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."

Review: Stealing Parker

Stealing Parker
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Published: October 1st, 2012
Paperback, 242 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She's on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she's made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother's scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?

Parker quickly became one of my favourite Kenneally characters. Her school status has been taken away and instead of sulking, she starts living a life that gathers a lot of attention. She starts making out with a lot of different guys, wearing skimpier clothes, and doing whatever she feels like doing. The other kids at Hundred Oaks High have been treating her awfully since her mom came out of the closet. It's awful, yet much too real, and she feels like an outcast now, so she takes revenge by doing whatever she pleases. But she's not happy, she wants to play softball again but she can't stand to be near the girls who whisper about her behind her back. So when she's offered the manager job for the guys' baseball team, she takes it, and quickly becomes infatuated with the new assistant coach, Brian.

Kenneally covers a whole lot of topics in her books. Love, sex, friendship and family. Her characters have flaws and they grow so much throughout the book. Like in Catching Jordan, this book focuses on a sport, in this case baseball, and I love that sports play a big theme in her books. I didn't know much about football, but baseball I love so I was glad to have a book where there would be scenes of games and Parker still being in love with the sport. Teamwork is the best part of sports and Kenneally has captured that camaraderie between players and the friendships that are built over time. Parker, like Jordan, has a lot of guy friends and she may or may not have made out with a few of them. But once Brian comes along, she's ready to kiss a real man and she'll stop at nothing to get him. Their relationship isn't healthy at all. They meet in secret and he does not want to take her out in public or have her meet any of his friends. It's not fun to read about Parker in this situation, but it's important to the story and in life. Girls put themselves in relationships like this all the time and tell themselves its fine, but it's not. Girls need someone who will treat them fairly and lovingly. Drew, Parker's long time friend, treats her perfectly and they get along great, perhaps there is something more there? And Corndog, one of the other players, who lives to annoy but also has a soft, sweet side that he only shows Parker. It soon becomes apparent that we have no idea who Parker might end up with and I loved that, knowing there are these guys that treat her nicely and deserve to make her happy. This is one of the parts I love about Kenneally's books, you never really know who the main will end up with and you don't really know who you're hoping she ends up with until the end.

Romance is the heart and soul of these books. Her girls are teenagers, falling in love for the first time and discovering the ups and downs of having that happen. What I love is that it's not just about the romance. Friendships run deep and they are constantly a part of the books, which is so important to me since girls tend to forget their friends when they're in love (we've all done it). Family plays a huge part too, especially in this one as Parker needs to learn to forgive her mom even though she did nothing wrong. Hundred Oaks is very religious, with church cliques and shunning. Parker's family was once part of the loving community, but after her mom came out, they were shunned away. It felt very old-fashioned, but I understand that there are still places like this all over the world and it was great to see this side of the religion. Throughout the novel, Parker writes letters to God, showing us this side of her that she's not quite sure of anymore. It hurts me that there are people who treat others like this, but I know how realistic it is.

This book made me laugh, cry, and swoon like crazy. I couldn't put it down and even now that I've read all of Keneally's books, this one still stands at the top. Parker is my favourite kind of heroine, trying to bring herself back up after falling and doing some things she's not proud of. The characters were wonderful and I was happy to see some that I met in Catching Jordan. I'm a sucker for books where other characters make cameos, so I know I've picked the right series to read.

"You only live once, and if something feels right to you and you want it, you should go after it."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Fill-In Boyfriend

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

My WoW this week is:

The Fill-In Boyfriend
By Kasie West
Expected Publication: May 5th, 2015

From Goodreads:

When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for month now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend - two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley. 

The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose names she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party - three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship. 

Kasie West has impressed me with every book she's written, so I'm really excited to read this next one from her. It looks like it will be just as much fun as her others, with some drama and miscommunication laced in. If you're a contemporary fan, you'll love Kasie and you should definitely pick up her other contemporary books - The Distance Between Us and On the Fence. May can't come soon enough!

What's your Waiting on Wednesday?

Review: A Little Something Different

A Little Something Different
Author: Sandy Hall
Published: August 26th, 2014
Paperback, 272 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common - they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out.

But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The barista at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.

Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together...

There is one main selling point for this novel, actually make that 14. This love story is told through 14 different viewpoints and not one of those perspectives is one of our lovers. It was the most interesting way to read a story and I found myself not being able to put it down. Through the eyes of Gabe and Lea's peers, teachers, and a squirrel, we find out everything we know about our couple and we watch as they slowly, hopefully, get together. Some of these characters know our couple, like Gabe's brother and Lea's roommate, but others are pretty indifferent to the situation yet find themselves just as involved as the rest. Soon everyone is rooting for these two to get together, yet Gabe and Lea can't seem to find a way to do it.

I loved every different perceptive. Inga, the creative writing teacher became quickly entangled in the two of them and slowly tried to get them together. She was very invested for an outsider, but I liked how she picked a different couple every year so play matchmaker with. We learn a lot about Lea from her roommate and we quickly discover that she does like Gabe, she's just really shy. Gabe likes Lea too, he tells his brother about her a lot, but there's something stopping him from being with her, and boy is he just as shy as she is. The baristas were my favourite. She hated watching the two of them, but soon she was part of the team, rooting for them to get together. The lady at the diner sits them together in hopes of something happening and the chinese food delivery guy makes a point of pointing out that they always order the exact same thing and if they share, they could save some money. It was really cool how much everyone wanted them to be together, but it was also a little much. Everything was always about Gabe and Lea. We didn't learn much about all these other characters as everyone was so focused on our couple. As a hopeless romantic, I loved it, but it just didn't seem real enough. The best is still the squirrel, who loved when Lea sat with him because she always gave him food, and the bench, which spoke of cold butts sitting on it and not appreciating it properly. They were nice little laugh out loud perspectives that broke up the book nicely.

I loved the diversity in this book. Lea isn't white, Gabe isn't the perfect guy and we meet such an array of characters that not one of them is blatantly stereotyped. This book was certainly something different and it stands out on its own amongst the rest of the love stories out there. Gabe and Lea were so much like real teenagers, shy and scared of what might happen if you put your heart out there, and it was a nice change from the insta romances I've been reading a lot of. This is definitely worth a read. It's a quick, fun story that will have you laughing, pouting, and rooting along with the rest of the characters for Gabe and Lea to get together.

"Watch these two. They come in here every once in a while, and she goes to one corner and he goes to the other, and then they move around the store creating parabolas as they come together and bounce apart. They're the weirdest couple on Earth. I want to write math equations about them."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review: Hexed

Author: Michelle Krys
Published: June 10, 2014
Hardcover, 384 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

If high school is all about social status, Indigo Blackwood has it made. Sure, her quirky mom owns an occult shop, and a nerd just won't stop trying to be her friend, but Indie is a popular cheerleader with a football-star boyfriend and a social circle powerful enough to ruin everyone at school. Who wouldn't want to be her?

Then a guy dies right before her eyes. And the dusty old family Bible her mom is freakishly possessive of is stolen. But it's when a frustratingly sexy stranger named Bishop enters Indie's world that she learns her destiny involves a lot more than pom-poms and parties. If she doesn't get the Bible back, every witch on the planet will die. And that's seriously bad news for Indie, because according to Bishop, she's a witch too.

Suddenly forced into a centuries-old war between witches and sorcerers, Indie's about to uncover the many dark truths about her life - and a future unlike any she ever imagined on top of the cheer pyramid. 

This was one of the best kind of paranormal books. The paranormal elements are small, and they seem so real that you think there could actually be a witch living in the Occult shop. There were a lot of contemporary elements that made this a quick, fun read, and every character was charming and came to life. Indie is popular, but nothing she did really made her scream 'mean girl', which was a nice change from the popular stereotype. She's content cheerleading and hanging out with her boyfriend, but the minute she sees a guy die right in front of her, everything changes. When that guy comes back to life and starts following her around, claiming she's a witch, Indie's life spirals out of control. With the help of her nerdy friend Paige, and Bishop, the hot dead guy, Indie finds herself in a race to get back a family heirloom in order to save witches everywhere.

Indie is a great narrator. She's funny, sarcastic and made me root for her every step of the way. She's the popular girl you actually wanted to be friends with in high school and I'm glad she didn't have a mean streak in her body. The other characters were just as alive. Paige is the shy, strange girl who ends up being a really great help and even better friend. I love how Indie turned to her for help and how the two of them became really good friends throughout the novel. Bishop is the love interest you love to hate. He's secretive, snarky and does things that would drive a girl crazy. We slowly discover more about him throughout the novel and why he's the way he is and his character growth is a wonderful arc and I couldn't wait for him and Indie to get together.

Magic was a great character as well as it never took over the story. We only knew what Indie knew about how it all worked and I think that was a great way to tell the story, putting us in Indie's situation and not being quite sure of how to get out of it. I liked this but at the same time, I wanted more information about the world Indie was being pulled into. I'm sure we'll learn more in the next book, but those were the parts I wish were stronger. As a character lover myself, I'm glad the characters were the central focus and I loved the romance in this one. I'm a sucker for a good kiss scene and boy did this one deliver. I'm definitely anticipating the next book in this series, Charmed.

"And I just know that this memory will be forever burned into my brain, because this kind of magic - the kind that can't be conjured with a spell, where everything is just right, and all your problems vanish for three perfect minutes - doesn't happen everyday."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: Hold Still

Hold StillHold Still
Author: Nina LaCour
Published: September 25, 2009
Paperback, 231 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

I am a girl ready to explode into nothing.

That night Ingrid told Caitlin, I'll go where you go. But by dawn, Ingrid was dead and Caitlin was alone. Suddenly Caitlin has to deal with a completely unfamiliar life - a life without the art, the laughter, the music, and the joy she shared with her best friend. When she finds the journal Ingrid left behind, Caitlin gets a chance to learn about another side of her friend; and the journal becomes her guide as she deals with forging new friendships, finding a first love, and learning to live without the one person who knew her best. 

Every so often I come across an author that changes everything I thought I knew about YA books. Nina LaCour struck me hard with The Disenchantments, a novel so different from what I usually read but grabbed hold of me as soon as I opened it. I thought it was a one of a kind thing, and didn't bother to pick up the book she had released before it and continued on with life. Then she released Everything Leads to You and I fell in love all over again for a completely different reason. Neither book had a similar theme, and every character was so different from the rest. So I knew I found something good and just had to find her first book. I like the thrill of finding a book in a store rather than just buying it online so when I finally tracked in down in a Coles in Brantford, I bought it and read it right away. This book is nothing like her others except that it's just as well written and the story pulls you in and doesn't let go.

Caitlin is going through something I hope to never have to face. Her best friend Ingrid has just committed suicide, leaving Caitlin alone to face the rest of high school. They promised each other they'd leave, but Ingrid broke the promise. Nothing is the same without Ingrid: the teachers don't notice Caitlin anymore and the looks she gets in the hall burn into her memory. Ingrid was the perfect one, the pretty one, the creative one. Caitlin wonders if everyone wishes she was in Ingrid's place. Caitlin begins a journey when she discovers a journal Ingrid left for her and it takes her into a new world, a world without Ingrid but one that is just as good. With the help of Ingrid's words, Caitlin learns to let go, use photography as her output and finds love for the first time. This is an incredible journey of a girl starting over after losing the one girl who meant the most to her. The tone is not light and at times I found it hard to read as I've almost lost people to suicide, but Caitlin acceptance and forgiveness is heart breaking and touching and LaCour has captured these emotions wonderfully.

The photography plays just as much a part as every character. Caitlin first uses it for attention, trying to get her teacher, Ms. Delani, to notice her without Ingrid. This journey plays in with Caitlin befriending Taylor and feeling things she thought she'd never feel after Ingrid's death. Their relationship is beautiful and even though Caitlin tries to push him away, he constantly waits for her, knowing she'll need him when she falls. There were particular moments that penetrated through my skin as the perfect metaphors for grief. Caitlin builds a treehouse, a project she puts all her time into and doesn't stop until it's done and perfected. And through Ingrid's journal, we delve into their friendship and her mind and remember that not everything is perfect, not everybody is happy and fine and no one is who they say they are. Her journal entries were beautiful and they helped Caitlin get to a point where she didn't need them anymore.

There's something about suicide books that draw me in. Maybe it's the spotlight on a mental illness that gets a bad rep, or it's because authors do such an amazing job at capturing a moment of grief that will never go away. Suicide stays with us forever, as all death does, especially when a teenager must face it. If these books, any books about suicide, help just one person realize their life is worth living, than the author has accomplished something. LaCour captured this darkly and poignantly and she will continue to be a must read for me from now on.

"The sun stopped shining for me is all. The whole story is: I am sad. I am sad all the time and the sadness is so heavy that I can't get away from it. Not ever."

Review: Boys Like You

Boys Like YouBoys Like You
Author: Juliana Stone
Published: May 6, 2014
Hardcover, 288 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

One mistake. And everything changes.

For Monroe Blackwell, one small mistake has torn her family apart - leaving her empty and broken. There's a hole in her heart that nothing can fill. That no one can fill. And a summer in Louisiana with her Grandma isn't going to change that...

Nathan Everets knows heartache first-hand when a car accident leaves his best friend in a coma. And it's his fault. He should be the one lying in the hospital. The one who will never play guitar again. He doesn't deserve forgiveness, and a court-appointed job at the Blackwell B&B isn't going to change that...

Captivating and hopeful, this achingly poignant novel brings together two lost souls struggling with grief and guilt - looking for acceptance, so they can find forgiveness. 

There are certain things I look for in Contemporary YA: great characters that pull you right in, something that these characters have to strive towards or need to make it through and such A+ romance. This book had everything I love about YA and I devoured it so quickly that I turned the last page and begged for more. This was the perfect summer read and I felt the Louisiana heat in the atmosphere and in the romance. I was given this book by a friend who told me it was fantastic YA and that i would not be disappointed and I wasn't in the least. It's a such small, unknown book, but I'm so glad I was given the chance to discover it.

Monroe and Nathan were two characters that needed each other more than they thought they would. Neither wanted to be where they were that summer. Monroe was sure being in Louisiana with her Grandma would not make her feel any better after the tragedy she experienced. And Nathan knew he didn't deserve to to walking around and having a job while his best friend lay in a coma and it's all his fault. Both were looking for a low key summer, but when Monroe opens the door of her Grandma's house and finds Nathan on the other side, neither could have imagined what a summer it would turn into. At first, neither really liked each other, which is my favourite time of romance. I love the bickering and the nonsense about never liking them until that minute the realize it's all a lie. It didn't take long for Monroe and Nathan to become friends, especially since her Grandma kept forcing them together. The tension between them was palpable and I couldn't wait for the moment where they finally admitted it to themselves and each other. The build was amazing and paced perfectly, with moments that made me swoon and others that made me cry.

The tragedy was rightfully placed and did not over power the emotional need throughout the book. Yes, it was awful what happened to both characters, but the important part was how they survived after the tragedies, not the tragedies themselves. I liked that we knew Nathan's tragedy right away and watched him struggle as he tried to live with it, but Monroe's was a bit a mystery and it helped pace the story as we tried to figure out what happened it her. It was brutal when revealed and Stone did it all perfectly. The greatest part of the whole thing was that they had each other to help them through this tough time and that's important, whether it's a boyfriend, a friend, or family, to have someone help you along. Monroe and her Grandma had a rocky relationship, but I love how supportive her Grandma was of her the entire time, like she knew eventually Monroe would come around.

The dual perspectives worked really well in this book. Each character had a unique voice and we learned a lot by getting into both their heads. It made the romantic tension was fantastic and I'm still thinking about how this book made me feel. Kudos, Juliana, I'm desperate for more.

"It had been so long since I'd let anyone touch me, let alone hold me like this. Like we were already a part of each other. 'Are you done waiting?' 'Yeah,' he said throatily. 'I am.'"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review: Catching Jordan

Catching Jordan
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Published: December 1, 2011
Paperback, 283 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

One of the boys.

What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys though - she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. 

But everything she's ever worked for is threatened when Ty Green moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he's also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan's feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart's on the line?

It took me a long time to pick up a Kenneally book and I regret not reading this sooner. There aren't that many YA books with sports as a main theme, and though I don't know much about football, I really enjoyed reading about girl keeping up with the guys. Jordan is the Queen of the field, both the captain and the quarterback of her high school team and she's determined to get a scholarship and play football in college. Her father doesn't want her to play in college, worried that she'll get hurt, but she's not worried, she just wants to play. But when Ty Green shows up at school one day, the new kid and a damn good quarterback, she feels immediately threatened. But the more she tries to hate him, she the more she falls for him instead.

Every character in this book stood out to me. Jordan is brave, fierce, and determined. She's a really good friend to all the guys on the time and they are just as good back, willing to do anything to protect her. They never treat her like a girl and she likes it that way. Her best friend Sam Henry is with her every step of the way, rooting for her to get into a good school and play football in the big leagues. It's pretty obvious that he loves her, but she doesn't see this as she starts dating Ty. Ty was sweet and never tried to steal the QB position from Jordan, instead he encouraged her along with the rest of the guys.

Jordan's life isn't perfect though and she has to deal with a lot of problems that most teenagers face. She feels like her dad doesn't believe she can play as he never comes to watch her but he always goes to her brother's games. He's scared for her but she is determined to prove to him that she can do it. She is scouted by a college, but they only want her for her looks and because she is a girl and she knows she'll never actually get to play if she goes there. She's worried about her weight and what she looks like because she's bigger than the other girls in school. And of course she's fragile around Ty. her feelings overruling her head and she's not sure what to do. This is the perfect contemporary book, with a good plot and great characters. Kenneally has what it takes to be a great contemporary author and I'm excited to read her other books in this series.

"One thing I learned a long time a go is that even if you think you're meant to be with someone, that doesn't necessarily mean you get to be with them."

'When unrequited love is the most expensive thing on the menu, sometimes you settle for the daily special."

Review: Dorothy Must Die

Dorothy Must Die
Author; Danielle Paige
Published: April 1, 2014
Hardcover, 464 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado - taking you with it - you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books, I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though - but even that's crumbling. 

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm - and I'm the other girl from Kansas.

I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.

I've been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

This is not the Oz we know. Dorothy's back with a vengeance and have hoarded the magic from Oz. It's gone to her head and no one can stop her. Oz is no longer a friendly place. The Lion is the leader of an army, the Scarecrow is a mad scientist who experiments on traders in his workshop and the Tin Man patrols the area and punishes those who go against Dorothy's rules. Few people left in Oz believe there is hope for saviour, but when Amy drops from the sky through a tornado, the same way the last girl from Kansas arrives, they think she may be able to save them.

I loved this book from the start. Amy doesn't have the best life. She lives in a trailer with her mom and she can't wait to get out of her little Kansas town. But ending up in Oz was not in her plan. Oz is very different from what you'd remember from the original book or movie and Paige has drawn this new world out of a well known one. When we land in Oz with Amy, we're shocked mostly because it's so different. Amy quickly becomes involved with the Wicked Witches, who in this version of Oz, are the good guys. She joins the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked and begins training to do one thing - kill Dorothy. It was a lot of fun to read about Amy going through the motions of learning magic and falling for her trainer. There are hints at so much more to come and I'm sure the next instalments will be just as good. Dorothy was awful, but I loved what they did with her. She was kind of slutty, really bossy and the perfect person for you to hate. I loved how different, yet similar this was to the original. All the characters made appearances, but in very different ways. The plot was fast-paced and kept adding to the whole story and the ending, leading up to Amy killing Dorothy was well done even though that didn't happen.

My only problem with it is that in the inner flap describes what Amy needs to do: Take the Tin Man's heart, steal the Lion's courage and take the Scarecrow's brain and then kill Dorothy. There's no mention of any of this in the book until the last chapter and then it all happens very quickly to finish the book. I would have liked that to be a bigger plot from the beginning instead of something talked about vaguely and then accomplished in less than a page. All in all, it was a great re-telling and I'm excited to read more of this series. I'll never look at Oz the same way again.

"And then I thought: Bring it on. There's no place like anywhere but here."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Review: Ugly Love

Ugly Love
Author: Colleen Hoover
Published: August 5, 2014
Paperback, 337 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she knows it isn't love at first sight. They wouldn't even go as far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn't want love, she doesn't have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules miles has for her.

Never ask about the past. Don't expect a future. 

They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can't handle it at all.

Hearts get infiltrated. Promises get broken. Rules get shattered. Love gets ugly.

Colleen Hoover is the queen of New Adult. She takes two people, makes them fall quickly head over heels for each other, and then takes it away so quickly we don't have time to understand why. Something unfathomable happens and we hope for a happy ending, but we don't know if we'll get it. If anyone has read any of her books, you'll know she does this well, and Ugly Love is no exception. Tate knows too many pilots, her father and her brother both are, so it's no surprise when Miles is also a pilot. But it is a surprise when he's almost passed out in front of her brother's door, her new door since she's moving in, and she has no idea who he is or why he's calling her Rachel. Their relationship continues just as it started - rough around the edges with a lot of tension. She doesn't have time for him as she's working full time as a nurse as she continues through med school. But she can't help looking at him and she knows he feels it too and the moment they take things further, she knows she's lost.

They agree on sex without strings, but does that ever work out for anyone? They hide it from her brother but Miles soon gets very protective. Tate doesn't mind, except for the fact that he's still hiding his feelings from her and she knows he cares about her but he won't admit it. The further Tate falls, the harder it is to get back up. Tate wants to know everything about Miles, but she knows she can't ask, she knows she can't find out who Rachel is, and maybe it's best if she doesn't. But the truth always comes out and when it does, Tate doesn't know if she can handle it or if it has even made them stronger. She must decide if she'll be sticking by Miles or if it's best to stop their relationship once and for all.

These two tore at my heart. They clearly have feelings for each other but will not admit it at all. The more Tate falls for him, the more we find out about his past. Tate's chapters are in the present, but Miles' are in the past and we slowly become clear as to why he is how he is and what happened between him and Rachel. We find out before Tate does and it's brutal as we watch her struggle to find a way to get him to open up when we know how hard it will be when he does. This book is ugly. It will make you smile on one page and then rip out your heart on the next. I wanted to slap Miles and I wanted to tell Tate to stop sleeping with him, but yet I still wanted them to continue doing it all because I wanted them together.

Hoover is a fantastic writer. She weaves everything together to explode at the climax. Her dual perspectives work in her favour and I fell in love with her characters as I normally do. I seriously can't wait for more from her even though I know I'll be crying by the end of it.

"Love isn't always pretty. Sometimes you spend all your time hoping it'll eventually be something different. Something better. Then, before you know it, you're back to square one, and you lost your heart somewhere along the way."

Review: Opal

Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published: December 11, 2012
Paperback, 382 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

After everything, I'm no longer the same Katy. I'm different... and I'm not sure what that will mean in the end. When each step we take in discovering the truth puts us in the path of the secret organization responsible for torturing and testing hybrids, the more I realize there is no end to what I'm capable of. The death of someone close still lingers, help comes from the most unlikely source, and friends will become the deadliest of enemies, but we won't turn back. Even if the outcome will shatter our worlds forever. 

Together we're stronger... and they know it. 

This series just keeps getting better. Katy and Daemon are officially a couple now(!) and they continue to make me smile. If I liked them when they were always fighting, I like them more now that they're always kissing. Though they don't get much time to do that since hell has broken loose and they need to stop the DOD from experimenting on people. This book was action packed and set it up nicely for the fourth book in the series, Origin.

Opal picks up right where Onyx ended. Dawson is back and determined to rescue Beth from the DOD without thought of what might happen when he gets there. Dawson is angry (for good reason) and Katy takes it upon herself to be the voice of reason and calm him down. He's been acting recklessly and won't listen to Daemon, but Katy convinces him that they should rescue her as a team. So they start planning a way to save her when Blake comes back into the picture. Blake treated Katy awfully in the last book, but he blackmails them into cooperating with him so that he can rescue his friend as well. He helps in the training process and gives them insider information and the story builds up to the group going in to rescue Beth, not knowing for sure what's waiting for them into the institution.

Katy grows so much in this book. She's stronger, more mature and acts selflessly to her friends and those around her. As her life spirals out of control, her relationship with Daemon gets stronger and more normal and she gets to spend some quality time with her friends as they prepare for prom. She will sacrifice everything, including herself, to protect those she loves and it's a scary thought, but I love that about her. She doesn't know Dawson well, but she knows he's Daemon's brother and she will do anything to help him become the man he used to be. Katy and Daemon's relationship just keeps getting better and the few times they get to spend alone together were even more swoon worthy than before. The tension between these two is just as palpable as it was when they were fighting and I can't wait for something more to happen between them.

The ending will kill anyone who reads this. It's the kind of cliffhanger we all hate, but it certainly set us up for the next book. I'm excited to see where this book will go and what's in store for our lovers next. This series stands out among the rest of the YA Paranormal stuff that's all around us and I wish I had read it sooner, but I'm glad I'm reading it now.

"You haven't been smiling much. I missed it, so I decided to reward you for doing it."

"Reward me?" I laughed. "God, only you would think kissing someone is a reward."

"You know it is. My lips change lives, baby."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After

Isla and the Happily Ever After
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Published: August 14, 2014
Hardcover, 339 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favourites Anna, Etienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love - set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona - is a swoon worthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins's beloved series. 

If there's one thing to say about this series by Stephanie Perkins it's that she knows how to make us fall in love, make us go through torture when our lovers can't be together, and then makes us swoon all over again when they find a way to be together. This is a plot I can get behind and Stephanie does it perfectly. In Anna and the French Kiss, Anna falls for a guy who's already taken but they can't seem to stay apart either way. Drama ensues. In Lola and the Boy Next Door, Lola has kept her next door neighbour out of her mind since they moved, but when he returns to town, she can't stop the way he still makes her feel. Drama ensues. Now, in the final instalment in this lovely contemporary series, Perkins brings back Isla, the quiet girl who helped Anna out of an awful situation in the first book and Josh, one of Etienne's old friends.

Isla has been in love with Josh from afar for a long time. He's always had a girlfriend, so she just watched longingly, knowing there would never be a time for her. But when she spots Josh in Manhattan over the summer, where they both live outside of school in Paris, she knows this is her chance to talk to him. It helps that she just came from the dentist and it hopped up on pain meds, so sweet, shy Isla can actually talk to him this time. The small conversation between the two of them leads to so much more and before she knows it, Isla is dating Josh(!) If anyone has noticed, when a couplet gets together early in the book, it means it will not be smooth sailing along the way. Isla soon discovers things about Josh she's not sure she likes, like his past relationships, his senator dad and the side it brings out in him. It doesn't help that college is looming around the corner and they most likely won't be going to school anywhere close to each other and they start asking themselves if it's worth the effort, the hardship and the drama to be together.

This book made me laugh, swoon and bawl my eyes out. Isla is the sweetest character, the kind of girl I was in high school. She stays out of people's business and is happy spending time with her only friend. She does what most girls do when they finally get a boyfriend - she starts to spend more time with Josh and makes him the focus of her life. Her grades drop a bit and she gets into trouble, and it's so real it hurts. We have all lost ourselves in a guy so we all know the feeling of making him top priority, even if it wrecks your life. Josh was the kind of guy I would have fallen in love with in high school. The quiet artist with his deep stares and lanky frame. I think that's why this is my favourite one of the series, because they were so real and familiar to me. Their relationship is wonderful and reckless. Josh takes Isla places she has never been and shows her a side of Paris she has never seen. The heartache is real and I was rooting for these two from the first page to the last. The cameos from our favourites from the other books was perfectly timed and any fans will love the part with them.

This whole series will continue to be my favourite. Perkins writes contemporary perfectly and I have yet to find any author who has made me feel the way she's made me feel. Hopefully she's working on a new series!

"Phones are distracting. The internet is distracting. The way he looked at you? He wasn't distracted. He was consumed."

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