Google+ YA Romantics: May 2014

Friday, May 30, 2014

Freebie Friday: Ghosts and More


Happy Friday!  

I'm spending the day at BEA, so tomorrow I'll have lots of books to talk about.  But today, I'm giving away two great ARCs:

My Last Kiss
by Bethany Neal
To be published on June 10 by FSG

Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss--the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died--is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn't a suicide as everyone assumes. She can't remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she's worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend. 

If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she'll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made--good and bad--that led to her last kiss.


Say What You Will
by Cammie Mc Govern
To be published on June 3, 2014
by Harper Teen

Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can't walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.

When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other's lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.

The winner can choose one or both!  This is open to US residents only, but I promise to have an international FF very soon!




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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Just Finished Reading ... We Are the Goldens

We Are the Goldens
by Dana Reinhardt
Published by May 27, 2014
by Wendy Lamb Books

Source: giveaway at ALA

Synopsis from Goodreads: Nell knows a secret about her perfect, beautiful sister Layla. If she tells, it could blow their world apart. When Nell and Layla were little, Nell used to call them Nellaya. Because to Nell, there was no difference between where she started and her adored big sister ended. They're a unit; divorce made them rely on each other early on, so when one pulls away, what is the other to do? But now, Nell's a freshman in high school and Layla is changing, secretive. And then Nell discovers why. And even though Nell tries to support Layla, to understand that she's happy and in love, Nell struggles with her true feelings: it's wrong, and she must do something about it.
My take: This is a short (208 pages), beautifully written book about two sisters and what happens when the close bond between them begins to unravel as Nell, the younger sister, discovers a secret that Layla, the older sister, has been keeping. That's it. The book is about the sisters' relationship, and about how knowing the secret puts a strain on Nell and the way she interacts with other people in her life -- her parents, her best friend, and the guy she has a crush on. The secret is revealed in the blurb above, but I edited it out. (It's not the kind of secret I like in a YA book, and if I'd known that was the secret, I might not have read the book.)

We Are the Goldens is set in San Francisco, a place I visited recently, and I loved seeing Nell make her way around the city. I also really, really loved Felix, Nell's best friend. The story is written in a sort-of-second person style. Nell, the narrator, addresses her sister as "you" throughout the story, as if she's talking or writing to her. Second person narration is usually way too weird and jarring for me, but I thought this technique really worked, emphasizing how close the two sisters were until the secret came between them.

Another thing I liked about We Are the Goldens is that the what and the why of the secret really aren't the point of the book. The story is really about Nell and her struggle to define herself in relation to her sister.  I loved that this beautifully-crafted little book, like the lovely, cropped close-up photo on the cover, focuses so narrowly. Other readers may disagree, and I will admit that the abrupt ending was a little unsatisfying. But I also think it fit the story. There was only one aspect of the story that didn't quite work for me, and that was the dead brothers. (Hard to explain if you haven't read the book.) But overall, I'm a big fan of this book. If you enjoy realistic YA and enjoy reading things that break the typical YA mold, you should definitely try this one!





Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: the BEA Edition

 photo WoW_zpsaa3f2f43.jpg


I'm lucky to able to attend BEA, and over the past few days, I've been making lists of books that I'm hoping to find. A few of my most-anticipated have already popped up on NetGalley or Edelweiss, but these are three that I hope to see: 


pic name pic name pic name

The Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers (HMH)
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (Little, Brown)
I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson (Dial)

If you're participating in WoW, leave me a link so I can visit you back!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing May 26-June 2

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 grab 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!

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, commenting on other people's linked reviews, or tweeting :)  

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA. You are also welcome to link your reviews of YA books that were self-pubbed this month. Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Take Me on Guardian Guy in Real Life
Take Me On by Katie McGarry (Harlequin)
Guardian (Proxy #2) by Alex London (Philomel)
Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff (Balzer + Bray)



One Man Guy While We Run We Are the Goldens
One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva (FSG)
While We Run by Karen Healey (Little, Brown)
We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt (Wendy Lamb)

Surrounded by Sharks Allies and Assassins Girls Like Us
Surrounded by Sharks by Michael Northrop (Scholastic)
Allies and Assassins by Justin Somper (Little, Brown)
Girls Like Us by Gail Giles (Candlewick)

Oblivion Divided Played Played
Oblivion by Sasha Dawn (Egmont)
Divided (Dualed #2) by Elsie Chapman (Random House)
Played (Hooked #2) by Liz Fichera (Harlequin)
City of Heavenly Fire (Mortal Instruments #6) by Cassandra Clare

Bad Luck Girl Girl With the Wind-Up Heart Ignited Curses and Smoke
Bad Luck Girl (American Fairy #3) by Sarah Zettel (Random House)
The Girl With the Windup Heart (Steampunk Chronicles #4) by Kady Cross
Ignited (Sense Thieves #3) by Corrine Jackson (K-Teen)
Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter (Arthur Levine)


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Monday, May 26, 2014

Compare and Contrast: My Last Kiss vs Vivian Divine is Dead


Welcome to Compare and Contrast, a periodic feature in which I discuss two books with similar themes or plot elements. Today I'm discussing two books in which the protagonist has to solve her own murder. Creepy? Cool? Cheesy? Let's find out... 

My Last Kiss 
by Bethany Neal 
To be published on June 10, 2014 
By Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Source: Thanks to Macmillan for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book!

Synopsis from Goodreads: What if your last kiss was with the wrong boy? Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss--the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died--is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn't a suicide as everyone assumes. She can't remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she's worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend.

My take: I requested My Last Kiss despite my misgivings about a) reading another book with an amnesia element and b) the fact that the book features a ghost character, both of which are plot elements that haven't always worked for me before. But overall, I enjoyed this story. It's a twisty, suspenseful tale of love and betrayal. From the book's first pages, I knew that Cassidy wasn't going to be an admirable character, but I still found her sympathetic. I mean, she's dead, and she's desperate to prove that her death wasn't suicide or an accident, but murder.

Chelsea and her group of friends and their boyfriends are an interesting group. They seem close, but you know right off that characters are keeping secrets from one another. Chelsea's was keeping a huge secret before she died, but she clearly feels a lot of remorse about it. Now that she's dead, there is one person who can still see her, and talk to her, a fact which causes her both joy and guilt.

While My Last Kiss wasn't a super-romantic book, or one that tugged at my heart, it did have a lot of suspense and kept me guessing until the end about what actually happened to poor Chelsea. If you've enjoyed books like The Ghost and the Goth or Life After Theft, and shows like PLL, you might definitely want to give this one a try.

Vivian Divine is Dead
by Lauren Sabel
To be published by Katherine Tegen Books
on June 3, 2014

Source: Thanks to Harper for allowing me to read an advance copy of this book.

Synopsis from Goodreads:When a death threat arrives with teen celebrity Vivian Divine's fan mail, Vivian has no choice but to go on the run to Mexico. She soon discovers, though, that her Oscar-nominated performance killing villains on-screen did nothing to prepare her for escaping a madman in real life. Some people say he's a hero, others tremble in his presence, but one thing is clear: he won't stop until Vivian is in his grasp. Why didn't she pay more attention during those judo lessons for her role in Zombie Killer? Vivian finds an ally in the mysterious and charming Nick. He is everything Hollywood boys are not-genuine, kind, and determined to see Vivian for who she really is. But even he seems like he can't be trusted-what could he be hiding? Beat up, hungry, and more confused than ever about who she's running from, Vivian is living in a real-life blockbuster horror flick. But there's no option to yell "cut" like there is on set.... 

My take: Picture this: you're standing at a party or in line at the store and all of a sudden this random person starts telling you some crazy story about something that happened to them. What they're telling you sounds like the plot of a very complicated yet completely implausible action movie. You're listening, thinking: "Is this for real? Is this person delusional?" That's how I felt while reading this book.

In the first few pages, Vivian tells the reader that she's an Oscar-nominated 16 year-old actress whose famous mother was just murdered, famous father recently attempted suicide, and (you guessed it) famous boyfriend just publicly cheated on her with her best friend. (I can't remember if the best friend was famous or not. Probably.) Just when you're taking all that in, Vivian receives a DVD that shows her own death, and has to disguise herself and go on the run to Mexico. Just because, okay? Because the police and FBI are totally "in on it." Don't ask so many questions.

At times I wondered if Vivian a) was suffering from some kind of mental breakdown brought on by the death of her mother, b) forgot that she was starring in some B-action film the whole time, or c) was having a bad dream. I was hoping for some kind of crazy revelation in the last pages, but the ending actually was kind of unresolved.

This wasn't entirely my kind of book, but if you enjoy campy fast-paced stories that read like a movie script, give this one a try!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Freebie Friday: The Falconer OR What I Thought Was True


Happy Friday!  

Today I have a choice of books for my winner AND this will be open internationally :)

Choice one:


The Falconer
by Elizabeth May
Bloomsbury, May 2014

Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother. Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways. But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?

Choice two: 


What I Thought Was True
by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Dial, April 2014

Gwen Castle's Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He's a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island's summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she'll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen's dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.


To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter. Since it's a holiday weekend here in the US, I will draw the winner on Tuesday morning. If you win, you can choose one of these two books!


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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Trending Thursday: Novella Non Grata?


Welcome to Trending Thursday, a (sometimes) weekly feature in which I pick out a YA trend and we can discuss. Hot or not? Love it or hate it? I'll give you my take, but dissenting opinions are welcome.

Recently I saw (and joined in) some grumbling on Twitter about ... novellas. You know, those longer-than-a-short-story but shorter-than-a-novel kind of things?

I must confess that I've always been somewhat of a skeptic about novellas. To me, they are awkward in length and often lack an obvious purpose. If a novella were a skirt, it would be tea length.


These days, novellas seem to be everywhere in YA. And that's happened since I started blogging nearly three years ago. I did some completely unscientific research on Goodreads, and found that YA novellas started to show up in force around 2010 and 2011, may have peaked in 2012 and 2013 and are still as ubiquitous as selfies and hashtags today. (Those links lead to Goodreads lists of YA novellas published in each of those years.)

I'm thinking that the YA novella may be reaching a saturation point, and is heading toward backlash, as trends can do:



My opinion on individual novellas depends somewhat upon how invested I am in a series. I also think that they should be at least 50 pages and add something new -- but not essential -- to the overall series story arc. 

What are your feelings about novellas? Do you think that they are great way to bide the time between installments of a series, or are they undersized and overpriced? 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review: All Lined Up by Cora Carmack

All Lined Up (Rusk University #1)
by Cora Carmack
Published on May 13, 2014
by William Morrow

NOTE: this is a NA (New Adult) book.


Synopsis from Goodreads: Dallas Cole loathes football. That's what happens when you spend your whole childhood coming in second to a sport. College is her time to step out of the bleachers, and put the playing field (and the players) in her past. But life doesn't always go as planned. As if going to the same college as her football star ex wasn’t bad enough, her father, a Texas high school coaching phenom, has decided to make the jump to college ball… as the new head coach at Rusk University. Dallas finds herself in the shadows of her father and football all over again. Carson McClain is determined to go from second-string quarterback to the starting line-up. He needs the scholarship and the future that football provides. But when a beautiful redhead literally falls into his life, his focus is more than tested. It's obliterated. Dallas doesn't know Carson is on the team. Carson doesn't know that Dallas is his new coach's daughter. And neither of them know how to walk away from the attraction they feel.

My take: Reviews of NA books are about as rare around my blog as unicorns. I've tried a bunch of NA books, and while I've enjoyed some of them, many have been too melodramatic for my taste, featuring characters that seem more in need of therapy than a hot hook-up and premises so farfetched that I sprained my eyeballs from rolling them.

All Lined Up was everything I think the NA genre should be: a book featuring just-out-of-their-teens trying to figure life out, characters who have a little more independence and life experience than a YA cast.  Dallas was a great protagonist -- smart and no-nonsense, sassy yet vulnerable, a girl who's faced some tough times, yet isn't a complete emotional wreck. Carson was just as great -- he's a hard worker who is determined to make something of himself, and won't let anything interfere with his making first string on the team. Because Carson doesn't want any distractions or problems, and Dallas is so over dating football players, watching the two of them fight their attraction to one another was pretty fun. There are also some great secondary characters -- there's Dallas' mouthy, bossy friend Stella; there's Silas, an overconfident, womanizing teammate of Carson's; and there's Ryan, the adorably nerdy football team manager.

Football. I don't know anything about it. My family watched all the seasons of Friday Night Lights, and I dropped in from time to time and was like ... "Eh, this show would be better without so many football games." But -- and I can't believe I'm saying this -- football really enhanced the story in All Lined Up. It was a theme that threaded its way through the book in a way that really worked for me.

In an afterword, Cora Carmack explains that the themes and location of this book are ones she knows well, and I could really feel her connection to her story. Even if you're not that into NA, if you love a good romance, you should definitely try this book. All Lined Up has tension without manufactured drama. It has steamy scenes, but within a relationship that feels positive, not dysfunctional. Most of all, it's a story with a ton of heart, which is what I loved about it the most. I'm thrilled that there will be companion books, and I can't wait to see Silas meet his match :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing May 20-26

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 grab 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!

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, commenting on other people's linked reviews, or tweeting :)  

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA. You are also welcome to link your reviews of YA books that were self-pubbed this month. Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Whew -- this week is a break from the May Madness of the past two....

Now and Forever Biggest Flirts Art of Lainey
Now and Forever by Susane Colasanti (Viking)
Biggest Flirts (Superlatives #1)  by Jennifer Echols 
The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes (Harper)

End Times Infinite Sky Dangerous Creatures
End Times by Anna Schumacher (Razorbill)
Infinite Sky by C. J. Flood (Atheneum)
Dangerous Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Little Brown)

Reborn Rules for Breaking Summer Invitation
Reborn (Shadow Falls: After Dark #1) by C. C. Hunter (St. Martins)
The Rules for Breaking (Rules #2) by Ashley Elston
The Summer Invitation by Charlotte Silver (Roaring Brook)

Butterfly Grave Turn it Up V is for Villain
Butterfly Grave (Murder Notebook #3) by Anne Cassidy (Bloomsbury)
Turn It Up (Varsity #2) by Melanie Spring (Poppy)
V is for Villain by Peter Moore (Disney Hyperion)

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been Gone
by Morgan Matson
Published on May 6, 2014
by Simon & Schuster

Synopsis from Goodreads: The Pre-Sloane Emily didn't go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn't do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just... disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try... unless they could lead back to her best friend. Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough. Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a Stranger? Wait... what?  Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?
My take: I've been a big fan of Morgan Matson since her first book, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour. I also read and enjoyed Second Chance Summer. But I have to say that I think Since You've Been Gone is my favorite book of Matson's yet.  It took some of the themes and plot elements of AaRED (facing fears, slow burn romance, road trip) and some from SCS (friendship) and made them into a story that is YA perfection.

I related a lot to Emily. She's a little quiet and reserved, and her friend Sloane had always dragged her on all kinds of fun and crazy adventures. (One of my best friends from college was a little like Sloane and this book reminded me I needed to email her and catch up!) But when Sloane vanishes without a word, all Emily is left with is a long, lonely summer and a wacky to-do list. I'm not always crazy about the bucket list as a plot device, but I thought it worked really well in this book. Some of Sloane's tasks for Emily were very specific, but most of them were about getting Emily to face her shyness and come into her own.

Matson's books always have a strong family element and this one is no exception. In fact, I give this book an award for Most Creative Way to Get YA Parents Out of the Way Without Killing Them. Well done! The romance in this book was of the friendship to love variety. I must be honest: I wasn't 100% crazy about Frank at the beginning. Plus, he had a serious girlfriend. If you are wary of cheating plots and angsty, unnecessary love triangles, do not be afraid. Others may disagree, but I felt that Frank and Emily stayed firmly in the Friend Zone when appropriate.

The mystery of Sloane's disappearance was another minor element of the book. I had a theory that (highlight for spoiler) Sloane disappeared on purpose as a way to force Emily to come into her own. (end spoiler.) But the real story behind Sloane's disappearance was even better. I loved the way that, without being present in the book, Sloane still became a fully developed character.

If, like me, you are a fan of contemporary YA books that are fun and entertaining but also have a strong emotional core, you definitely don't want to miss this one. Since You've Been Gone is a great summer read about facing your fears and insecurities, about the importance of friendship, and about finding confidence in the face of uncertainty.
 
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