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Friday, July 29, 2016

P.S. I Like You Blog Tour \\ Guest Post from Kasie West & Giveaway..

By Kasie West
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Point (July 26, 2016) 
Language: English
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Range: 7 and up

What if the person you were falling for was a total mystery?

While Lily is spacing out in Chemistry one day, she picks up her pencil and scribbles a line from one of her favorite songs on the desk. The next day, someone else has written back to her on the desk! Soon enough Lily and the mystery student are exchanging notes, and lyrics, and even sharing secrets. When Lily finds out that her anonymous pen pal is a guy, she's flustered -- and kind of feels like she's falling for him. She and her best friend set out to unravel the identity of the letter writer -- but when the truth is revealed, the guy is the LAST person Lily could have ever imagined it to be. Now that Lily knows the truth, can she untangle her feelings and gather the courage to listen to her heart?

From beloved author Kasie West (The Distance Between Us) comes an utterly charming story about mixed messages, missed connections, and the magic of good old-fashioned secret admirer notes.

Top 10 guys you'd like to find out were writing you lyrics on your desk

This is a fun question. I’m going to do a half and half answer here. Half will be stars my teenage self would have liked to have writing to me and the other half will be stars my now adult self adores.

1.   Johnny Depp. If you think Johnny Depp is hot now (which I do) imagine him as a teen heartthrob, all big bodied hair and intense dark eyes. I had a poster of him on my wall in my tweens (okay, I had a poster of the first 5 guys on my list on my wall. Not the second five, that would be weird.) ‘21 Jump Street’ was the show that made me fall in love with Johnny. It was a show about undercover youn- looking officers that were solving teen crime. I was hooked. I think I need to go back and watch this show. So if he had been writing me lyrics on my desk, I would have died.

2.   River Phoenix. Oh River, your name alone ensured that my teen self would love you. He was the James Dean of my teenager hood—troubled and broody and hot. Sadly, his life ended too soon, but not before millions of girls pledged their undying affection to him. The movie that hooked me to River and his chops was ‘Stand By Me’—a coming of age story about some boys who go on an epic journey.

3.   Luke Perry. ‘90210’ was The Show of my high school years. Everyone I knew watched it. And you were either a Jason Priestly lover or a Luke Perry lover. I was Luke Perry all the way. This was a show about teens growing up in Beverly Hills.

4.   Kirk Cameron. You might not guess it now but he was big when I was a teen. He was on a show called ‘Growing Pains’ that I watched religiously. Loved him.

5.   Corey Haim. ‘The Lost Boys’ was the first vampire movie I ever saw. It was epic. As a teen I wasn’t allowed to watch R rated movies and this movie was one I snuck to watch. So maybe it was the danger of the rebellious act or the dangerous nature of the movie, but I fell in love with Corey Haim after watching it. He was a kind of dorky cute that I found endearing. So yes, I would’ve been happy as a teen to find out he was my letter writer.

On to adulthood. These are my boys now:

6.   Tom Hiddleston. That smile and that accent. Enough said.

7.   Hugh Jackman. Those biceps. That accent. And I love Wolverine. He’s one of my favs.

8.   Nico Tortorella. This boy is adorable. He’s on a show called ‘Younger’ and he is hot hot hot. I have a thing for guys with amazing smiles and he has one of the best.

9.   Jordan Rodrigues. If you haven’t watched ‘Dance Academy’ yet, you should. And if you don’t know who Jordan is, you should. He’s an amazing dancer (all the actors/actresses on the show are) and adorable as well. An excellent combo.

10.  Chris Pratt. I have a thing for funny guys and he seems to always play them and play them well. I liked him in Parks and Rec as well as the more chiseled version of him in Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World. Either version works for me as long as he keeps me laughing.

These are the boys I went with that you would recognize, but in all honesty, I would just want to discover my letter writer was a guy who was thoughtful and kind, with a great smile, and who shared the same humor I did. Everything else would be bonus.

I write YA. I eat Junior Mints. Sometimes I go crazy and do both at the same time. My novels are: PIVOT POINT and its sequel SPLIT SECOND. And my contemporary novels: THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US, ON THE FENCE, THE FILL-IN BOYFRIEND, PS I LIKE YOU, and BY YOUR SIDE. My agent is the talented and funny Michelle Wolfson.

2 Finished Copies of P.S. I LIKE YOU (US Only) 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

THREE TRUTHS AND A LIE by Brent Hartinger \\ Maybe Mildly Inappropriate For Average YA Reader?

Review by Sara...

By Brent Hartinger
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse (August 2, 2016)
Grade Level: 9 and up
Language: English
Goodreads | Amazon

A weekend retreat in the woods and an innocent game of three truths and a lie go horribly wrong in this high-octane psychological thriller filled with romantic suspense by a Lambda Award–winning author.

Deep in the forest, four friends gather for a weekend of fun. 

Truth #1: Rob is thrilled about the weekend trip. It’s the perfect time for him to break out of his shell…to be the person he really, really wants to be. 

Truth #2: Liam, Rob’s boyfriend, is nothing short of perfect. He’s everything Rob could have wanted. They’re perfect together. Perfect. 

Truth #3: Mia has been Liam’s best friend for years…long before Rob came along. They get each other in a way Rob could never, will never, understand. 

Truth #4: Galen, Mia’s boyfriend, is sweet, handsome, and incredibly charming. He’s the definition of a Golden Boy…even with the secrets up his sleeve. 

One of these truths is a lie…and not everyone will live to find out which one it is.

Four teenagers go into a spooky forest to spend the weekend in a cabin in the middle of nowhere without any adults around... what could go wrong?! Liam, Rob, Maia, and Galen are trying to have a good time and end up playing the game Three Truths and a Lie. This should be a harmless game until one of them says that they may have committed a murder many years ago. Is this a lie? Is this truth? Immediately after, strange and scary things keep happening. Items are disappearing from the cabin, noises keep coming from outside, and at one point a fire starts near the cabin. The game Three Truths and a Lie plays a big part in everything odd that is happening because Rob swears Maia is hiding something and ultimately may be behind what is going on. Sadly, not everyone will live through the weekend to find out who was telling the truth.

This story was painful to get through. It is a very short book but so much about the story made me shake my head. Let's start with the characters.
  • Rob is the main character and the narrating voice. Rob is a giant wuss with the inner monologue of a 5 year old girl who is wondering why people don't like her. He is so whiny and self absorbed that I wanted to slap him myself and leave him in the forest. I didn't like him nor did I connect with him in any way. Actually, I didn't connect with any character. Rob was so much more concerned about having a lot of sexy time with his boyfriend of a few months, Liam. Rob swears that Maia is the mastermind behind everything going wrong with the trip and never. lets. this. go. It is maddening how he cannot prove anything but chooses to mope and whine about it all to Liam without actually being able to prove she's behind it all. He also loved to talk about everything in percentages. "I'm eighty percent sure this is what happened...." and "I am sixty five percent sure Maia is behind this..." and "I am seventy percent sure...." Holy crow, just stop already, Rain Man.
  • Liam is Maia's best friend and token boyfriend to Rob. He and Rob had just started dating but that's all you ever really find out about him. He defended Maia's honor no matter what and it was too over the top. What else can I say besides that he is the token boyfriend. He's there to support Maia and someone for Rob to screw. I don't mean to be so cold but his character had no depth.
  • I'll be frank: Maia is a bitch. There are no redeeming qualities to her. She silently waged a war against Rob while dating the gross person that is Galen. She had something against Rob but never came out and said what it was. She didn't trust him and openly admitted that she didn't. She tries too hard to be the alpha of the group. She is the one that started the Three Truths and a Lie game, which (obviously) is the running theme of the book. 
  • Galen is the overly manly guy that is trying to prove he is super manly. His character is over the top rude and disgusting. There was not one thing I connected to with any of these characters. I found myself not caring what happened to any of them.

The story line itself was laughable. Hartinger wants me to believe that the parents of these teens have no problem letting them spend the weekend in a deserted cabin alone? HA! Right. Actually, there are no adults in this story whatsoever. These kids really are left to their own devices. He also wants me to believe that after playing the "Three Truths and a Lie" game that one of them just happens to admit they probably possibly committed a murder?! *facepalm* Give me a freaking break. None of these characters would be friends in real life. They are horrid to each other and have ugly personalities. What happened to them in the woods came across as obvious and unbelievable. More like random occurances than anything else. I didn't care who ended up being the one to blame because eighty-five percent of the book was Rob's inner monologue as he whined to himself. The other fifteen percent was stupid stuff that happened. (See what I did there??)

Here is the big problem I have with this book: all of the sexual references. This book feels wildly inapproperiate for the average YA reader. Galen is overly rude to Rob and Liam when he "waggles his junk" at the others while skinny dipping and just the gross comments he makes towards them. Also, there are two scenes where Rob and Liam have hot and heavy sex, not leaving anything to the imagination. I mean, it is stuff that should be in adult books, not YA books.

I openly admit I skimmed the last 50 pages of the book because I wanted it to be over. There is a "twist" at the end but it doesn't help clear anything up and it is not a huge reveal. If nothing else, it is stupid and doesn't make any sense at all. It left me shaking my head wondering how a murder/mystery could take place in 260-ish pages. Stop trying to force a story where there is no story, Hartinger. This entire story felt rushed and forced. I would not recommend this to anyone as I don't want anyone to kick themselves for reading it. 


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

POISONED BLADE by Kate Elliott \\ Further Expands The Court of Fives Universe..

Review by Kaitlin...

By Kate Elliott
Series: Court of Fives #2
Hardcover: 418 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown (August 16, 2016)
Age Range: 12-17 years
Grade Level: 7 up
Language: English

In this thrilling sequel to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott's captivating young adult debut, a girl immersed in high-stakes competition holds the fate of a kingdom in her hands.
Now a Challenger, Jessamy is moving up the ranks of the Fives--the complex athletic contest favored by the lowliest Commoners and the loftiest Patrons alike. Pitted against far more formidable adversaries, success is Jes's only option, as her prize money is essential to keeping her hidden family alive. She leaps at the chance to tour the countryside and face more competitors, but then a fatal attack on her traveling party puts Jes at the center of the war that Lord Kalliarkos--the prince she still loves--is fighting against their country's enemies. With a sinister overlord watching her every move and Kal's life on the line, Jes must now become more than a Fives champion.... She must become a warrior.

Poisoned Blade was very enjoyable! I ended up liking it more than the first book. I remember really liking that one, but I also remember having a lot of issues with it. (That book and I had a weird relationship.) However, I didn't remember specifically what I didn't like, so none of those previous negatives didn't carry over to the sequel. That helped me get really into this book.

Since I don't remember much about the first book, I can't make many comparisons between it and the sequel. I did feel like Poisoned Blade had more politics, though. The competition was definitely still there, but it didn't as much conflict as much as other things. And oh, there were so many conflicts!! This book felt like a web. There were so many pieces, but they were all connected, even if not directly related. Plus, Jes was stuck in this political game of sorts and had little room to maneuver. Conflicts included conspiracy and royal secrets, class struggles and distorted history, Lord Gargaron's hold/power and Jes' struggles with class loyalty. Let's add in war and family conflict as well. I love books like these! There's so much to take in and I find it fascinating to see how different pieces tie together.

Apparently I'm in a listing mood for reviews, so here are some more things that went well for me in bullet form:

                I really liked the writing and found it hard to pull away from it.
                There was some interesting family dynamics, especially between Jes, Amaya, and Bettany. The sisters reminded me of the ones in the Cahill Witch Chronicles. If you know who I'm referring to, you know that the relationship between the three of them doesn't always go smoothly...
                I liked Jes' determination and drive, which made her a great Fives competitor and character.
                The world! It simply intrigued me. I feel like I still don't know enough (especially when it comes to the magic), but that was okay. It helps that I know there's another book that will continue to build the world.
                This series is one of those fantasies where a lower class--one treated like dirt by a more powerful class--planned to undermine the power others had over them and rise victorious. This seems to be going well in this series! Well, not well as in successful since there's obviously a lot of struggle to undermine those in power, but as in done in an interesting way.

Like I remember happening with the first book, the issues I had with this didn't affect my rating or my enjoyment of the book very much. (I guess I have a weird relationship with the series as a whole.) Remember how I said there was a lot of conflicts? Well, with a lot of different conflicts comes a lot of different focuses. There were various events that focused on war, thievery, conspiracy, Elfean history, family, the Fives court, or identity--or a mix of a couple of those--and they didn't always mesh well together. A lot had to be juggled in this book and though I loved seeing so much packed in, I wish they were combined in a smoother way. There was also an awkward change of scenery and situation, which is related to my next peeve . . . 

I kinda regret acquainting myself with the synopsis before reading this. I prefer events mentioned in the description to occur early in the story so the rest of it is more surprising, but in this case, it took a long time for "but then..." (I'm purposely not mentioning the event in case you have an issue with this sort of thing too) moment to occur. Sometimes I feel like a book doesn't truly START until what's mentioned in the synopsis is addressed. In this case, I waited around 300 pages for that to happen. Knowing what to expect threw off the pacing before that point for me. However, the story got very exciting once that big event finally happened. All that said, I recommend reading this book when the synopsis isn't fresh in your mind!

Overall, Poisoned Blade was better a stronger book than Court of Fives! There was a LOT that went on and while it didn't always mesh well, the way everything connected and led to an intense climax was intriguing. This series is great for fans of fantasies that feature class struggles and a complicated web of events and politics. If you liked the first book, but are still on the fence about continuing the series, I highly recommend reading the second book! The story gets better and more complex.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

SISTERS OF SALT AND IRON by Kady Cross \\ Looking For A Good Scare?

Review by Krista...

By Kady Cross
Series: The Sisters of Blood and Spirit #2
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Language: English

Lark Noble is finally happy. She’s trying to move on and put the events of the past behind her: the people who avoided her because she talked to the ghost of her dead twin sister, the parents who couldn’t be around her anymore and even the attempt she made on her own life. She finally has friends—people who know her secrets and still care about her—and she has Ben, the cute guy she never saw coming.

Wren Noble is lonely. Unable to interact with the living, she wants to be happy for her sister’s newfound happiness, but she feels like she’s losing her. It doesn’t help that Kevin, the very not-dead guy she was starting to fall for, seems to be moving on.

Then Wren meets Noah, the spirit of a young man who died a century ago. Noah is cute, he’s charming and he makes Wren feel something she’s never felt before. But Noah has a dark influence on Wren, and Lark’s distrust of him drives the sisters apart for the first time in their lives. As Halloween approaches and the veil between the worlds thins, bringing the dead closer to the world of the living, Lark must find a way to stop whatever deadly act Noah is planning, even if it means going through her sister to do so.

The second book in this series is just as good as the first, if not better. It starts out where the last left off and carries on the story of Lark and Wren, one sister dead, the other living. Together they battle the ghosts that want to hurt them or the living.

In the second book all the side characters are still involved and Wren falls in love with another ghost. It all builds up to Halloween night and the huge party that is to take place at the abandoned Asylum. Also Lark and Wren begin to discover more about their past and how their bloodline may have lead to their present situations. You will need to read the books in order as the stories continue on from the previous one.

The pacing of these books is pretty fast, there are several other side story lines that are happening along with the main one. Because of this there is always something happening and developing to the next step.

I really enjoyed so much about this story it's really hard to say my favorite. I enjoyed how involved their grandmother gets into helping them look for answers. There is also the traveling between worlds, the Void and the Shadow-lands and the interaction of others in those worlds, but perhaps I would say that my favorite part is the layering of mysteries and the connection to their bloodlines to possibly the Greek Gods? I am really excited to keep up with this series and recommend it to others that enjoy a good scare, a variety of characters and mythology.

Monday, July 25, 2016

OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS by Krystal Sutherland \\ A Book With A Kick Of Realism

Review by Jackie...

By Krystal Sutherland
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam (September 6, 2016)
Language: English

John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again.
Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can't-eat-can't-sleep kind of love that he's been hoping for just hasn't been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he's been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything's about to change.
Grace isn't who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys' clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It's obvious there's something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn't your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland's brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love.

"Oblivion isn't scary; it's the closest thing to genuine absolution of sin I can imagine."

There are instances in a person’s life that change them in ways that cannot be imagined. Sometimes those instances are people. In OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS those instances are people. Henry and Grace are two people who are incredibly different. This is not a love story. I think it’s a story about losing people, and the love that you gave them.

When Grace rolls into town, Henry doesn’t experience the heart-stopping attraction he’s imagined for True Love. Grace has suffered insurmountable trauma. Both of these people want Something from the other, and this book is about how they dealt with these Things.

I’m going to just go ahead and dive right into character assessments, because this book is character driven. I have a love / completely despise relationship with both of the main characters in the novel. I love them because they’re (read Henry, pointedly) selfish in what they want, and in who they are. They really do only think about what will benefit them the most. And as much as I love it, it also breaks my heart. This is also the part that I hate about them. Their selfishness. It was an intimate part of who both Henry and Grace are—and why shouldn’t they be worried most about themselves? And their own happiness? It was for different reasons: one was sanctity and safety while the other was more so just. . .because he couldn’t be bothered to thing about the emotions of someone who had just suffered and unimaginable loss and was literally emotionally unstable.

Their teenage self-involvement (especially Henry) came off as aloof and inconsiderate. I can’t even say I actually liked either one of them by the end of the book. I can say, however, that I felt so, so horrible for Grace.

I wish that there had been a bit more focus on her mental health in the book because I felt like her actual state of mind (and healing) was waved over. And that’s just really not acceptable.

The character development itself was amazing. And, to be completely honest, it was my favorite part of the book. Even if the main characters themselves weren’t my favorite. (Henry’s 30-year-old, tattoo and totally pieced, neurosurgeon and mother of one sister was) Krystal Sutherland really peeled back the layers of the characters as the book progressed. Much like an onion.

This book had a kick of realism. There was family drama, and personal life hell on earth, falling in love, high school, and the friendships that are with you through it all. This isn’t my favorite book (not by a long shot) but it is a book with a unique story line, I think. Not only because of the sheer amount of trauma that Grace is trekking through, but also because of Henry. I don’t like him at at, but on some weird platform I sort of get where he’s coming from.

And that, folks, is why I think this story is valuable. You don’t have to like something/one to be able to try to understand where they’re coming from.

So in the end, OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS is about breaking hearts, and the chemical reactions in our brains that let us experience the emotion.