Monday, October 31, 2016

For This Life Only by Stacey Kade

For This Life Only

Jacque's Review:

For This Life Only is very different from Stacey's other books.  It doesn't contain her usual quick wit and humor that I have come to expect.  In fact, it was a bit of a tearjerker at the end, so you may want to keep that in mind if you are planning on reading this book in public.  Stacey grew up as a PK (pastor's kid), so I'm sure this book was harder for her to write than most of the others because it certainly hits closer to home than ghosts and aliens.

Jace and his brother Eli are the twin sons of the local minister.  Their father expects everyone in the family to maintain a perfect image and to always reflect positively on the family and the church.  Their grandfather was the minister before their father took over and everyone assumes they will eventually carry on the family tradition.  For Eli, that may be a possibility, but Jace is well on his way to a baseball scholarship and plans on moving as far away as possible.  Everything changes the night Eli and Jace are involved in a car accident.  Jace injures his arm and leg and will never be able to pitch again.  Eli was even less fortunate.

The majority of the book revolves around Jace's family struggling with the loss of Eli.  Jace always viewed Eli and the "good twin" while he was the "bad twin" or the screw up.  They were two halves of a whole and without his brother, he is only half of what he should be.  

Jace has always been taught to believe in the afterlife, but after nearly dying and losing his brother, be begins to question his beliefs.  He can't turn to his family or the church, so he seeks guidance from Thera, who he discovers was secretly friends with Eli.  The reason for the secrecy....she is the daughter of the local psychic and the church does not approve of this profession.  The church would also like to take over her mother's property, which is located directly across the street from the church, and they have been trying to force them out for years.  The more Jace gets to know Thera, the more he realizes his brother may not have been as perfect as he seemed.  

Overall, this was a very thought provoking book.  Stacey doesn't attempt to provide the answers to Jace's questions about loss and the afterlife.  She does; however, share some research and evidence that allows readers a chance to explore their own thoughts on the subject without pressuring anyone into a certain set of beliefs.  We also get to see Jace mature and stand up for himself and the things he believes in, which provided a silver lining in this otherwise tragic story.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Four to Score by Janet Evanovich

Four to Score (Stephanie Plum, #4)

Jacque's Review:

Stephanie Plum is back in action as Trenton, New Jersey's most lovable bounty hunter.  She may not be the most talented, but she certainly is the most entertaining.  

This time around she is looking for Maxine Nowicki, who was arrested for stealing her estranged boyfriend's car and failed to appear for her court date.  It seems strange to everyone that Maxine would run from the police for such a minor offence.  This could have all blown over by simply paying a fine and returning the car.

Stephanie soon discovers that Maxine's good friend Margie "accidentally" cut off her finger and Maxine's mother has a nasty head injury, which was also an "accident."  In addition Maxine’s former boyfriend, Eddie Kuntz, is willing to pay Stephanie $1,000 to find Maxine, so there is clearly more to this story than meets the eye.  

Eddie starts receiving mysterious clues from Maxine, which are in a secret code that nobody can solve.  Stephanie recruits the services of her elderly neighbor's nephew who is a pro at solving these types of puzzles.  He also happens to be one of Trenton's most famous drag queens, which really spices things up.  Add in Lula, Grandma Mazur and the other usual suspects and you have one hilarious page turner.

In addition to the hunt for Maxine, things are beginning to heat up with Joe Morelli.  Stephanie is forced to move in with him when someone sets her apartment on fire.  She doesn't want to bring any trouble to her parents' house, so she turns to Joe for help.  They have had a love/hate relationship since Stephanie was 6 years old, but they may be moving in a more positive direction.  

I'm still very early in this series, which currently has 23 novels plus some holiday stories.  I'm not sure how long Evanovich can keep up this all luck / no skill bounty hunter routine while still keeping the series funny and fresh, but so far so good.  I gave Four to Score 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads and will definitely continue onto book five.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Book Summary
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Countdown to Heartless
I am super excited to be part of the Countdown to Heartless blog tour! Check out our Twitter and Instagram page for today's fun challenge!

Flo's Review
Wow. I was late to get on board the Cinder series train, but I was definitely glad when I finally hopped on. Like many others, I was so incredibly impressed by Marissa's way to take elements of stories familiar to us and add them to a larger narrative all her own. So when I first heard about Heartless, I knew that I would love seeing Marissa's conception of Wonderland.

I was not wrong. This book pulled me in right away and did not let me go. It hurt so good, you know? It hurt to read because I ultimately knew how things were going to end up for Catherine, and that the ending was not going to be wanted. I grew to really enjoy the bubbly, creative, fun Catherine of this story and it was so hard knowing what she would turn into.  And Marissa did the turn really well. I was afraid at one point in the story that it would be a light switch -- she's nice and lovable and suddenly she's awful. But it's not at all. I was able to see how and why her heart was hardening, and with a very clever final twist, how she became truly heartless.

The characters that we know and love from Lewis Carroll's story are given such depth. I was especially impressed with the Mad Hatter. Wow. His character is so, so well done. His story is clever and emotional, and the last scene where we see him was so emotional. I enjoyed seeing Cheshire popping up to gossip and the awkward, bubbling King. I laughed to myself every time I read about the Hare, because his name is Haigha, pronounced "hare" and I think that's awesome.

Jest is going to get his own paragraph, because Jest. He's the king's joker, but he is actually very clever, whilst the King is a fool. He's dark and mysterious and totally hot. His relationship with Catherine was realistic, and did I mention he's hot?! I'll take this joker any day!!

Heartless comes out November 8th, and I really think you will enjoy it! Imaginative, clever, emotional, fun -- it is all of this and more.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Book Summary
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Flo's Review
First of all -- HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY TO GEMINA! The second book of The Illuminae Files releases today, so I thought this would be a good time to post my review of book #1, which I just finished yesterday. What a unique and creative book! I never see twists, so the twists (two big ones that I'm thinking of) stopped me cold. I don't read a lot of sci fi because I tend to lose focus when it gets to technical. But Illuminae never did that for me. The story was always about the characters and their relationships. 

I actually listened to this on audio, and it was very good. I had heard from a friend that it was, but I was admittedly skeptical -- if you have seen this book, you know that its layout and formatting is non-traditional. I thought I would lose some of the experience by simply listening to the audio. But I don't think I did. The audio was great because it had noises that fit with what was going on. I didn't just read about the screams - I heard them. I loved the reader for the surveillance guy and also for Ezra. Honestly, all the voices were great. (Even the creepy "Briefing Note" voice of Illuminae.) But I think I will read the second book to get that experience as well.

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff are coming to my favorite local bookstore, Books & Books, on November 10th and I couldn't be more excited to see them! (Click here for more information about that event.)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

GIVEAWAY: American Pastoral, Movie Tie-In Edition & The Lovely Reckless

Release Date: 10/21/2016
Rated: R

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Phillip Roth novel, AMERICAN PASTORAL follows an all American family across several decades, as their idyllic existence is shattered by social and political turmoil that will change the fabric of American culture forever. Ewan McGregor (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Beginners) makes his directorial debut and stars as Seymour “Swede” Levov, a once legendary high school athlete who is now a successful businessman married to Dawn, a former beauty queen. But turmoil brews beneath the polished veneer of Swede’s life. When his beloved daughter, Merry, disappears after being accused of committing a violent act, Swede dedicates himself to finding her and reuniting his family. What he discovers shakes him to the core, forcing him to look beneath the surface and confront the chaos that is shaping the modern world around him: no American family will ever be the same. AMERICAN PASTORAL also stars Academy Award® winner Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) as Dawn, Dakota Fanning (The Runaways, The Twilight Saga) as Merry, Emmy® winner Uzo Aduba (Orange Is the New Black), and Academy Award® nominee David Strathairn (Lincoln, Good Night, and Good Luck). (Synopsis from Lionsgate.)

Thanks to our friends at Allied Media, we have a copy of the book to giveaway! You can enter on our Twitter page by retweeting this tweet: or on our Instagram page by commenting: If you don't have either, feel free to comment below. US only, contest ends 10/20. Good luck!

UPDATE! We decided to sweeten the deal by throwing in an ARC of The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia! So this lucky winner will get BOTH books! Good luck!!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Review: The Partner by John Grisham

The Partner

Jacque's Review:

I was a huge fan of John Grisham's legal thrillers back in high school, but I haven't read many since.  I decided to pick up where I left off and read his 8th book, The Partner, which was released in 1997.  I've heard that some of his never books aren't as good as the originals, but he certainly had his A game when he wrote this novel.

The Partner is about a young attorney in Biloxi, Mississippi named Patrick Lanigan who faked his death to start his life over.  He was in a bad marriage and discovered the partners in his firm were planning on firing him before he could cash in on their corrupt scheme.  He carefully gathered the evidence he needed before staging a car accident and sailing off into the sunset.  The partners of the firm put on a good show at the time of his funeral, but were secretly grateful for their good fortune.  

When the 90 million dollar settlement was wired into the firm's account it immediately went missing.  The firm was supposed to receive 1/3 of the amount (30 million dollars) with the remainder being transferred to their client.  Everyone began to question the circumstances surrounding Patrick's death and the search soon began.

When Patrick is found in Brazil four years later everyone thought he would finally be brought to justice and their stolen money wold be returned.  Little did they know the depths of the research and planning he had done the year before he left as well as while he was on the run.  

I was absolutely amazed by the level of detail.  Everything is woven together seamlessly and I couldn't help but root for Patrick to come out unscathed.  While his actions appeared to be inexcusable on the surface, he managed to have an explanation for everything.  There was always a bigger fish in the sea with regards to every accusation and Patrick had every detail covered.

I was highly entertained and would definitely recommend this book.  There was a shocking twist at the very end that I never would have anticipated.  I guess Grisham didn't want to leave readers with a too good to be true feeling and decided to drop a bomb in the last chapter.  Now I'm curious if there is more to Patrick's story in one of his future novels of if he truly was left hanging in the balance.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Book Summary
Magic can save you.
Magic can kill you.

Students at the Magisterium are supposed to be safe. Under the watchful eyes of the mages, they are taught to use magic to bring order to a chaotic world.

But now the chaos is fighting back. Call, Tamara, and Aaron should be worrying about things like pop quizzes and magic contests. Instead, after the shocking death of one of their classmates, they must track down a sinister killer… and risk their own lives in the process.

As Call, Tamara, and Aaron discover, magic can only be as good as the person who wields it. In evil hands, it has the capacity to do immeasurable harm, unless it is stopped in time.

In this striking third book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare present us with a school where anything, good or evil, can happen, and the only way to unlock the truth is to risk everything to find it.

Flo's Review
I admit, I have been forgetful. I'd forgotten how much Cassandra Clare likes her cliffhangers. And I'd forgotten how surprised I was at the end of The Iron Trial.


Admittedly, I knew something big was happened at the end of the book, due to minor spoilers on Goodreads. (I knew what, specifically, just not the details.) But that didn't stop me from being completely floored. I was so not expecting THAT. I have already read some theories on where they are going from here which make sense. I am eager to see the next steps, as they are not as evident as they have been at the end of previous books. 

That being said, it took me awhile to get into this book. For some reason, there was nothing really keeping me turning the pages until I found out about the end. But as I read, my motivation to keep going was that I needed to get the book back to the library (it's totally overdue) and not an overwhelming desire to see what happens next. Definitely the events in the book were all important, as they laid the foundation for the end. But I don't know. It read a little slow. Maybe more theorizing that action? Maybe a little too much of the Celia thing? Luckily, these books are short and easy reads, so it wasn't long before I was tied up in the end. 

Can't believe I have to wait another year until The Silver Mask!

Jacque's Review:

Call, Aaron and Tamara are on a quest to uncover who the "spy" is within the Magisterium and why he or she is targeting Call.  The most obvious reason is the fact that he is a Maker, which is someone who specializes in chaos magic.  There are very few Makers in each generation and very little is knows about their form of magic.  As a result, many people are afraid of them or perhaps want to be them.  The students don't believe that is the reason for the threats on Call's life because Aaron is also a Maker and he hasn't been threatened.

Call does have a secret that only his father and closest friends are aware of, which is most likely the reason for the attacks.  They can't share this information with anyone.  Call, Aaron, Tamara and Jasper must work together to solve this mystery on their own.

The conclusion of this book was not at all what I was expecting.  This is a middle grade series, but Holly and Cassandra certainly aren't coddling these characters or their readers.  There is an epic battle as one would expect and the fallout was more than a little shocking.  I have no idea what direction they will take the series next, but it probably leans more to the "Evil Overlord" side of the spectrum.

Overall, this book wasn't as fast paced and gripping as the first two books in the series, but that is often the case with middle books in a series.  Hopefully things will pick up again with book four or I'm afraid they will lose their appeal to younger readers.  I have a sixth grade son that probably would enjoy the first two books in the series, but he would likely struggle to get through this one.  

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

I didn't even notice that the actual cover under the dust jacket was super awesome, too, until today! I got this book back in May!

Book Summary
As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, this dazzling saga will have readers shivering as Dinahs furious nature sweeps Wonderland up in the maelstrom of her wrath. 

Familiar characters such as Cheshire, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter make their appearance, enchanting readers with this new, dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Flo's Review
Having just finished Heartless by Marissa Meyer and wanting to stay in Wonderland, I finally reached for Queen of Hearts. This book has been on my TBR since I met the author Colleen Oakes at BookCon in May. It is the story of the Queen of Hearts before she became the brutal "Off with his head!!" lady that we know from Alice in Wonderland
Me with author Colleen Oakes at BookCon in May 2016
This was an interesting story. My favorite part was definitely the world building. It was really cool to see how Colleen translated some of the characters we are familiar with, like Cheshire, Harris (the White Rabbit), and the Mad Hatter. The different Cards held different positions in the government, so the Diamond Cards has specific roles, the Spades had a role, and so forth. And it was fascinating to read about Wonderland: the physical geography of it and the different areas. 

I didn't really like Dinah, and my reading style is usually that I have to like the main character (or somebody significant) to be invested in the story. But Dinah made sense. Knowing what she is going to become, it makes sense that she is already unlikable, and I do see how she grew up made her the way she is. I was also a little thrown with the passage of time in this story. I'd finish a chapter and then start a new one and it would like, (I'm paraphrasing) "So everything that just happened took place 6 months ago and now Dinah is..." Every time, I was like, "Wait. What?" Maybe because there were several time leaps like that and they were so understated? I'm not sure. It's not a negative or a positive, just an observation. 

Look at the chapter headers! The Q with the blood drip is on point. This is one the prettiest books I've seen in awhile.
I am curious to see how things go down in Book 2. Without giving anything away from this one, I'm curious about Cheshire -- there is some shade going on with him. Same with the Duchess. What's her story?

Books to Movies Giveaway Hop

When we first started Book Nerds Across America, we had a monthly feature where we all read and reviewed a book that was going to become a movie. Because we love books, and we love movies. We aren't able to do this all the time anymore, but we still do reviews of movies based off books every once in awhile. I think it's great! I really enjoy reading a book and then seeing how the director and actors bring it to life. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don't -- sometimes I don't like them, a lot of times, I do. Anyway! All this is to say we are happy to participate in this Hop. Here's the prize...

It's a mini poster based on Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, courtesy of Quirk Books. (I accidentally ended up with two, so I'm paying it forward with one for one of you :). Have you seen this movie yet? I haven't, but I want to. We did read and review the book. This contest is US only (sorry - we will do another international giveaway soon!) and you can enter via the Rafflecopter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now you can hop on!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

300 Things I Hope by Iain S. Thomas

Book Summary
From the creator of I Wrote This For You, comes a collection of 300 things that the author, Iain S. Thomas, and artist, Carla Kreuser, truly and sincerely hope for you – from hoping that you always have a pen, to hoping that you’re never lonely, and everything in-between. This collection of hope will move you and remind you of what’s important in life as you live it. Or at least, that’s what they hope. 

Flo's Review
When I read the synopsis for this book I said, "Oh, a fun little read!" This is exactly what this was. It was a perfect leisurely Sunday morning read over brunch. Iain S. Thomas has compiled a range of little snippets of things, all starting with "I hope..." and all only a sentence a two. Sometimes they are light and funny, sometimes they are short and serious, but they all got me thinking. I marked a few of my favorites:

"I hope you love someone like the solar system loves the sun."

"I hope you meet someone who's as close to your soulmate as possible while actually being real."

"I hope someone famous retweets you."

"I hope you reach beyond yourself, constantly."

"I hope your heart is made of something hard and soft at the same time."

This book is in the same vein of one of my favorite songs -- "My Wish" by Rascal Flatts:

Thank you to Central Avenue publishing for sending me an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for my honest review.