Tuesday, March 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

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

Don’t Kiss the Messenger Information Sheet:

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

~A modern retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac~


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

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


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

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Book review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns, #1)

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

Jacque's Review:

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Book Review: Everbound by Brodi Ashton

Jacque's Review:

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Book review: Just Another Girl by Elizabeth Eulberg

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

But you don't know her at all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Giveaway: Box of Mystery ARCs!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!!