first half, and I truly feel like that part could have been cut at least in half but probably even more. But I'm glad I pushed on through to the end and got to know who Valentina Cruz is. The last lines in the book are perfect.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book for review.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Before You Break by Christina Lee

Book Summary
A college baseball star isn’t supposed to have skeletons in his closet. But Daniel Quinn is hiding a past so dark, he refuses to let anyone get close. Except there’s something about Ella Abrams that goes beyond attraction—something that makes him want to open up.
Ella has suffered enough heartache to fill one of her psychology textbooks, but she keeps that part of herself hidden behind a bubbly exterior. Until she receives an anonymous call while working a suicide help line and the voice on the other end touches something inside of her that she can’t ignore.
Soon Ella and Quinn’s physical connection heats up, even as their revealing hotline talks intensify. But by the time Ella realizes that her seductive jock and her sensitive caller are the same guy, it might be too late to save him—or to stop herself from falling too far….

Flo's Review
Happy book birthday to Before You Break! I feel in love with Christina Lee when I recently read All Of You. So when I discovered that Before You Break was being released in print, I was all over it! 

Once again, I flew through the book in a day. Christina Lee is great like that -- you don't want to put the book down, and then all of a sudden it's several hours later and you're done. I love books like that! I enjoyed this story, but not in the same way I enjoyed All of You. While Bennett could make the list of Fictional Boyfriends, Quinn was just too broken for that. This was a story about his healing. I cannot even fathom carrying around the guilt he did. I felt like Gabby did every time Daniel called the hotline and let a little more go, and really took to heart what she was saying. 

I liked seeing a good amount of Avery in this book, and now I'm completely sucked in! Looking forward to seeing how Rachel comes around in Whisper to Me!

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with this review copy.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Driving with the Top Down by Beth Harbison

Book Summary
Three women, two weeks, one convertible: sometimes life doesn't take you in the direction you expect...
Colleen Bradley is married with a teenage son, a modest business repurposing and reselling antiques, and longtime fear that she was not her husband’s first choice. When she decides to take a road trip down the east coast to check out antique auctions for her business, she also has a secret ulterior motive. Her one-woman mission for peace of mind is thrown slightly off course when sixteen year old Tamara becomes her co-pilot. The daughter of Colleen’s brother-in-law, Tamara is aware that when people see her as a screw-up, but she knows in her heart that she’s so much more. She just wishes her father could see it, too. 
The already bumpy trip takes another unexpected turn when they stop at the diner that served as Colleen’s college hangout and run into her old friend, Bitty Nolan Camalier. Clearly distressed, Bitty gives them a story full of holes: angry with her husband, she took off on her own, only to have her car stolen. Both Colleen and Tamara sense that there’s more that Bitty isn’t sharing, but Colleen offers to give Bitty a ride to Florida.
So one becomes two becomes three as Colleen, Tamara, and Bitty make their way together down the coast. It’s a road trip fraught with tension as Tamara’s poor choices come back to haunt her and Bitty’s secrets reach a boiling point. With no one to turn to but each other, these three women might just discover that you can get lost in life but somehow, true friends provide a roadmap to finding what you’re really looking for.

Flo's Review
I really wanted to like this book. I chose it as the first of several audiobooks I'd received to review because I just loved the concept -- three gals, a road trip. "How fun!" I thought. "They will get into all kinds of fun adventures! It will make me want to grab my besties and hit the open road!"

Unfortunately, it did not. Admittedly, their lives all kinda sucked (except for Colleen, who was just making her own drama for no good reason), but this book to me was basically just them whining about how horrible everything is for 350 pages. There was literally one point in the book where Colleen and Bitty are sitting at a bar engaging in a "who has the crappier life right now??" match. I can't. I cannot. I know you had to show these characters hitting rock bottom so you can see them starting to climb their way up, but I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it was more climbing and less descent and groveling around at the bottom. The happy ending for the gals was pretty much right at the end. The rest of the time they were just driving around and brooding in their own heads. I made myself push through it, though....

...and that is how I shall transition to end on a good note. Usually, if I really don't like a book, I am okay with just stopping it. Ending the road trip, so to say. But for some reason, I had to keep going with this one. I must have felt vested in the characters. And I also liked the "money" quote  -- this is great, and I can see why it inspired the title:

"You are not alone. Don't make the same mistakes I did. Don't keep everything bottled up inside. Open up. It's like" -- she looked around, then gestured at the car -- "it's like driving with the top down. Technically, you're more vulnerable, and everyone can see what would otherwise be hidden inside, but its the only way to fully enjoy the sun and the wind and life. It's so much better than keep it all closed up!"

Thank you to Macmillan Audio for the chance to review this audiobook.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods by Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan and the big, beautiful book. I grabbed this image from his blog:
Book Summary
A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, Can we do this anonymously? Because I don't need the Olympians mad at me again. But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week. 
So begins Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, in which the son of Poseidon adds his own magic--and sarcastic asides--to the classics. He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who's who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. "If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that." 

Flo's Review
I wish Percy Jackson was around when I was studying Greek mythology in high school! Percy's voice makes these classic tales come alive in a new way that kids today will relate to and find interesting. I listened to this audiobook and I literally laughed out loud and several points in the stories. I have read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, along with all the Heroes of Olympus books to date, and I am really glad that Rick Riordan wrote this book to give some more back story and explanation to the gods. The stories of the most of the gods have been talked about briefly or referred to in both of the Percy Jackson series, but that was all I knew of them. It was great to learn more about how Athena sprung from the head of Zeus, for example. I also enjoyed learning about how the Olympian gods overthrew the Titans. I definitely did not know any of the Titan back story, and I really enjoyed learning about that. I have to give props to the audiobook narrator, who was fantastic. Percy writes with a lot of personality, and the narrator did a great job of really bringing forth Percy's thoughts and reactions with his voice.

Now I really want Rick Riordan to write Carter and Sadie Kane's Egyptian Gods. Can do, Rick?!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

GIVEAWAY: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

Book Summary:
A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder--and the one boy who can help change her future.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

Happy book birthday to Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper! How awesome does this book sound?!? Lucky for you, the Book Nerds ended up with two! (Not to mention, we can make a rhyme any ole time!) Anyways, we're giving away the extra copy via the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 22, 2014

Release Day Blitz: Forsaken by Kristen Day

Once you’ve been touched by darkness, it never leaves you…

Abandoned by her parents as an infant; seventeen year old Hannah spent her childhood wading through countless foster families until being adopted by the Whitmans three years ago. Unfortunately, Atlanta’s high society wasn’t quite ready for Hannah…or the strange events that plague her.

Chilling visions of murder, unexplained hallucinations, and a dark, mysterious guy who haunts her nightmares all culminate to set in motion a journey of self-discovery that will challenge everything she’s ever believed; not to mention her sanity.

Sent to live at The House of Lorelei on Bald Head Island, NC for ‘kids like her’, Hannah quickly realizes things are not what they seem. Her fellow ‘disturbed’ teens are actually the descendants of mythical Sea Gods and Goddesses. And so is she.

But when Finn, the ghost from her dreams, appears in the flesh; her nightmares become reality and her dark visions begin coming true. Inexplicably drawn to him, she can’t deny the dangerous hold he has on her heart. The deadly secrets he harbors will ultimately test her courage and push the boundaries of her love.

She must decide if she is ready to embrace the ancient legend she is prophesized to be a part of. The fate of all the descendants will forever depend upon it.

Purchase on Amazon:

Purchase on Smashwords:

About Kristen Day

I am a southern belle at heart with a crazy streak that desperately tries to escape at every opportunity. I love all things nostalgic, rustic, and quirky. I’ve been told I see the world through rose-colored glasses, but I prefer to think of them as kaleidoscope glasses – swirling and morphing reality into something I can digest (who hasn’t pretended those pasty lima beans were really kiwi strawberry jelly beans?).
When I’m not writing I’m making jewelry, painting, drinking sweet tea, watching the discovery channel, or going on random adventures in the mountains of North Carolina with my amazing husband.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle

Me and author Rebecca Serle at BEA 2014
Book Summary
The romantic story of a girl who gets plucked from obscurity to star in the next major feature film franchise based on a book and the ensuing love triangles she gets entangled in on—-and off screen. 
Meet Paige Townsen, Rainer Devon, and Jordan Wilder…When Paige Townsen, a young unknown, gets cast in the movie adaptation of a blockbuster book series, her life changes practically overnight. Within a month, Paige has traded the quiet streets of her hometown for a crowded movie set on the shores of Maui, and is spending quality time with her co-star Rainer Devon, one of People’s Sexiest Men Alive. But when troubled star Jordan Wilder lands the role of the other point in the movie’s famous love triangle, Paige’s crazy new life gets even crazier.In this coming-of-age romance inspired by the kind of celeb hookups that get clever nicknames and a million page views, Paige must figure out who she is – and who she wants – while the whole world watches.

Flo's Review
Question: You're sitting at home on my couch on a rainy Saturday wanting a fun little escape. What do you reach for?
Answer: Famous in Love, of course!
I was lucky enough to pick up this book at BEA earlier this year and meet author Rebecca Serle. She was so sweet and I felt so bad because she was also injured! But since then I've been wanting to read her book. As you (may or may not) know, I am on staff at a Hunger Games fansite -- Down With the Capitol. One of the gals over there recently read and reviewed the book, so that moved it back up in my mind.  

This book was adorable and there's so much to enjoy about it. First of all -- I loved both guys!! Both were amazing!! Usually in love triangles I have a clear personal choice, but not with Rainer and Jordan. This made me more sympathetic to Paige's dilemma. Don't ask me how you're going to choose between them, girl! I don't know!! (But, if or when you do choose, can you send the other one my way? I'm just saying. Hook a sister up!!) Rebecca did a great job at writing about the romantic tension between Jordan and Paige. I loved their scenes! But then, how could you not love Rainer?! He was amazing, too! He was fun, and made everyone feel comfortable and was very honest and accommodating with Paige. Swoon! ...really, I could continue to gush over these boys, but I guess I should move on now.

Another thing I really liked about this book was the interweaving of real and celebrity life. Like, one moment we're reading about Paige and her two BFFs hanging out at each other's houses, going to the movies, hanging out in the library, going to protests. It's all very real and normal. Then we're reading about how Paige is reading movie scripts from her agent and her refrigerator in her personal condo in Hawaii is perpetually stocked with her favorite foods. It kind of gave me a feel of celebrities as real people. Paige, who feels like the overlooked youngest child and works at a small knick knack store, is suddenly this movie star. She wasn't born as a cover story. She became. On that note, it was nice to see her struggling with it, too. To admit to herself that this is her dream come true, but also that she is getting screamed at by the director and not sleeping nearly enough. 

One question regarding August was left open and I want to know the answer!! I think I'm supposed to infer it maybe from what happens to Paige, but I don't know!!

This book comes out October 21, 2014 and if you are obsessed with YA books turned movies and the actors involved, you will love it! Even if you're not, I think you'll still enjoy reading Paige's "it should be a dream come true but really it's not even though it is" story about becoming a movie star.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Book Summary
Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart. 
Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, √Čtienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

Flo's Review
Yay for Isla! I read most of this book on a day I was feeling blah, and it provided the perfect escape. Really, what can be better than falling in love in Paris?!? I had forgotten just how much I love how Stephanie Perkins writes characters. When I grow up, I want to write characters like Stephanie. Her characters aren't characters -- they become REAL to me. I know them. Because she describes every mannerism, every flaw, every  beauty. You see these characters are whole people and not just actors in a scene. And, of course, I loved loved loved seeing Anna, St. Clair, Lola, Cricket, and Meredith again. This book made me want to go back and read Anna and the French Kiss again. And this book wrapped up the trilogy so nicely and perfectly. 

Another little thing I liked about this book was Lola's relationship with Kurt. My nephew has autism, and it just warmed my heart to read about a guy who has autism but still has a fun, adventurous life -- and, more specifically, a friend to stand by him like Lola stands by Kurt. Their friendship is so great: they will always be there for and support each other, but they also understand that they need to give the other space to let that person fly.

There were times in the story when I wasn't a fan of Isla. Her insecurities and their effect on the relationship annoyed me a little bit. Like, rabbits for example. (This will make sense if you've read the book.) Of the three stories, I have to say that I loved Anna and the French Kiss, then Lola and the Boy Next Door, and then Isla and the Happily Ever After, in that order. But what an amazing, amazing trilogy. I'll have to say that this is my favorite YA contemporary trilogy.

Jacque's Review:

It has been over two and a half years since I finished reading Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door.  I honestly could not remember who Isla was prior to starting the book, but I did not feel bad once I remembered.  She had a VERY small part in Anna and the French Kiss.  She is a year younger than Anna and Etienne and attends SOAP...the School of America in Paris.  She has a huge crush on Josh, who was good friends with Etienne, and is a very talented artist in her grade.

Both Josh and Isla are from New York City and have attended the School of America in Paris together for three years.  They are both home for the summer between their junior and senior year and bump into each other at a local cafe.  Isla just had her wisdom teeth removed and is more outgoing than normal, thanks to some pain killers.  This was just the thing these characters needed to break the ice.  Isla has been in love with Josh since her freshman year and he has secretly been interested in her as well.

After visiting Paris last year I was really excited to read this story, which included many of the sites I visited.  Isla's best friend since childhood, Kurt, is obsessed with the catacombs, the underground tunnel system in Paris.  If you have never been there, here are a couple of the pictures I took.  It isn't something most tourists know about, but I would HIGHLY recommend taking a tour if you are even in Paris.  

I'm sure everyone wants to know how Anna, Etienne, Lola and Cricket are woven into this story, but I'm not going to spoil it for you.  I will simply say that Stephanie had a brilliant way of bringing all of these characters together for a short period of time.  Isla has a chance to interact with Josh's friends and we are able to see how their lives and relationships have progressed.

The one thing I can say about Stephanie Perkins is that she writes the most lovable characters.  They are all very unique and their stories are far from perfect.  They make mistakes along the way, but they become better people because of what they learn on their journey.  While I always appreciate a Happily Ever After, it has a greater impact when it doesn't come handed to you on a silver platter.  This is a brilliant series that I consider a MUST read for any young adult fan.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Little Bee

This book was recommended to me by one of the physicians I work with quite some time ago.  One of my blog friends gave it one star and another co-worker said it was "okay", so I have been putting it off.  I needed an audio book and this was available, so I downloaded it.

This book was well outside my comfort zone, but it was a thought provoking story.  It is a fictional story about two British journalists, Sarah and Andrew O'Rourke, who travel to Nigeria on vacation.  At the time, there are oil wars going on and there is a lot of violence in the area.  They venture outside of their hotel compound and encounter two Nigerian girls and some "soldiers" for lack of a better term.  The journalists return to England, but the events that took place in Nigeria have irreparably altered them.  

The story is told from both Sarah and Little Bee's point of view.  (Little Bee is one of the Nigerian girls.)  When we are first introduced to Little Bee she is in a British Immigration Detention center.  She fled Nigeria after the encounter with the journalists for her own safety and is seeking refuge from Great Britain. Sarah and Little Bee's world eventually collide and their story unfolds in this novel.

Overall, I thought this book was okay.  I debated between giving it 2 or 3 stars and settled on 3 because it is well written and I can appreciate the author's message about immigration.  The story just wasn't my cup of tea.  It portrays fear and terror and contains a lot of violence.  The ending was also left open, which I don't usually care for.  In this case, the reader can put two and two together to interpret what happens, but the ending is very depressing.  That is probably why the author did not include the additional few pages it would have taken to tie up the loose ends.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Book Summary:
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Flo's Review
Yup. THAT is the book summary. It got a lot of pre-publication hype and again -- look at that summary! I knew I had to read it. I loved this book! For one thing, the writing is unique and beautiful ("He is...ambition and strong coffee." I love that description of Gat! I want to meet someone intense like him just so I can describe that person that way.) 

The story struck a perfect balance between keeping you questioning and moving the plot forward. It gave you enough of a story line and enough about the characters that you were invested -- you felt you knew the Sinclairs and enjoyed reading about their summer experiences. But, at the same time, you knew -- as Cady knew -- that there was more that you didn't know. And so I wanted to keep reading to find out the more. Throughout the story, at good intervals, information is dropped in tidbits that makes you realize...whoa. Maybe you don't know the Sinclairs like you thought you did. I was thoroughly impressed because I knew going into the story that there would be a big twist -- that's all you see when you read the reviews. But I had no idea what the twist could be. And throughout the story I was reading, knowing that something was going to happen. But I had NO IDEA what it could be. And then when I got to it? I was FLOORED. I had NO IDEA. I finished this a couple of days ago and am still in book hangover mode. (The only thing I didn't get is why they're called the Liars? Did E. mention that? Or did I miss it?) Anyway, I definitely recommend this one. 

Jacque's Review:

This is one of the books that I picked up at BEA a few months ago.  I was fortunate to receive a copy because they were out of tickets and the line was really long.  Flo was in line, but wanted to get another she gave me her ticket!!!  Squeeee!!!!

We Were Liars has a very Kennedy feel to it.  The Sinclair family is extremely wealthy and owns an island a few miles from Martha's Vineyard.  Tipper and Harris Sinclair live in the largest house on the island and built three additional houses for their three daughters.  Each summer their children and grandchildren spend the entire summer relaxing and playing on the island.  Their three daughters are very materialistic and spend a lot of time fighting over who will inherit the houses, money, art...all the way down to the tablecloths.

Three of the grandchildren (Johnny, Mirren, and Cadence) are close in age and develop a strong friendship, but they only interact with one another during the summers.  Mirren's mother is divorced and brings her new boyfriend and one of his nephews, Gat, for the summer.  He is the same age as the three cousins and becomes the fourth member of The Liars.  He returns each summer and is essentially part of the family.  During their fifteenth summer on the island, Cadence was involved in an accident.  She can't remember what happened and has terrible migraines as a result.  The doctors advised her mother to let Cadence remember the events on her own, so nobody in the family will tell her what happened.

The majority of the book takes place two years after the accident...summer seventeen.  Cadence returns to the island for the first time since the accident and begins to remember small details.  I was absolutely shocked when Cadence eventually pieces everything together.  Until the last thirty pages I NEVER would have suspected the ending.  In retrospect, there were clues throughout the book, but they were very subtle.  I was so emotionally involved and connected with the characters that the ending brought me to tears.

This is the first book written by E. Lockhart that I have read and it was well worth the wait in line at BEA.  I gave it five out of five stars on Goodreads and would highly recommend it.  If you have read any of her other books, we would love to hear your thoughts.