Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Goals for 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and the Bookish with a new topic every week. This week's topic is:

Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2015

There is only one day left in 2014 so now comes the time to make some resolutions for the year to come. Bookish goals are my favourite because I tend to actually accomplish more of them. So here are my resolutions:

1. Read 125 books. This year I read 133, so it this is certainly achievable.

2. Read more classic. This has been an ongoing goal for me and I've been able to keep up. It may seem small, but I'm so drawn to YA and easy reads that classics tend to be a mission for me. 

3. Finish series that I've started. I've had Champion on my shelf for so long and it's not the only one from a series that's been sitting unread, so here's to completing those!

4. Read the books on my To-Read shelf first. I really want to read books from my shelf instead of picking ones that aren't on it to read. 

5. Borrow more books from work. I work at a bookstore, which means I can read books for free instead of spending my hard earned money on them. Yes, there are many books I must have on my shelf, but there are some that I just want to read and give back, so I really need to stop buying all of them.

6. Review every book I read. I fell behind this year, but I was doing pretty well for most of it. It's a great tool to keep my writing fresh and my blog filled.

7. Reread at least one book this year. It's nice to take the time out of the new stuff and re-visit an old favourite. I'll have to do this at least once this year.

8. Read more adult fiction. As much as I love my YA, it is nice to go out the norm and into other genres sometimes. 

9. Join some book challenges. Because they are always fun and out of the box!

10. Become more involved in the blogging community. This blog is still so small and not very popular. Ir I put myself out there more, maybe it can become something more. 

What are your goals for the new year? Happy New Year all!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Review: My True Love Gave to Me

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories
Edited by Stephanie Perkins
Authors: Holly Black, Ally Carter, Matt De La Pena, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, Kiersten White
Published: October 14th, 214
Hardcover, 320 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favourite sitcoms and, especially if you love holiday anthologies, you're going to fall in love with My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international best selling author Stephanie Perkins. 

This is the first time I've read an anthology all the way through. Normally I just pick out the stories by my favourite authors and read those ones, promising to go back and read the rest but still haven't. So I read this one from start to finish, in order, and it was wonderful. It brought out the warm, cozy emotions you get around the holidays. Each one was so different and diverse, they each stood out from the others and got me into the Christmas spirit.

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell 
5 Gold Stars

Rowell's story is super cute, Set over a few New Year's Eves, we watch as Mags and Noel, a pair of friends, spend every New Year's together with the wrong ending. Noel always ends up kissing someone at midnight, and it's never Mags. It's sad, realistic, and has the cutest happy ending there is. Sometimes it takes years to realize what's right in front of you.

Mags held on to his neck with both arms. She pushed on his forehead. He smelled like skin. "I can't get close enough," Noel said.

The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link
4 Gold Stars

A cute, magical story told over many Christmases. Miranda spends every Christmas with her god-mother Elspeth Honeywell, and one year she sees a strange man outside in the snow. His name is Fenny and he can only be out when it's snowing. Miranda quickly falls in love with him, uncertain of who he is and how he's here but determined to give him the life he deserves. It read like an old-fashioned fairy tale and I loved the link to the fox through Fenny and the creepy lady that went with him.

"Could I stay with you. I vow I would. I would stay and grow old with you, Miranda. Or as long as you wanted me to stay."

Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Pena
5 Gold Stars

Shy is spending Christmas alone cat-sitting in New York, the first year away from his family. He's broke and starving, but too proud to do anything about it. That's when Haley shows up at his door claiming her shower is broken. She is sweet and loving, also alone and wanting someone to spend Christmas with. They are both broken people who find each other on a cold winter's night. Shy is a great character and Haley is his perfect counterpart. This one warmed my heart!

I felt like I was breathing the world into my lungs.

Polaris is Where You'll Find Me by Jenny Han
4 Gold Stars

This one was very cute! Natty has a magical life. When she was a baby, Santa brought her up to the North Pole and now she lives among the elves. At the annual Christmas party, Natty is ready to get the one she thing she really wants for Christmas, an elf named Flynn. She's always felt out of place and no one believes her stories. This one was too short for me, and I felt like I couldn't really get into the story, but it was sweet nonetheless.

"Living where I live, it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between magic and make believe."

It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins
5 Gold Stars

Marigold does not live a typical life. She wants to get out of town and her new animation series is just her ticket, but needs a voice and North is just the right guy for the job. She just needs to talk to him first. What begins as an innocent trip to a tree farm becomes a lovely evening as North helps Marigold get into the Yuletide spirit. These two are the cutest ever (as expected from Stephanie!) This one was probably my favourite of the twelve and I wish I had more time with these characters.

"I've always felt lucky to live someplace where snow is rare, you know? It's the rareness that makes it so special."

Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan
4 Gold Stars

Connor needs someone to play Santa for his little sister, for one last year before she stops believing. Our narrator, Connor's boyfriend, dons the suit and sneaks into the house late at night to put presents under the tree. When he encounters both of Connor's sisters, he learns a lot more than he thought he would. It helps him find where he belongs. It was cute little story, reminded me a little of the Grinch, but in a good way. It's a cute reminder of what Christmas is really about.

"It's hard not to feel just a little bit fat when your boyfriend asks you to be Santa Claus."

Krumpuslauf by Holly Black
5 Gold Stars

Hanna bargained with the universe many years ago, and this winter she celebrates Krumpuslauf this year, she meets someone that makes her second guess everything she believes in. She plans a New Years party that to her seems like a million bucks, but not so much to the douchebag her best friend is dating. But sometimes miracles happen and bad people get what they deserve. This was a very different story and I loved the magical aspect to it.

"And then I found myself in the hall, kissing Joachim, a boy I barely knew, a boy with a pretend name and who might be a demon or a faerie or a disturbing hallucination."

What the Hell Have you Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman
5 Gold Stars

Sophie is very different from the rest of the people at her college. She's a scholarship kid and from New York ,so no one really gets her sense of humour or lack of money. They wear Christmas sweaters on purpose and sing awful Christmas carols. But when Russell shows up enjoying her little sarcasm, she realizes she may just have a friend after all. They spend the evening together doing fun things and celebrating Hanukkah. They are both different and find solace in each other. Full of Gayle harm, this one made me smile and feel very cozy and warm.

There were only nine emergency candles on the shelf. "That's almost like the actual Hanukkah miracle."

Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire
4 Gold Stars

A very different take on the nativity. Vaughn is the kind of kid who gets up to no good and always find way to prank people. But when he has the chance to impress Gracie, the Pastor's daughter, he jumps at the chance to be a better person. With his help, the church is able to put on their live nativity, with him as Joseph and Gracie as Mary, he realizes he has family everywhere.

Q"Although I'm glad he ruined it for you. I'll be happy to be the one to set things right."

Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White
5 Gold Stars

Maria lives in the barely there town of Christmas, CA. She can't wait to leave her small apartment and the tiny Christmas diner she works at. But when a new chef starts working there, with a mysterious name and background, Maria starts to actually have fun while she's at work. Soon everything starts looking up and she realizes that everything she really needs is in this small Christmas town. The best little story about what really matters at Christmas and all year round.

"I might be okay with Christmas, but Santa is still the worst."

Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter
4 Gold Stars

Lydia wants to escape for the winter, so when she has the opportunity to switch plane tickets with someone at the airport, she does it in a heartbeat. While in the middle of nowhere, she learns about real families and falls for Ethan, the boy who doesn't know anything real about her. But things have a way of catching up to us. This was cute story that could easily be turned into a movie for Christmas. Very Hannah Montana and very cute.

"If you just want to go away then any ticket will get you there."

The Girl who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
4 Gold Stars

I hate to say that this was my least favourite. Laini is such a great writer and this world was very different, but not very much happened. Neve will do anything not to have to marry the Priest so she prays to the forbidden Wisha and in doing so wakes the Dreamer. Can he help her escape her inevitable future at the clutches of the man who wants to marry her? And can the Dreamer give her what she really wants? It was lovely to read and very different, but I wish it had more pizzaz.

"If I spend all my disappoint before breakfast, what will I go on for the rest of the day?"

The cover of this is the cutest. I loved being able to pick out the characters from each story as I met them. This is a book I'll be picking up every Christmas to get me into the spirit.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: Top Ten Clues You're Clueless

Top Ten Clues You're Clueless
Author: Liz Czukas
Published: December 9th, 2014
Paperback, 304 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Top Five Things that are Ruining Chloe's Day

5) Working the 6:30 a.m. shift at GoodFoods Market

4) Crashing a cart into a customer's car right in front of her snarky coworker Sammi

3) Trying to rock the "drowned rat" look after being caught in a snowstorm

2) Making zero progress with her crush, Tyson (see #3)

1) Being accused - along with her fellow teenage employees - of stealing upwards of $10,000

Chloe would rather be anywhere than locked in work jail (aka the break room) with five of her coworkers... even if one of them is Tyson. But if they can band together to clear their names, what looks like a total disaster might just make Chloe's list of Top Ten Best Moments. 

I picked this up right away because I heard that it was a little Christmas-y and I like me some holiday reading around this time of year. It turned out to be the cutest holiday book and a great read all around. Chloe is stuck working the morning shift at GoodFoods Market on Christmas Eve. Waking up early sucks any day, but it's Christmas Eve and the weather sucks and she'd rather be in bed. Everything is going wrong and to make matters worse, the money from the holiday donation box is missing and someone has accused the young-ins of stealing it. Suddenly Chloe is playing detective while also trying to make friends with the girls at work, flirt with Tyson, and get home in time for Christmas dinner with her mom and brother.

Top Five Reasons You'll Love This Book:

1) It's very Breakfast Club-esque. Six kids from very different cliques are forced to spend time together and slowly get to know each other and realize they all kind of dig one another.

2) Lists! I'm a huge fan of lists and Chloe does not disappoint. Her lists are clever, fun, and down right funny. I loved when she listed the movies she wished she lived in, especially since her list was exactly the the same as mine!

3) Work antics. If you've ever worked fast food, grocery, retail, any job really, you know what it's like to work with people you don't like, or do like and want to know better. The cast of characters in this book was so diverse, it seemed so real. I related to Chloe perfectly as I've worked many jobs like this. I loved reading about working at Christmas time and the madness that goes with it.

4) A bit of drama. Chloe has diabetes and because the store is a madhouse, she hasn't been eating all day. When it finally catches up to her, it's a little nuts, but it doesn't take over the whole story. It was great to see how everyone reacted and tried to help her get through it.

5) It's a cute holiday story that will warm your heart. It's a little corny with the mystery of the money, but in the best way possible. It will make you like your job more (maybe) and make you realize that the people you work with have the potential to be really good friends. We spend so much time at work, it's a much better time when you love the people you work with.

All in all, this was a nice little contemporary read that I read in two days. It was a lot of fun, made me laugh, and kept me guessing on who could have stolen the money. The cast of characters was the perfect mix and the Christmas Eve at a grocery store was a great setting for this little bit of charm. If you're looking for a cute holiday read, I'd definitely pick this one up!

"I'm not sure the rest of the world has gotten the memo, because I still feel like a pretty big dork compared to a lot of people at my new school. And being insecure makes me want to write more lists, which makes me feel more nerdier, which makes me write more lists... You can see my problem."

This Shattered World Blog Tour Contest

Hey all!

Just stopping in to let you know about this amazing contest happening all over the blogasphere this week. Tomorrow marks the release of This Shattered World, the second book in the Starbound trilogy by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. If you haven't picked up the first book, These Broken Stars, I highly recommend you do. It's a wonderful sci-fi that's reminiscent of the Titanic days.

The blog tour has been going on for a week, but there is still lots of time to read all the posts and enter into the giveaway to win a signed copy of the book, or even the grand prize of having coffee with the authors! These posts have taught me new things about the series and about books as a whole and these authors are great ladies who I'm sure you'll enjoy. Take the time to visit these posts, it'll be worth your while.

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is the captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as a prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war. 

This Shattered World released tomorrow, December 23rd, from Disney-Hyperion. The giveaway is hosted by The Midnight Garden, to learn more and to enter the contest, head on over to the page and get ready for some fun! - This Shattered World Blog Tour & Giveaway

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review: Don't Touch

Don't Touch
Author: Rachel M. Wilson
Published: September 2nd, 2014
Hardcover, 415 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Step on a crack, break your mother's back,
Touch another person's skin, and Dad's gone for good...

Caddie has a history of magical thinking - of playing games in her head to cope with her surroundings - but it's never been this bad before.

When her parents split up, Don't Touch becomes Caddie's mantra. Maybe if she keeps from touching another person's skin, her parents might get back together... which is why she wears full-length gloves to school and covers every inch of her skin.

It seems harmless at first, but Caddie's obsession soon threatens her ambitions as an actress. She desperately wants to play Ophelia in her school's production of Hamlet. But that would mean touching Peter, who's auditioning for the title role - and kissing him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter - but the other part isn't sure she's brave enough to let herself fall.

The cover and premise of this book alone made me pick it up. It seemed more unique than anything I've read and certainly the most realistic. People talk about OCD and anxiety like it's no big deal, but there are people out there, like Caddie, who physically cannot make themselves do something in fear of what might happen. Caddie has forever trusted the rhymes and sayings that if you do something, something bad will happen. Step on a crack, break your mother's back. She cautiously weaves through life, but the day her dad leaves the family, she can't help but blame herself. If she had just never let someone touch her, he might still be here. So she begins wearing gloves, staying far away from people, and vowing never to touch someone ever again in hopes of seeing her father again. But now that she's at a new school and making new friends, she keeps getting the urge to touch, and as much as her mind is telling her no, her heart is saying yes when it comes to Peter, the Hamlet to her Ophelia.

I knew I was going to understand Caddie from the beginning. It's not that I won't touch people either, but I understand telling yourself something and believing it's true and that if you don't listen, bad things will happen. I'm nowhere near as anxious as Caddie is, but I can certainly see how she got herself into that place and I was so proud of her for getting out of it. It was hard to read in some places, feeling the brutality that she puts herself through, especially when she starts getting feelings for Peter but can't will herself to touch him. Her new group of friends help her through it. Mandy, a girl she knew from when they were kids, tries to help Caddie come out of her shell. Caddie isn't happy with how pushy she is, but I loved how she eventually opened up to her and was willing to get help. Peter was amazing, the best kind of guy to read about. He's friendly, supportive, and willing to wait for Caddie to be able to touch him, though he does try to push her along a bit too. None of them really know why Caddie won't touch them, so I can understand how they'd try to fix her even though they don't know how broken she is. And really, only she can make herself better but with their support, it was a lot easier for her.

The writing was amazing. Rachel captured the thoughts and feelings of someone who doesn't think they deserve to be happy. I'm a huge fan of plays and acting, so I loved that there was a minor story of them preforming Hamlet, and I loved reading about the rehearsals and how Caddie wanted to do a good job, but didn't know how to release herself into it. The moments with her and Peter were delicious to read and I just loved reading her journey from nothing to everything. It was hard for her to except that just because she wasn't touching anyone didn't mean her dad would come back. It was heartbreaking and realistic and it was perfect, brutality honest look at OCD that a lot of people don't realize. This is a must read for everyone as it gives you a glimpse into the life of someone who could be beside you and you wouldn't even know they were suffering like this.

"When we locked eyes, the ease of his stare and the welcome of a smile made me feel like one of two fixes points in a hurricane. The building could have crashes down around us as he smiled, and I wouldn't have noticed."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: I'll Meet You There

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine, where we highlight an upcoming release we are eagerly anticipating.

My WoW this week is:

I'll Meet You There
By Heather Demetrios
Hardcover, 400 pages
Expected publication: February 3rd, 2015

From Goodreads:

If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom - that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she's ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell has a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise - a quirky motel off California's dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper. 

This sounds like my kind of story. Lonely, broken kids who are looking for a better life and find each other while they're at it. Also, how great is that cover? Can't wait to pick this one up! What's your Waiting on Wednesday thia week?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Books we Read in 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where we list wonderful bookish things!

This week's Top Ten topic is: Top Ten Books we Read in 2014

It's that time of the year! I love compiling lists at the end of the year. I read some great books this year, but here are the top ten:

1. On the Fence - Kasie West:
2. Let's Get Lost - Adi Alsaid
3. Don't Touch - Rachel M. Wilson

4. Open Road Summer - Emery Lord
5. Isla and the Happily Ever After - Stephanie Perkins
6. Since You've Been Gone - Morgan Matson

7. The Retribution of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin
8. Cress - Marissa Meyer

 9. Everything Leads to You - Nina LaCour
10. Don't Look Back - Jennifer L. Armentrout

I read some amazing books this year and there are still a lot on my list that came out this year that I haven't had a chance to read yet. It was good year in YA and I know next year will only be better. Happy reading everyone! What were your top reads of 2014?

Review: Ashes to Ashes

Ashes to Ashes
Authors: Jenny Han, Siobhan Vivian
Published: September 16th, 2014
Hardcover, 387 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

New Year's Eve ended with a bang and Mary, Kat, and Lillia may not be prepared for what is to come.

After Rennie's death, Kat and Lillia try to put the pieces together of what happened to her. They both blame themselves. If Lillia hadn't left with Reeve... if Kat had only stayed with Rennie... things could have been different. Now they will never be the same.

Only Mary knows the truth about that night. About who she is. She also knows the truth about Lillia and Reeve falling in love, about Reeve being happy when all he deserves is misery, just like the misery he caused her. Now their childish attempts at revenge are a thing of the past and Mary is out for blood. Will she leave anything in her wake or all that remain be ashes? 

The end of a series is always bittersweet and it normally takes me a long time to finally open it up and read it in fear that I won't be happy with how it will end. The Burn for Burn series has stood out from the beginning. It started out very contemporary with three girls out to seek revenge on those who have wronged them and quickly turned into its own genre. The ending of the first book showed us just what Mary was made of and the end of the second told us Mary was probably not who we thought she was. So in the last book, Ashes to Ashes, took everything we know and proved us wrong about what we thought was going to happen. It's hard to write this without spoilers because there are a lot of parts of the last book that ruined the series for me and parts of how it ended were not what I was looking for when I went into this book.

Kat was immediately my favourite of the three girls. She didn't take anyone's shit and throughout the events that happen through the series, she grew as a character the most for me. She realized what they were doing was wrong and I could feel her regret after what happened at the New Year's party. Mary could have been a great character. I wish she had been able to forgive Reeve for how he treated her and to move on from everything that happened. Her story took the strangest turn that I wasn't expecting and still am not very happy with. I think I understand why the authors did it, but I'm not sure I liked it. With Lillia, I was never really a fan. She got too much handed to her and every guy seemed to fall so easily in love with her. In the end, when she still has two guys fighting over her, I was kind of just done with it and did not care who she ended up with (though I'm not happy with who she ended up with, I was hoping he'd end up with Kat). So much happened on this tiny island and it made for a whirlwind read that was not predicable at all. These girls certainly knew how to piss people off and their schemes ruined more than they thought they would. Yes they went too far, yes they realize what they did was bad, but who doesn't want to make people pay for what they did to you? I certainly would never do anything like this, but it's fun to read about people who took that leap and did it.

This series stands out on its own and I think I'll eventually re-read the whole thing together to see if I can catch hints of certain things before they are revealed. The ending was very realistic, no super happily ever afters here, and thought I wish some things were different, I understand why it had to happen. It's worth the read to finish off the series and get some answers, so don't not read it guys, no matter what awful things you may be reading about it.

"Years from now this will be what I remember when I remember my spring break senior year. It will be this moment right here. The smell of chlorine on his skin. The way the sun dips into the water before it disappears. The first time I ever told a boy I loved him."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Review: Drama Unsung

Drama Unsung
Author: Jennifer Jamelli
Published: August 31, 2014
Paperback, 292 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

All Alexa wants is to be cast as Cosette... until she meets her very own Marius.

Most of the drama in Drama Club happens long before the curtain opens. Alexa Grace finds herself right at the heart of the drama - in a whirlwind of gossip and emotions and charades - when she moves to a new school and auditions for Les Miserables. She quickly realizes that the auditions are fixed, that the person who is cast as Cosette has it out for her, and that she is in the middle of a dangerous backstage love triangle.. In a tangle of jealousy, passion, frustration, and ambition, Alexa and her classmates struggle to come together to pull off an amazing production. 

High school is full of drama, no matter who you are or what clique you're in, but being in the Drama club can have an extra dose of dramatic flair. Alexa has just moved to a new school, which in itself can be nerve-racking, but joining the Drama Club and realizing that being the new girl behind Addison won't get her very far. Addison pretty much owns the Drama Club, her father the main donator to the school, so she gets whatever part she wants whether she deserves it or not. So even though Alexa would make the best Cosette and it's her dream role, she ends up as Eponine, a girl caught up on Cosette's boyfriend, Marius. Life often imitates art as Alexa soon finds herself attracted to Addison's boyfriend, Collin, and soon she's in her own miserable love triangle and trying to survive the play.

This was a fast read and full of drama, laughter and some sweet moments between Alexa and Collin. I loved that each chapter was a different song title from Les Miserables, one of my favourite plays. I enjoyed that the story revolved around the production of this play, from auditions to curtain calls, and all the madness in between. The dialogue flowed nicely and the plot was great for this cute, high school story. It would be perfect for a young teenager to read, especially someone who's in drama or loves it. I was only in a few plays in high school and thankfully I did not get caught up in anything like this, but I can certainly see how it could get crazy back there. Addison was the perfect bad girl, one with money who always gets what she wants. And I love how it came to bite her in the ass at the end. Alexa made some great friends, like Eric, who wished her the best and continued to try and get her together with Collin.

A nice, light read for another who loves acting, plays, or just Les Mis in general. It shows that even if you don't get what you want, you may find something better. Getting the big part in the play is not what acting is about, it's about having fun, making friends, and becoming the character you were assigned. I'll let you know this much, this book ends a lot happier than Les Mis did!

"He kisses me at an achingly slow pace, pulling me into his arms and rubbing my back gently. It's a kiss that reminds me that we have nowhere to be right now and no one about to barge in on us. a kiss that promises many more kisses to come."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Winter TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we make lovely bookish lists!

This week's topic is: Top Ten Books on my Winter TBR List

1. My True Love Gave To Me (Stephanie Perkins etc.): Holiday stories are a must!

2. Let It Snow (John Green etc.): Going to read as many as I can!

3. Don't Touch (Rachel Wilson): One of the books I've been eager to get my hands on.

4. The Darkest Minds (Alexandra Bracken): It's been sitting on my shelf too long, I think.

5. Sway (Kat Spears): This one just looks like a lot of fun!

6. We Can Work it Out (Elizabeth Eulberg): The first one in this series was really cute, so I can't wait to read this one.

7. All the Bright Places (Jennifer Niven): TFIOS meets Eleanor and Park? Sign me up!

8. Where'd You Go Bernadette (Maria Semple): This one looks adorable!

9. The Queen of the Tearling (Erika Johansen): A dark book for dark winter days.

10. Unleashed (Sophie Jordan): Can this just be out already?

What are your must reads for this cold, brutal winter season?

Review: Breathe, Annie, Breathe

Breathe, Annie, Breathe
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Published: July 15th, 2014
Hardcover, 306 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can't escape the guilt that if she hadn't broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honour his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more gruelling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she's at war with her body, her mind - and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms... and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be ever more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

Entering back into Hundred Oaks made me smile and Annie's story was just as hard and heartbreaking as every other girl I've met throughout this series. Annie is racked with guilt over her ex boyfriend's death, feeling as though he would still be alive if she hadn't broken up with him. So she plans on running the marathon he would have been running that year, a marathon she is in no way ready to run. She begins her training, her life revolving around miles and food intake, beginning the hard journey to the finish line. Along the way, she meets Jeremiah, a guy who makes her feel things she hasn't felt in a long time and someone that could easily help her guilty mind. But the closer she gets to Jeremiah and the finish line, the more she pulls away, not knowing if by finishing the race she'll actually be able to forgive herself.

Annie deals with so much in this book. She's finishing high school, about to start university and trying to focus all her energy on this race. She deals with her grief step by step, breath by breath. It's wonderful to see how her running relates to her feelings, we can see it in the writing as she pushes through everything to get to the other side. Kenneally hits the nail on the head in this one, comparing running to death, the hardships involved with both. Annie is a complex character who can't forgive herself for doing something she knew in her heart was what she needed to do. The consequences rack her brain and they stop her from moving on with her life and with Jeremiah. Her relationship with Jeremiah is fast yet slow, steady yet super uneven. Annie is cautious, but her heart is at war with her head and it's such a familiar feeling, one most people have felt, that it was so unbearably real to read. Their love story was lovely and I loved reading it, even though I wasn't sure if they'd make it through most of the time. Jeremiah is a wonderful counterpart to Annie, he believes in her and let her know that she doesn't need to do anything to get better, she just needs to push through it.

I loved seeing some familiar friends again. Matt is Annie's coach and we vaguely met Jeremiah in Things I Can't Forget, which makes me happy that he gets to be the hero of his own story. This book is touching, sad, and uplifting all at once and even though I know nothing about running, I was pulled into the story as Annie ran and ran until she could finally forgive herself. A great book that looks at grief, love, and growing up in a different way than usual an in a way that will leave you smiling.

"Maybe you don't have to figure life out at all. Maybe it just is."

Monday, November 24, 2014

Review: The Retribution of Mara Dyer

The Retribution of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Published: November 4th, 2014
Hardcover, 470 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Mara Dyer wants to believe there's more to the lies she's been told. There is.

She doesn't stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead. She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance. She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer's story.

Retribution has arrived.

The Mara Dyer series is fucked up. It's messed up in the best kind of way. It makes you think, second guess, scared to read the next page, and it may just drive you as mad as Mara. From the beginning we knew there was a lot to know and a lot we would never know. The first sentence describes Mara having to use a nom-de-plume, and how she's going to tell us a story we may not believe and that she shouldn't be telling. It was the most fantastic way to hook me in and these books seriously never let me go. The first, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer left me confused and angry, yet so eager to need more information. None of us knew what Mara was or why she could do the things she does, but I was desperate for information. And Noah Shaw captured my heart immediately, and I knew I'd never forget him. The Evolution of Mara Dyer gave me some answers, but not much. And it weaved itself into me so much deeper, taking me down with Mara and Noah into a world I wish didn't exist. Then Michelle was cruel, oh so cruel, and I didn't think I'd make it to the last book without knowing the truth. But I did, and boy am I glad! This final instalment was a masterpiece. It weaved everything we knew, everything we wanted answers too and gave them over to us on a platter while still making us cringe after every page and waiting until the end to know for sure if we would get a happy ending.

This book left me breathless. I'm going to be vague because I don't want to give away anything to those who haven't read it yet. This is the kind of series that thrives without spoilers and I'm so glad I read it quickly before I accidentally read some. Mara's world is upside down and everything from the second book is creeping up on her as she desperately tries to find out exactly who she is and how to get away from those that are experimenting on her. Jamie is the perfect comic relief, which is so needed in a book like this where it would be all seriousness without him. There are so many pop culture quotes that made me laugh and reminded me that these are regular teenagers in irregular situations.

The pacing was perfect. Every chapter left me wanting more. There were some gruesome parts, some scary parts, and some parts that still blow my mind. There were some romantic parts (oh yes there were!) and I love how it all wrapped up, bringing us to the beginning of the first book, like a circle of craziness that will never be truly explained. It made it seem so realistic, that there could actually be someone out there like Mara or Noah or Jamie, someone with extraordinary powers living beside us, near us, passing us on the subway, and we'd never know unless we got on their bad side or in their way. This story will live with me for a long time, eventually I'd like to re-read the whole thing as one and see i I can make even more connections throughout the series, remember small details I forgot, and bask in the glory that is Michelle Hodkin's beautiful writing and story telling. She is a weaver of magic and she has created a wonderful, real character, whose real name we will never know. Someone who has been through hell and back and lived to tell about it. Mara is a heroine for this day, a strong girl who goes through things we wouldn't dare dream of but that some teenagers or anyone, may relate to. We all feel crazy every once and awhile and it's nice to know there are others who feel like that sometimes too.

If you haven't read this series, please go read it, and if you've only read the first two and are scared for it to end, trust me when I say you'll be happy with this finale, glad you read it, and eager for another series from Miss. Hodkin.

"I love you. Today. Tonight. Tomorrow. Forever. If I were to live a thousand years, I would belong to you in all of them. If I were to live a thousand lives. I would want to make you mine in each of them."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review: Even in Paradise

Even in Paradise
Author: Chelsey Philpot
Published: October 14th, 2014
Hardcover, 368 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

When Julia Buchanan enrolls at St. Anne's at the beginning of the junior year, Charlotte Ryder already knows all about the former senator's daughter. Most people do... or think they do.

Charlotte certainly never expects she'll be Julia's friend. But almost immediately, she is drawn into the larger than life new girl's world - a world of midnight rendezvous, dazzling parties, palatial vacation homes, and fizzy champagne cocktails. And then Charlotte meets, and begins falling for, Julia's handsome older brother, Sebastian. 

But behind her self-assured smiles and toasts to the future, Charlotte soon realizes that Julia is still suffering from a tragedy. A tragedy that the Buchanan family has kept hidden... until now. 

Everything about this book screamed The Great Gatsby in the most subtle way possible and it was wonderful. There's no real mention of it being any sort of retelling. The only real connection is the name Buchanan and I loved that about this book. The subtlety was in the writing, in the nostalgic feeling throughout the whole novel, through the actions of the characters and the chain reaction of events that slowly get uncovered throughout it. Charlotte is a mix between Nick Caraway and Daisy Buchanan, just like Julia is a mix between Gatsby and Daisy. I love that there was no distinct characterization, it left everything blurry and unreal, which drove me further into the story and kept me in until the last page.

It's told in past tense. the same sort of tense as Gatsby, with Charlotte looking back on a time in her life that was crazy and unpredictable, but that she wouldn't change for the world. This in no way drains any of the tension, as there is a bit of a mystery as to what happened to Julia's sister that we slowly become more aware of throughout the book. There's something wonderful and thrilling about watching the past play out and knowing there is nothing you can do to change it. Charlotte is quickly seduced by Julia and falls into her world effortlessly. She begins summering with the Buchanan family, staying at an old house with many secrets, and falls for Julia's older brother, Sebastian. The more she gets involved with the family, the closer she gets to the truth. I was excited to see how it would all relate to Gatsby, and I was pleasantly rewarded with the answer. Just like Fitzgerald's classic novel, there is a tragedy that cannot be stopped and the rich get away with it. I love that Charlotte narrated, just like Nick did, as it's almost a third party watching from afar. Charlotte gets very much more involved than Nick did, getting so deep into the Buchanan family that it's hard to leave. She knew her days were numbered and that she never really belonged in the Buchanan's world, and we as reader knew from the start that it doesn't work out, but like Charlotte, we fell in love anyway. Who wouldn't want to spend summers at a big house and go to lavish parties, even if it meant keeping something terrible a secret?

There isn't nothing really happy about this book. There are moments here and there were Julia and Charlotte share a wonderful moment, words that make you think they will be friends forever, but in the back of your mind the entire time, you know it doesn't work out. It's brutal and honest and nostalgic. The closer I got to the end, the more involved I was with the family and like Charlotte, needed to know all the answers. Fans of Gatsby will be pleased, those who didn't like that book may not enjoy the way this one is written, but I for one loved it. I think the subtleness worked in this book's favour, as I enjoyed it more than Great, which was almost a direct re-telling. This book is crazy, intoxicating and will take you down the rabbit hole into a world that really does exist but feels dreamlike, a world where the rich get away with murder and pay off those who find out about it.

"It's only in hindsight that we can point, as easily as finding a town on a map, to the moments that shaped us - the moments when choices between yeses and nos determined the people we became. I have no illusions. Even knowing everything, I would have chosen the same."

Review: Racing Savannah

Racing Savannah
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Published: December 3rd, 2013
Paperback, 304 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

They're from two different worlds.

He lives in the estate house, and she spends most of her time in the stables helping her father train horses. In fact, Savannah has always been much more comfortable around horses than boys. especially boys like Jack Goodwin - cocky, popular, and completely out of her league. She knows the rules: no mixing between the staff and the Goodwin family. But Jack has no such boundaries.

With her dream of becoming a horse jockey, Savannah isn't exactly one to follow the rules either. She's not going to let someone tell her a girl isn't tough enough to race. Sure, it's dangerous. Then again, so is dating Jack...

If I thought the Hundred Oaks series couldn't get any cuter, I was seriously wrong. Kenneally has done it again with this sweet story of two people from opposite sides of the track that find a way to fall in love and still me in good with their parents. All Savannah wants to be is a horse jockey. She's short and knows how to get a horse to go fast. But her dad worries for her safety and doesn't want her anywhere near the fast horses unless she's grooming them. But meeting Jack Goodwin proves more dangerous than the horses as Savannah finds herself falling for him quickly and shamelessly. Jack believes in her and wants her to try jockeying a certain horse that seems to respond to her touch. But not everyone is as supportive as he is.

Savannah is adorable. I loved her to pieces and hoped for her to fulfill her dream of jockeying a horse and winning a race. I completely understand where Savannah's dad is coming from. Jockeying is not a light activity and he doesn't want her to get hurt. The relationship between them is wonderful and I love seeing a parent who's so involved with their daughter but not super over protective. The other people who work at the Goodwin house are just as supportive and wonderful. It takes Savannah some time, but she comes around to the idea of living them and starts to appreciate the new family that she has. Jack Goodwin is your typical unattainable guy, but he stands out because of the way he treats Savannah. He was constantly nice to her and even though he had to live a separate live and his father expected a lot from him, he still supported Savannah and wanted the best for her. These two are adorable together and I fell in love right alongside them, praying they'd get a happy ending.

These books are too cute for words. Kenneally treads on difficult subjects, puts her characters in hard situations, and shows us that there is always a way through and that if you dream something hard enough, you can achieve it. I loved seeing old characters show up throughout the book and see some of the original characters grown up and ready to start their lives together (Jordan and Parker were planning their weddings!) The great thing with this series is that it could potentially never end as we go through generations of teenagers living in Hundred Oaks. I'll continue to anticipate more from this author and series.

"But you're kind of like a great book... you know, you pick up a book at the bookstore because it has beautiful cover... but it's what's inside that pulls you in."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Night We Said Yes

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine, where we spotlight an upcoming release we're eagerly anticipating.

My WoW this week is:

The Night We Said Yes
By Lauren Gibaldi
Hardcover, 304 pages
Expected Publication: June 16th, 2015

From Goodreads:

Before Matt, Ella had a plan. Get over a no-good-ex-boyfriend. Graduate from high school without anymore distractions. Move away from Orlando, Florida, where she's lived her entire life.

But Matt - the cute, shy, bespectacled bass player who just moved to town - was never part of that plan.

And neither was attending a party that was crashed by the cops just minutes after they arrived. Or spending an entire night saying "yes" to every crazy, fun thing they could think of. 

Then Matt abruptly left town, and he broke not only Ella's heart but those of their best friends too. So when he shows up a year later with a pan of his own - to relive the night that brought them together - Ella isn't sure whether Matt's worth a second chance. Or if re-creating the past can help them create a different future.

In alternating then and now chapters, debut author Lauren Gibaldi crafts a charming, romantic story of first loves, lifelong friendships, uncovered secrets, and, ultimately, finding out how to be brave. 

This sounds like the perfect summer read with some really cool adventures. I love a good contemporary, so I'm hoping I love this one!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters Who Deserve Their Own Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where we get to list wonderful bookish things.

This week's topic is:

Top ten characters you wish would get their own book

1. Zuzana and Mik (Daughter of Smoke and Bone): There's no denying how utterly adorable these two were. We did get a bit of their story in Night of Cake and Puppets, but I could totally read a full length focusing on their love story. 

2. Johanna Mason (The Hunger Games): She is way too amazing and I would love to see her kick some ass in her own Hunger Games. 

3. Calliope Bell (Lola and the Boy Next Door): Because even though she seemed kind of awful in this book, I know she's probably a really sweet person and I'd love to see her fall in love.

4. Wren (Fangirl): Why not focus on the other twin? I'm sure she's just as awesome as Cath and I bet she secretly likes to still read fan fiction.

5. Roar (Under the Never Sky): I loved Roar, he was a fantastic side character and I think he could run his own book no problem. Now if only we could get Liv in the picture somewhere.

6. Hermione (Harry Potter): Because she is amazing and there would be so many books and potions involved in the book that it would be so much fun!

7. Lilah Montgomery (Open Road Summer): I would love to read about her being on tour and the feelings she goes through being alone. Maybe see her fall in love again.

8. Eowyn and Faramir (The Lord of the Rings): There two have and always will be my favourite OTP, so can I just have a novel about them being in love and helping to rebuild Middle Earth, please and thank you?

9. Sabine (Soul Screamers): This mara makes me laugh, cringe, and freak out. She was so much fun I know if she had her own story it would be adventurous, dangerous and very dramatic, but we'd have a good time with it anyway. 

10. Suze (Confessions of a Shopaholic): Because anyone who can be friends with Becky Bloomwood for so long is clearly an awesome person and probably has some cool stories to tell. Let's get a prequel of her meeting and falling in love with Tarquin please!

Who are some of your favourite characters that you're just dying to see star in their own novels? Let me know!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Review: The Lonely Hearts Club

The Lonely Hearts Club
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Published: January 1st, 2010
Paperback, 290 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Love is all you need... or is it? Penny's about to find out in this wonderful debut.

Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating. So she vows: no more. It's a personal choice... and, of course, soon everyone wants to know about it. And a few other girls are inspired. A movement is born: The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the band from Sgt. Pepper). Penny is suddenly known for her non dating ways... which is too bad, because there's this certain boy she can't help but like...

This was a quick, fun read that made me want to listen to The Beatles and fall in love all over again. Penny Lane's parents love The Beatles. Songs about love surround her everywhere she goes and that's all fine and dandy until she gets her heart broken and decides to swear off guys. She starts The Lonely Hearts Club, a group for girls who want to put themselves before the terrible population of guys at high school. Before long, most of the girls in school are part of the club, including Penny's old friend Diane, who recently broke up with her long time boyfriend Ryan. Penny loves having a group of girls she can hang out with whenever she wants, Saturday nights are always busy and she's not so lonely anymore, but the more she spends time with Ryan, the more she thinks she's falling for him. But she's the leader of the club, she swore she wouldn't date. But Penny's thinking about breaking her own rules.

I read this book in one sitting. It was so much fun and pulled me right in. Lyrics to Beatles songs were everywhere and I love the Beatles, so I was happy for them. I love how obsessed Penny's family is with the band and it made for a very nice little side story to the main events taking place. The Beatle are clearly a very big part of Penny's life and the author does a fantastic job showing us this. Penny and her three sisters are all named after Beatles songs and Penny and Ryan go to a Beatles tribute band concert (against her parent's wishes because gasp, they aren't the real Beatles!) I loved the references, the song lyrics and everything Beatles related.

It was mushy, girly and exactly what you'd think it'd be, but with a few tricks and treats along the way. The girl power was a nice change from some YA these days and I loved that they all supported each other even when they decided to start dating again. Penny and Diane were my favourite. Diane ditched Penny for Ryan at the beginning of high school and though there was a bit of bad blood, they eventually overcame that and became good friends again. Diane even supported Penny going out with Ryan. All in all, this was a super cute book that will leave you smiling. Don't expect too much more than that, but if you're looking for a cute read with some music mixed in here and there, than I'd definitely recommend picking this one up.

"There was only one thing I could do to ease the pain. I turned to the only four guys who'd never let me down. The only four guys who'd never broken my heart, who'd never disappointed me. John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Any body who has ever clung to a song like a musical life raft will understand. Or put on a song to bring out an emotion or memory. Or had a soundtrack playing in their head to drown out a conversation or a scene."

Review: Things I Can't Forget

Things I Can't Forget
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Published: March 1st, 2013
Paperback, 308 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school - although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different...

This summer she's a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He's the first guy she ever kissed, and he's gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt - with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn't that easy...

Kate is not the kind of character you see in a book very often and it was great seeing someone so into their faith have the spotlight in a book. Religion is not something authors feel comfortable discussing anymore, as there is so much speculation that surrounds it. But I'm glad Kenneally was brave enough to make Kate very religious and not hold that against her. Kate struggles with a lot of things that I struggled with as a teen and i'm sure most others did too. She's not ready to go past kissing, even though everyone around her is, and nor is she comfortable sleeping in the same room as a member of the opposite sex even though everyone else is doing it. Her beliefs are a lot stronger than mine, but reading about her struggles to stay strong and keep her values in a world where peer pressure can turn anyone.

Working at a Christian camp is just what Kate wants to do the summer before college. She's excited to be around like minded people but she soon realizes that not everyone has the same morals as her. The counselors are shacking up together, hanging out alone at night and doing things Kate wouldn't dream of doing, that is, until she sees Matt. Matt was her first kiss when they were eleven and he's changed a lot for the better since then. Now he is very good looking and likes to flirt with Kate. He makes her feel something she's never felt and it scares her. The more they hang out, the more Kate wants to go further than she ever thought she would before marriage and both scares and excites her. Suddenly the summer becomes more than just money for school, it becomes about finding out who she really is and how her relationship with God may change.

Kenneally's books have all had a religious connection in them and I love that about them. They stand out from the rest of the YA Contemporary out there and I'm glad that her characters have beliefs. Kate is judged right away for her old-fashioned beliefs, but Matt never judges her. The romance between them is wonderful and slow, but there are moments where Kate wants to feel more than what she's feeling, just like any girl in love. Kenneally captured the fear between your beliefs and what your body is telling you as Kate goes through so many feelings and moments, until she finally decides who she really is. Matt is certainly swoon-worthy and I fell in love with him as easily as Kate did. Kenneally has a way with her characters, making me love the girl and the guy and the relationship I can only hope comes between them. It was great seeing some old characters, something that I now look for when reading these books. Having Jordan and Parker be there for Kate as she goes through this crazy time was really nice and I love seeing girl friendships in books. For some reason, this is hard to find even though most of my friends were girls in high school. One of the most important parts of this book was that when Kate changed her mind about how far she wanted to go with Matt, he completely respected her decision and did not pressure her into anything. Sadly, this too is hard to find and I'm glad it was very prominent in this book.

Kenneally's books capture the essence of teenage life. Facing hard decisions, figuring out who we are. Falling in love. This series is the perfect go to for any lover of Stephanie Perkins or Kasie West.

"Maybe all that matters is that he's right for me, and I'm right for him."

"Learning is never a bad thing. And neither is changing your mind about things... It's always good to reevaluate. To think and consider all sides."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Top Ten Tuesdays: Books & Movies to get into the Halloween Spirit

Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Lists are fun, especially Halloween ones.

This week's topic is:

Top ten books and music to help get you into the Halloween spirit

1. Dracula by Bram Stoker: Book or movie, this one is a classic. The one and only vampire!

2. Fun Size: Not a scary movie at all, but it's got the fun feel that we all felt when we went out trick-or-treating as kids. And it also has the fun feel of when you're older and going to parties for Halloween.

3. Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin: She's taken a classic Edgar Allan Poe story and weaved into a dystopian, virus book, and she's done a fantastic job with it. Nice and creepy for Halloween.

4. The Conjuring: A very good scary movie that gets me every time I watch it.

5. Coraline by Neil Gaiman: The movie was spine chilling and I'm sure the book is just as creepy (haven't had a chance to read it yet!)

6. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers: Zombies! Seriously the best zombie book I've read. I encourage everyone to pick this one up!

7. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: The second best zombie book I've read. This series was so scary from beginning to end, but it was the best kind of scary.

8. The Walking Dead: Speaking of zombies, why not catch up on this fantastic TV series that is sure to give you the creeps every episode.

9. Red Riding Hood: The newest movie with Amanda Seyfried was so well done, it still gives me chills when I watch it.

10. The Nightmare Before Christmas: Because why wouldn't you watch this at Halloween and Christmas. The best movie! (Though watch Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie while you're at it!)

What are your go-to Halloween haunts?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: All Lined Up

All Lined Up
Author: Cora Carmack
Published: May 13th, 2014
Paperback, 320 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

In Texas, two things are cherished above all else - football and gossip. My life has always been ruled by both.

Dallas Cole loathes football. That's what happens when you spend your whole childhood coming in second to a sport. College is her time to step out of the bleachers, and put the playing field (and the players) in her past.

But life doesn't always go as planned. As if going to the same college as her football star ex wasn't bad enough, her father, a Texas high school coaching phenom, has decided to make the jump to college ball... as the new head coach at Rusk University. Dallas finds herself in the shadows of her father and football all over again. 

Carson McClain is determined to go from second-string quarterback to the starting line-up. He needs the scholarship and the future that football provides. But when a beautiful redhead literally falls into his life, his focus is more than tested. It's obliterated.

Dallas doesn't know Carson is on the team. Carson doesn't know that Dallas is his new coach's daughter. And neither of them know how to walk away from the attraction they feel.

I'm not sure why it took me so long to read a Cora Carmack book, but man am I glad I've read them now! All Lined Up is the first in her new Rusk University series, but you'd probably know her name from her first New Adult series Losing It. I've been having really good luck with NA lately and Carmack has quickly become one of my favourite authors in this genre. Dallas' life revolves around football whether she likes it or not. Her dad has just taken a job as the head coach at Rusk and her quarterback ex-boyfriend constantly shows up whenever she's around. Dallas just wants to have a real college experience, but football haunts her every move. When she meets Carson in a funny, dramatic, awkward way, she thinks she's found a guy that has nothing to do with football. By the time she finds out he's second-string quarterback, ready to take her ex's spot in the line up, and he finds out she's the coach's daughter, it's too late for them to stop the feelings riled up inside of them.

This is one of my favourite plots. As a reader, we know that Dallas is the coach's daughter and that Carson is a football player, but each character is in the dark and I loved waiting for the moment when all would break loose. Carmack wrote this wonderfully, in dual perspectives, keeping the dramatic irony going for just long enough for us to fall in love with both characters together. Dallas was very different from the girl NA characters I've seen out there. She's smart, ready to step away from her father's shadow, and put her bad relationship behind her. She's strong willed and not afraid to speak her mind, and her relationship with her father is very touch and go, as she tries to figure out who she is but still make sure her father knows she loves him. Carson has to work much harder than Dallas to get to where he wants to be. He works out and trains constantly, while also studying in his free time. When they start hanging out, Carson loses his focus and it's a harsh reality when you put someone you love before your needs. The conflict between the two of them, trying to keep the relationship under wraps, deciding if the relationship is worth it, and figuring out how to get through college, is written beautifully and captured me the entire time.

The fun part of reading NA, as I'm sure we all know, are the sexy scenes. These are the selling points to this genre and for good reason. You get all the angst and drama that you get in YA, but you also get the experience that us adults enjoy without the boundaries that YA puts on it. Carmack writes these scenes really well. They are too graphic like some and it's more about the tension between the two characters than anything else. I love a good steamy scene and boy does this book deliver! I lvoed that this involved sports, I feel like that broke it out of the very small NA shell and I loved getting to know the characters at Rusk University and I'm excited to get more of them. Every side character could have their own story and I hope Carmack has a plan for them. Stella was a long of fun and I know Silas is getting his own book next, All Broke Down, which actually comes out tomorrow! If you're looking for a fun, quick, saucy read, pick this one up! I'm sure you'll fall in love with Dallas and Carson as much as I did.

"I swallow and stare and swallow again, because dear, sweet Jesus riding a unicorn, he's perfect."

"It takes talent to be a gawking hot mess, and I am a gawking hot mess to the third power."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: Belzhar

Author: Meg Wolitzer
Published: September 30th, 2014
Hardcover, 264 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She'd be watching old comedy sketches with him. She'd be kissing him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn't be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn't fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam cal feel Reeve's arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam's path to reclaim her loss. 

This book immediately caught my attention. From afar it looks like a contemporary novel, but there is a paranormal element that is the unlaying basis of it and it intrigued me. Jam Gallahue is trying to get over the death of her boyfriend, Reeve, but it hasn't been going well so her parents send her to The Wooden Barn, a rehab centre for teenagers recovering. She is roomed with a strange girl and enrolled in Special Topics in English, a prestigious class with only five students in it. Her roommate is jealous, saying that everyone who has been in that class couldn't stop talking about it. Jam's not sure what the hype is all about, especially since the teacher is strange and they are just reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. But soon everything changes. They are given a journal writing assignment and the moment she starts writing in the journal, she feels Reeve's arms around her and suddenly she gets to be with him again, but only for a short while until she is brought back to reality. Jam loves this new world, but what happens when the journal is full?

Everything that happens in this book is just as mysterious and unexplained as the world Jam and her classmates go to, which they dub Belzhar after the Plath book they're reading. Nothing is really explained and we only know what Jam knows and what her friends tell her. It's kind of wonderful and kept me drawn into the novel as I watched her spend moments with Reeve that I knew couldn't last. When she's not with Reeve, she is spending time with Griffin, a guy she's not quite sure about but is drawn to nonetheless. Every character in this was very different and dealing with their own emotional drama. Throughout the novel, we discover why everyone is at the school and what they see when they go to Belzhar. The stories are sad, brutal and all around something you wish on no one. I was curious to see how this would end and did not expect what happened at all. It was a great twist and really pulled the story together. And I didn't really need Belzhar explained to me, I love that it was a mystery and a very strange way to get over the guilt and shame and move on with life.

Grief was a main element in this book, so I won't lie and say it will make you happy. It was dark, brutal and terrible things happened to good people. But it shows that it is not the end when something bad happens, life goes on. Friendships are made, romance is found, and people are forgiven and forgive themselves. It was a wonderful story that captured me from the first page to very end. I wish it had been longer. I wish we got to know more about Mrs. Quenell and her teachings. They kept mentioning how awesome her class was, but we never really got to witness her discussions and what was so awesome about her. I wish there was more background story so that I could have been more emotional invested in the characters. Everything happened very quickly, and I think I understand why the writer wrote it like this, to keep us in a dream-like state that Jam was in the entire time she was at the Barn. All in all, I enjoyed it and would like read the author's other works.

"We're talking about the novel, right? But maybe we're not. We're talking about ourselves. And I guess that's what can start to happen when you talk about a book."

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