Thursday, June 30, 2016

Lucky Strikes

Author: Louis Bayard
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction (Great Depression Era)

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

Summary

With her mama recently dead and her pa sight unseen since birth, fourteen-year-old Amelia is suddenly in charge of her younger brother and sister, and of the family gas station. Harley Blevins, local king and emperor of Standard Oil, is in hot pursuit to clinch his fuel monopoly. To keep him at bay and her family out of foster care, Melia must come up with a father, and fast. And so when a hobo rolls out of a passing truck, Melia grabs opportunity by its beard. Can she hold off the hounds till she comes of age? -Goodreads 

The Rundown

This book wasn't what I was expecting.

It was SO MUCH BETTER!!!

Seriously probably one of the most heartwarming and truly moving coming of age stories I've read in years. 

If you've followed my blog for a bit now, you know I love historical fiction. Almost anything set between the Roaring Twenties through the end of World War Two I can't help but pick up to read! 

The story starts kind of slow (which is honestly my only mark against it) but once the plot picks up some steam it flies! It's a lot deeper than what seems like a David vs. Goliath tale at first glance. It's about family, love, friendships, and finding a place in this world when it seems like all the odds are against you.

And miracles.

This is a tale of miracles for sure. 

Readers will rally around Melia and the family she creates as they forge on after their mother's death. As bad luck or deliberate sabotage occurs, surprising faces or ideas come out of the unlikeliest of places to help Melia keep the fight going even when she realizes she wasn't seeing the big picture of that miraculous summer of 1934 clearly until later. 

What else can I say? I love this book! 

Bonus: For parents looking for a clean read that still carries a powerful punch both in story and promises an insightful discussion, I highly recommend this book!

Rating: 4.5 Stars. Great read!


Friday, June 24, 2016

Top Five Books On My Summer TBR List

Ah summer! I love everything about it! The heat, trips to the pool, lounging in the sun...does it get any better? Oh wait! Yes! Summer book releases!!! Here are some books I can't wait to get my hands to read outside! What are you looking forward to reading this summer? I'd love to hear!



1) It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Because Colleen Hoover. Duh. Check it out here!


2) Under the Lights by Abbi Glines

I've been sitting on ready for the follow up to Until Friday Night since I finished it! High school football, Friday night games, and great characters? Yes please! 

Check it out here!

3) The Memory Book by Lara Avery

I feel like this book my rip my heart out, but that's what the Kleenex are for!

Check it out here!


4) Signs of You by Emily France

The loss of a parent is hard enough. But what if you swear you start seeing your lost loved one randomly when you're out and about? And the others in your loss support group are experiencing the same thing? I can't wait to dive into this contemporary thriller!

Check it out here!


5) Wax by Gina Damico

So I love the House of Wax movies (both the one from the 1950s with Vincent Price and the just glorious 2005 one with Chad Michael Murray)! I love horror and creepy as much as I love a good romance, so when a book has the urban legend wax museum elements going on, I'm sold! 

Check it out here!



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How to Not Fall

Author: Emily Foster
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Kensington Books
Pages: 320
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Erotica

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

Summary

Data, research, scientific formulae--Annabelle Coffey is completely at ease with all of them. Men, not so much. But that's all going to change after she asks Dr. Charles Douglas, the postdoctoral fellow in her lab, to have sex with her. Charles is not only beautiful, he is also adorably awkward, British, brilliant, and nice. What are odds he'd turn her down?

Very high, as it happens. Something to do with that whole student/teach/ethics thing. But in a few weeks, Annie will graduate. As soon as she does, the unlikely friendship that's developing between them can turn physical--just until Annie leaves for graduate school. Yet nothing could have prepared Annie or Charles for chemistry like this, or for what happens when a simple exercise in mutual pleasure turns into something as exhilarating and infernally complicated as love. --Goodreads description

The Rundown

Smart. Funny. Steamy. Awkward. 

This book had it all!

This is a fun book about a sort of taboo love, friendship, and accepting others right where they are. What starts as a no strings attached thing quickly becomes something much more heated, causing Annie & Charles to face their fears honestly as they start to see that they're the best version of themselves with each other.

I found myself at the end of this book really wondering if just maybe sometimes there are soulmates, hearts that were meant to find their counterpart in another, but one got so damaged along the way before they met that both end up bruised and bleeding from trying to fit the pieces together? 

The hopeless romantic in me is sighing.

Sometimes the dialogue got away from me a little, but maybe it's really just how doctors and people who graduate college with honors in degrees like biochemistry talk. I would actually shake my head at times and be very grateful that I lasted one semester on a pre-med track before throwing in the towel and studying history instead!

And the end! OMG cliffhanger! But, according to the ARC, the author promises a sequel with more Charles & Annie in 2017! So if you read this and find yourself like me going, "No! NO! You can't do this to me! You can't leave them like that!" fear not!

Bonus for all of my Hoosier readers: guess what college it takes place at? That's right! Good ol' IU! Which was the cherry on top of this fun sundae as I could actually picture places like Kilroys and walking down Kirkwood (though I'm an AU Raven, I spent a lot of time visiting friends in B-town!).

I liked this book quite a lot and can't wait for the sequel!

Rating: 3.5/5 stars! 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Breathe

Author: Abbi Glines
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 333
Genre: Young Adult, New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Summary

Sadie White's summer job is at the beach, but she won't be working as a lifeguard. Since her mom is pregnant and refuses to work, Sadie will be taking over as a domestic servant for a wealthy family on a nearby island.

When the family arrives at their summer getaway, Sadie is surprised to learn that the owner of the house is Jax Stone, one of the hottest teen rockers in the world. If Sadie were normal--if she hadn't spent her life raising her mother and taking care of the house--maybe she'd be excited about working for a rock star. But she's not. 

Even though Sadie isn't impressed by Jax's fame, he is drawn to her. Everything about Sadie fascinates Jax, but he fights his attraction: Relationships never work in his world, and as badly as he wants Sadie, he believes she deserves more. Yet as the summer stretches on, Jax's passion leaves him breathless--and Sadie feels like the only source of oxygen.

Can their love overcome their lifestyles? One breath at a time, they're going to find out.

The Rundown

I love a good, steamy romance. Who doesn't? I loved Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines when I read it last fall, so when I stumbled upon her earlier YA/NA Sea Breeze series, I figured I'd be hooked.

Sadly, I was wrong.

This is the part of reviewing that I don't like: when you've loved an author's book and grab another one by them only to be less than thrilled. 

Don't worry, when the sequel to Until Friday Night comes out in August, I'll be sitting on ready to read it!

But Breathe...hmm.

Okay, now I read the description thinking, "Alright, I can get into this sexy spin on Cinderella you're throwing out." I can be down for a hot rags-to-riches love story.

Breathe was just so far out there for me that I couldn't even finish it. I gave it a solid three chapters before I was starting to get a twitch from rolling my eyes. I skimmed the middle. I made sure the end was what I imagined. And saved myself around 300 pages of barely realistic nonsense and flat characters.

Bummer. 

But wait! There's hope! The Sea Breeze series has a total of nine books, so there has to be something there for it to have kept up even if I personally couldn't get into the first book. Abbi Glines writes truly wonderful contemporary fiction and walks that line between YA & NA beautifully, but this one just wasn't my thing.

Rating: 2 Stars. Meh, not for me. 

This Is Where It Ends

Author: Marieke Nijkamp
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 285
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Thriller, GLBT

Summary

10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity High School finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won't open. 

10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.

Told from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student's calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival. -Goodreads Summary

The Rundown

I'm so torn with how to review this book. The plot was intense and kept me at a binge reading level until I finished it. But the characters and issues addressed could have been done so much better than what they were.

Allow me to explain.

School shootings in the US is such a hot button topic right now. As someone who started middle school in the shadow of Columbine, I wanted this book to be something...more? I wanted it to dive deep. I wanted to know what makes someone just go off the deep end and hurt their classmates, their educators, and themselves. 

Instead, we never saw things from Tyler's (the shooter) perspective. I think giving him a voice in the story would have given me the depth I was craving. We learn from flashbacks from the other four narrators that Tyler was from a once respected and now troubled family in town. He was close with his sister, Autumn. He once dated the star track runner, Claire. Others thought him a little odd but harmless. He was a good student. All the narration talks about a time when he was different. But why? When? How? 

Answering these questions by either giving Tyler his own narration or going to flashbacks of a revealing conversation with one of the other voices in the story could have cleared this up. I wanted to get inside of his head, to know what the breaking point was that took him from classmate to murderer. This would have given Tyler a human touch. Instead, we learn he was a rapist. We see him randomly killing others and laughing. When it came to Tyler, it was hard for me to shake the image of an old-timey villain twisting his handlebar mustache.

The points of view we get are that of Claire (Tyler's ex), Autumn (Tyler's sister), Sylv (Autumn's girlfriend), and Tomas (Sylv's twin brother). I did appreciate that the flashbacks each narrator had showed some of the complexities in how we all relate to one another. The connections of siblings and romantic partners. They were all diverse. They all had a reason to fear Tyler wouldn't stop shooting until they were dead. 

But the deep issues faced by these characters: surviving rape, physical abuse, coming out, racism...it just fell flat. There wasn't that gripping emotion behind it. So much in this novel could have been expanded on.

This is Where It Ends had all of the potential to be THE talked about YA novel of 2016, but this plot driven thriller fell flat with underdeveloped characters and a void of real emotion.

Sigh. But I did love the cover!

Rating: 2 Stars. Meh, not for me.



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

3-2-1 Cakes

Do your teens like doing cooking projects? On a time crunch? Only have access to a microwave? If you're nodding your head, let me tell you about 3-2-1 cakes my friend!

I first came across this bit of genius about four years ago, when I was in a friend's wedding and her mom made up recipe cards for all of the bridesmaids and this was one of them. As a general rule, I'm more of a salty snacker, but these are perfect for those sweet tooth cravings! Single serve cakes that take just one minute to make!

What You'll Need

1 box of angel food cake mix (the add water only kind)
1 box of any flavor cake mix
Water
1 Gallon Ziploc bag
A tablespoon measuring spoon 
A microwave save mug or bowl

Directions

Pour the angel food cake mix & other cake mix (we used confetti cake mix because sprinkles make everything better) into the plastic bag, seal, and shake to mix.

Add 3 tablespoons of the cake mix to your mug or bowl. 

Add 2 tablespoons of water to your mug or bowl.

Stir.

Heat in the microwave for 1 minute.

Enjoy!! See why they're called 3-2-1 cakes? I think they're delicious as is, but experiment with cake flavors and toppings! Fresh fruit, chocolate chips, whipped cream...the possibilities are endless! 





Tuesday, June 7, 2016

All Played Out

Author: Cora Carmack
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 321
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, College/Academic, Sports

Summary

First person in her family to go to college? CHECK.
Straight A's? CHECK.
On track to graduate early? CHECK.
Social life?.....yeah, about that....

With just a few weeks until she graduates, Antonella DeLuca's beginning to worry that maybe she hasn't had the full college experience. (Okay...scratch that. She knows she hasn't had the full college experience.)

So Nell does what a smart, dedicated girl like herself does best. She makes a "to do" list of normal college activities.

Item #1? Hook up with a jock.

Rusk University wide receiver Mateo Torres practically wrote the playbook for normal college living. When he's not on the field, he excels at partying, girls, and more partying. As long as he keeps things light and easy, it's impossible to get hurt...again. But something about the shy, quiet, sexy-as-hell Nell gets under his skin, and when he learns about her list, he makes it his mission to help her complete it. 

Torres is the definition of confident (And sexy. And wild.), and he opens up a side of Nell that she's never known. But as they being to check off each crazy, exciting, normal item, Nell finds that her frivolous list leads to something more serious than she bargained for. And while Torres is used to taking risks on the field, he has to decide if he's willing to take the chance when it's more than just a game. 

Together they will have to decide if what they have is just part of the experiment or a chance at something real. -Goodreads description

The Rundown

Cora Carmack why are you so great? 

I'm always going to be a little biased when I review her books because her Losing It series was my intro to the New Adult genre a few years ago. And it was sweet, hot love at first read! She writes characters you cheer for and fun, flirty, smart stories that you'll have a hard time putting down. To think some of my now favorite authors I may never have discovered if I hadn't picked up Cora's first book...

Anyways I'm getting off track. But that's okay. Reviewing NA should be like gabbing with your besties!

So. Here we are! Back at Rusk University for the third installment in the series! I had hoped for a Torres book ever since I met him in All Lined Up (Dallas & Carson's story). But then Silas unexpectedly and totally stole my little reader heart in All Broke Down and I was like, "Oh my! Can Torres bring it like that?" Trust me, it was brought and then some!

Torres is the kind of guy that is so easy to fall for. Sure of himself. Funny. Life of the party. And hot. Nell is the type of student I wish I had been in college: super focused, beautiful, on track to graduate early with a degree in a cutting edge field. This is definitely a pairing of opposites attracting and testing their limits and shedding their pasts to come together for the real thing. 

After the really tough subjects addressed in All Broke Down, All Played Out was like a warm summer breeze. A little cheesy, I know. But seriously, you will laugh as the two set off together to conquer Nell's list and realize they're both capable of great love in the process. This story is equal parts steam, heart, and humor! Perfect for fans of Jay Crownover, Molly McAdams, and Colleen Hoover!

Rating: 4 Stars! A really great & enjoyable read! 


Monday, June 6, 2016

The Art of Being Normal

Author: Lisa Williamson
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR)
Pages: 352 
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, GLBT

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

Summary

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he's gay. The school bully thinks he's a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl. 

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long, and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl. 

As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means. -Goodreads descripton

The Rundown


Wow!! 2016 is shaping up to be an outstanding year in YA contemporary fiction! 

I have to admit that this is the first YA book I've read with transgender teens as the main characters. Let me tell you, The Art of Being Normal set the bar high!


Lisa Williamson took what can be a tough issue and told the story of the everyday lives of two transgender teens in a way that was funny, honest, respectful, and both heartwarming and heartbreaking at times. I really felt like it had all the elements of a good YA coming-of-age with awesome characters who just happen to be transgender.

Although romance does play a role in the story it is by no means the focus. This is definitely a tale of the strong friendship between Leo & David and how amazing it feels to find someone else who truly knows what you are going through. Tense family relationships, bullying, sexuality, and class differences are themes that are also tackled brilliantly. 

Leo's character was a lot better developed, but in a way that made the story work. He had already been living as his identified gender for a while and by being new at school, was able to come in as a boy without any of his classmates remembering him before his transition. David, who is a little younger than Leo, has yet to discuss that he identifies as female with his parents and feels trapped in a male body that he hates and doesn't recognize. Even though Leo had a much more interesting story with family drama and his reason for transferring to a new school, David's good-natured heart will win readers over. 

Teens and adults alike, especially fans of David Levithan, should add this to their summer reading list!

Rating: 4 Stars! A really great & enjoyable read!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Get Out & Read Summer Challenge

As we're now less than a week from Summer Reading Kickoff at my library, I thought I'd share something new I'm trying this summer. In the past I'd always had kind of a ho-hum SRP. I serve a medium sized library in Central Indiana, so getting around 30 teens signed up each summer seemed great to me until I realized it was kind of boring. Okay it was a lot of boring. Teens could pick up a small prize each week as long as they'd read a new novel. Once they read 7 novels, they got a ticket in the drawing for the big prize (usually a gift card) and a free book. I don't know who came up with the number 7. I don't know who came up with the once a week thing either. It was just how we'd always done it and boy am I ready for a shake up! 

I decided to play off a summer bucket list style this summer. There's all sorts of easy, fun, free activities that teens can do here in our community or anywhere! Examples include: attending a library program, reading anything for an hour, finishing a book, and visiting any park. 

If teens complete any 10 activities, they get a grab bag prize and a free book. If they complete any 25 activities, they get an invitation to the End of Summer Reading Bash and a ticket in the big prize drawing. If they complete all 50, they get another free book and 5 tickets into the big prize drawing. This could flop. Or I could be starting a way more fun SRP this year! I can't wait to get some feed back from my Teen Advisory Group this fall! 

To see my Get Out & Read Summer Challenge sheet, click here. Feel free to borrow or tweak to make it work for your library!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

It's a Wonderful Death

Author: Sarah J. Schmitt
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Humor

Summary 

Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. But in her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle an overzealous archangel and Death Himself. The tribunal presents her with two options: she can remain in the lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original life expires, or she can replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will result in a future worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no-brainer. She'll take a walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be?

But with each changing moment, RJ's life begins to unravel, until this self-proclaimed queen bee is a social pariah. She begins to wonder if walking among the living is really worth it if she has to spend the next sixty years as an outcast. Too quickly, RJ finds herself back in limbo, her time on Earth once again up for debate. -Goodreads description 

The Rundown

This book was totally not what I was expecting in the best way possible! 

RJ is seriously your classic mean girl, ruling the school with pom poms and intimidation. When a Grim Reaper makes a mistake of collecting her soul (right before Homecoming no less!) there's hell to pay. But bullies don't matter in Heaven. What does matter is a well-lived life and a soul worth saving, neither of which RJ has in her court.

From there, RJ sets off to get her life back by changing the past. With each moment of redemption she learns that what's right and what's easy rarely go hand in hand. Even though the changes she made have put her on a path that's much better than the one she was on, has she changed enough to convince a tribunal of angels that she's said goodbye her mean girl ways for good?

I honestly don't know if I laughed or cried more while I read this book. It was hilarious and full of teachable moments (you know those quotes you want to plaster on your bathroom mirror). Death Himself is a surfer. Saint Peter plays cornhole to pass the time. If that image doesn't make you smile, smile anyway. It's a fun thought! Readers will be thinking about life, love, and the choices made every day that change things we can't begin to imagine long after the last page! 

Highly recommended to fantasy lovers and reluctant readers!

Rating: 4 Stars. A really great & enjoyable read!

Roar (Stormheart 1)

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