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Friday, September 19, 2014

Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop - INT!

Welcome to my stop on the Stuck in a Good Book giveway hop!

This is open internationally, and I'm giving my winner a choice of any one of these three HOT fall 2014 books:

Heir of Fire Isla and the Happily Ever After Trial by Fire

The fine print: International winners will receive a paperback from The Book Depository and US winners will win a hardcover from either Barnes and Noble or Amazon. Any winner can choose to receive Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Throne of Glass, or Crown of Midnight instead of one of the three books above.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mini-reviews: Sway by Kat Spears and Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper

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I had a great discussion post planned for today, and then yesterday my internet died. An "outage in my area," whatever that means. A discussion isn't much fun if I'm not online to take part and will instead review two books that didn't end up being exactly what I expected.

by Kat Spears
Published on September 16, 2014
by St. Martin's

Source: ARC giveaway at BEA

Synopsis from Goodreads: Jesse Alderman, or "Sway," as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop. He also specializes in getting things people want---term papers, a date with the prom queen, fake IDs. He has few close friends and he never EVER lets emotions get in the way. For Jesse, life is simply a series of business transactions. But when Ken Foster, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all-around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things. While following Bridget and learning the intimate details of her life, he falls helplessly in love for the very first time. He also finds himself in an accidental friendship with Bridget’s belligerent and self-pitying younger brother who has cerebral palsy. Suddenly, Jesse is visiting old folks at a nursing home in order to run into Bridget, and offering his time to help the less fortunate, all the while developing a bond with this young man who idolizes him. Could the tin man really have a heart after all? A Cyrano de Bergerac story with a modern twist, Sway is told from Jesse’s point of view with unapologetic truth and biting humor, his observations about the world around him untempered by empathy or compassion---until Bridget’s presence in his life forces him to confront his quiet devastation over a life-changing event a year earlier and maybe, just maybe, feel something again.
My take: I went into Sway expecting something completely different. That is probably because my ARC had a cover that looked like the one on the left. And I commend the publisher for changing the cover, because a) the old cover is similar to that of another book with a similar bad-boy-falls-for-good-girl plot and b) the old cover makes the book seem like a cute romance, which it is not. 

But enough about that. 

Once I adjusted to the fact that Sway was about a completely amoral, constantly conniving, frequently offensive main character, I was totally fine with it. In fact, I rather like characters like that and I did like the book. For me, Sway comes about the closest I've seen a book come to feeling like a John Hughes movie -- the perfect blend of poignancy cut with wacky humor, and characters so sharply drawn that they border on caricatures.  The only thing I really wished was that (click button for spoiler):

Salt & Storm 
by Kendall Kulper
To be published by Little, Brown
on September 23, 2014

Source: e-ARC from publisher via Edelweiss

Summary from Goodreads:  Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself. Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.
My take:  I love witch books, and based on the synopsis I was kind of picturing this one as The Witch of Blackbird Pond meets Brides of Rollrock Island.  I also love historical fiction, so I was excited about all the whaling lore. There was whaling lore, and a lot of fascinating historical detail. Clearly, this author did her research, and that attention to detail really shines through. But I will be honest: the first two-thirds of this book were pretty slow for me.  For nearly 300 pages, Avery is going around the island, complaining about how awful her mother is and trying to interpret the dreams of the tattooed harpoon boy mentioned in the synopsis. Interesting enough, but for me that wasn't enough to carry the plot for that long. There is also not much witchcraft (as the synopsis explains) and I was feeling pretty restless.

But then in the last third of the story ... ALL the things happen.  Salt & Storm saves all its revelations and heartbreak and action for the last hundred pages or so. And those pages were really good. And, unlike Sway, I was excited that Salt & Storm didn't hesitate to go for the gutsy ending. (That's what I talked about in the spoiler above, if you're curious.)  So if this one appeals to you, and you're finding the pace a little slow, just be patient.

Have you read either of these? Let's hope I was either able to do a Jesse (bribery and conniving) or an Avery (magical spells) and get my internet working again. I am a day behind on returning comments, but I will get caught up -- I promise :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Just Finished Reading ... Get Even by Gretchen McNeil

Get Even (Don't Get Mad #1)
by Gretchen McNeil
Published by Harper Teen
on September 16, 2014

Source: e-ARC from publisher for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: Bree, Olivia, Kitty, and Margot have nothing in common—at least that’s what they’d like the students and administrators of their elite private school to think. The girls have different goals, different friends, and different lives, but they share one very big secret: They’re all members of Don’t Get Mad, a secret society that anonymously takes revenge on the school’s bullies, mean girls, and tyrannical teachers. When their latest target ends up dead with a blood-soaked “DGM” card in his hands, the girls realize that they’re not as anonymous as they thought—and that someone now wants revenge on them. Soon the clues are piling up, the police are closing in . . . and everyone has something to lose.

My take: I love revenge shows. I love Pretty Little Liars on ABC Family. But I haven't really found a YA book that does a good job with the whole revenge thing. Most YA revenge books fall into the "childish pranks" category rather than the "I will make you sorry you ever lived" category. And PLL-type stories, though fun and addictive on screen, often come off as cartoonish and improbable on the page.

While Get Even and I got off to a bit of a rocky start, I ended up enjoying it overall. The beginning of the book had waaaay too many characters for me. I counted twenty named characters in the first 15% of the book. *head explodes*  But gradually, I came to figure out who everyone was and what they had to do with the story.  I also must confess that I kept getting the four main characters mixed up at first.  I had to make notes: "politician's daughter," "Asian girl not good at math," "actress eating disorder crazy mother," and "computer nerd anxiety."

Get Even features some familiar PLL staples, like hacking into a school video presentation -- remember the PLL fashion show episode? No, not that weird wedding fashion show, but the Rosewood Charity Fashion show, when "A" hacks into the projector and suddenly the screen says "the bitch is dead" with Ali going up in flames. That kind of stuff.

That brings me to one of the things I loved about Get Even: the humor. Like PLL, which often cracks me up out of nowhere, really funny, clever things would just pop up in Get Even when I least expected it. I loved this hilarious character called Ed the Head who was one part Anthony Michael Hall nerd character from John Hughes movies and one part Badger from Firefly. One of the things Ed sells on the black market is junk food, because the school has banned unhealthy food from campus.

All in all, I think Get Even does a good job of capturing that PLL vibe -- a kind of outlandish, sometimes humorous story that taps into our secret fantasies about making mean people pay for what they've done.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing September 16-22

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come. If you're a reviewer, you can also link your blog or Goodreads reviews of any YA book publishing in the current month so we can all check them out!
September giveaway! This month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.) Enter by linking your reviews or commenting on other people's linked reviews. 

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA. Please let me know about books I might have missed. Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Wildlife Made for You Infinite Sea
Wildlife by Fiona Wood (Little, Brown)
Made For You by Melissa Marr (Harper)
The Infinite Sea (5th Wave #2) by Rick Yancey (Putnam)

Evidence of Things Not Seen Blackbird Falls the Shadow
Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane (FSG)
Blackbird by Anna Carey (Harper)
Falls the Shadow by Stefanie Gaither (Simon & Schuster)

Day 21 Perilous Sea Being Audrey Hepburn
Day 21 (The 100 #2) by Kass Morgan (Little, Brown)
The Perilous Sea (Burning Sky #2) by Sherry Thomas (Balzer + Bray)
Being Audrey Hepburn by Mitchell Kriegman (St. Martin's)

Vault of Dreamers Echoes of Us I'll Give You the Sun
Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien (Roaring Brook)
Echoes of Us (Hybrid Chronicles #3) by Kat Zhang (Harper)
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Dial)

Jackaby Get Even Hunt for Jade Dragon
Jackaby by William Ritter (Algonquin)
Get Even (Don't Get Mad #1) by Gretchen McNeil (Balzer + Bray)
Hunt for Jade Dragon (Michael Vey #4) by Richard Paul Evans (Simon Pulse)

Color Song Ashes to Ashes Sway
Color Song by Victoria Strauss (Skyscape)
Ashes to Ashes (Burn for Burn #3) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
Sway by Kat Spears (St. Martin's)

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Just Finished Reading ... Vault of Dreamers by Caragh O'Brien

Vault of Dreamers
by Caragh O'Brien
To be published by Roaring Brook Press
on September 16, 2014

Source: ARC sent by publisher for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.
My take: If Inception and Big Brother got together and had a bookish baby, it would be Vault of Dreamers. Though I didn't love everything about this book, it definitely made me think, and that's always a good thing.

At first I really wasn't sure about the whole Forge Show/reality TV aspect of this book. At first, it just seemed to exist to reveal a lot of things that are obvious to anyone who has ever watched reality TV. As one of the characters refers to an event"back in 2045," I'd guess this book takes place at least 40-50 years in the future and I'd kind of hoped that by then, there wouldn't be reality TV, and, that if reality TV still existed,  it would be beyond obvious that if you want to stay on a reality show that involves elimination, you need a) a tragic backstory or b) a showmance or c) some kind of trumped-up, pumped up drama or preferably d) all of the above.

When the whole "induced sleep" element came into play, having all the cameras around made more sense. Many of the dream books I've read have had the problem of flatness. Watching someone sleep in a book isn't all that interesting, and someone narrating a dream is a whole lot of telling, not showing. But combining the dreams and the cameras gave the book a cool, other-worldly-yet-paranoid kind of vibe that I really liked.

The things I liked less about the book are a bit spoilery, so I'll tread very carefully and then put some of my thoughts under spoiler protection. First, the "ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding" turned out to be more confusing and less exciting (at least if I understood it correctly) than I'd hoped. While the sci-fi stuff made sense to me, it didn't seem as sinister as I'd been expecting. And there was one aspect of the ending that seemed forced and not very believable. The romance was a bit "eh" for me too. I'm really okay with no romance -- I like that better than an "eh" romance. But overall, I liked the writing and the overall feel, so I definitely think I'll check out the next installment.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

90s Boy Bands + NA = I Want It That Way and As Long As You Love Me

Sometimes, when I want a good laugh, I go on YouTube and watch old Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync and New Kids on the Block music videos. The big hair! The overalls! The breakdancing!

So when I heard there was an New Adult series with 90s boy band songs as book titles, I laughed. And when I Want It That Way showed up in my mailbox, I decided to read it.

I Want It That Way (2B Trilogy #1)
by Ann Aguirre
Published by Harlequin
on August 26, 2014

Source: ARC sent by publisher for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: Nadia Conrad has big dreams, and she's determined to make them come true—for her parents' sake as well as her own. But between maintaining her college scholarship and working at the local day care to support herself, she barely has time to think, let alone date. Then she moves into a new apartment and meets the taciturn yet irresistible guy in 1B. Daniel Tyler has grown up too fast. Becoming a single dad at twenty turned his life upside down—and brought him heartache he can't risk again. Now, as he raises his four-year-old son while balancing a full-time construction management job and night classes, a social life is out of the question. The last thing he wants is for four noisy students to move into the apartment upstairs. But one night, Nadia's and Ty's paths cross, and soon they can't stay away from each other. 
My take: I don't read a lot of NA, but this book avoided a lot of those typical NA tropes.  The characters were refreshingly normal -- mainly college students trying to juggle classes, homework, and romance. No one had a Dark and Tragic Past.

I have read a lot of romance novels, and to me, this book seemed to straddle both mainstream romance and NA.  Single Parent Finds Love is a big trope in romance novels, and I haven't seen it a lot in NA. I didn't really understand the whole deal with Daniel and the mother of his child, even after he explained it to Nadia, but I just went with it. I'm also a fan of the Gorgeous Mysterious Neighbor plot in romances, and if he's cranky, that's only a bonus. I enjoyed watching these two circle around each other.

I guess my only complaint about this book was that it felt long. It felt compelled to tell me lots of things I really didn't need to know about working at a day care center. And I didn't understand why so much attention was paid to the hook-up between Nadia's roommates Lauren and Max. But then I realized there was another book....

As Long As You Love Me (2B Trilogy #2)
by Ann Aguirre
To be published by Harlequin
on September 30, 2014

Source: eARC from NetGalley

Synopsis from Goodreads: Most people dream about getting out of Sharon, Nebraska, but after three years away, Lauren Barrett is coming home. She has her reasons: missing her family, losing her college scholarship. But then there's the reason Lauren can't admit to anyone: Rob Conrad, her best friend's older brother. Football prowess and jaw-dropping good looks made Rob a star in high school. Out in the real world, his job and his relationships are going nowhere. He's the guy who women love and leave, not the one who makes them think of forever, until Lauren comes back to town, bringing old feelings and new dreams with her. Because the only thing more important than figuring out where you truly belong is finding the person you were meant to be with.
My take: I thought As Long As You Love Me was even more anti-NA, and I loved that about this book. A slightly overweight heroine? A hero who's a washed-up, underestimated former football player? An angry ex-girlfriend who might not be what she seems? Plus home improvement themes? All I can say is this: I wholeheartedly approve of all of the above.

I was initially dismayed that Rob started out the book with a girlfriend, because in my reading experience, that's never a good thing. There's either icky cheating to come, and/or the girlfriend has to be demonized into a psycho-bitch. I really appreciated the fact that none of that came to pass. This story is a slow-burn, friends-to-lovers romance, which was a plus as well.

The thing that I didn't feel was set up well enough was Lauren's social anxiety. I wish it had been worked into the story more at the beginning, because it seemed to come up out of nowhere. She seemed fine, and then the next minute

But I decided I could get over that, due to all those surprising and refreshing elements I went over in paragraph one: relatable characters who were not the Shockingly Gorgeous Yet Deeply Dysfunctional characters that usually populate the pages of NA.

I wish book three of this trilogy were called Bye Bye Bye. Or Step by Step. Dear Ann Aguirre: Where is the love in this series for NKOTB or 'NSync, I ask you?  The third book is actually called The Shape of My Heart. And I'm a little nervous, because the synopsis promises some NA staples: a girl with a past of "meaningless encounters" and a guy with "damaged bad boy vibes." But I'm willing to give it a try!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Extra! Extra! #DarkestMinds and More...

Extra! Extra!

Extra! Extra! is my weekend post featuring brand new additions to my TBR pile as well as a summary of what's new on the blog.

This weekend I'm linking to Stacking the Shelves @ Tynga's Reviews or to Sunday Post hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. 


I'm trying to have restraint, but I downloaded these two from Edelweiss:

Lies I Told Playlist for the Dead

Lies I Told by Michelle Zink  (Harper Teen, April 2015)
Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff (Harper Teen, January 2015)

One book inspired by The Heist Society, and one by 13 Reasons Why. Hope I love 


I have two amazing ones going on at the moment. One is open internationally!

Win an ARC of Belzhar and (for US winner) a cool Gallagher Academy blank notebook (both Belzhar and Gallagher Girls take place in unusual boarding schools.) Open internationally -- enter here.  And YES this giveaway includes trivia :)

And, thanks to the amazing people at Disney-Hyperion, I am offering this super-cool Darkest Minds prize pack!

You can enter to win a complete set of the Darkest Minds trilogy, a floating bookcase and this really great tote bag!  Open to US addresses only; enter here.


Even though I've been reading like a fiend, I'm still 5-6 books behind on my Goodreads Challenge *kicks Goodreads challenge widget* but I have also been reading some great books that I can't wait to tell you about ... soon!

What have you been up to this week? Tell me in comments and I will visit you back!
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