Tuesday, April 25, 2017

TV Review: 13 Reasons Why

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Blog Tour: The Traitor's Kiss by Erin Beaty

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

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

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

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

ally carter, gallagher girls

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

harriet the spy, louise fitzhugh

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

nancy drew, carolyn keene

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Had paper scraps with personal information about nobles"

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Movie review: Before I Fall

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book review: Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

alex & eliza by melissa de la cruz

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

1777. Albany, New York. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Book Review: The Black Circle by Patrick Carman

The Black Circle (The 39 Clues, #5)

Jacque's Review:

My son and I have been reading the 39 Clues series together.  The one thing that I have enjoyed about this series is that it that it is historical fiction, so I feel like he is learning something while enjoying the fictional elements of the story.  In the fifth installment, Amy and Dan are off to Russia in search of their next clue.  This time we learned about the Romanovs, which was the Russian royal family.  They focus mostly on the Romanov children Anastasia and and Alexei.  We also learned about Rasputin and his involvement with the Romanovs.

It was very coincidental, but my son was learning about Rasputin and the Romanovs in school while we were reading this book.  In addition, my step-dad suggested that I start listening to these "Remarkable Lives, Tragic Deaths" podcasts.  When I pulled them up, the first podcast was about Rasputin, so I feel like quite the expert after this comprehensive history lesson.

Amy and Dan were forced to work with their cousins, the Holts, in order to accomplish this mission.  The clues were spread out all over Russia and there was no way any one team could collect all of them on their own in the designated time frame.  Amy and Dan continue to receive help from the unknown "NRR" .  We finally find out who NRR really is, which was a major surprise.  I don't want to give away any spoilers, but it wasn't who I thought it was all along.

The Kabras trail the Holts and Irina Spasky mysteriously turns up in places Amy and Dan are searching.  She is definitely working against them, but at one point it seemed like she was genuinely concerned about their safety and offered them a warning.  Of course, the kids took it with a grain of salt and continued on with the quest.

Their final discovery appears to be leading them to Australia.  I can't wait to see what we will learn about Australia in book 6.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Book Review: Evertrue by Brodi Ashton

Evertrue (Everneath, #3)

***Spoiler Alert...I do not mention any spoilers from Evertrue (book 3 in the series), but if you haven't finished Everbound (book 2) there are some spoilers and you probably shouldn't proceed.*** 

Jacque's Review:

Evertrue is the third and final book in the Everneath series and picks up where book two left off.  Nikki and Jack are now on a mission to destroy the Everneath and restore Nikki's mortality. They have one major problem.  Nikki has to rely on Cole to feed her every night or she will lose her energy and die.  Even that is a short term solution to her  problems.  She has about a week to discover how to destroy the Everneath or she will be forced to choose between feeding on a forfeit for a century or allowing herself to die. They also hove no idea how to defeat the shades and the current queen.  

I was shocked by a major twist that took place in this book.  Cole and his band disappear one evening and their condo is ransacked.  When Cole reappears, he isn't the same.  He is speaking like he is from the early 1900's with an ancient vocabulary and a strange accent.  I don't want to give away any spoilers, but Nikki and Jack decide to use this to their advantage.

We see a much different side of Cole in this book.  Personally, I liked the overly confident version of him better.  This version; however, did allow the reader to connect with him on a new level.  Even Nikki couldn't help but feel sorry for him.

Jack, on the the other hand, is now a version of the Hulk... or Hercules if we are going to use the mythological equivalent.  He somehow grew in size and strength when he freed himself from the Everneath.  In addition, he now has a very short temper.  Every time Nikki and Cole were together I pictured him clenching his fists (which is constantly mentioned in the book) and turning into the Hulk before he went into one of his rages.  It came in handy at times, but for the most part he was a bit annoying.  I would have selected the old Cole over him any day.

The ending wasn't much of a surprise, but there were some repercussions I didn't see coming.  I wish there could have been a happily ever after for everyone, but I guess that was never in the cards.  I was satisfied with how Brodi tied up the series and thoroughly enjoyed my time with these characters.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

GIVEAWAY: Gift Set for The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler

the dead inside, cyndy etler
The Dead Inside: a true story
Author: Cyndy Etler
Sourcebooks Fire
On-sale: April 4, 2017
Young Adult, Hardcover

For readers of Girl Interrupted and Tweak, Cyndy Etler’s gripping memoir gives readers a glimpse into the harrowing reality of her sixteen months in the notorious "tough love" program the ACLU called “a concentration camp for throwaway kids.”

All Cyndy wanted was to be loved and accepted. By age fourteen, she had escaped from her violent home, only to be reported as a runaway and sent to a “drug rehabilitation” facility that changed her world.

To the public, Straight Inc. was a place of recovery. But behind closed doors, the program used bizarre and intimidating methods to “treat” its patients. In her raw and fearless memoir, Cyndy Etler recounts her sixteen months in the living nightmare that Straight Inc. considered “healing.”

The Author:
Cyndy Etler was homeless at fourteen, summa cum laude at thirty. In her current work as a teacher and teen life coach, Etler happily teaches teens that books work better than drugs. She lives with her husband and dogs in North Carolina. Find her at CyndyEtler.com.

Social Media:
Author: https://twitter.com/cdetler


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Book review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Got it and so excited!! ALA Midwinter Conference 2016
Book Summary
Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

Flo's Review
This book was quite the game. Seriously. My journey reading this book had just about as many twists and turns as Scarlett's adventures at Caraval. 

I struggled for the first half to 2/3rds of the book. I just could not with Scarlett. I don't know if I have ever read someone so inside his or her own head. I am sure there are people like that in the world, but it's really a little bit painful reading that character. At times it felt like I was just reading so much of Scarlett's broken record thoughts and not enough of the magic. 

Because the magic is where this book excels! Stephanie Garber's writing is absolutely beautiful. She doesn't just describe things with words -- she sings them, she creates them, she encapsulates them with all 5 senses and then some. 

Another thing I struggled with was Scarlett's and Julian's banter. I think it was supposed to be cute and coy and show the tension between them. But it just seemed to me like they were snipping at each other in many exchanges that went on for far too long. Their bickering exhausted me. 

But now let's bounce back to something else I liked about this book. The plot twists! There were several, and I didn't see any of them coming. I definitely knew that things would not be as they seemed, but it is just so incredibly creative, this story. 

Finally, a note about the audiobook. I think one reason I vacillated with my opinions about this book is because I was so ready to love it. This book was definitely one of the more popular and most anticipated 2017 titles, and that definitely raised the bar. One reason I was so excited for it was because I found out that the audiobook was narrated by Rebecca Soler. She is absolutely one of my favorite audiobook readers! She read the Cinder series, and I listened to all of those with her. So when I heard that she was doing Caraval, I was ready for another journey. Rebecca did not disappoint, and though I have finished listening to the story, the audiobook contains a bonus interview with author Stephanie Garber. I am looking forward to listening to it tomorrow as I drive around! 

So now that I am off of the ride that is Caraval, I will give it a 3 out of 5 stars and add book #2 to my TBR.

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