Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Last Good Day of the Year blog tour & giveaway!


Welcome to the official blog tour for Jessica Warman's The Last Good Day of the Year! I'm very excited for this book—I love thriller/mystery-esque stuff, and this book looks right up my alley. And, if you stick it out, there's a giveaway just for you at the end!

   

The Last Good Day of the Year
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Pages: 288
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.

   

For my part of the tour, I've been given a seriously difficult question to answer: If I could construct a perfect day of the year, what would it look like? 

There are a few things I really love more than anything in the world (including books—GASP!) and it includes outdoors and my family. I can't imagine a more perfect day than spending an entire day on the water in the summertime with my family, kayaking or swimming or just relaxing. I love the calming feel of waves, whether it's on the lake or ocean, and I love spending time with my parents and brother. It seems boring and simple to some, but I love boring and simple, and to me, that seems like the most excellent way I could spend a day.

   

And now for the giveaway! The contest is US only and you must be 13 years or older to enter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
   

Jessica Warman is the author of Breathless, Where the Truth Lies, Between, and Beautiful Lies, which have received seven starred reviews among them. Between was published in a total of twelve countries around the world. Jessica has an MA in creative writing and recently moved to Houston, Texas. Find her online at www.jessicawarman.com and on twitter @jkwarman.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Fill-In Boyfriend review

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 352
Keywords: contemporary, prom, popularity
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Other books reviewed: On the Fence, The Distance Between Us, Pivot Point & Split Second (all of them!)
Goodreads | Buy It!
When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.
The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.
Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.
   THE COVER
Super cute. Love that it still fits with the other contemporaries in Kasie West's collection, and they will all look so pretty on my shelves (once I can reunite all my books).

   WHY I LIKED IT
Here's where it gets tricky. I absolutely love Kasie's style. I'm pretty sure she could write about a toilet and I'd be beaming at the end of the story. No matter who her characters are, she makes us fall in love with their story, and I always feel like the relationships are happening to me rather than the main character.
I also really adored Hayden and Beca's relationship. Seeing such a wonderful relationship between a brother and a sister that weren't the focus of the story was really great. The relationships Kasie writes are so real and so complex that it totally sucks me into whatever family has that dynamic, whether it be all the brothers in On the Fence or this dynamic brother-sister duo that bashes stuff in at a junkyard to vent when they're angry. They also pose for their mom, who is an artist who calls them "her muses," which is hilarious and weird all at once.
Literally every one of Kasie's books just give me happy happy feelings.

   RESERVATIONS?
Here's the thing. I feel like I have a lot of reservations, but I still totally loved this book. That's the thing about her writing, though, is that no matter how much you don't like some characters, you still get totally invested and love the story.
The first thing is the amount of stuff you have to simply believe for this story to even happen. Random college guy dating a high schooler. Normally doesn't happen unless they were dating before older person graduated. But fine. Guy breaks up with girl at PROM in parking lot and doesn't have the decency to at least do it before the actual thing? Also he had to drive like three hours, stayed for a half second and said "see ya?" Fine. Also this other guy happens to be sitting in his car and girl happens to think it's a fantastic idea to take new guy to prom as old guy? AND there's ZERO chance NO ONE will recognize him? But it's fine, I believed it all.
Which brings me to my second really big problem. Gia's friends and the way they treat her, AND the way she treats them.

I've seen a lot of "Jules is a terrible person" lately when reading other reviews of this, and yes, I totally agree. This girl is very rude, clearly ignores and doesn't like Gia, and she's mad that Gia is friends with her friends, or vice versa. HOWEVER, I haven't really seen anyone talk about how Gia is also a terrible person right back.
I mean, in the first chapter, we're already told from Gia's perspective that we have to HATE this girl, but I haven't been given a reason to hate her yet. When Gia's other friends tell her Jules is going through a hard time, Gia doesn't really let up. I was very frustrated that I was supposed to like the main character and hate Jules when both girls were being incredibly rude to one another.
If you haven't read the book, move on to final thoughts. The next bit will talk about the end. You have been warned.
I was also incredibly frustrated that neither girl seemed to want to improve their relationship or make amends with their other friends, and that Gia would so willingly let them go if it meant never having to be friends with Jules. I didn't really see any character growth, and that bugged me a lot. I definitely know about toxic friendships, but both parties here seemed at fault, and I was not seeing eye-to-eye with either of them.

   FINAL THOUGHTS
I don't know how she does it, but even if there are things in the books I have a lot of trouble digesting, I still come out smiling and super happy after finishing a Kasie West book. It's a magical power she has, and she'll always remain on my auto-buy list.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Book Drinks: My Best Everything

Welcome to the semi-regular feature Friday Book Drinks! This is something I created where I pair cocktails with books I'm reading because, you know, drinks are great! See more of my Friday Book Drinks posts. 

This week I decided it was time to buckle down and tackle some of my never-ending NetGalley titles, and I found this gem hiding on my Kindle! My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp.


It's definitely making me a little homesick (and a little glad I left) reading about stuff I grew up with. It's the story of a girl growing up in the backwaters of Virginia. She's just graduated and planning to attend medical school in California, when her dad breaks the news one of his "deals" went south, and all her college money is gone. Determined to not be stuck in Virginia forever and after a chance meeting with a guy she knows has done this before, she hatches a plan to make and sell moonshine to the locals. After all, how hard can it be?

This book is really resonating with me because I dearly love where I come from, and I love that I've been mudding and hiking and grew up playing in the woods in Kentucky, but it also reminds me a little bit of why I wanted to move to the city. I'll go into more detail in my review (to come in a week or so), but I'm really loving how different this is from quite a few "getting ready to go to college" books.

To go alongside this book taking place in the woods and the crick, I've selected swamp water as my drink of choice. Now, there are several ways to make swamp water, and if you order it in a club it will most likely be neon green. That is incorrect. The real thing is something you'd throw in a water bottle to have during a hot afternoon while you take a swim in the lake. And it's also super easy to make.

All you need is 1 shot apricot brandy, 1 shot lime vodka, 2 cups of lemonade, and ice. The murky look is mixing the brandy and lemonade, and the result is delicious. If you're under 21, it's still a delicious summer drink if you use 2 shots of apricot juice (make sure it's got a high sugar content for best taste) and a some lime juice.

Have you ever had swamp water? What's your go-to drink for summer time swimming?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Pinteresting: Saint Anything

This is a (sort of not) regular series I do here on my blog to combine my pinning obsession (come be friends with me!) with my love of books! This weeks pinning obsession: Saint Anything.

I'm a few chapters into this book, and (DUH) I'm pretty into this book. I mean, it's Sarah Dessen, so you know it's going to be amazing because she's just a really great storyteller. But it's also got a different vibe than her other books—one I'm really liking. It seems darker and more real.


Following the life of a girl who's brother has been in and out of rehab, jail, and court rooms, she feels lost, isolated, and invisible. Money is tight after countless lawsuits, so she moves from the private school down to the public school, opening up a whole new world. She stumbles upon a grungy pizza joint, where she meets a family that immediately welcomes her and tries to show her how to be her own person instead of living in the shadows of her family members.

Here's my copy of Saint Anything in the wild! (aka some Instagrams I've taken)



A photo posted by Cassie P (@happybooklovers) on

What do you think of my collage?
Have you read this book (or Sarah Dessen)?

See other books I've Pinterested!

Let's discuss in the comments!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mini Reviews for Grown-Up Titles: Rabbit Back Literature Society & French Coast

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
Release Date: January 20, 2015 (orig. 2006)
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Pages: 343
Keywords: writing, winter, fantasy
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Goodreads | Buy It!
A highly contagious book virus, a literary society and a Snow Queen-like disappearing author 'She came to realise that under one reality there's always another. And another one under that.' Only very special people are chosen by children's author Laura White to join 'The Society', an elite group of writers in the small town of Rabbit Back. Now a tenth member has been selected: Ella, literature teacher and possessor of beautifully curving lips. But soon Ella discovers that the Society is not what it seems. What is its mysterious ritual, 'The Game'? What explains the strange disappearance that occurs at Laura's winter party, in a whirlwind of snow? Why are words inside books starting to rearrange themselves? Was there another tenth member, before her? Slowly, disturbing secrets that had been buried come to light . . .  In this chilling, darkly funny novel, the uncanny brushes up against the everyday in the most beguiling and unexpected of ways.
I want to start by saying how much I love the look of this book. I will read pretty much anything, but I firmly believe that a book's look matters when picking it up or recommending it. This one looks awesome. You can tell it's going to be a literary sort of book, but that's it's also got an air of mystery about it, and you don't quite know what's coming.

The interesting thing about this novel was the storytelling. That's all it really was. Ella was invited as a tenth member of the town's famed literary society (basically an uppity club of writers who had a very strict set of rules and only talked with one another). She's working on a piece that's going to become an exposé of the group, however, so she institutes a long-forgotten rule of the group called The Game. It's a form of scary storytelling where you can surprise another member and force them to feed you information using various potions/weird drinks to make them tell the truth. Much of the story revolves around other stories, and learning about the past through memories of the members. It was interesting, and there was a good portion of mystery that interested me, but I wanted there to be more action in the book. It was very slow-moving, and it took me a while to finish this one because I wasn't that invested. Every few chapters, the narration switched to the view of another member, Martti Winter, who I didn't particularly like. I mean, he was a bland sort of character, but having the story from his perspective didn't seem to add anything, so I'm not sure why it was done in the first place.
As interesting as the premise was (the description is AWESOME), I was disappointed with the delivery. It was too slow for my taste, and I felt like nothing was really answered and nothing really happened through the whole course of the book.



French Coast by Anita Hughes
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 304
Keywords: France, seaside, romance
Format Read: finished copy via publisher (thanks!)
Goodreads | Buy It!
Serena has the job she's always dreamed of and Chase, the man her heart never dared to. As a new editor at Vogue, she bags the biggest interview of the year with Yvette Renault, the infamous former editor of French Vogue, in The Carlton-InterContinental Hotel during the Cannes Film Festival. She eagerly jets off to France while Chase stays home, working with her father, a former senator, on his upcoming mayoral campaign.
Everything feels unbelievably perfect . . . until it doesn't. The hotel loses her reservation hours before her big interview. Serena fears that she'll have to go home without her story, but then she meets Zoe, a quirky young woman staying in the suite below Yvette's who invites Serena to stay with her. Serena is grateful for her mysterious roommate's generosity, but it seems that there's more to her story than meets the eye. To make matters worse, soon after arriving in Cannes, Serena learns a shocking secret about her parents' marriage, and it isn't long before she begins to question her own relationship.With her deadline looming and pressure mounting, Serena will have to use her investigative journalism skills, new 
friendships, and a little luck to get her life and love back on track.
Oh man, do I have some feels about this one. If there were NO ROMANCE plot, the book would be great. I was super into Serena's job and her interview with Renault, and I loved the friendship between Serena and Zoe and the mystery behind who Zoe really is and why she's pretending to be someone else. However, there had to be a romance.
This guy bumps into her randomly while she's engaged, and then proceeds to follow her to other places. It's supposed to be charming, but this is what STALKING is. Eventually, he tracks her down because she lost an object (no spoilers) and literally figures out her exact hotel room even though her name isn't on the room, and she's staying with a random stranger (Zoe). He proceeds to be super creepy by not telling her where they're going to dinner, various places, etc, and I could never actually like this guy because the whole time I was wondering if this was going to turn into a creepy serial killer novel.
It also didn't fit with Serena's character. She was this big, strong executive interviewing an awesome woman and she went to Cannes by herself to pursue this. And then she got plummeted in this weird "relationship" with stalker-man. It felt very forced and unnatural, and the book would have stood just fine without it.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Why Reading Articles About Books Makes Me FURIOUS

Okay, so it's not all articles. And I'm not (totally) furious. But I do get pretty worked up. I like reading articles saying how reading is helping communities, and that libraries are getting extra monies (okay, I'm making that up, but I think it should be a thing that happens more).

It's articles that say "Things You Should Know About YA" or "Why YA is Great/Not Great/insert adjective here" or "Why Genre Fiction isn't Real Fiction" or ANYTHING along those lines. These are the ones that really make me mad.
***(to clarify, not reviews of specific books. Those are important, and it's awesome that people express their love/hate for a book. It's the lists that justify why/why not to read a WHOLE CATEGORY or TYPE of book)***


I always click on the YA ones, ready to be excited someone is finally rebutting the horrible Slate article that happened that one time, and then I just get mad all over again by reading the comments and people trying to tell me that YA is a marketing scheme, or it's adults who don't want to challenge themselves, or that it's all fluff. I get so angry. And I hate that.
It's taken me a while to formulate exactly why I get angry though because my love for YA and kidlit runs so deep. But I'm going to [try] to muddle through an answer, and I sincerely hope this article will not make anyone angry. Because I hate being angry.

I don't like someone telling me what MY books are. Every reader is different. MY books are important to ME, and I know why they're important to ME. No one else should be able to tell me that MY books (the ones I'm reading) are a marketing scheme or dumbing down or less significant than any other type of book.

I DON'T CARE.


They are MY books and I will be reading them because I want to be. I'm tired of seeing argument after argument for or against a certain genre, category, type, or any other grouping of book. Because all books mean something to someone, and everyone has a reason for reading what they're reading. Even if I totally hate a book or a specific genre, I will NOT judge a person EVER for reading a certain thing.

My books are important to me. I have a lot of reasons I love the categories I do, and I don't need to feel like I have to tell everyone to justify why I'm reading what I'm reading. Some of the books I read when I was younger shaped who I am. My parents were huge influences on why I'm such an avid reader. My friendships I made in high school bonded over Meg Cabot and Sarah Dessen books. I was a camp counselor, and I love working with kids. I have a huge family, and having fun is important to me. There are a million more reasons I read what I read, but the beauty is that they're MY reasons, and I don't owe it to anyone—an article, a commenter, or the guy side-eyeing me in the library when I'm checking out teen books—to explain why I'm reading what I'm reading.


In my past life, I used to judge. In high school, I judged the Twilight craze and all who followed it. I read it when it first came out and thought it was okay, but nothing great, and I didn't enjoy the writing. I thought it was boring and generic. And I TOTALLY judged all the girls around me.
It was so wrong.
Who cares? They're reading what they want to, and that's AWESOME!

In college, I was in a strict "no e-reader" phase. I was a huge advocate of the print book (still am) and kind of side-eyed people who preferred e-readers (especially in class. I mean, taking notes on an e-reader seems impossible to me, a huge annotating-the-books kind of person).
But they're reading! And it's right for them! So who cares?

I'm really going to stop clicking on atricles that claim "Here's Why You Should Love YA" even though DUH I agree and totally want to read it. But I get too frustrated at all the people trying to tell me what MY books should be and why or why not I should be reading them.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

99 Days review

99 Days by Katie Cotugno
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Pages: 384
Keywords: first love, forbidden love, family
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Goodreads | Buy It!
Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.
Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”
Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.
   THE COVER
It's a little confusing, a little disorienting, just like the book and what was happening to Molly. I love the actual book much more than the ARC, and I'm glad it was switched to have no pink. It's much more realistic, and the end papers are beautiful!

   WHY I LIKED IT
This book had a different feel to it. It's a contemporary, but it felt like a thriller (and thrillers are TOTALLY my thing). It was a fast-paced read, and I was so scared for what would happen next because everyone (and I mean literally everyone) kept making terrible decisions.

I genuinely wanted to know what happened in all these characters' lives, both in the past and in the present. I wanted more of the story to unfold about what happened the previous year to cause all the hatred, and I wanted to see how Molly's decisions would affect her current life.

I also loved that it brought up the serious issue of slut-shaming. It was a difficult book to read (understatement of the century) because Molly was constantly at fault for the things she'd done, and the others in the town were not afraid to let her know what they thought of her. She was at fault, but she was not the only one involved in the issues, and she was not the only one to blame. Briefly, one of the brothers mentions that it's sort of not fair she is taking all the heat because there were two of them involved, but it kind of got brushed away very quickly, which made me angry. That's definitely the intent, and it's brought up again briefly at the very end, but I wanted that to be a bigger part of the story because it's an important issue. The double-standard in our society is huge, and it's only hurting women, and I'm glad the book brought this up. It's a thing that needs more discussion, and Cotugno is excellent at diving right into the really messy, confusing, and difficult things about relationships and life in general.

   RESERVATIONS?
Molly, Molly. I just said there were two people involved in this scandal, and there were. But even after the fact, one year later, Molly's back and still making all kinds of decisions that are leading to situations like that, where things happen and two people should be blamed. After this whole thing happened, I would stay far away from the family and my former friends and probably everyone. Which she does for about 3 days, but then it's right back to where she was before, in with the same people and the same things happening, and I just don't understand why she wanted to fall back in when she was so desperate to get away.
I also really didn't care for either of the Donnelly brothers. Patrick was a scumbag, and in my eyes, he didn't have any redeeming qualities. He was manipulative and caused a lot of grief and stress for Molly, and even though she could have made better decisions, Patrick was largely at fault for pushing her in the wrong direction to begin with. Gabe was a little better, and at least he seemed nice. However, I just didn't get their relationship. I never felt like they had a true connection, and nothing was ever mentioned about them sharing interests or hobbies or liking the same things. Their only encounters were romantic ones, and I just didn't buy their relationship.

However, just because I didn't like the characters or understand their motivations, this doesn't mean I didn't like the book. Messy and complicated are a part of life, and sometimes feelings for multiple people happen. Sometimes you can't explain why you like someone, even if they do seem bland and irritating to other people. These were reasons the book was difficult to read, but I still am so glad I read it because it was difficult to read.

   THE SHOCK VALUE
Like I said, I really wanted to know how it was going to end. Cotugno managed to keep me hooked even with characters I didn't like, and I didn't truly know what was going to happen (other than the inevitable explosion after tons of bad decisions from literally all the characters in the book). But I didn't know HOW or WHEN or WHAT exactly was going to happen, and that made this contemporary have the feel of a thriller. You knew something terrible was coming, but every page it didn't happen made you more and more nervous.

   FINAL THOUGHTS
I'm going to be honest—I don't like reading about poorly done love triangles (if they're written well, I can totally be on board). But they DO happen in real life whether people admit it or not. They may not happen to every person, but feelings are confusing, and they definitely happen. This is an important book to showcase how influential one bad decision can be. It's also an important book because slut-shaming needs to be stopped. Because guys make dumb decisions too. I don't know how she does it, but I've never read a more well-written novel about messes and confusion and characters doing stupid things.

   LET'S TALK
Have you read this yet? It made me feel lots of things, and I still can't quite work out my feelings other than that it brings up super important issues really well. 
Are there other messy books that I just haven't read?
Discuss in the comments!