Sunday, August 30, 2015

#ARCAugust Aftermath

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

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

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

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

Firewalker by Josephine Angelini:

Serpentine by Cindy Pon:

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

See you all next year for #ARCApril!

Serpentine by Cindy Pon

Book Summary
SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.

Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.

When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.

Flo's Review
So I first heard about this book around BookCon. I saw that Cindy Pon was going to be signing  ARCs there and I put it on my "must get" list. Unfortunately, I don't know what happened, but my first day BookCon groove wasn't at 100%. I remember walking around the hall, checking the time, and realizing that Cindy's signing time had passed. I raced to the Month9Books booth to see if they had any copies left, but they were out :(

Luckily, I was able to get a hold of the book, and I'm glad I did. I struggled a bit in the beginning as Skybright's situation left me with crazy mental images, but the further I got into the book, the more engrossed I became. I loved, loved, loved Kai Sen. I think he's going to get a spot on my Fictional Boyfriends list. He was open and honest with Skybright, and he went out of his way to find her and protect her. 

I also loved the friendship between Skybright and Zhen Ni. Both of them were very protective of each other, and I like that their relationship carried as much weight in this story as the one between Skybright and Kai Sen. I'm intrigued by Stone...I can't get a good read on him and his true nature? I have a feeling we'll be learning a lot more about him in Book #2 -- hopefully we will.

Serpentine was a unique and fast-paced read. I found I was often doing that thing where I read way too fast because I am anxious for the character and I have to know what's going to happen, like right away! If you're in the mood for something different that will make you emotionally invested in the characters and eagerly turning the pages, then I would recommend this one.

Thanks so much to Month9Books for providing me an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Firewalker by Josephine Angelini

This picture of me and Josephine Angelini from back in 2012 is one of my favorites. So cute!
Book Summary
Worlds divide, magic slays, and love lies in the second book of Josephine Angelini’s The Worldwalker Trilogy.

"You think I’m a monster, but my choices, as ruthless as they seem, are justified."

Lily is back in her own universe, and she's ready to start a new life with Rowan by her side. True, she almost died in the Pyre that fueled their escape from New Salem, and must hide her magic for the safety of everyone she cares about, but compared to fighting the Woven, the monstrous creatures inhabiting the alternate Salem, life is looking pretty good.

Unfortunately, Lillian, ruthless ruler of the 13 Cities, is not willing to let Lily go that easily. If she can’t persuade Lily to return to her world, she will force her to come back by doing away with the ones she loves.

Picking up right where Trial By Fire left off, Firewalker is another sexy, fast-paced, heartbreaking thrill ride from internationally bestselling author Josephine Angelini!

Flo's Review
As usual, I have to start off my review of Josephine Angelini's book talking about how much I and the other Book Nerds love her. It's like a habit now. Lol! But we do. What a sweetheart! 

Here's our review of Trial by Fire.

Firewalker is interesting in that it addressed the issues I had with Trial by Fire, but it also didn't at the same time. My main thing with Trial by Fire is that I felt that while the concept was cool, it took a lot of explanation that detracted from the action in the story. I figured that now that the world -- or in this case, worlds -- have been established, Firewalker would just be action. Well, yes and no. A lot of things happened, but it still felt like we were getting a lot of exposition. Some new characters take on central roles in the story and need to be taught. This was a useful refresher for me, as it's been over a year since I was in Lily's world, but it brought the same slower feel of the first story into this one.

Another thing I wanted from this book was to learn more about Lillian and why she did what she did. My wish was granted. We get the full story and, without giving anything away, it's not black and white. Lily explains in frustration to Lillian that she has to know the full story because they are the same person and she (Lily) wants to know whey she (Lillian) would make the choices she made. This idea of Lily and Lillian being the same person is explored from many different angles in the story and that was pretty cool. This also extended to other characters, and I really liked reading about it unfolding in different ways. 

Speaking of other characters...we see a lot of "the other side" with many of the major players in this book. As in, we saw them one way in Trial by Fire, but now we are seeing another side of them in Firewalker. Sometimes this is good (yay!) but sometimes it is not (sad day!)

Now that Lily is not simply learning what she is and who she is, she can take the next step in character growth: she can start really becoming her true self. She grows a lot in this book as a leader and is confronted with difficulties because of it. How she handles these situations is what sets her apart as her own person and is leading her to her full potential.

So, there's Rowan and there's Tristan...but can we talk about Breakfast?! #TeamBreakfast! I absolutely adored his character. If I didn't think Una would kick my butt in .2 seconds, I would be all over that.

Of course we are left at the start of something new and (what looks like) big at the end of the book. I have no idea what book 3 will be about, but I am looking forward to where it will take us and how everything will be resolved.

Thanks so much to Macmillan for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Book Summary
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Flo's Review
What I loved about this book? Everything, Everything. Let's start with the cover. Look at the pretty up there!! I was lucky enough to get this ARC at BookCon, where I also had the chance to meet author Nicola Yoon. It was quick, but I told her that my friend insisted I get her book because she thought it was really good. Nicola was really sweet and grateful. 
Everything, Everything was just a fun book to read. The pictures, IMs, and short chapters made it easy to just breeze through in no time. I finished this book in a day. I have been coming off of a few books that just haven't hit home with me, so reading Everything, Everything to me was like what being Outside felt like to Maddy. (So many thoughts, stimuli, emotions!)

Maddy is smart -- she does very well in her classes and is very well read. What a coincidence that we just gave away a copy of The Little Prince on the blog because it's such a great story, and it ended up being a big part of this one. The way Nicola integrated the spoiler alerts for books that perfectly fit along with what was going on in Maddy's life at each point was so great. The lessons in the story about really living your life and what that means, about taking risks, and more, were conveyed in a simple, inspirational fashion. They were mentioned and acted upon, but they weren't pounded on the reader like, "This is the Very Important Lesson of this story." Like I said, I closed the book with a smile on my face because it was fun to read. And it's a book about all of these deep things, but not put forward in just a heavy fashion. And the reader can still see and reflect on these things. 

Most of all, I loved the love. I loved the way Maddy loved. She loved her Mom. She loved Carla. She loved Olly. And that is Everything, Everything. 

Thanks Penguin Random House!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Book Summary
From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch--"Scout"--returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a MockingbirdGo Set a Watchmanperfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past--a journey that can be guided only by one's conscience.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision--a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.

Flo's Review we go. I've been putting off writing this one because I know I have a lot to say and I'm worried that I'll just end up rambling and not sharing good, coherent thoughts on this book. Because this book definitely made me think. But, as with any writing, the only way to get it going is to get going -- so here we go!

When I heard earlier this year that a new Harper Lee book was going to be released, I was excited, as many bibliophiles seemed to be. I put a hold on a library copy as soon as I possibly could. Then the book came out...and the reviews were not that great. There was talk that a bookstore was offering people refunds. All these details about how the story came to be published were being put forth. Honestly, I don't know what's true and what's not. (You can Google "how go set a watchman was found" on your own time to see several versions of the story.) A few things that stuck with me -- again, I don't know what's true and what's not, but you should understand that I carried these points with me into my reading:

Monday, August 17, 2015

Finding It by Cora Carmack

Finding It (Losing It, #3)

Finding It is the third book in the Losing It series.  While I would definitely recommend reading all three books in order, Finding It can be read as a stand-alone.  I did not feel like that was the case with the second book in the series, Faking It, which carried over quite a bit of content and tension from the previous book.

This book  focuses on one of the secondary characters in Losing It, Kelsey Summers.  She recently graduated from college with a degree in acting and decides to travel across Europe before settling into real life back in the states.  She is from a wealthy family, but contrary to her father's belief, money can't buy happiness.  She has had a difficult past and is trying to cope in not the most positive of ways.

Kelsey meets Jackson Hunt in a bar and is VERY interested in him.  He doesn't seem to show the same level of interest, but we quickly learn that he is battling his own demons stemming from his time in the military.  We don't learn much more about him or the events that caused him to take some time off to find himself, but these two lost soles seem to gravitate to each other.  They spend a week traveling and having the time of their lives until something is revealed that could tear them apart forever.

I don't think this book was nearly as good as the first two in the series, but I did enjoy the story.  The characters were interesting, but I wish Cora would have revealed more about Hunt earlier in the story.  I would have liked to have connected with his character a little more.  I also couldn't relate to the way Kelsey was trying to drink and party her problems away.  It must be nice to have your parent's credit card to travel Europe for as long as you want, but it didn't seem realistic to me.

By the end of the book, Kelsey did change considerably.  She began to take responsibility for her life and became an independent character one could actually admire.  I felt like Jackson and Kelsey were a great source of support for each other and brought some much needed light back into each other's lives.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

Book Summary
On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan only have one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they'll retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night will lead them to friends and family, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?

Flo's Review
I wanted to love this one. I really did. I even composed an Ode to Jennifer E. Smith post because she's that awesome. But the truth is that I am lukewarm on this one. 

I think the beauty in Jennifer E. Smith's writing comes in her description of falling in love. It's almost magical the way Hadley and Oliver fall in love over their 24 hours in The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. And I never wanted to leave the summer of Ellie and Graham in This Is What Happy Looks Like. Hello, Goodbye was as much looking back as it was looking forward, and maybe that's why I had a hard time getting into it. We weren't moving the plot forward at a good pace because we kept having (necessary) flashbacks. It's like this book wasn't written in past tense or present tense -- it was written in nostalgia tense. (Yes, I know this isn't a real tense, and yes, it is different from past tense. Nostalgia tense doesn't just tell what happened in the past. It immerses you in the emotions of the time with a wistful tone.) 

I did like that Jennifer E. Smith took a common problem that many teens face and devoted a novel to it. What to do with the relationship after high school just isn't represented enough, I think, for how often it happens and how big of a decision it is for the parties involved. I also appreciated how the book ended.

I've seen a lot of people love this one, so if you are curious I'd definitely encourage you to give it a read. For me, I just didn't feel the magic, sweet romance in this book that made me eagerly and breathlessly want to keep turning the pages that I did in her others. 

Thank you to the folks at Little Brown for sending me a review copy.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward

Book Summary
For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet.

For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the ironfisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets.

As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive.

Flo's Review
Wow. Where to start with this book?! Well, as soon as I heard about it, I wanted a copy. I have never read anything else by J.R. Ward, so I cannot comment or compare in any way. But I know a lot of people love her Black Dagger Brotherhood series, so that already says a lot about the quality of the author and her writing. 

The folks at NAL/Berkeley really stepped it up, including a special Bourbon Kings folder chock full of information when they sent me the book for review. There was a Cast of Characters sheet (which proved handy), 8 Things You Didn't Know About Bourbon (like that its name derives from the House of Bourbon, who were French royalty), Kentucky Facts & Trivia ( like that the song 'Happy Birthday to You' was created by two sisters from Louisville in 1893), and more! Very cool.

This book ended a reading slump for me. I had just been through a few books that I DNF or slowly and painfully finished, and this was a breath of fresh air. I didn't want to put it down. J.R. Ward succeeds with this story for me where others have failed. I've said it over and over again that I struggle with books where I don't like the main character, or any of the characters. This is what turned me off from big names like Fifty Shades of Grey and Gone Girl. With the latter, I remember a friend describing it to me by saying that basically all the characters are horrible people. And when I read it, I found I didn't care what happened to them, because I didn't care about them at all. The Bourbon Kings wins here. While I wouldn't say all the characters are horrible people, I will say that they all make horrible, horrible choices which lead to them doing bad things. One of two of the characters I want to be like, "They're not bad!" But then I remember how they got to where they are in the story, and it's a bad choice leading to a bad action. I can't salute anyone's actions here. The exception is "Mama" -- Miss Aurora! She is the good, warm Dumbledore figure that is needed in the household of crazy. And maybe Greta too. She has a good heart.

Of course, some are more evil than others. I won't name names, but two characters come to mind whom I think of and inwardly cringe because I am appalled at how low they will go to get what they want. This book was like a train wreck -- everything was falling apart, but I couldn't look away. I couldn't put it down. I mean "train wreck" in a loving kind of way, by the way. I described the drama as "delicious" in a tweet, and it is. Book 2 is going to look different in a big way, but from the teaser at the end of this one, new drama will be added to the already sloshing pot. I can't wait!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

#ARCAugust -- we're in! You in?

I (Flo) discovered on Twitter via the hashtag #ARCAugust that Read.Sleep.Repeat is hosting an event this month dedicated to trimming down the ARC pile. Great idea! I realized that there are a few books releasing September 1st that I'd like to get read before then. So I'm jumping in! Here's what I'd like to have read by the end of the month:


Do you have any ARCs you're trying to read this month? Comment & let me know if you do. Good luck to everyone participating! 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Beach Reads In August Giveway Hop

The theme of this hop is a book I couldn't put down, and I'm taking it back. The book I'm giving away is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. What a magical little story! I was thrilled to find out that they were doing a movie. I mean, look at how cute this looks?!

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from this book -- you might have heard it before:

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” 

I was fortunate enough to snag an extra copy of the YA edition so I'm giving it away. Enter via the Rafflecopter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Done here? Then by all means, hop on: