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Friday, September 4, 2015

Freebie Friday: Everything, Everything signed ARC and tote bag! (INT)

Happy Friday!

I hope you caught my review of Everything, Everything on Monday. It's a charming book that released this week and I enjoyed a lot.

For today's giveaway, I have a signed Everything, Everything ARC and a cute "Reading is my Everything, Everything" matching tote -- how cute is that?

NOTE: this Freebie Friday IS open internationally. However, if Rafflecopter picks an international winner and the cost of shipping this prize to their address through the USPS is over $12 USD, that winner will instead receive a paperback of the book sent by the Book Depository. Thanks for understanding -- trying to show the love to my international book friends while not breaking the bank :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Just Finished Reading: Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt and Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius

Wow -- fall books are falling down on us like leaves from the trees. I have a bunch of September 1 books to review, so I'm pairing up two new releases that I (mostly) liked, even if the romance left a bit to be desired...

Dream Things True
by Marie Marquardt
Published on September 1
by St Martin's Griffin

Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley
Synopsis from Goodreads: A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town. Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much -- except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There's too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.
My review: I was super-excited to try about this book about a relationship between an undocumented girl and an upper middle class boy. While I liked learning more about the life of the undocumented, the mix of romance and issues in this story was a combination that didn't work for me.

The book's POV-- close third person that alternates between Evan's narrative and Alma's --felt distancing and awkward. And the romance just had an odd quality that I couldn't get past. Their attraction to each other felt sudden and unexplained, and the way Evan looked at and thought about Alma -- mostly in terms of the shapeliness of her body -- kind of weirded me out.

Immigration is a topical (and divisive) issue, and it's tricky to take on a subject like this and not let the narrative become didactic. I think the key is to make the reader care so much about the characters that they don't feel like they are reading an issue book. In this case of this book, I think those things in the story I previously mentioned (narrative POV and Evan's weird vibe) kept me at somewhat of a distance from Alma's community and their plight.

I do think readers who are interested in immigration issues or those who want to learn more about them should definitely check this book out. I'd have preferred a different romantic feel (or just friendship that slowly built into romance) but romantic chemistry can be a personal preference thing -- Alma and Evan's relationship may work better for other readers than it did for me.

Anne & Henry
by Dawn Ius
Published by Simon Pulse
on September 1, 2015

Source: eARC from publisher via Edelweiss
Synopsis from Goodreads: Henry Tudor’s life has been mapped out since the day he was born: student body president, valedictorian, Harvard Law School, and a stunning political career just like his father’s. But ever since the death of his brother, the pressure for Henry to be perfect has doubled. And now he’s trapped: forbidden from pursuing a life as an artist or dating any girl who isn’t Tudor-approved. Then Anne Boleyn crashes into his life. Wild, brash, and outspoken, Anne is everything Henry isn’t allowed to be—or want. But soon Anne is all he can think about. His mother, his friends, and even his girlfriend warn him away, but his desire for Anne consumes him. Henry is willing to do anything to be with her, but once they’re together, will their romance destroy them both?
My take: My favorite thing about retellings is seeing how the author translates one story (the ill-fated relationship between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn) to a new setting (a contemporary private high school.) Anne & Henry had some elements I really liked - Anne Boleyn's character was translated into an eyebrow-raising, motorcycle riding teenage rebel. It was interesting to see how the real-life people of the time were brought into the book (think The Tudors meets Gossip Girl.) The writing was good and there was some good, fun scene-setting, like a sexy costume party and a romantic scene at an abandoned theater.

I guess my main problem with Anne & Henry was that, while I could understand why real life Anne might have been interested in real life Henry, I could never really understand why this high school Anne was interested in high school president Henry. She was cool and edgy and fun, and he was a boring mama's boy and pretty much of a jerk. While it would be pretty hard to recreate the sky-high stakes of the original story, I thought this could have come closer if the romance had felt hotter and more desperate.

I do recommend this to Tudor-philes as it was fun to see how the Tudor Court was translated to modern day life at Medina Academy, and I look forward to seeing what Dawn Ius writes next!

Both of these will be up for grabs on future Freebie Friday, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Just Finished Reading ... Lock & Mori by Heather Petty

Lock & Mori
by Heather Petty

To be published on September 15, 2015
by Simon & Schuster

Source: eARC from the publisher via Edelweiss
Synopsis from Goodreads: In modern-day London, two brilliant high school students, one Sherlock Holmes and a Miss James "Mori" Moriarty, meet. A murder will bring them together. The truth very well might drive them apart. Before they were mortal enemies, they were much more. FACT: Someone has been murdered in London's Regent's Park. The police have no leads. FACT: Miss James "Mori"Moriarty and Sherlock "Lock" Holmes should be hitting the books on a school night. Instead, they are out crashing a crime scene. FACT: Lock has challenged Mori to solve the case before he does. Challenge accepted. FACT: Despite agreeing to Lock's one rule--they must share every clue with each other--Mori is keeping secrets. OBSERVATION: Sometimes you can't trust the people closest to you with matters of the heart. And after this case, Mori may never trust Lock again. 
My take: Most Sherlock inspired spin-offs I'm familiar with, from TV shows like House or Sherlock to YA books like Every Breath, focus on the Holmes-Watson relationship, the wonderful pairing of the quirky, brilliant Holmes and the underappreciated, long-suffering Watson. But this diabolical book focuses on Holmes and Moriarty (a criminal mastermind and Holmes' mortal enemy, if you're not familiar with the guy). In fact, this book is told from the point of view of James Moriarty (who in this book happens to be a teenage girl) and Holmes is relegated to the role of love interest and sidekick. The game is afoot!

Much of Lock & Mori serves to set up what makes young Mori tick: a crappy homelife and abusive father (while child abuse is a terrible thing, I found its depiction in this the story a bit heavy-handed and found it hard to believe that Mori and her siblings could limp around with bruises and not one person would intervene). But there's more: a surprising family secret and a tragic death for which Mori feels deeply responsible.  Clearly, this girl is headed to the dark side in future installments.

While all this made for interesting reading and I do love a good headed-to-the-darkside-plot, I began to realize that, going forward, the Holmes-Moriarty pairing may present a huge problem where the story's romance is concerned. In this installment, we see Holmes fall in love with Mori.  But by the end, this ship (Molmes? Tori?) seems headed for the rocks. Either this series will become an epic love-to-hate-to-love story, or we will get to see Holmes' complete heartbreak. I'm hoping for #1.

If you're a diehard romantic, you might want to tread carefully. But if you're a true Sherlockophile, you should check this interesting Sherlock inspired book out. I'm really intrigued as to where this story is headed...

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing September 1-7

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!

So many great books and you know you want them so enter the NEW 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 reviews of YA books that release in September or by commenting on other people's linked reviews.

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

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!

Firewalker Foxglove Killings Queen of Shadows
Firewalker (Worldwalker #2) by Josephine Angelini (Feiwel and Friends)
The Foxglove Killings by Tara Kelly (Entangled)
Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas (Bloomsbury)

Vengeance Road Your Voice is All I Hear Shadow Behind the Stars
Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman (HMH)
Your Voice is All I Hear by Leah Scheier (Sourcebooks)
The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn (Atheneum)

The Body Institute Anne & Henry Catacomb
The Body Institute by Carol Riggs (Entangled)
Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius (Simon Pulse)
Catacomb (Asylum #3) by Madelene Roux (Harper)

Hunter Smoked Hello, Goodbye
Hunter by Mercedes Lackey (Disney-Hyperion)
Smoked (Scorched #3) by Mari Mancusi (Sourcebooks)
Hello, Goodbye and Everything In Between by Jennifer E. Smith (Poppy)

Trouble in Me Violent Ends Infinite In Between
The Trouble in Me by Jack Gantos (FSG)
Violent Ends edited by Shaun Hutchinson (Simon Pulse)
Infinite in Between by Carolyn Mackler (Harper)

Vivian Apple Needs a Miracle Truest A Whole New World
Vivian Apple Needs a Miracle by Katie Coyle (HMH)
Truest by Jackie Lea Sommers (Harper)
A Whole New World by Liz Braswell (Disney)

Everything Everything Burn Girl Has to Be Love
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Delacorte)
Burn Girl by Mandy Mikulencak (Albert Whitman)
Has to be Love by Jolene Perry (AW Teen)

Whippoorwill Don't Fail Me Now Cut Both Ways
Whippoorwill by Joseph Monninger (HMH)
Don't Fail me Now by Una LaMarche (Razorbill)
Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian (Harper)

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Just Finished Reading: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything
by Nicola Yoon

To be published by Delacorte BFYR
on September 1, 2015

Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from Goodreads: My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla. But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.
My take: On the surface, this book seems like everything, everything I dislike. A girl suffering from a rare illness (could use a break from that), epistolary elements (can do without those) and, according to the synopsis, a heavy dose of Instalove With the Boy Next Door (can't even...)

But I really loved everything, everything about this book. To me, the greatest strength of Everything, Everything was its narrative voice. This story is told by Madeline, a girl whose illness (has made her pretty much a Girl in a Plastic Bubble. She's a prisoner in her own home, and has been for her entire life. Nicola Yoon has given her what was, to me, a pitch-perfect voice: simultaneously innocent of the world and a little jaded by her condition, self-deprecating but never self-pitying, and filled with wonder at the idea of falling in love. All the drawings, charts, and little additions to the text were charming.

Love is what gives Madeline the courage to break out of her protective cocoon (figuratively and literally) and risk ... everything. If this sounds like it could be cheesy, it didn't read that way to me, just captivating and sweet. While at its heart this book is a romance, it's also a story with some twists and turns.  Given that Madeline writes one sentence spoiler reviews of the books she reads, I will follow suit (highlight blank area but it's a spoiler!)

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Spoiler alert: "Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.” ― Phaedrus

While I urge you not to peek, I DO urge you to stop by on Friday, when I will be offering up a SIGNED ARC AND a matching tote bag that's as adorable as this book!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Freebie Friday August 28: ARC Grab Bag!

Happy Friday!

Yes -- back with more ARC Grab Baggery. Because who doesn't love a surprise?

The winner of this week's giveaway will get to choose from a selection of August and September ARCs.

Check out my Instagram (jenryland) for a sneak peek at what you could win...

Summer is ending (sad) but fall books are upon us (happy). I hope you all have a wonderful weekend of reading!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Just Finished Reading ...Breakaway by Kat Spears

by Kat Spears
To be published on September 15, 2015
by St. Martin's Griffin

Source: eARC for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: When Jason Marshall's younger sister passes away, he knows he can count on his three best friends and soccer teammates—Mario, Jordie, and Chick—to be there for him. With a grief-crippled mother and a father who's not in the picture, he needs them more than ever. But when Mario starts hanging out with a rough group of friends and Jordie finally lands the girl of his dreams, Jason is left to fend for himself while maintaining a strained relationship with troubled and quiet Chick. Then Jason meets Raine, a girl he thinks is out of his league but who sees him for everything he wants to be, and he finds himself pulled between building a healthy and stable relationship with a girl he might be falling in love with, grieving for his sister, and trying to hold onto the friendships he has always relied on. 
My take: I really enjoyed Spears' debut novel, Sway,  a book about Jesse, a morally flexible high school student who gets hired by a football player to plead his case to a girl and then (awkward!) falls in love with her.  While the cover of Breakaway might suggest the books are linked, they weren't in any way that I could see.

Jason (or  Jaz, as some of his friends call him) is trying to cope with an absentee father and the recent death of his sister. He's a working class kid with a tight group of loyal friends. I loved this aspect of the story -- realistic guy friendships are way too rare in YA as far as I'm concerned. Jason's family situation has made him a bit wary of romance, but one day he meets Raine, a tough-but-vulnerable girl who's trying to navigate her own family problems -- well-off but controlling parents.  They're an unlikely couple, but just keep being drawn to each other.

That's about it. I loved the fact that this book was about ... life. About crappy things that happen and the people who step up and help you get through them. The book shows Jaz navigating not one but two tragedies and trying to find his way in two new relationships: with Raine and with his father.

On her Goodreads bio, Kat Spears mentions Richard Peck and Katherine Paterson as writing influences, and I see that in Breakaway. This book felt current and timeless all at once. The ending is a bit unresolved, but I thought that fit the story. I really enjoyed this one. It's a bit of a quiet book, but if you enjoy contemporary YA, definitely give it a try!
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