Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Roar (Stormheart 1)

Author: Cora Carmack
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Tor Teen
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

*I received this book as a NetGalley ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All opinions are my own. Thanks NetGalley!*

**I also received an ARC of this book because Cora picked me to be on the Roar Street Team. I love literally every single word Cora Carmack writes so I may be a little biased, but not really because she's that awesome!**

Summary

In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world's deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora's been groomed to be the perfect queen. She's intelligent and brave and honorable. But she's yet to show any trace of the magic she'll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora's mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He'll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. Bu the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks--storm magic. And the people selling it? They're not Stormlings. They're storm hunters. 

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there's a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage. 

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she's brave enough. 

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master. --Goodreads

The Rundown

Fantasy isn't my usual go to when I'm in the mood for a good teen book. You know what is always always always a go to for me? Any time Cora Carmack publishes a new book! Ever since I read Losing It four years ago, I've been a fan. Her stories are always just grade A awesome! When I found out she was releasing her first teen fantasy novel, I was ready to jump in line!

As a teen librarian, I'm always ready to book talk a novel that feels fresh and new, which is why I was so excited about this book from the start. A setting where storms are so fierce that they wipe out villages, even entire kingdoms. Ruling families are those who inherit the power to fight off these deadly storms and pass them on generation to generation. What happens to a kingdom, to a royal family, when the sole heir never inherited the magic she desperately needs to keep her kingdom safe? 

Roar is more than a princess. She's a smart, fierce warrior determined to fight for her place in life instead of meandering along the path laid out for her. When she learns that she can challenge a storm, take its heart, and absorb its magic herself she sees her ticket out of what looks like a dark, loveless arranged marriage. Hiding her identity, she runs away with a band of storm hunters where she is determined to learn to fight even harder to protect her kingdom without a Stormling husband. How much do we need a hero like Roar right now?

Fans of Cora's New Adult books rest easy, for this book still has plenty of kissing and steamy moments. The building tension and love between Locke and Roar is downright swoonworthy. Through Locke, Roar learns that what she always thought to be true about life for those commoners in the kingdoms is a lie, she becomes even more resolved to not only return as a leader capable of fighting to protect her people from the storms, but as a leader who will make their lives better. 

Action, intrigue, fantastic characters, and the kind of breathtaking romance that only Cora can deliver makes Roar the teen fantasy novel of the summer!




Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Last Thing You Said

Author: Sara Biren
Release Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

*I received this book as a NetGalley ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All opinions are my own. Thanks NetGalley!*

Summary

Last summer, Lucy's and Ben's lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie--Lucy's best friend and Ben's sister--was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it's a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie's death looms, Lucy and Ben's undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can't change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing--and to each other. --Goodreads

The Rundown

I fell victim to a pretty cover and a summary that pulled me in with this one. It wasn't all bad, but it wasn't all good either. Just kind of a middle of the road "meh." 

Neither Ben nor Lucy were particularly likable to me, but I wrote it off for a good chunk of the book because we're dealing with serious grief and loss. That can make characters not very fun to be around, but I was rooting for them to find those days of sunshine again, both in themselves and in each other. 

Only they never got more likable until the rushed ending of everything falling into place and finally saying "I love you." Lucy was immature and flaky, and Ben was just a downright jerk for 99 percent of the story. Ben admits to using girls at school for sex as means of escaping his own pain, while Lucy randomly finds herself in a relationship with Simon, an annoying (okay, I'm sure the author didn't intend for him to be so eye roll inducing, but he was) vacationer in their lakeside resort town. 

The story is peppered with unrealistic dialogue and underdeveloped secondary characters who come across as cartoonish at best. Gutherie, Ben's best friend, is of Native American descent and is always described as brooding and quiet, but out of nowhere offers up sage wisdom or advice. It didn't feel right to me, almost like he was a stereotype and not a real person. Then there's Hannah, Lucy's new friend who moved to their town after Trixie died...Hannah was so ridiculous that she probably could have been left out of the story altogether and it would have been for the better.

Beautiful descriptions of the lake, wildlife, and quaint resort town add some color to the story, and the meaningful quotes about life, death, love, friendship, grief the author works into the story add much needed depth. Some of the character's coping methods of dealing with their grief, especially Ben and his father both struggling with alcohol abuse, were realistic and were worth exploring more than what the author allowed. 

For a story that was supposed to be an exploration of love overcoming grief, I guess it did that in a rushed, jumbled mess within the last thirty pages. 

Readers looking for a love story after a significant loss would be much happier with Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum. 

Rating: 2.5 Stars. Disappointing. 


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
Pages: 444
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Summary

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hand of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the street in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. 

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. --Goodreads

The Rundown

Every so often young adult literature gives us a true gem in book that is both timely and powerful for its social and political message that also manages to be extremely well-written with characters that you can't help but get wrapped in as a reader when you go through something this important with them. It's not only a freaking amazingly good book, but it makes huge waves and starts conversations. 

These are things we so badly need to be talking about as a society: the murders of unarmed black men and women at the hands of police officers. The way the media portrays these victims as criminals until proven otherwise. The way blacks are told not to kneel in protest, not to raise a fist, not to gather peacefully. But when they ask how to raise light on the issue, they hear crickets from white conservatives who tell them to stop playing a race card, to stop making themselves victims. Racial bias among law enforcement. 

The fact that we live in a society where a racist young white man can kill multiple black parishioners inside of a church and be taken to Burgen King by the officers who arrested him, but a young black man can be driving home from the grocery store and be mistaken for someone else simply because of the shape of his nose and take seven shots to his chest as he told officers he was reaching for his ID.

I f***ing hate it. And I could go on and on and on.

Their lives matter. They matter. And not just when it comes down to an officer not pulling the trigger at a traffic stop. We have to do better. Do you hear me fellow white people? WE CAN AND MUST DO BETTER.

Every time I had to put this book down because I was angry or crying (often times both) I would see my daughter playing on my living room floor. She is a total ball of energy and joy wrapped up in creamy white skin, hazel eyes, and strawberry blond curls. And it broke my heart, not because of the obstacles she'll face as a woman (that's another blog post for another time) but because I can't imagine the fear that would grip me if I were black, if my daughter were black. I recognize the privilege of the color of my skin, but it doesn't stop my heart from breaking. My daughter will likely never have a gun pointed at her by a police officer for looking like a suspect. Could I say the same if we were black? No. And it's so wrong. 

I grew up in a small, mostly white town in Central Indiana. The only coaching I got from my dad on what to do if I ever got pulled over by a cop was being shown where my registration was. He didn't think about telling me to always keep my hands visible, to tell the officer everything I was going to do before I did it, and to do everything the officer said the first time. It didn't even cross his mind. Because how many unarmed white girls with freckles and green eyes have you seen on the evening news for being shot at a traffic stop? Exactly. Does it make you angry? It should. I pisses me off. 

I knew I would do this with this review. I would go way into depth on the social & political climate surrounding this book when I need to tell you about this amazing story. My apologies. 

Starr is one of the most fascinating characters I've met in a teen book in years. She's going to stay with me for a long, long time. All of the anger and heartbreak are broken up by hilarious dialogue with her parents (and I mean full on tears streaming down your face laughing. Her parents are great...of course they're close to my age but still, they're fun and they really love their kids) and sweet moments between Starr and her boyfriend, who is just a total doll when it comes to how much he cares for and supports her. 

Starr may be the best role model for young, female activists. She's smart, she's fun, she has a big heart, and a good head on her shoulders. I hope more Starrs (pun intended) will shine in their schools and communities after meeting her. It's only when enough of us stand up and demand change that we make progress.

Verdict: Read. Talk. Protest. Demand Change. 












Friday, April 7, 2017

Wait For Me

Author: Caroline Leech
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 384
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, WWII

Summary

It's 1945, and Lorna Anderson's life on her father's farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him--from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany--the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she's always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she's willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate. --Goodreads

The Rundown

At first glance, this novel is everything, I mean EVERYTHING I usually geek out over in a book. A tale of forbidden love set against the backdrop of World War Two? Yes please! And that cover! The cover alone had me skipping home ready to dive in.

Unfortunately, that's where my love affair ended with this book. While the author got some of the broad sweeping messages of the story out (forgiveness, love winning out, and that we have more in common with our enemies than we think sometimes) most of it kind of fell flat. 

For starters, unless I read words like rationing or U-boat, or names like Winston Churchill, there were times I would forget that I was reading historical fiction. Much of the dialogue and the way the characters related to one another landed somewhere between contemporary and unrealistic. 

Neither Paul nor Lorna were developed enough for me to be really invested in their falling in love. Characters are supposed to have flaws and grow throughout the story, but Lorna's immaturity and impulsiveness never improved, leaving me with quite a bit of eye rolling. Distracting side stories with underdeveloped secondary characters slowed the pace way down. 

I feel like this book could have been so beautiful and simple, but the author tried to paint with too broad of a brush and Lorna and Paul, along with their love story, got lost in all of the unnecessary frills. 

Bummer. That cover though. A+ there!

Rating: 2 stars. A solid meh. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Top Five Favorite Literary Couples

     Ah spring. The rain is falling, the flowers are blooming. And love is in the air (along with an elevated pollen count). Here are my top five couples that'll make you fall in love this spring! Who are some of yours? Comment below!


1) Lucas & Jacqueline from Easy by Tammara Webber

These two melt my heart over and over. And the fact that Lucas is practically a golden unicorn (tattooed, pierced, artistic emo boy) makes my little heart pitter patter. 

Add it on Goodreads here!


2) Cade & Max from Faking It by Cora Carmack

I don't know if it's because I saw so much of myself in Max or because Cade is PERFECT, but I love these two so much! 

Add it on Goodreads here!


3) Eleanor & Park from Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

First love in all of its quirky, awkward, exciting, heartbreaking, punk rock, comic book infused gloriousness. And it's set in the 80s. In my head these two found each other and had little Warped Tour babies. 

Add it on Goodreads here!


4) Beth & Ryan in Dare You To by Katie McGarry

First off, can we talk abut this cover? It's still one of my all time favorites. This was one of those times where I fell for a couple and rooted for them till the very end because I saw so much of myself in tough as nails Beth, who needed a sweetheart like Ryan more than she ever knew. Sigh.

Add it on Goodreads here!


5) Brittany & Alex in Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

I've only read this book about a dozen times, mostly just to fall in love with Brittany and Alex all over again. They have so much stacked against them from the beginning but are the ultimate in love conquers all. 

Add it on Goodreads here!





Wednesday, March 29, 2017

All Closed Off by Cora Carmack Releasing May 1, 2017!!!


From New York Times bestselling author Cora Carmack, comes the highly anticipated fourth standalone title in her Rusk University series, ALL CLOSED OFF! A passionate story and journey, get ready to be mesmerized with Stella's story! ALL CLOSED OFF is coming your way May 1, 2017!


Cover Design and Photography by Kelsey Kukal-Keeton at K. Keaton Designs 

ABOUT ALL CLOSED OFF (Releasing May 1, 2017):

Stella Santos is fine.

Maybe something terrible happened to her that she can't even remember. And maybe it drives her crazy when her friends treat her like she's on the verge of breaking because of it. Maybe it feels even worse when they do what she asks and pretend that it never happened at all. And maybe she's been getting harassing emails and messages for months from people who don't even know her, but hate her all the same.

But none of that matters because she's just fine.

For Ryan Blake, Stella was always that girl. Vibrant and hilarious and beautiful. He wanted her as his best friend. His more than friends. His everything and anything that she would give him. Which these days is a whole lot of nothing. She gets angry when he's there. Angry when he's not there. Angry when he tries to talk and when he doesn't.

When Stella devises and unconventional art project for one of her classes all about exploring intimacy--between both friends and strangers--Ryan finds himself stepping in as guinea pig after one of her subjects bails. What was supposed to be an objective and artistic look at emotion and secrets and sex suddenly becomes much more personal. When he hits it off with another girl from the project, Stella will have to decide if she's willing to do more than make art about intimacy. To keep him, she'll have to open up and let herself be the one thing she swore she'd never be again.

Vulnerable. 






Don't Miss All of Cora's Standalone Rusk University Series Titles!

All Lined Up

All Broke Down

All Played Out




About Cora Carmack:

Cora Carmack is a twentysomething New York Times bestselling author who likes to write about twentysomething characters. Raised in a small Texas town, she now lives in New York City and spends her time writing, traveling, and marathoning various TV shows on Netflix. She lives by one rule: embrace whatever the world throws at you and run with it (just not with scissors). 

Links:





Saturday, March 25, 2017

Top Five Songs on the Soundtrack of My Camp NaNoWriMo Project

     One of these years I'll finish a NaNoWriMo project. November always manages to get crazy for me, but I love the idea of the April and July camps for a chance to get it done! I'm building off of my NaNoWriMo 2016 idea, but with some major changes I'm excited about! This is a rough summary and needs a lot of work, but you get the gist of it! River and Camryn both have old, artistic souls and music plays a huge part in both of their lives and creativity. I can't tell you guys how much fun I've had building their playlists! There's more, but these are the songs I keep coming back to the most for each of them. 

     River O'Neal closed his successful photography studio in Chicago to set up shop back in his hometown in Indiana after his dad's cancer battle takes a turn for the worst. Facing limited time with the man that's always been his hero, he's trying to reestablish his business and ease back into small town life. He knows he made the right decision to move back and take care of his mom, but wonders if he'll ever be able to adjust from high profile magazine shoots to photographing newborns and weddings. 

     The stress of it all is enough to make his skin feel too tight, but Cedar Creek isn't the same sleepy town he left nearly a decade ago. The downtown square is alive with new shops and faces, but none intrigues him as much as Camryn Parker. The same shy girl from his art classes in high school, the one who would turn red if anyone so much as looked at her, owns the vintage clothing shop next to his studio. That shy girl grew into a vibrant young woman, and River can't ignore the magnetic pull she seems to have on him. Beautiful and unfailingly kind, Camryn almost makes River forget all of the hurt and uncertainty swirling around inside of him. 

     Camryn's shop is her dream and oasis rolled into one. She's determined to keep the darkness of her childhood at bay, even if it means denying herself the only man who ever made her want to take a leap. If River found out how tainted and unlovable she really was, it would break her and ruin everything she's built. Love has a way of breaking down walls and forgiving the past, and River is determined to make his way into Camryn's heart. 

River's Playlist

Every Thug Needs a Lady by Alkaline Trio
Listen here!

I Caught Fire by The Used
Listen here!

Stolen by Dashboard Confessional
Listen here!

Clavicle by Alkaline Trio
Listen here!

Bouncing Off the Walls by Sugarcult
Listen here!

Camryn's Playlist

Vindicated by Dashboard Confessional
Listen here!

Wonderwall by Oasis
Listen here

Moonlight Serenade by Glenn Miller
Listen here

For Me This is Heaven by Jimmy Eat World 
Listen here!

Existentialism on Prom Night by Straylight Run
Listen here




Roar (Stormheart 1)

Author: Cora Carmack Release Date: June 13, 2017 Publisher: Tor Teen Pages: 352 Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy *I received this bo...