Google+ YA Romantics: February 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

Freebie Friday: ARC/Book Grab Bag



Happy Friday!

This is the time of year that I clean out in preparation for a huge community book drive that collects children's and YA books for underfunded city schools. So I'm looking at a giant pile of books!

I found a lot of good stuff, and this week's winner can choose from a stack of ARCs (2015 and earlier) and some finished copies...



Due to shipping costs, this is US only, but if you live outside the US, you can enter Hot Off the Presses!  Last chance to enter the February giveaway, which ends on Monday.


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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book I Overlooked: Book of Ivy by Amy Engel



I have a pretty good idea of the kinds of books I like. I try to step out of my comfort zone, but there's never enough time and so many books.

But every so often, I start to hear about a book I overlooked. One that I decided wasn't for me ... until I began to read rave reviews. So of course I had to investigate:

The Book of Ivy (Book of Ivy #1)
by Amy Engel
Published by Entangled Teen
on November 11, 2014

Synopsis from Goodreads: After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual. This year, it is my turn.  My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.  But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy. Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

Why did I pass this one up? Dystopian YA and I are taking a break, for the most part. So when I read this, I thought ... eh. Matched. Been there, read that.

What I thought: While this book isn't perfect, I thought that its good points were really very good. If you're a stickler for lots of detailed dystopian world building, you may be a little dissatisfied. The scene setting is pretty much limited to the information in the synopsis above, and the post-nuclear US seems pretty similar to our world. There aren't much in the way of developed secondary characters, with the exception of the president, who had some interesting potential, and Ivy's boss.

But let's be honest: the appeal of this book is ALL about Ivy and Bishop and their slow burn romance, something that had me turning the pages like crazy. The two of them are forced into an arranged marriage that felt more retro-chaste than futuristic, but that resulted in a lot of romantic tension. (It also reminded me a little of my secret guilty reality TV pleasure, 90 Day Fiance. Shhh.) There was something completely touching and completely spellbinding about the way these two warily formed a sort-of relationship. I loved the way the book acknowledged the weirdness of their situation while at the same time working it for all it was worth.

Just when Ivy and Bishop were getting a little bit cozy, disaster struck. Of course. And this being dystopian YA, there's a cliffhanger ending. And a second book comes out in fall 2015. But I'm not worried; I've read a few of these kinds of stories and can pretty much predict how things will turn out in the end. I'll definitely be checking the second book out!

Have you read this? Let me know what you thought in comments!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Never Never by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher: A Spoilery Discussion

Never Never
by Colleen Hoover and Tarry Fisher
Published by Hoover Ink
on January 7, 2015

Source: bought

Synopsis from Goodreads: Best friends since they could walk. In love since the age of fourteen.
Complete strangers since this morning. He'll do anything to remember. She'll do anything to forget. 

My take: One of the great things about reading a book that has already been out for six weeks is that other people have read it and I don't have to worry as much about spoilers.

So ... you have been warned. The following review/discussion will have spoilers. But since this story is a great big WTF so far and none of us have much idea what's going on anyway, you can actually read this and nothing will really be spoiled.

Never Never is a novella, a 159 page teaser. It's an amnesia book and also a sort of backwards love story. So far.

As the story opens, two teenagers are struggling to remember who they are and what's going on. They discover they're -- sort of -- a couple, a boy and a girl who've known each other for years and are in a relationship. Of sorts.

Amnesia. I've devoted posts and posts to why amnesia books don't always work for me. A character who's a blank slate with no sense of self can be difficult to connect to. Plus, amnesia has become a pretty common plot device in YA.

This book is a little different because it's about a couple with amnesia. Neither Charlie nor Silas can remember much. Together, they're trying to piece things together. They don't really like what they are finding out about themselves, and are wondering if they can fall in love again.

The most interesting thing to me about this book is how divided the reviews were on my Goodreads feed. People either loved the book or were left sort of cold. And I can see both sides. While I didn't really like or connect with these characters, I was intrigued by their plight.

Let's go over some of the clues. If I left something significant out, please let me know in comments and I'll add it in:

Both Charlie and Silas have amnesia
They are in a relationship but each has cheated on the other
Charlie and Silas each have a tattoo that represents the other
Silas' bed has blood in it, with a bloody handprint that matches Charlie's hand
Charlie finds her clothes in the washer
Charlie and Silas' fathers were in business together and were accused of conspiracy and fraud
Charlie's dad ended up in prison
Silas' dad says Charlie stole files from his office
Charlie's mom is bitter and hates Silas and his family
Something or someone is making them repeatedly forget what they know.

Questions?

Why were they so in love and then cheated on each other?Whose blood was in Silas' bed?
Who/what is making Charlie and Silas forget and why?
How did Charlie's father end up in prison and Silas' father go free?

Theories? Tell me in comments what you think.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing February 24-March 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 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!

LAST chance to enter the February 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 February YA reviews 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 the book's Goodreads page!



Salt & Stone Red Queen ZOM-B Bride
Salt & Stone by Victoria Scott (Scholastic)
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (Harper)
Zom-B Bride by Darren Shan (Little, Brown)


Quake Unchanged Wicked Thing
Quake (Pulse #3) by Patrick Carman (Katherine Tegen)
Unchanged by Jessica Brody (FSG)
A Wicked Thing (Wicked Thing #1) by Rhiannon Thomas (Harper)


Stone in the Sky Mark of the Thief Unleashed
A Stone in the Sky by Cecil Castellucci (Roaring Brook)
Mark of the Thief (Mark of the Thief #1) by Jennifer Nielsen (Scholastic)
Unleashed (Uninvited #2) by Sophie Jordan (Harper)


Remember The Cipher Feral Pride
Remember by Eileen Cook (Simon Pulse)
The Cipher by John C. Ford (Viking)
Feral Pride by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick)

Sin Eater's Daughter Dove Arising No Parking at the End Times
Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury (Scholastic)
Dove Arising by Karen Bao (Viking)
No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss (Greenwillow)


Third Twin Dreamfire When My Heart Was Wicked
The Third Twin by C. J. Omololu (Delacorte)
Dreamfire by Kit Alloway (St. Martin's)
When My Heart Was Wicked by Tricia Stirling (Scholastic)


Kalahari Breakout Haunted
Kalahari (Corpus #3) by Jessica Khoury (Razorbill)
Breakout by Kevin Emerson (Crown)
Haunted (Arnaud Legacy #1) by Lynn Carthage (K-Teen)


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Monday, February 23, 2015

Just Finished Reading: My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp

My Best Everything
by Sarah Tomp
To be published on March 3, 2014
by Little, Brown BFYR

Source: e-galley for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: 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?

My take: My Best Everything is a quirky, moving coming of age story that takes place in a small town, a kind of story I'm always drawn to. It has some narrative aspects that could be hit or miss for some readers, but I found it compelling and different.

Lulu's just graduated from high school and is more than ready to leave her small town and head to California, where she hopes to study science. But when her father confesses that he's lost her college fund in a bad investment, Lulu's devastated. The last thing she wants is to get stuck in her "hillbilly" town, working at Sal's Salvage. So she comes up with an idea: she'll use her science knowledge and an old still named Aunt Jezebel to make and sell moonshine as a way to pay her college tuition.

You could take this concept and write it so many different ways: as a thriller, as a dark tragicomedy like Breaking Bad, as a morality tale. So how to describe the way My Best Everything feels? It's character-driven and atmospheric. It's told in an (almost) second person narration, with Lulu addressing a now-absent other character she refers to as "you," telling the story as if she's looking back from the past. I usually struggle with epistolary stories, but I wouldn't say this strictly falls into that category.  I also thought the technique worked well in a coming of age story (as an older and wiser Lulu looks back on her more naive self) and it also added a sense of mystery about why "you" wasn't around for her to talk to directly. (I was pretty sure I figured it out ... and I was wrong.)

My Best Everything had a lot of story elements I love. I'm a huge fan of a good small town setting and colorful small town characters. I liked the writing a lot. I also really liked Lulu. She's the kind of girl I can relate to: a smart girl stuck in a small town, a "good" girl who wants to explore the boundaries of being "good" and even trample over them -- all for a worthy cause. I thought all the characters were really well-written, from Lulu and her friend Roni to Reva's parents and various other town residents. All in all, this was a big hit for me.

If you enjoy coming-of-age stories and are in the mood for something a little different, I'd definitely recommend giving this one a try!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Freebie Friday February 20



Happy Friday! I have three great reading choices for my winner to choose from -- this will be US only...

but...

... if you live outside the US you can enter Hot Off the Presses and enter to win a book of your choice.



Salt & Stone Dove Arising Sin Eater's Daughter

Salt & Stone by Victoria Scott (ARC)
Dove Arising by Karen Bao (hardcover)
The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury (ARC)

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Just Finished Reading: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
Published on January 13, 2015
by Riverhead Books
Synopsis from Goodreads: Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
Note: this is an adult book, but one that I think has huge crossover appeal to YA readers. There are some adult themes and situations.

My take: Thrillers and mysteries are some of my favorite kinds of books, and I think they're diabolically hard to write. You have to think backwards and forwards, figuring out what happened, and then carefully piece together clues that the protagonist (and the reader!) can find and puzzle over. I also feel strongly that you have to make the ending guessable.

As thrillers go, I thought The Girl on the Train was excellent. It offers a page-turning plot, characters that slowly reveal themselves to the reader, and some really interesting themes.

Rachel's lost her job but still takes the train to and from London as if she still had a purpose. She also has got a bit of a drinking problem. As she sits on the train, drinking and sad, she wistfully watches a couple whose deck backs onto the train tracks. They seem so happy together. Then one day, she sees something shocking on the deck, something she can't get out of her mind. Soon she'll be inserting herself into the lives of others with unexpected and unintended results.

I think one of my favorite aspects of the story is the way it explores our instinct to assume and to judge others on very limited information. First there are the assumptions that Rachel makes about her happy couple. Then, there are the assumptions the reader makes about Rachel and her drinking and erratic behavior. The book does this again and again-- introduces a character or situation, lets you make your assumptions, and then slowly pulls back the lens to show you more context or other extenuating circumstances. As a result, my opinion of different characters was constantly changing. The number of suspects in the crime is relatively small, and by about two-thirds of the way through, I thought I had figured out what happened. I was right, but that in no way spoiled my enjoyment of the story.

Highly recommended for fans of thriller and mysteries!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing February 17-23

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!

Enter the February 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 February YA reviews 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 the book's Goodreads page!

This is a very small week -- if I missed anything, please let me know!


Better Than Perfect The Bargaining pic name pic name
Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor (Harper)
The Bargaining by Carly Anne West (Simon Pulse)
The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes
Since You've Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne (Dundam)



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Monday, February 16, 2015

Losing My Religion: A Compare and Contrast Review


I don't know about you, but I love books that examine the concept of religious faith. And I don't mean just books that teach me about a different religion, but books that really look at what makes a person have an unshakeable belief in something larger than themself. And I especially love books where tht faith is tested. Books like Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally.

I recently read two YA books that feature characters struggling with issues of faith (I was hoping to include a third, Vivian Apple at the End of the World, but my library has been taking forever to get it in for me.)  Since these two are coming out soon, I thought I'd go ahead with these two.


No Parking at the End Times
by Bryan Bliss
To be published by Greenwillow
on February 24, 2015

Source: Thanks to Greenwillow for an e-ARC
Synopsis from Goodreads: Abigail doesn't know how her dad found Brother John. Maybe it was the billboards. Or the radio. What she does know is that he never should have made that first donation. Or the next, or the next. Her parents shouldn't have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there with Brother John for the "end of the world." Because of course the end didn't come. And now they're living in their van. And Aaron’s disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But maybe it’s too big a task for one teenage girl. 
My take:  As the synopsis indicates, No Parking at the End Times wasn't so much about faith as it was about fraud: Abigail's family is victimized by a con artist preacher, a guy who convinces people the world is coming to an end and that they need to give him all their money. (Though I'm not sure what he'd need it for...)

It's hard not to be sympathetic to the twins' plight, to watch as they descend further into poverty and homelessness. The problem I had was that I didn't understand the parents' blind and misplaced faith in a guy who tells them to make choices that hurt their family. "Sell my house and give all you the money? Sure, no questions asked." Because I'm not a person with a strong religious bent, I needed to understand how and why two seemingly rational adults were so taken in that they'd do something that left their children homeless and hungry. I'm not saying this kind of stuff doesn't happen, but I was hoping the book would delve more in to how it happens and why. Brother John didn't come off as very charismatic to me, so I spent a large part of the story feeling completely annoyed at the parents. Near the end of the story, the twins decide that the adults in charge have lost their minds (finally!) and take matter into their own hands.

The Distance Between Lost and Found
by Kathryn Holmes
To be published on February 17, 2015
by Harper Teen

Source: thanks to Harper for an eARC

Synopsis: Ever since the night of the incident with Luke Willis, the preacher’s son, sophomore Hallelujah Calhoun has been silent. When the rumors swirled around school, she was silent. When her parents grounded her, she was silent. When her friends abandoned her … silent. Now, six months later, on a youth group retreat in the Smoky Mountains, Hallie still can’t find a voice to answer the taunting. Shame and embarrassment haunt her, while Luke keeps coming up with new ways to humiliate her. Not even meeting Rachel, an outgoing newcomer who isn’t aware of her past, can pull Hallie out of her shell. Being on the defensive for so long has left her raw, and she doesn’t know who to trust. On a group hike, the incessant bullying pushes Hallie to her limit. When Hallie, Rachel, and Hallie’s former friend Jonah get separated from the rest of the group, the situation quickly turns dire. Stranded in the wilderness, the three have no choice but to band together. With past betrayals and harrowing obstacles in their way, Hallie fears they’ll never reach safety. Could speaking up about the night that changed everything close the distance between being lost and found? Or has she traveled too far to come back?

My take: Distance Between Lost and Found took some time to get going for me. I was never bored, but the story builds deliberately, and I find third person present a weird narrative point of view to read. But by the halfway point, when things really got grim for this trio of teens who run off from a church hiking trip and get lost in the wilderness, I settled into the story and ended up enjoying it a lot.

As the story opens, Hallelujah is hiding something, something that has made her an outcast among the popular kids in her church group and harmed her relationship with her friend Jonah. When Hallie runs off from the group, Jonah and another girl follow and before long, they're lost in the Smoky Mountains with no cell phones and limited food. The book is coy about Hallie's secret until about halfway through, and when she finally starts talking about what happened to her and how it has affected her, things really gets going. This is also the point in the story where the characters begin to wonder if they'll make it out of the mountains alive. The metaphor of "I once was lost but now am found" could have come off heavy handed, but didn't. I really liked the way that the whole survival-in-the-wilderness story paralleled the way that each of the main characters recent experiences with things that had tested their faith. And I loved that when the going got tough, Hallie didn't just throw up her hands and ask God to save her. Her religious faith gave her the strength to help save herself and her friends, as well as stand up for herself in other situations. This book seemed quiet at first, but then built to a lot of suspense and a moving ending.

How do you feel about books with religious themes? Are you planning to try either of these?


Friday, February 13, 2015

Freebie Friday: ARC/Book Grab Bag



Happy Friday the 13th!

But today is a lucky day because it is about all things free and bookish. Today's choices include All Fall Down by Ally Carter (doesn't anyone want this!?) plus a couple of February ARCs -- good ones!

These are US only but...

If you live outside the US you can still enter Hot Off the Presses for a chance to win a book of your choice. AND you can enter my stop on the Romance is in the Air Giveaway Hop. Another chance to win a book of your choice.

And if you live in the US you can enter ALL the giveaways :)


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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hot Off the Presses! New YA Releasing February 10-16

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!

NEW month, new 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 February YA reviews 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 the book's Goodreads page!


Utopia, Iowa Shadow Cabinet Red Queen Rebellion
Utopia, Iowa by Brian Yansky (Candlewick)
The Shadow Cabinet (Shades of London #3) by Maureen Johnson
The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (Harper)
Rebellion byStephanie Diaz (St. Martin's)


The Ruby Circle Inherit Midnight The Last Time We Say Goodbye
The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines #6) by Richelle Mead (Razorbill)
Inherit Midnight by Kate Kae Myers (Bloomsbury)
The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand (Harper)


Seeker When Reason Breaks My Heart and Other Black Holes
Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton (Delacorte)
When Reason Breaks by Cindy Rodriguez (Bloomsbury)
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga (Balzer + Bray)


Glass Arrow Remember You Roaring Boys
The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons (Tor)
I Remember You by Cathleen Davitt Bell (Knopf)
Temple Boys by Jamie Buxton (Roaring Brook)

Best Friends Through Eternity Proposal One of the Guys
Best Friends Through Eternity by Sylvia McNicoll (Tundra)
Promposal by Rhonda Helms (Simon Pulse)
One of the Guys by Lisa Aldin (Spencer Hill)

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