Thursday, August 29, 2013

Taste Test

Taste Test by Kelly Fiore
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Pages: 352
Keywords: competition, cooking, boarding school
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley provided for blog tour (thank you!)
Get It: Book Depository
If you can grill it, smoke it, or fry it, Nora Henderson knows all about it. She's been basting baby back ribs and pulling pork at her father's barbecue joint since she was tall enough to reach the counter. When she's accepted to Taste Test, a reality-television teen cooking competition, Nora can't wait to leave her humble hometown behind, even if it means saying goodbye to her dad and her best friend, Billy. Once she's on set, run-ins with her high-society roommate and the maddeningly handsome — not to mention talented — son of a famous chef, Christian van Lorten, mean Nora must work even harder to prove herself. But as mysterious accidents plague the kitchen arena, protecting her heart from one annoyingly charming fellow contestant in particular becomes the least of her concerns. Someone is conducting real-life eliminations, and if Nora doesn't figure out who, she could be next to get chopped for good.
So I actually read this during my summer biology class (which I promptly dropped after one week of torture and verbal meanness from the professor) because I sat in the back of class, and instead of listening to the professor get off track and talk about sports, I read. And guys, I started this one night during class, after the 4 hour lab I was at 80% on my Kindle. So I promptly drove home and finished it. It was that addicting.

I loved all the characters, stereotypical as they may be. There's Nora, the hometown underdog on the show; Christian, the asshole rich kid with a mysteriously soft side; Joy, the preppy elitist who has to have everything her way; Gigi, Nora's friend who sticks by her side; Billy, the hometown hero who's super cute and best friend-y. And after reading some (mean, in my opinion) reviews on Goodreads, I see that many people did not approve of Christian as a legitimate male protagonist for Nora to be halfway interested in being friends with. He is described as arrogant and almost sexually abusing Nora. I very much disagree. Christian is a playful character who responds to Nora's insisting, and she doesn't back down when he suggests something more than friendship. Their banter is highly entertaining, and I thoroughly enjoyed the competitiveness between them.

I also was a huge fan of the combined reality show with the mystery of someone sabotaging it. This easily could have been a simpler story with just the competition. But Fiore spiced things up (see what I did there? :) with the added question of what was going on in the kitchens and why people were getting hurt. It took the book to a whole new level suspense-wise.

Minus a little bit of predictability for the ending (without the sabotage, though. I was pleasantly surprised), this was a fast-paced book that had me turning pages so fast to find out what was going to happen that I loved. And who doesn't love a good book about cooking?

Read When: You have several hours blocked off to get through this in one sitting, and for your heavy dose of competition and edge. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Win a copy of Skulk by Rosie Best

I recently received an ARC of Skulk by Rosie Best from the folks at Strange Chemistry to review, and I have decided to give away my copy! So you can win it for yourself!
(And I'm not done with it yet, but guys. It's REALLY good.)

Win an ARC of Skulk by Rosie Best
This is for US residents only - sorry International guys!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What the Spell

What the Spell by Brittany Geragotelis
Publication Date: January 29, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 336
Keywords: magic, high school, witches
Format Read: Hardcover from publisher in exchange for honest review (thank you!)

Summary: Brooklyn Sparks is invisible. Because she's not a popular kid or an ubernerd, Brooklyn is stuck somewhere in the middle of the high school food chain. But all of that is about to change. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, Brooklyn comes of age as a witch. Her strict parents finally unbind her powers and, along with giving herself an instant makeover, Brooklyn discovers her true gift: She was born into a line of magical matchmakers.
After spending so long being overlooked, Brooklyn's getting exactly what she wants, including entree into the elite crowd and her crush's undivided attention. But there's a price to pay. The use of her powers puts Brooklyn in the same dangerous position as her Salem ancestors — if anyone finds out who she really is and what she can do, her life is over. Now that she has everything she's ever wanted, Brooklyn has everything to lose. 

This book totally reminded me of As You Wish, which I read at the beginning of the summer. It was cute, light, had a twist of magic in there, and generally just pretty fun to read. Though I'm not super into the "I have to be popular" storyline (because honestly, who cares?), I do know it's a big part of younger YA audience and lit, so I'm okay with it being a thing here.

Brooklyn is just REALLY adamant about getting into this crowd, but they're not even nice. Still, after her makeover, they notice her and start giving her "jobs" to do (essentially hazing) to prove herself worthy enough to join this group. But the twist is the magic. There are kind of two storylines that happen in this book, and I was okay with both of them. One was completing these tasks and hiding her magic, the other was learning about her family history and magic and dealing with what would happen if someone found out they existed.

I obviously liked the latter of the two better, and the book left off with an intriguing enough ending that I'm trying to find the second book in all my boxes so I can read it because it's got to do with the more interesting plot.

As far as the characters, I didn't care for Brooklyn so much, but she finally started to get the hang of things at the end, so it wasn't ungodly irritating. I liked Asher (a friend she makes at school) just fine, but who I really liked was his sister Abby. She was much more dynamic and her personality was so much more interesting than the other people in the book. I really wanted to know more about her.

I was kind of angry with something that happened toward the end. A certain someone accused someone of a something, and I just have a hard time believing it. Like, after one viewing, being like, obviously THIS is the reason! I am 100% positive! No. That would not be it. Seriously? I was a little mad at that. But maybe there's a reason for that that will crop up in book #2.

This was a fun and friendly book, with a few things that were weird, but other than that I really enjoyed it. Read When: You want a little bit of magic and mystery and a lot of ridiculous high school drama.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

In My Mailbox (21)

Greetings, earthlings! It's been a couple weeks since I've done a mailbox update because SURPRISE! I've moved back to school to get started with the new semester. Now, I can't actually move into my apartment for another week, so I'm crashing with a friend right now. So ignore the mess and craziness going on in the back of the picture. And the books shown are the ones that are new that I currently have with me. Some others went to my house I think.

This is hosted at The Mod Podge Bookshelf.

1. Skulk by Rosie Best. I was contacted through the publisher to review this one, and I'm going to give away my copy once I'm done with it — so keep a look out for that coming up soon. Also it's got graffiti in it. :)

2. The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon. I don't really know a lot about this one, but I read her other book, Godmother, and really enjoyed it. Plus, fairy tale retelling.

(The book below it is What the Spell, which I'm midway through and really enjoying. And then the behemoth of a book underneath is Under the Dome. And yes, I'm still reading it. It's freaking long, okay?)

3. 4 to 16 Characters by Kelli Hourihan. This is a Read Now title on NetGalley that looks pretty interesting, so I went ahead and downloaded it.

I'm sure I have some more books at home that I'll get later and post about later, but for now, this is what I have!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Really Awesome Mess

A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Publication Date: July 23, 2013
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pages: 288
Keywords: boarding school, counseling, mental illness
Format Read: NetGalley
Other Books Read by Authors: Notes from the Blender

Summary: Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy. 
Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin's summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents' divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom. 
Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog — and Emmy definitely doesn't. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors all around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook. 
Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends. 

I was skeptical of starting this one because I only mildly liked the other one these two co-wrote. But it showed up on NetGalley and the cover is super cute, so I requested and read it. It was SO MUCH BETTER than their other book! I was so pleasantly surprised with how much improvement I saw in the writing, flow between the chapters, and the characters and their development.

I'll start with the characters. I really enjoyed reading about Justin and Emmy. They both had super interesting back stories that were slowly developed and revealed throughout the course of the book. And even though I didn't really like Emmy's character, she was still a good one to read about. I had a problem with her because she constantly seemed like she was shooting others down and always on the defensive, even when there were zero reasons to be after her new friends proved themselves over and over. But it got better and she wasn't a total downer all the time.

I also loved some side stories that happened along the way. So there was this girl named Jenny, who was Emmy's roommate and didn't talk and had pig decorations everywhere. And then the whole group (these two, Justin, and several other weird awesome people, were in anger management together) went to the state fair and some really cool stuff went down there that was only sort of a side plot, but it was so hilarious and weird. I adored this side story, and it was so well woven with the main characters and what was actually happening in the book. Everything just worked really well together

I was impressed with how much better the writing style and quality was in this book compared to the last. Sentences made more sense, chapters flowed in the correct order, and their switches from Justin's view to Emmy's weren't abrupt or confusing. Overall, definitely pleased with this book.

Read When: You need a light, fun-hearted read that deals with serious stuff in a humorous way.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Book Blitz (1): Camp Boyfriend

Welcome to the book blitz for Camp Boyfriend!
Here's some info about the book, the author, places you can go exploring, and the summary of the book, which looks GREAT by the way.
There's also a GIVEAWAY at the bottom of the post!

Camp Boyfriend by J.K. Rock
Publication Date: August 7, 2013
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Pages: 324

Summary: They said it couldn't be done, but geeky sophomore Lauren Carlson transformed herself into a popular girl after moving to a new school halfway across the country. Amazing what losing her braces and going out for cheerleading will do. Only trouble is, the popular crowd is wearing on Lauren's nerves and she can't wait to return to summer camp where she's valued for her brain instead of her handsprings. She misses her old friends and most of all, her long time camp-only boyfriend, Seth. This year she intends to upgrade their relationship to year-round statues once she's broken up with her new, jock boyfriend, Matt. He doesn't even begin to know the real her, a girl fascinated by the night sky who dreams of discovering new planets and galaxies. 

But Matt isn't giving her up without a fight. As he makes his case to stay together, Lauren begins to realize his feelings run deeper than she ever would have guessed. What if the guy she thought she was meant to be with forever isn't really the one? Returning to camp Juniper Point was supposed to ground her uprooted life, but she's more adrift than ever. Everything feels different and soon Lauren's friends are turning on her and both guys question what she really wants. As summer tensions escalate, Lauren wonders if she's changed more than she thought. 

I'm a sucker for camp stories (though in my heart I'll probably be rooting for the camp guy because... CAMP). But I love summer camp books. 

Need to add it to your Goodreads shelf, buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or The Book Depository?

And for your reading pleasure, here's a short excerpt:
“Who needs a cabin, when we can be alone like this?” He cradled my face and lowered his mouth. His lips began to move incrementally along my jawbone. We were very alone out here, more so than we’d ever been before. Back at Turtle Creek, there’d always been friends nearby and a curfew hanging over our heads. Now? The possibility of being together was all too real.“Matt,” I breathed around the catch in my throat, knowing we shouldn’t complicate things between us. Especially when I’d only promised him four weeks.Tough to remember when his hungry lips met mine. His arms tightened around me and his fingertips ran through my hair. My lips parted under his, my hands trapped between his chest and mine. Underneath my palms his heart drummed.His hands moved forward until he cupped my face then pulled away. He made a soft, ragged sound as he gazed down at me. “God, you’re beautiful,” he murmured, eyes more intense than I’d ever seen them. My pulse raced when his lips drifted down to my clavicle and along the neckline of my shirt. His hands skimmed across my back, making me shudder in a way that had little to do with the water temperature. When his strong fingers circled to the front and rubbed my ribcage, my body tingled in pleasure.And yeah, I was sending out the wrong message. Trying to shake off the feelings, I grabbed his hands and nudged him away. I treaded water and tried to slow my breathing. Matt looked like he’d run wind sprints. “Too much?” he asked, still the southern gentleman despite the wicked gleam in his eye. I nodded, wanting to say more but needing time to puzzle things out. We stayed out as long as we dared, and we needed to be in our beds before our counselors got back from their meeting.Back at my cabin, I just barely beat Emily when I slipped inside. My friends might have given me the third degree except that our counselor was right behind me and we all had to fake sleep since it was well past curfew. Grateful this once for the early bedtime, I dried off, put on sleep shorts and a tank, and snuggled under the covers. I turned over and pounded my pillow, Matt’s face intruding every time I tried imagining Seth’s.Who knew I’d have a First Kiss of Camp with two boys? Or that they’d both confuse me so much. I’d thought my feelings about them were clear before I came here. But Seth surprised me by letting me go so easily that it hurt. And Matt had given me a few surprises too, forgiving me when I didn’t necessarily deserve it and fighting for me like I was more than a nerd masquerading in designer clothes.As my eyes drifted closed, Seth’s sun-tipped curls and lightly freckled face finally came into focus. He’d want to know what I decided when he came back and wouldn’t like my answer. I’d done nothing wrong tonight, but I couldn’t stop feeling like I’d betrayed him—us.   I might have had a FKOC with both guys. Now I needed to figure out which one would have the last.

J. K. Rock is the writing partnership of sisters-in-law Joanne & Karen Rock. Separately, they write adult romance. Together, they dream up Young Adult books like CAMP BOYFRIEND, the first in a three-book series. The summer camp stories continue with CAMP PAYBACK (4/14) and CAMP FORGET-ME-NOT (8/14), plus bonus free novellas in between stories. Visit to learn more about the series and the free prequel novella, CAMP KISS, which you can download here.
***Author Links***


Grand prize - Signed copies Amanda Ink's SUN, Jennifer Armentrout writing as J. Lynn's FRIGID and JK Rock's CAMP BOYFRIEND. Also included, advance sneak peek copy Laurie Halse Anderson's THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY and Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian's FIRE WITH FIRE, plus an "I <3 a="" amp="" and="" bookmark="" bracelets="" camp="" code="" download="" font="" for="" friendship="" my="" nbsp="" oyfriend="" shirt="" tattoos="" tee="" temporary="" the="" with="">
Three other winners will receive $10 Amazon gift cards

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dirty Little Secret

Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Publisher: MTV Books
Pages: 288
Keywords: music, secret, competition
Format Read: ARC from Jennifer in exchange for honest review (thank you so much!)
Other Books Read by Author: Love Story

Summary: Bailey wasn't always a wild child and the black sheep of her family. She used to play fiddle and tour the music circuit with her sister, Julie, who sang and played guitar. That ended when country music execs swooped in and signed Julie to a solo deal. Never mind that Julie and Bailey were a duet, or that Bailey was their songwriter. The music scouts wanted only Julie, and their parents were content to sit by and let her fulfill her dreams while Bailey's were hushed away. 
Bailey has tried to numb the pain and disappointment over what could have been. And as Julie's debut album is set to hit the charts, her parents get fed up with Bailey's antics and ship her off to granddad's house in Nashville. Playing fiddle in washed-up tribute groups at the mall, Bailey meets Sam, a handsome and oh-so-persuasive guitarist with his own band. He knows Bailey's fiddle-playing is just the thing his band needs to break into the industry. But this life has broken Bailey's heart once before. She isn't sure she's ready to let Sam take her there again. 

It's no question that Jennifer Echols is ah-mazing. Seriously. Her writing is fabulous, lots of descriptors without being overwhelming, interesting characters, and a cool, fun new twist on some kind of topic that's the main plot. So I kind of went into it assuming I was going to like it.

Surprisingly, I did enjoy the book, but I really did not like the main characters all that much. Bailey was okay, and I liked her better than Sam. She is angry that her parents basically ditched her after Julie gets a contract, which is understandable. She spends the whole novel trying to connect with her sister and stay away from her parents, being angry, but also obeying them to stay under the radar so people don't find out she's Julie's sister. However, Bailey introduces herself with a different last name, so this actually works. No one ever suspects her of being this other girl's sister, and the only ones that know are the two people she actually tells. She just worries all the time and seems to spend too much effort trying to please every single character in the book, while also being a rebel? Please.

Sam was a different story. I really just hated him. He was written very well, so it wasn't annoying to read or anything, but he was one of those that made me so mad I wanted to reach in the book and throw fruit at him or something. Anything! The whole time, I just felt like he had ulterior motives and wasn't as honest or true or normal as he could be to Bailey or his friends. His friend, Ace, was actually my favorite character in the book. A member of the band, he was the only level-headed, grounded person, and he seemed like a really funny sweet guy, and I wish he could have been featured a little bit more.

Other than the characters pissing me off quite a bit, I still did enjoy reading this. Like I said, you really can't go wrong picking up an Echols book, you always get a good story, regardless of whether or not you love the characters or want to punch them in the throat. So yep, pretty good.

Read When: You need an Echols fix, you want a healthy dose of competition, or you're feeling a little bit rebellious.