Monday, September 21, 2015

The Weight of Feathers: Interview & Giveaway

Welcome to the blog tour for Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore! This tour is run by the lovely Griffin team at St. Martin's, and yes, if you stay tuned, there is a giveaway in it for you, and the winner will receive a signed, finished copy of the book!

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
Release date: September 15, 2015
St. Martin's Griffin, 320 pages

Goodreads | Buy It!
The Night Circus meets Romeo and Juliet in this stunning young adult novel about two teens who fall in love despite the almost impossible odds against them.

The Palomas and the Corbeaus have long been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows-the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find. 

Lace Paloma may be new to her family's show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she's been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it's a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace's life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.

For the tour, I was lucky enough to interview the author of the book, Anna-Marie McLemore! Read her interview below, and keep going to win your very own copy of the book!

1. Is there anything in particular that inspired you to write this story?
The story started with the idea of these two different shows—mermaid performers, and winged tree climbers who are half-dancer, half-tightrope walker. Those two shows could be allies, but they could just as easily be enemies. And I loved exploring that in a setting that had the clarity of sky versus water. One family versus another, when both are more alike than they'd ever admit. A boy who's wary of water, and a girl who fears heights as much as she loves rivers.

2. Who was your favorite character to create and why?
I loved writing Cluck. He values his heritage so deeply even though he’s an outcast in his own family.

3. What does your writing process look like? How did you go about penning this story?
I outlined, and then outlined some more . . . and then tossed aside the outline midway through. I like knowing where I’m going, even if halfway through writing the story I have to let it go.

4. Did you read as a child? Who was your favorite, or who inspired you to become a writer?
Despite plenty of encouragement, I came to reading slowly, mostly because I’m a slow reader. But I will mention one of the books that made me a reader, The Little Prince. I read it in French class, and because it was in French, I had to go slow. All of us did. The beauty of that story, combined with the fact that I felt like I was in the same place as my peers, helped reading click with me.

5. What are three things you can’t live without right now?
Ridiculous socks (courtesy of author Mackenzi Lee, I’m currently wearing ones with unicorns and narwhals on them), fizzy water (I run on carbonation), and spending time with my family and friends.

Thank you so much for having me! 

The giveaway is US & Canada only and will be shared with St. Martin's Griffin for mailing purposes only. The winner is chosen randomly via Rafflecopter, and the winner will receive one signed, finished copy of the book. No PO boxes, please. :)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Last Good Day of the Year Review

The Last Good Day of the Year by Jessica Warman
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Bloomsbury USA Childrens
via publisher (thank you!)

Goodreads | Buy It!
Ten years ago, in the early hours of New Year’s Day, seven-year-old Samantha and her next door neighbor, Remy, watched as a man broke into Sam’s home and took her younger sister, Turtle, from her sleeping bag. Remy and Sam, too afraid to intervene at the time, later identified the man as Sam’s sister Gretchen’s much older ex-boyfriend, Steven, who was sent to prison for Turtle’s murder.
Now, Sam’s shattered family is returning to her childhood home in an effort to heal. As long-buried memories begin to surface, Sam wonders if she and Remy accurately registered everything they saw. The more they re-examine the events of that fateful night, the more questions they discover about what really happened to Turtle.

I've really been into the YA thriller genre lately—it's always been one of my favorites as well. This was such a well-crafted mystery, and it definitely did not disappoint.

Though I'm still a bit confused on the title (if anyone got it, please let me know because I'm still trying to figure it out!), I loved this realistic, eerie depiction of how a family copes after a tragedy and how they try to figure out the real story.

It was full of suspense, but not the fast-paced, scary suspense. It was more of a slow burn and stayed true to the realistic nature of it all.

I also loved a point brought up about how different scenarios were treated in a group meeting for families whose children had been kidnapped and murdered:

"William's murder got far less attention than it should have because he wasn't a pretty little white girl.... It's the kind of injustice so heinous that you would almost have to ignore it unless you were face-to-face with his mother; the prejudice of the system is the kind of thing most people can't stand to acknowledge, because they aren't willing to accept what that says about the world we all live in."
This was an excellent and poignant read, and I'm still thinking about it even though I finished it almost two months ago!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Geek Girl Review

Geek Girl by Holly Smale
Release date: January 27, 2015
Harper Teen, 384 pages
via publisher (thank you!)
Goodreads | Buy It!
Harriet Manners knows a lot of things. 
She knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a "jiffy" lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. What she isn't quite so sure about is why nobody at school seems to like her very much. So when she's spotted by a top model agent, Harriet grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her Best Friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of the impossibly handsome supermodel Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves. 
As Harriet veers from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, she begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did. 
And as her old life starts to fall apart, the question is: will Harriet be able to transform herself before she ruins everything? 
I loved this cute tale of a girl who just wants to stay in and read her books but instead gets accidentally discovered as a model! Harriet was content, but she was starting to see the difference in herself and her friends

It had such a fun message about staying true to yourself and being honest with your friends that I think is perfect for anyone. But it was a little simplistic for my taste—super basic plot, predictable events, a magic flight to Russia from the UK that seemed to not be a big deal and they were able to fool family and friends?

I didn't totally fall in love with it because of that, but it was so cute and had such a good message perfect for younger readers looking to get into YA but maybe are not ready for some of the harder topics yet.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Reading in the Big Apple

As some of you may know, I moved to New York City at the beginning of the year, and the beginning of September marks the 8th month I've been in this crazy place. It's hard to believe I live here, and while it's not my favorite place in the world (it smells terrible literally all. the. time.), it's pretty cool that for a moment, I'm spending my life working and living in the big city.

In honor of that, I wanted to share some NYC books that have recently made their way to my shelf and that I've begun reading!

I received The War Against the Assholes from the lovely folks at Wunderkind PR, and since I read the synopsis, I was hooked. It's an urban fantasy sort of true crime mystery from what I can tell so far (I'm only a few chapters in), and it's got very stylistic writing which is taking a while to get used to, but the plot is what really intrigues me. A former Catholic school teenager myself, I am interested to see the differences between my experiences (in the South) versus the ones that NYC brings about on a teenager in this setting, especially when you throw in an interesting game setup in the city and also some magic for good measure.

I'm plowing through my BEA titles, and Saint Mazie is one of those I picked up on a whim. Then, after it had been sitting on my unread pile for a while, I saw this article on HelloGiggles praising the title, and I knew it was time to pick it up. Set at the turn of the Great Depression, Mazie is a gal who loves the city and all its dwellers—the homeless, the addicts, and the drunkards—and wouldn't trade the city streets for anything. The story is Mazie's diary, but it's being shared almost 100 years later by a documentarian who's taken a fascination in Mazie's life in NYC.

Always a fan of good mysteries (especially when they include a map. I LOVE maps), I was so excited when Quirk Books sent me Manhattan Mayhem. A collection of short stories, based around locations in New York and from some absolutely essential mystery writers, it has already drawn me in by the introduction alone. I totally love reading about these people and places, especially since I pass some of them on my daily walk to work (I walk about 3 miles to work and then again on the way home to save money and also I've been told exercise is apparently good or something). I also like it because sometimes, after a long day of editing, I don't want to commit to reading a bunch of chapters, but I can sit down and swallow a whole story in only a few pages.

Let's Talk!

Have you read any of these? Any other NYC books I should add to my list to read now that I've been here long enough to get a lay of the land?

Look at other books I've grouped together in Topics Time!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Everything, Everything Review

A girl who's spent her whole life hiding in fear learns what it means to step out of her bubble

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Pages: 320
Format Read: ARC via BEA

What's it about?

Madeline has SCID—it stands for something, but I've forgotten—which basically means she's allergic to the world. She's never been outside, and her mother has taken the highest precautions to ensure her daughter's safety. She has a home nurse and does all her classes online—she's even in some college courses. There's a ventilation/air-purifier system running through their house and an airlock to make sure no contaminates can get in. Madeline doesn't know any other life. This is the way it's always been. Until the neighbors move in. Soon, she's captivated by the new family, especially Olly, who's determined to entertain her through the window since she's declined his invitations to come over and hang out. Incorporating her new friend and feelings into her sickly life is a new challenge, but it's one she's willing to make. Her mom on the other hand, will do whatever she can to keep Madeline safe.

My thoughts

First, I want to give a big Stars Holla out to the diversity in this book. Madeline is half African-American, half-Japanese, and it's finally done in such a normal way because she's just a person and this is who she is and it's not crazy essential to the story, it's just her character's background. Thank god for someone who is finally writing about this as it should be—more ubiquitous and totally normal. I loved that.

Next, I love that this story both was and wasn't what I expected. It's the first one in a while that's really been both things. It was a contemporary story about a girl experiencing love for the first time, and it was a big sappy/dramatic the way all teenager's feelings are. But it was so much more once I got going, and I was so impressed with the author's ability to pull that from out of nowhere but also lead up to it so well that I didn't realize what was happening until it happened. Totally impressive writing skills.
It brought up so many more real issues that I was not expecting at all and in such a good way that I was floored. It's been a while since a book kind of pulled the rug out from under me because I had literally ZERO clues that led me there. But not in a major plot-twist the nurse is an assassin or something kind of way. A much more grounded and normal thing. I was just so taken aback by the whole set up of this story because it was so well done.

The illustrations were also wonderful, and the various pieces throughout the book added so much more to the story. I loved the images of her email inbox, the lists she made, her spoiler-heavy reviews of classic literature that were usually just one or two lines. Everything about the way the story was told had me totally and completely immersed in Madeline's life. 

But can we talk for a quick second about the white thing? And by white, I mean the literal color white. Madeline has like, a million white T-shirts and their whole house is white, and they talk about everything being white and clean all the time. I thought it was something to do with the dye in clothing? I'm not sure. But after a while, this started to bug me. I just didn't like the stereotypical-ness of the white, shiny things stuff. 

But that was a totally minor afterthought. I was also a little disappointed in the last like, two pages. But not enough for it to ruin the story. I just loved the book.


Spoiler reviews by Madeline

Spoiler alert: Everything is nothing.


I love the cover and the feel of this book. Granted, I have an ARC so it's a paperback, but it's one of those soft covers with the embossed lettering which I love. And it totally reminds me of this video I saw recently of a man who is colorblind being given glasses that let him see colors. (Spoiler alert: I cried. You probably will too.)

This is kind of what it was like for Madeline to have any interaction with the outside world. Seemingly normal things to us were overwhelming and amazing to her.

Talk to me!

Have you read this yet? What do you think about the book?
Did you cry when you watched the video? I totally did, even again when I watched it the second time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Inbox/Outbox #1

I saw this feature over at Book Riot, and I thought it would be the perfect way to chat for a little bit about books I've received, books I've finished, and books I'm in the middle of reading. The inbox are recent titles I've acquired (ARCs, purchased, library, egalleys, or any other means of attaining books) that I'm excited to read. The outbox is a quick snippet of titles I've finished if you don't want a huge long review of them. And the in the queue is an extra little bit of what I'm in the middle of right now.


Thanks to the lovely folks at Wunderkind PR and St. Martin's Press, these are two of the books recently sent to me that I'm most excited about.

A huge fan of Ready Player One (did you hear the movie, directed by Spielberg himself, finally has a release date? December 2017), I couldn't wait to get my hands on Armada. I missed it at BEA (I think it was a very exclusively available thing there), but never fear! Zack, a video game enthusiast, maybe fanatic, is ultra-confused when he starts seeing alien things from a fictional video game world.

Still Life Las Vegas was a surprise title, and one I hadn't heard of before it magically appeared on my doorstep. A recent high school graduate and artist can't stop looking for clues about his mother, whom he barely knew because she disappeared twelve years ago. This book is a mixture of prose and illustrations and comic panels, and it looks beautiful and mysterious and so, so intriguing.

I've recently finished two very drastically different but equally compelling reads, both meant for the middle grade or young(er ish?) category.

Anna and the Swallow Man was a book I picked up at BEA mainly because the cover was beautiful, and the bit on the back was only a few sentences but was very intriguing. Other than that, knew nothing about it. Upon finishing, I discovered it was a title meant for middle grade or children, and that changed my whole view on it, and I want to go back and re-read. Told from the perspective of a young 7-year-old Polish girl in the heart of World War II, this book is about personal journeys, sacrifice, and trust. It was mysterious and eerie as all tales involving the grim and horror of the war should be, and it was phenomenal to see what it looked like through a small child's eyes who was trying to comprehend what was happening. (Teachers, I highly recommend for 4–7th grade classes for a companion to go along with World War II lessons.)

Purely from my interest in reading about alchemy and magic (one of those lifelong interests that was one of my favorites to read about as a kid), The Blackthorn Key had everything my 12-year-old self wanted in a fast-paced, high-stakes novel about a young apprentice trying to discover the secret his master had been killed for hiding. It covers everything from friendship, poverty, religion, morality, and some seriously cool fight scenes (with the MC concocting explosives to plan his escape from the villains). What a fun adventure I had with this one! (This was another BEA title—I'm so proud that I've read quite a few of my pick-ups! Still not enough, but getting there.)

In the Queue

One from each age level (though I don't really believe you ever grow out of reading anything)!

Confession: I've never read Bridget Jones. I'm in the middle of March right now though, and I'm really liking it, especially since she works in publishing, which I'm identifying with a lot.

Fuzzy Mud is Louis Sachar's newest work, which officially released August 4. It's great so far, and brings up a lot of important issues, like betterment of science vs. environmental safety while also covering more ubiquitous middle school issues like bullying and whether or not you should help the kid who's been mean to you all this time.

One of the first books in a while that's made me question my YA love is Never Always Sometimes. While mostly fun to read, it also has some cringe-worthy talky-talk lovey-dovey moments that make me want to barf a little. I know first loves are intense, but really? Am I just too old now? I'm pretty sure my high school self would have made a face too.

Talk to me!

What are you reading now? Anything you just finished that was amazing or terrible? What have you been getting in the mail? Let's talk about it in the comments!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

I'm Always Up for Reading About Teen Witches

As a Pottermore-sorted (the most legit form of sorting other than just choosing yourself) Gryffindor, I can assure you I'm a pretty die-hard Harry Potter fan (my favorite classes would be Herbology and Charms and I would be a beater for the Quidditch team). I collect editions of the books when I travel because they're beautiful, and they're also cool keepsakes to remind me of where I've been.

But even Harry Potter isn't the reason I turn to teen witch stories time and time again (even though Hermione is a bad ass and who didn't want to just BE her?). And even though they're TV shows, they're still stories, and they're what inspired my love of finding books with teen witches. Let's look back:

Growing up, I was obsessed with Sabrina. I mean, who wasn't? She was just a normal high school girl trying to fit in and not be the butt of everyone's bullying/teasing. Oh, and she was a teenage witch. There was something so comforting about this totally pretty girl not fitting in with the cool kids because she was a little weird and feminist and loved science and her cat. I felt like it showed everyone has insecurities, and really, we're all just trying to find friends and happiness in this world, and it doesn't matter who we are, we all want that.

I mean, this girl spent high school living with her aunts because her parents separated, she earned her Witch's License (while still doing normal school work), and ended up training a younger witch. Throughout her life, she made mistakes, but she had help from her aunts that taught her that mistakes are okay as long as you learn from them.

Next up was my interest in Charmed. While not exactly teen witches, it was broadcast on the WB, so I mean, close enough. This was three sisters trying to hide their powers from, you know, everyone who didn't have powers, while trying to help the FBI along when a case was unsolvable because of magic foul play. They, too were still just trying to figure out their own path in the world and felt just as vulnerable as teenagers even though they had magical powers. I kind of thought this would be exactly what grown-up life was. (But I also thought living in NYC in a lower east side 2-bedroom apartment like Monica and Rachel did while unemployed was a thing, but man, did I turn out to be dreaming.)

Also because this was shot on the WB back lot, it was pretty much magic Gilmore Girls, which got me to a whole other level of thinking what if Lorelai had magical powers and how awesome/probably terrifying that would be.

And finally we have the one and only fabulous and unmatched Raven. I realize she's not a witch, per se, but having clairvoyant, psychic abilities puts her in some supernatural camp, and I feel like this is the closest one she's in, so we're going with teen witch category (she's certainly not a vampire or anything, so witch is fine, right?).

I learned everything I knew about high school from Raven. I watched it in middle school when it was airing on the Disney Channel, and this was right before I moved schools. Now, it wasn't just a normal move. I was moving from tiny Catholic grade school to the big, public high school, and I didn't know anyone or anything about how this school worked. So I relied, obviously, on fictional characters to help me out. I've never been one for wanting to be popular, I just wanted a few friends, and I'd be fine. So Raven helped me see that even if you're super weird and kind of can't explain yourself sometimes, if you can find the right people, it doesn't matter because they'll be weird with you.

She handled having psychic powers like a BOSS while dealing with stupid people at her school, embarrassing family members, and high school crushes all at the same time. She was also not afraid to flaunt it, and she loved her style and rocked it so well. This show also rocked at being diverse and positive about all backgrounds, cultures, body types, whatever else they needed. Great job, guys!

These ladies instilled in me a lifelong love of all teenagers with some sort of magical power because not only are they dealing with the ups and downs of teenagedom and the horror that is high school, but they're also trying to save the world and their friends.

Even if a book doesn't turn out to be my favorite, I always tend to enjoy books about witches more than other supernatural sort of things because of this. Here are some that I've read and reviewed here!

Talk to me!

Who has read the best teen witch novel? I want to read them! Please tell me if there are more that I'm missing—I LOVE teen witches!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How to Say I Love You Out Loud: Blog Tour & Giveaway

Welcome to the official blog tour for How to Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo! This tour is run in by the lovely folks at Me, My Shelf, and I in conjunction with Swoon Reads, and yes, if you stay tuned, there is a giveaway in it for you, and the winner will receive a finished copy of the book!

How to Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Pages: 240
Goodreads | Buy It!
Words are strong. Love is stronger.

When Jordyn Michaelson’s autistic brother joins her at her elite school, she’s determined not to let anyone know they're related. Even if that means closing herself off to all her closest friends, including charming football stud Alex Colby. But despite her best intentions, she just can't shake the memory of kissing Alex last summer, and the desire to do it again.

Can Jordyn find the courage to tell Alex how she really feels—and the truth about her family—before he slips away forever?


For the tour, I was lucky enough to interview the author of the book, Karole Cozzo! Read her interview below, and keep going to win your very own copy of the book!

1. Is there anything in particular that inspired you to write How to Say I Love You Out Loud?
I work in a school setting that serves students with various special needs. Most of the siblings I encounter are wonderful—supportive and mature beyond their years. However, it's impossible to miss how in so many situations their needs or desires have to come second to the more immediate or pressing needs of their brothers and sisters. I was interested in telling their story, thinking about how their family dynamics impact their lives and relationships. My main character, Jordyn, is far from perfect and doesn't always treat her brother as she should. But she definitely grows, and even if readers don't love her every action, it's my hope that they come to respect her and her progression throughout the story.

2. Who was your favorite character to create and write about?
Probably Leighton (my main character's rival)! She was fun. And I really challenged myself to not turn her into this one-dimensional mean girl. I wanted her to be real, and I wanted her to have some redeeming qualities. I always enjoyed playing around with what was going to come out of her mouth next.

3. What does your writing process look like? How did you go about penning this story?
I usually know how I want my story to start and where I want it to end.  My stories tend to be character driven, so most of my initial focus is on their character arcs—it's more of a challenge for me to tease apart the actual plot and plug in the details of how they get from point A to point B. But I'm DEFINITELY a planner, and I typically can't bring myself to start a "Chapter 1" until I have a story outline down on paper. As I get into it, I usually picture chapters in my head first. Then I put down a really rough outline—bits of dialogue without punctuation or capitalization, incomplete sentences. The final pass is actually fleshing out the chapter, adding actions and descriptors, and at least trying to be grammatically correct. Usually, every chapter is created in this manner.

4. The book features a playground with Dr. Seuss scenes—is there a particular children’s book that inspired you to create something/be a writer?
The book that will always come to mind is The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Dubose Heyward. It was a springtime favorite. The artwork is so beautiful and dreamy and the story is touching. I hope something I create someday can have such an authentic emotional impact. Now, as an adult and working mom, I also appreciate the message about busy moms being able to reach their ambitions at any point in life—that definitely goes along with my writing journey, and I love that in this way this story is still special to me.

5. What are three things you can’t live without right now?
My beautiful planner by ShePlans on Etsy.  I'm still a paper and pencil girl, and there's not a day that I'm not checking my planner. (Um, I checked out these planners, and GIRL they are amazing. Totally sad about my lack of money because I feel like I NEED these in my life.)
My Hawaiian Hazelnut coffee from Cape May Roasters—my day doesn't officially start until it's brewing!
Limes—I use an obscene amount of limes during the summer—in ice water, mint ice tea, and there's nothing better than a fresh-squeezed margarita!


The giveaway is US only and will be shared with Me, My Shelf, and I for mailing purposes only. The winner is chosen randomly via Rafflecopter, and the winner will receive one finished copy of the book. No PO boxes, please. :)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Happy Book Stuff #5

I find things all the time that make me drool because I want to own them, and I definitely can't afford them right now. So I wanted a place to compile all the pretty bookish things that I plan on (someday) having in my possession. Want to see more happy book stuff?

THIS GIRL. Anna Mo runs an Etsy shop called Ohhio, in which she creates every book lover's dream. How much do you want one of these super-chunky blankets to wrap yourself in with a cup of tea and a book? They are crazy expensive (because obvi would be super difficult to make), so maybe one of our fav fictional book boys will buy us one?

Speaking of tea, look at this wonderful tea charm bookmark with a C. S. Lewis quote to perfectly add instant classiness to whatever you may be reading.

How cute are these I've Tread Them All socks from Modcloth? (I mean everything from Modcloth is cute, let's be real.)

I'm loving this Goosebumps patch, and if I were in gradeschool, I totally would have already successfully convinced my mom to buy it (probably two) so I could sew it onto my Jansport and my Girl Scout vest (just to be a rebel).

Monday, July 27, 2015

Reshelved (8)

Welcome to back to Reshelved! This is an installment of books I didn't finish. I don't like to do full posts because it's not fair to the book for me to not like it and review it if I didn't finish it. Some of these just weren't for me, some of them maybe I got bored with, but I still want to give them publicity because maybe you all read them and thought differently or they sound spectacular to you. Let's discuss in the comments what you thought about these if you've read them, or why they sound good to you!

I also recently discovered (I don't know how I didn't know this before) that Jamie has a Reshelved feature where she talks about stuff she didn't get around to and stuff she put down! I always hate when people don't credit my features & posts, so you can go look at her reshelved posts!

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 320
Format Read: ARC from publisher (thank you!)
DNF at: page 142
Goodreads | Buy It!
Aza Ray is drowning in thin air. 
Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. 
So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn't think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.
Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world, and found by another. Magonia. 
Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?
I was just immensely uninterested in this whole, entire book. I was in the mood for a good fantasy, and I was ready to be totally into this one. I was mid way through the book and felt like the story hadn't even started yet. I was bored by the expository-ness of it all, the explanation, the background, everything. It felt like way too much explaining for not enough story and action. In addition, I wasn't compelled by any of the characters. When Aza is taken to the ships in the sky (I mean, what? I had huge problems with this because if you're going to combine our world with a fantasy one, it's got to be explained since most people don't know about it. After about 3 pages, I was expected to know totally what was happening.), I didn't feel for her since she was out of her world. I didn't care about Jason who was apparently sad. I didn't care about her parents. I felt like I didn't know any of the characters, nor did I want to know them.

My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown
Pages: 400
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley
DNF at: 74%
Goodreads | Buy It!
Luisa “Lulu” Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out.
Desperate for funds, she cooks up the (definitely illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends, Roni and Bucky. Quickly realizing they’re out of their depth, Lulu turns to Mason: a local boy who’s always seemed like a dead end. As Mason guides Lulu through the secret world of moonshine, it looks like her plan might actually work. But can she leave town before she loses everything—including her heart?
The summer walks the line between toxic and intoxicating. My Best Everything is Lulu’s letter to Mason – though is it an apology, a good-bye, or a love letter?
I really, really tried with this one. I'm not sure if it was my lack of connection to the characters or the letter-style writing (I really am not a fan of second-person "you" usage), but I could not get fully immersed into this book. I may finish it eventually if there's nothing else that appeals to me and my train gets stuck since it's still downloaded on my Kindle. I felt an immediate connection because of the backwoods, moonshining business characters. I was ready to fall in love and add this to my cute little collection of Kentucky (okay, so it's Virginia, but it's pretty close in terms of experiences) books. But I just didn't like it. I didn't really find anything appealing with Mason, and though I applaud Lulu's initiative and determination to get into college, I desperately wanted to shake her and shout, "STUDENT LOANS ARE A THING." Like, seriously. Problem solved. I took them out, and yes, they SUCK. But I needed to pay for my own schooling and I found a way to do that. Not a big deal. I just never felt like the stakes got high enough and couldn't take the story seriously.

Talk to me!

Have you read either of these? What did you think about them?
Should I give My Best Everything a second chance? Does it pick up in the last quarter?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Even in Paradise Review

Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 360
Keywords: family, boarding school, New England
Format Read: purchased hardcover
Goodreads | Buy It!

What's it about?

Charlotte is just an average scholarship student at a ritzy, private boarding school in New England, when a good deed changes her life. After rescuing the infamous Julia Buchanan from puking her guts out in the bushes outside Charlotte's dorm room, the two become inseparable. Charlie gets ushered into the world of upscale New England and is introduced to society's finest. She is falling madly in love with not just Julia, but the entire Buchanan family, and is swept away by their mysterious, strange life, which seems perfect on the surface, but that is far from the truth. 

My thoughts

This was one that I had seen many mixed reviews on, but I'm so glad I gave it a chance (and so glad the Strand had a hardcover for six bucks!). The storytelling was interesting—Charlie was looking back over her time with the Buchanan family and retelling how being a part of their family, even for a short time, molded her life. I always like when books are told this way, and Philpot's voice was excellent in providing a reminiscent tone while letting the reader know that this story was all happening in the past, and it would not be this way forever. 

Julia Buchanan was such an interesting character, but in the way that felt deliberately interesting, like Margo Roth Spiegelman or Jacinta. She felt a little cliched but still compelling to the storyline, and it makes perfect sense to me why characters are drawn to her. She's one of those characters that seems infinitely cooler and more graceful and dignified than the ordinary person while still being mysterious and whimsical. The appeal was not lost on me, though the trope of her character still seemed overused.

I was also totally into Sebastian's relationship with Charlie. He was equally compelling to Charlie for a lot of the same reasons Julia was—she didn't really understand the Buchanan life or family, and being swept away by all of them was such a unique experience for her. Their relationship felt real and evolving and not totally perfect, which I appreciated. It seems like non-romanticized relationships are hard to come by in YA, so I always take note when they do. The funny thing is that the Buchanan family was so romanticized to be this wild, crazy, out-of-this-world rich family and the romantic relationships (as well as the friendships) remained flawed and real and down-to-earth.

Talk to me!

What other characters fall under the "mysterious, compelling, beautiful girl" trope that you've read about?
Do you like the romanticized relationships or prefer flawed, probably not-happy-ending ones?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 320
Keywords: death, friendship, mystery
Format Read: ARC via publisher (which in no way swayed my opinion)

What's it about?

June, the main character of the novel, has pretty much changed everything about her life. She moved away from her past and got a steady boyfriend with a normal family, she's made new friends at school, and she's finally on track. But all that changes when her former best friend, Delia, is found dead in a barn. Suddenly, she can't stop thinking about her friend who was said to have committed suicide by burning herself. Delia's ex-boyfriend finds June and lets it slip that he doesn't think the suicide was a suicide after all. Now, June finds herself tangled up in Delia's secrets, lies, and mysterious death, and all she wants is answers. 

My Rating

This book really took me by surprise. It totally had a Vanishing Girls vibe to it, which I enjoyed because I really liked that book. But at the same time it felt very different because unlike VG, these two were not sisters. Though June was close with Delia, she wasn't connected, and she didn't know what Delia would have done next. She was going on a lot fewer clues than Nick and Dara's story. Following that dynamic—a character who had been separated from a friend for a while—was extremely intriguing because, like June, we didn't truly know Delia. I didn't know what she was motivated by, what her life was like prior to the book, or why she would have done some of the things suggested in the book. 

There were a lot of moments where—like June—I didn't totally know what was going on. I felt out of the loop, like there was a lot the characters weren't telling me, but I kind of liked it. It was true to life and it was a true first-person narration. June only knew what June was thinking, which left the reader out of the secret as well.

The book had one of those endings that left me feeling like I just didn't get it, but in a good way. Sometimes, a book that has an open-ended ending isn't done well, and it leaves the reader feeling frustrated. This ending was still confusing. I'm not sure I know exactly for sure what happened, but I like that it could go several ways. It left me thinking about how in life, we don't always get a neat little bow on the end of a story. It's messy, it's confusing, and sometimes, stories are never truly over.

Let's Talk!

How do you feel about open-ended endings?
Do you like when books keep you guessing or give you all the answers?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Jesse's Girl: Blog Tour & Giveaway

Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 304
Keywords: music, country, romance
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley

What's it about?

Maya is totally taken by surprise when, after telling her school she wants to be a musician, gets placed to shadow the famous Jesse Scott for career day. Turns out, his uncle is the school principal, and he thinks it would be a good idea for both Maya and Jesse to take this opportunity. Naturally, Jesse is frustrated he has to put up with a fangirl all day. Maya is super mad that Jesse assumes she's a fangirl when she really wants some guitar tips. But they both want to get away from the lame shadow day schedule the principal has set up for them. 

My rating

I was super into the unfolding of the romance. It was good pacing and I liked the back-and-forth nature of the characters. Jesse and Maya had an awesome dynamic, and I love that Maya didn't put up with Jesse's front he put up to "be the bad guy." And though I haven't read all of the Hundred Oaks series, it was fun to see some of the characters pop up and see that dynamic exist between other couples as well. Kenneally can also write a damn good kissing scene. I was super impressed with the chemistry created between the characters, and I was so going down with that ship.

This was just the light romance I needed for the hot summer in the city. It was fun, and I read it [almost] in one sitting. I liked the music aspect, but I wish less emphasis had been placed on the American Idol-esque show that Maya was desperate to compete on. I know she thinks because Jesse got his start there, that's the only way for her to move anywhere, but she was making a ton of connections otherwise, and I wanted her to see that she had other options other than impressing a few musicians on television.

There were a few things that knocked it out of the great camp, including some occasional stilted dialogue and exclamation points. At times, it seemed super cheesy, and it pulled me out of the book on several occasions. And I didn't like Jesse at the beginning (braces for backlash). I know, I know, he definitely grew on me over time, but the whole "bad boy rocker who's hard to get to" had been done, and it didn't feel too original or new. He definitely got better once I got about 20% into the book when we started to see his personality, but I did not like the exterior that was stereotypically portrayed.

Breathe, Annie, Breathe is still my favorite of the series, though I know I'm going to be reading the ones I haven't gotten to soon. It's so unlike me to go out of order, but with these, it's pretty easy to do. But I am so interested in Sam and Jordan, so I know I'm going to get to them soon.

Thanks to Xpresso Tours, the tour hosts are promoting the giveaway of a $50 iTunes giftcard (which is pretty cool, and you could go buy yourself this ebook along with the rest of the Hundred Oaks series). AND it's international! So go ahead and enter folks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Let's talk!

Have you read any of the Hundred Oaks series? How do you feel about bad rocker boys?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Social Media, Blogging, & a Giveaway

Did I not tell you that this summer would feature a lot of exciting events and giveaways?

But let's start with a little background story. I've been seeing a lot of bloggers (Estelle wrote this awesome piece) talk about how they really want this community to be a positive one, and for the most part, it is. But they also discuss the downside to social media and connecting with others 24/7 may not be the best thing in the world, especially when drama happens. We also have a lot of issues balancing blogging and networking against actually reading (ie, the thing that made us start the blog in the first place).

I've been a little absent on main social medias lately because of several reasons (and by absent, I mean posting a few times a week instead of daily). I'm trying to focus more on my love of reading than the media aspect to it, and I've been trying to have more conversations with people when I am on social media instead of sending massive amounts of emojis at people. Also, I have a grown-up job now, and it's surprisingly (okay, not really too surprising) tiring!

Which brings me to my focus. I've added several books to my "reading next" pile that I wanted to share. (It's different than TBR because that's a never-ending pile. This stack I am actually currently working on and/or have finished.) These books have helped me take a step back from things and focus more energy on reading. It's odd because they're about social media. I think seeing the downsides of what it can do have helped me see what I like to do in my IRL life as opposed to being glued to my phone.

The moral? Nothing like watching fictional characters' lives fall apart because of the internet to get you good and scared of social media!

 1. Weightless by Sarah Bannan
I'm a sucker for any story that involves the South, especially people out of their comfort zone in the south. Moving from New Jersey to Alabama is a shocker, but Carolyn is doing surprisingly well at the new school. That is, until all hell breaks loose after a risque video of her and another girl's boy makes the rounds. Once it's on the internet, it's here to stay.

2. serafina67 *urgently requires life* by Susie Day
 Man, this takes me back. This is a book I read a while ago. By a while, I mean in 2008 when it was published. I started blogging in 2009 when it was still a new thing and most people were confused as you tried to explain to them what it was. Serafina takes refuge in her shiny new (brick of a) laptop, and she blogs about her life, using it as a personal outlet. But she quickly discovers putting your secrets out on the interwebs doesn't make them secrets anymore—especially when her parents can see them.

3. Can't Look Away by Donna Cooner
This one made the rounds a while ago, but I just now got it from the library. Torrey Grey is a beauty vlogger, and she's a pretty famous one. But her sister dies suddenly in an accident, and everyone seems to turn on Torrey. Cyber attacks at her and her family on top of issues at her new school make dealing with her grief over her sister's death nearly impossible. I can't wait to start this one, and I have a feeling it's going to be a one-sitting kind of read.

4. My Invisible Boyfriend by Susie Day
I actually found this book while looking for fake-relationship books to complement my reading of The Fill-In Boyfriend. I then realized it was the same Susie Day that wrote Serafina's story, so naturally I found it at the library and grabbed a copy. Heidi thinks the key to popularity is simple—best boyfriend. Only problem is, she doesn't have a boyfriend. Soon, she's in over her head trying to keep up her fake beau's status alive and believable as a real human's.

Lucky for you, the lovely folks at St. Martin's Press have kindly offered up a copy of Weightless!
You must be 13 years or older to enter and you must have a US mailing address. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Love Fortunes and Other Disasters Review

Love Fortunes and Other Disasters by Kimberly Karalius
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Pages: 368
Keywords: romance, high school, fortune telling
Format Read: finished copy (signed!)
Goodreads | Buy It!
Love is real in the town of Grimbaud, and Fallon Dupree has dreamed of attending high school there for years. After all, generations of Duprees have successfully followed the (100% accurate!) love fortunes from Zita’s famous Love Charms Shop to happily marry their high school sweethearts. It’s a tradition. So she is both stunned and devastated when her fortune states that she will NEVER find love.
Fortunately, Fallon isn’t the only student with a terrible love fortune, and a rebellion is brewing. Fallon is determined to take control of her own fate—even if it means working with a notorious heartbreaker like Sebastian.
Will Fallon and Sebastian be able to overthrow Zita’s tyranny and fall in love?

I absolutely adore this cover. The whole book is beautiful, and I so wish that were just the start of my praises, but sadly, it's one of the high points of the book. The illustrations are so cute and fit so well with how I pictured this town, and I want to keep the book because it's so pretty, but I really really don't want it taking up precious space on my (NYC tiny) shelf.

The premise was pretty cool—an entire town ran by the love fortunes passed out by Zita, a mysterious, never-seen woman who always gets everything right. Her fortunes are so trusted that there aren't even other love fortune tellers in the area. The whole town centers their lives around their fortunes, and everyone looks up to this mysterious woman and trusts her completely.

But my issues with the book begin there. Everyone goes to get their love fortune once a year until they're married, I guess? It doesn't really explain when you stop going. They start, however, during their first year of high school. 14 years old. And these kids take it SO SERIOUSLY. Literally all they think about is getting married and having kids, and I spent the whole time wondering why the hell they even go to school. Sure, it seems like to learn and get a career, but on top of that, family trades seem incredibly important to all the characters, and most follow in the footsteps of their parents and older siblings. So I ask again, if their careers and planned and their marriage is planned, what is the actual point of school? It can't be learning because no one ever seems to do any school work aside from comment on how they should study for finals. We're told that this is simply because of "tradition," but no other explanation is given, so I simply didn't buy it.

But I tried to suspend the disbelief. I really did. I was behind the kids trying to overtake Zita. They had enough and the kids with bad fortunes decided they wanted to write their own history. The twins that incited the group seemed cool, but they popped up out of nowhere, and I had no reason to trust or believe them. They didn't even verify that they too had bad fortunes. I just had too many questions that the book absolutely did not begin to answer.

I was also really bugged about the logistics of the town and their relationships. The high school freshman had their own apartments. I would buy a dorm-style sort of thing, but it's implied they clean and cook and are tenants of actual apartment buildings. Hm. In addition, it's said that this is away from Fallon's hometown, yet her family seems to have this super crazy reputation of being crazy health inspectors. But they don't live in the town, and some people haven't heard of them, and their legacy seems to be health inspectors, but Fallon makes it to be like their family reputation is staked on her getting married (at fourteen, apparently?).

Aside from these main issues, the dialogue was cheesy (not in a great way) and it pulled me out of the story quite a bit from groaning. I felt like a super-grown up. Maybe I'm just too old for this? But even in high school, I would think it's completely ridiculous and groan-worthy to be this sappy and irritating. And at one point a character laughed at the idea of a true love's kiss. As if staking your entire future on a love fortune in high school was totally normal but it was absolutely ridiculous to think about true love's kiss? There were major consistency issues here.

Unless you're really into sappy romance plots and don't mind consistency issues with plot, I'd honestly skip this one. I kept thinking it was going to explain plot issues, and I was pretty disappointed with the result. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Devil You Know Review

The Devil You Know by Trish Doller
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 256
Keywords: thriller, mystery, road trip, summer
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Other Books Read: Where the Stars Still Shine
Goodreads | Buy It!
Eighteen-year-old Arcadia wants adventure. Living in a tiny Florida town with her dad and four-year-old brother, Cadie spends most of her time working, going to school, and taking care of her family. So when she meets two handsome cousins at a campfire party, she finally has a chance for fun. They invite her and friend to join them on a road trip, and it's just the risk she's been craving—the opportunity to escape. But what starts out as a fun, sexy journey quickly becomes dangerous when she discovers that one of them is not at all who he claims to be. One of them has deadly intentions. 

Can I just say FINALLY. I love this cover because it takes itself seriously as a YA thriller. It's not a cheesy lovey-dovey kissy cover. That's not what this book is about, and I'm glad the design is something that conveys that.

We can get one thing out of the way—it's Trish freaking Doller. I love her books, and I will always be excited to read a new work she has coming out. She's got a super realistic way of seeing and writing the world that I intensely appreciate. Sex in her books is depicted realistically—it's not this magical, sparkly moment. It's messy, it's awkward, and sometimes heat-of-the moment. Cadie is in one of those situations, and I totally love that her situation seems much more real than most depictions of sex.

I also loved the creepy factor. I was intensely creeped out by pretty much everyone and everything in this book. And sure, there's a clear gross person at the end when things are revealed, but even now, after the fact, I still really don't feel comfortable with multiple characters, and I don't trust them. In fact, I wanted several people in the book to be absorbed by swamp monsters (the book takes places in the marshlands of Florida) because I was that creeped out.

It was a page turner. I didn't really know who to trust (I annotate my books, and I went back and looked, and my first guess of the correct outcome was around page 70), and even though I kind of knew what was happening, I was still so nervous because everything was so insanely creepy about this whole thing.

Even though I loved how fast-paced it was, there was one thing I simply could not get past: WHO WOULD GO ON A ROAD TRIP WITH TOTAL STRANGERS? Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me explain. Cadie, understandably, is at a tipping point. She's tired of being the adult and she wants to be young and stupid. Hanging out and hooking up with a cute guy at a campfire party with friends is one thing. Leaving everything to go on a road trip with them is past having fun—it's idiotic. And I really am not victim-blaming because obviously she shouldn't have to assume that something crazy terrible is going to happen, but I mean... they teach stranger danger in kindergarten for a reason. Literally ANYONE should know not to road trip with strangers. For someone who is as responsible and level-headed as Cadie, I simply didn't believe, even for a millisecond, that she would ever do this. (And then her cell phone dies after her friend goes missing. HELLO?! Has she honestly never seen a horror movie? Or even have basic common sense?)

Feelings also went from overnight hookup, which I'm totally okay with because it's way more realistic, and shot straight out of the park to instalove, which made me groan. Ugh.

It's Trish freaking Doller, so it was really good. Fast-paced, page-turner, and I was totally into the story. The whole time I was reading, though, in the back of my mind I just KNEW this was insane and idiotic because I could not get over the fact that she just LEFT WITH STRANGERS. Oof.

What do you think? Do you understand the whole road-tripping with strangers thing? I sure don't!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hello, I Love You: Blog Tour & Giveaway!

I have the happiest of posts for you today! Let's give a big hand and warm welcome to Katie M. Stout, author (who is ONLY 24, btw, and making me feel incredibly behind on my non-existent writing life) of Hello, I Love You, which was released on June 9. 

But first, let's set the mood with one of Katie's recommendations (a band rec, I have no idea about songs, but I listened to quite a few and really liked this one). It had me dancing with myself in the library room in my building:

First, we'll do a quick run down of what the book is all about. Grace is a rich kid running—she wants away from the mansion her record-producing father bought, her famous country singer big bro, and the mom who blames her for pretty much everything. So she runs to a boarding school in Korea.

She wants literally nothing to do with the rich music world she ran from, but her roommate's twin brother just happens to be the hottest new KPOP star out there. Of course, we all know what's coming...

Katie was kind enough to answer a few questions about herself, so thank you, and enjoy!

What does your daily life look like as a writer?
Well, I have a day job, so my writing days never look the same. Sometimes, I’ll sneak in some writing or editing time at my desk when my boss isn’t looking (shhhhh don’t tell!), and other times, I write at night or on the weekends. I don’t have daily writing goals. I’ll go like five days without writing, then add 6,000 words to my manuscript in one night. So basically, I have no way to answer this question. Hah!

What are three things you can't live without while writing?
1. Music or background noise
2. Caffeine of some kind
3. My computer (most of the time; sometimes, I like writing on my iPad mini)

Are you a big K-Pop fan? What are your favorite songs/bands we should listen to while reading Hello, I Love You?
I love KPOP! Old school CN Blue was my biggest influence while writing, so I’d say definitely listen to that. Also Shinee, because that ends up being one of the bands my main character really loves.

You've traveled and lived in many countries, can you tell us about your favorite places?
Sure! I’ve got a lot of favorite places, and I recommend different places to different people, depending on who they are and what they like. But my personal favorites are Scotland, Thailand, and South Africa.

When I lived in England, I was only five miles from the Scottish border, so I spent a lot of time visiting there. Edinburgh is one of my favorite European cities, and the Highlands are gorgeous. I lived three months in Thailand right after college, but I’ve been there nine times total. The culture is warm, and the food is amazing; it’s also gorgeous, from the mountains in the north to the beaches in the south. And South Africa just has amazing people, a laid back atmosphere, and LIONS (in game parks, but still); it was my introduction to Africa, and I still love it.

Why do you choose YA to write & read?
I’m one of the few YA authors who actually read YA as a teen, since it was already an established genre when I was in high school (I’m only 24). I loved it then, and I still love it now. I like that everything is new and exciting as a teen. Also, my teen years were hard, and I’d like to offer a little hope and a break from real life to my readers who may be struggling through high school now.

I had so much fun reading the answers to these questions, and I hope you did too! Make sure to visit Katie out on the interwebs (and tweet at her if you like).
Katie has a blog she regularly updates—and it's super adorable. She talks about her travels, her book, and her life.

And you can win your very own copy of Hello, I Love You. You must be 13 years or older to enter and must have a US mailing address. Address will be shared with publicist from St. Martin's Press who will be handling the mailing.