Friday, May 30, 2014

{Blog Tour} Review: Don't Fall by Rachel Schieffelbein

Title: Don't Fall
Author: Rachel Schieffelbein
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon

In this contemporary retelling of Rapunzel, seventeen-year-old Anya leads a secluded life in a house on the edge of town with her adopted mother. She doesn't go to public school, doesn't even have a best friend. But Anya doesn't seem to mind. She has her books, her photography, and her daydreams and would do anything to please her mom.
Until one day at the library, the only place Anya is allowed to go alone, she takes a picture of a beautiful boy. Before long she's lying to her mom, and sneaking out to meet Zander. But Zander wants more than a secret romance. If Anya wants to be with the boy of her dreams, she's going to have to risk her relationship with the only other person she's ever cared about.

A contemporary retelling of Rapunzel? Like, you guys should have already known I would be all over that. This was a very cute, romantic story that I enjoyed. I will say, that had I not been told it was Rapunzel, I'm not entirely sure I would have caught on (but then again, sometimes I'm just slow about these things). But since we do know that, I could definitely see the Rapunzel-esque elements that made up this story.

Anya lives with her adopted mother out on the edge of town. She isn't allowed to go anywhere, even having a tutor instead of going to school, except for the library. It's here that she meets Zander. Since her mother refuses to let her date (or have any kind of life), Anya can only see him on her library days, and they begin to date in secret. 

Anya did seem a bit childish at first, but I tried to remember that she has pretty much had no social interaction, her main goal being to try and please her mother. How her mother thought she could get away with hiding her away, especially after she became an adult, I'm not entirely sure. As Anya continues to meet Zander, she becomes more daring, acting out against her mother. She definitely could have made some more mature decisions, but when you've been literally locked away, I guess you can't help it. 

Zander was cute. He wasn't super swoon-worthy like I was hoping, but he was still plenty cute. He was willing to wait for Anya, and deal with her mother issues and baggage. It was a bit insta-lovey, but it was definitely cute and so sweet.  

I liked the dual perspective between Anya and Zander. Sometimes it doesn't work, but this time it did. It was nice to see things from both perspectives, especially with the whole crazy mother thing. The writing at times seemed a bit simple and didn't seem to flow well, but otherwise this was an easy read. 

I did enjoy the reimagining of this story. Even without telling me that it was a contemporary Rapunzel, this was a cute story. It was a light, fluffy read, perfect for a summer day. 

This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Rachel Schieffelbein:

Rachel grew up in a tiny town in Minnesota. She still lives there, with her husband and their four kids. She coaches high school speech and theater, rides Arabian horses, reads as much as she can, and writes stories.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Prom Impossible {by Laura Pauling} 
Title: Prom Impossible
Author: Laura Pauling
Series: Prom Impossible #1
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

1 girl + 1 prom + 3 guys = Prom Impossible!

Cassidy decides her senior year, including prom, will be about Michael Greenwood, the boy destined to be her soul mate. One problem. He hasn’t figured that out yet.But certain events meant as innocent pranks—that weren’t completely her fault—introduce her to Zeke, the reformed bad boy. And cutting deals in the boys’ bathroom with Jasper, the hottest guy in school, lands her in a complicated web of half-truths that spirals out of control.At the end of the year, she’s dateless the day before the big night but risks a lot more than her pride if she can’t find a way to fix her mistakes.PROM IMPOSSIBLE is a modern-day Shakespearean romantic comedy in the world of teens, true love, and life.

I went into this book hoping for a light, cute, fluffy read. And I'm pleased to announce that I did, in fact, get that. This is a fun little read that will definitely have you reminiscing your high school years and prom (if you went, which I did not) or imaginging your years to come if you're not there yet. 

Cassidy has her plan: get Michael to realize that he's her soulmate, and go with him to the senior prom, and make senior year the best year ever. Only issue? Michael doesn't really notice her as more than a friend. She was not counting on the complication that was Zeke, who she meets when she pulls one prank too many and gets sent to a program for "troubled" youth. 

Cassidy is…well, a hot mess. She makes everything way more complicated than it needs to be, to the point where there were sometimes when I just didn't get it. But, for the most part, this made the story hilarious to read about. She definitely has a knack for getting into every mess she could possible manage to get into, although reading about her getting out of them (or, usually, making a bigger mess) made this book a lot of fun. 

The only other thing I didn't really get was her fascination with Michael, and why she thought he was her soulmate. I suppose there were years of background between the two, but in the actual story he doesn't really…do anything. This one-track mindset left her blind to everything that was going on around her…including Zeke. 

Zeke was definitely a redeeming part of this story. He was cute and definitely swoon-worthy. I already mentioned that I couldn't really feel anything for Michael. Jasper was just bad news from the start, which leads us to…

Cassidy made a lot of bad decisions, ones that had me shaking my head (but none that would actually turn you off from reading it). Like I said, her one-track mind left her blind to consider other people and how they are also affected by her decisions. But she also matures and grows throughout the story, and I think she came to some very mature and responsible decisions by the end of the book. 

I would definitely recommend this if you're looking for a fun, light read. Something to help relive those memorable prom and high school experiences ;) It will have you shaking your head and laughing out loud at the same time. 

I received an eARC from the author in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way. 

This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Laura Pauling:

Monday, May 26, 2014

{Guest Post by Laura Pauling} Life Lessons from Prom Night

Hey guys! Today, I am excited to bring you a guest post from the author of Prom Impossible, Laura Pauling. She'll be talking about some of her prom experiences that she used to shape Cassidy's story. So without further ado, let's give Laura a warm welcome! 

Life lessons from Prom Night

Gosh, prom can be so complicated yet so simple at the same time.

Some girls start thinking about prom months before. They might see that guy they’ve been crushing on for weeks or maybe months, and their hearts can’t help but pitter patter at the thought of being asked by him.
Or maybe, they’re falling hard for their best friend, wondering if he’ll ask, and if he does, how will they survive the night? Should they let the guy know how they feel?

I dated this one guy on and off over the course of my senior year. His eyes were those startling blue kind of eyes that a girl fell headlong into, and boy, did I ever.

I really, really wanted to go to prom with him.

There were several factors that played into prom that last year of high school. By our senior year a lot of the “groups” started melding together. Friendships spread and it became extremely hard to have a small group of people over because that would turn out to be about fifty people. Everyone was friends with everyone else. Maybe not super close but close enough.

It was a neat experience and one I haven’t experienced since.

So you’re probably asking what this has to do with prom? By the spring of our senior year this melding of groups left prom wide open. This guy with startling blue eyes? We danced on edge of dating seriously but going to prom together was in no way a given or assumed.

And one of his close friends asked me.

Looking back now, I barely remember senior prom, but there’s one picture in my yearbook that says it all. It’s a picture of me and blue eyes dancing together.

Even if you don’t get asked by the guy you’re crushing on, sometimes things have a way of working out.
For me as I wrote Prom Impossible, all my experiences from prom nights influenced the story. The more I wrote, the more I realized that as important as one night may seem, often, it’s not who we go with or whether we have the best dress that matters. Not even the memories, because those will fade.

Instead, it’s realizing that when things don’t work out the way we want them too, we need to move forward. Eventually, in hindsight, we’ll see how that one night fit with the rest of our life. How, at times, life has a way of working together for good.

the book:

Title: Prom Impossible
Author: Laura Pauling
Release Date: May 1, 2014
Publisher: Redpoint Press
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

1 girl + 
1 prom +
3 guys = Prom Impossible

Cassidy decides her senior year, including prom, will be about Michael, the boy destined to be her soul mate. One problem. He hasn’t figured that out yet.
But certain events meant as innocent pranks—that weren’t completely her fault—introduce her to Zeke, the reformed bad boy. And cutting deals in the boys’ bathroom with Jasper, the hottest guy in school, lands her in a complicated web of half-truths.
At the end of the year, she’s dateless the day before the big night but risks a lot more than her pride if she can’t fix her mistakes.

Prom Impossible is a modern-day Shakespearean romantic comedy in the world of teens, true love, and life.

the author:

Laura Pauling:

Laura Pauling is the author of the exciting young adult Circle of Spies Series and the time travel mystery, Heist. She writes to entertain and experience a great story…and be able to work in her pajamas and slippers. Prom Impossible is her newest YA romantic comedy, published as of May of 2014. To keep up on her new releases sign up for her newsletter so you don’t miss out!

Thanks for sharing that experience with us, Laura! I never went to prom (junior or senior), so I have nothing to share. Please, share some of YOUR prom experiences with us! We'd love to hear all about them :)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Staff of Serapis {by Rick Riordan}

Title: The Staff of Serapis [novella]
Series: Percy Jackson & Kane Chronicles Crossover #2
Author: Rick Riordan
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

In this adventure, Annabeth encounters more oddities in the subway than usual, including a two-headed monster and a younger blond girl who reminds her a little of herself. . . 

I didn't think it could get much better than Percy + Carter in The Son of Sobek. But apparently, the only thing better than Percy + Carter is… Sadie + Annabeth.

I mean, I loved this story. Annabeth and Sadie have the same witty, sarcastic, sassy personalities, which could have been either really bad or really good. Thankfully, it was really good, as the girls were able to hit it off--at least, well enough to fight a monster.

Since this was a short story, I really don't have much to say. It was well-written, hilarious, and captivating like all of Rick Riordan's work. If you've read both series, you know the explanations for certain things, like Sadie turning into a bird. So seeing them from each other's point of view, and just how strange it was interesting and just funny.

If you need something to hold you over, or are missing the Kane's (or even if you're not) then you need to read this. Seriously.

Rick Riordan:

Website | Blog | Twitter | Goodreads

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cloak of the Light {by Chuck Black}

Title: Cloak of the Light
Author: Chuck Black
Series: Wars of the Realm, #1
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Tragedy and heartache seem to be waiting for Drew Carter at every turn. Sydney Carlyle, a mysterious and elusive girl offers encouragement through her faith, but Drew is too logical and scientific to believe that her prayer of healing was anything but coincidental in the restoration of his eyesight. As his sight returns, he discovers that the accident has heightened his neuron activity, giving him skills and sight beyond the normal man. When he begins to see fierce invaders that no one else can see, he questions his own sanity, and so do others. But is he insane or do the invaders truly exist? The only one who can help him, his genius friend Benjamin Berg, has disappeared. In Drew's quest to find Ben, he discovers that the invaders themselves are at war, for his efforts to thwart the devastating actions caused by the dark invaders are aided by invaders with a different nature. Time grows short as the dark invaders close in on Drew. With skills that no other man possesses, and help from Benjamin and Sydney, Drew initiates a plan to expose the invaders to the world.

Okay, this was one that I originally picked up a few months go, couldn't get into, and set it back down. But I'm so glad I decided to pick it back up, because once I got into it, I really enjoyed it. 

The writing starts out a bit simplistic, and there is some info-dumping, which is what made it hard to get into in the first place. I can understand wanting to give the background on Drew's life since he was 12, because it is pretty important to who he is, but it was very dry. However, once we get to where things start happening, it did pick up a bit. 

Drew starts the story as a young boy of only 12, who loses his father. The story progresses through the rest of his middle school and into high school. He moves in the middle of high school, and his new school is where he meets Benjamin, the geeky genius kid. Stuff happens, the boys go off to college. It's here where the main part of the story happens. Ben had been an assistant to a professor who was trying to do something science had never seen: accelerate light. The professor seems to succeed, only to disappear. Ben and Drew take it upon themselves to go to the lab and see if it was true. And indeed, they see the very thing that may have gotten the professor killed: alien invaders. Tragedy strikes, Drew goes blind, and Ben drops off the grid. But! Lo and behold, no only does Drew's sight return fully, it's better. As in, he's the only one who can see the alien life forms. All is not as it seems, as there are actually two groups fighting each other: the light ones, and the dark ones. And it's up to Drew to save the world. 

Like I said, the beginning was very simple. It felt like I was reading a history of events, which I guess I was, but it didn't quite feel like a story. The writing, although stays simplistic, does progress and grow as the story and Drew does (which may be the point). It did take me a while to get invested into the story, but once I did, I was hooked. 

The characterization varied. Some were well-written, some fell flat. Drew was the most well-written, obviously. Seeing him go from twelve to an adult led to seeing grow and mature in a way that we didn't get to see from the other characters. Ben was written with just the right touch of genius paranoid science geek. Sydney, I'm torn on. Her whole identity is wrapped up in her being a "church girl". And while sometimes she had moments of depth, other times she just fell flat. The rest of the characters, even Jake (Drew's father figure) and his mother, were not memorable. They were just there. With the exception of the invaders, that is. 

The one thing that put me off was how easy things were for Drew or how perfectly things worked out. Okay, okay, being chased by aliens AND the FBI and having to drop of the grid is not example of things working out perfectly. I realize some of it was supposed to illustrate God looking after him because he was called for a purpose, and the other was his enhanced senses and reflexes after the accident. But still. 

But, I really did love the plot and idea if this one. I'm a bit of a science nerd myself, so I love reading about technological and scientific discoveries, if done well, with the right amount of realism and understanding, then it is quite enjoyable. I was very much intrigued by the science fiction part of it. 

This was also such an interesting way to portray spiritual warfare. We, as readers, realize that the "alien invaders" he sees are actually angels and fallen angels. He, as an atheist, does not realize this. (I did laugh when he tells the Reverend that the Bible doesn't talk about what he's going through. Actually, bud…) I also did love, not part of the book but at the end, where the author goes through the chapters and gives Biblical references for the themes he uses. It was a great way to be subtle in the story, but also to in depth for those who wanted to. 

The book is action-packed, and once you get into it, will hook you. I would definitely recommend it. Even if Christian fiction isn't really your thing, if you enjoy science fiction or topics of this nature, I think you would really enjoy it. I already can't wait for the next one to see what happens. 

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. 
This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Chuck Black:

Website // Facebook // Twitter

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

{Blog Tour} Review: The Only Boy by Jordan Locke

The only boy
Title: The Only Boy
Author: Jordan Locke
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Mary is stuck in Section One, living with three hundred women in a crumbling hospital. She wonders what life was like two centuries ago, before the Cleansing wiped out all the men. But the rules—the Matriarch's senseless rules—prevent her from exploring the vacant city to find out. Taylor's got a dangerous secret: he's a boy. His compound's been destroyed, and he's been relocated to Section One. Living under the Matriarch means giving up possessions, eating canned food and avoiding all physical contact. Baggy clothes hide his flat chest and skinny legs, but if anyone discovers what lies beneath, he'll be exiled. Maybe even executed. Mary's never seen a boy—the Matriarch cut the pictures of men from the textbooks—and she doesn't suspect Taylor's secret. If she knew, she might understand the need to stop the girls from teasing him. If she knew, she might realize why she breaks the rules, just to be near him. Then again, she might be frightened to death of him. Taylor should go. The Matriarch is watching his every move. But running means leaving Mary—and braving the land beyond the compound's boundaries.

Although I used to love dystopians, the genre has been waning out a bit. I can't hold interest in them like I used to, because more and more of it is becoming too similar. The Only Boy was a unique and refreshing take on this genre, one that I enjoyed immensely. 

Mary lives in a compound with only women, as all the men were wiped out generations ago. They are ruled by the Matriarch, with her dictator-like reign and insane rules. Until the day Taylor arrives. 

Taylor is a boy. After his section was bombed, leaving him the only survivor, he comes to Section One, pretending to be a girl. His ability to pass as a girl is the only thing that will keep alive. Men are so feared, that all mention of them are cut or blacked out from books. No one is allowed to touch, for fear of spreading the disease. A disease that no one knows where it came from, or how to stop it. 

This was an unusual concept, but one that Locke managed to execute quite well. The gender roles posed some interesting questions, and the questions it brought up on child-rearing and humanity in general will make you think, adding depth to the story. 

Were Taylor and Mary a case of Insta-love? Yes, definitely. It could be argued that Mary only really "loved" Taylor because, well let's face it, he's the only boy she's ever seen. There were some parts when their feelings for each other didn't make sense, and led to some irrational decisions. But they are teenagers, and it wasn't unbelievable for how teenagers act (because teenagers are, in essence, irrational human beings). 

But they also were strong characters in their own right. Although this may have pushed the limit for how many times you can "kill" a character, even when they thought they lost each other, they decided to keep going, do what they knew was right to make it a better place for their people. 

This was a fast-paced novel, with short chapters and enough description to understand but not overwhelm. Although this isn't something that always works, it worked very well for this case. 

So if you're looking for a different and refreshing take on dystopian, then I would definitely recommend this book. It was a unique perspective, that was executed quite well. If you're looking for a different kind of read, this is the one for you. 
This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Jordan LockeJordan Locke 

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Jordan Locke lives in Connecticut with his wife, two lively daughters and a well-behaved whippet. A graphic designer by trade, his creativity spilled over into the literary world. After years of writing, reading and learning the craft, his fifth novel, The Only Boy, brought him offers of representation from two well-known agents. Now, after the dog is fed and the kids are in bed, you will find him tapping away at the keyboard.

$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 6/8/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
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Monday, May 19, 2014

How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love {by Ken Baker}

Title: How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love
Author: Ken Baker
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

"Thick. Heavy. Big boned. Plump. Full figured. Chunky. Womanly. Large. Curvy. Plus-size. Hefty." To sixteen-year-old Emery Jackson, these are all just euphemisms for the big "F" word—"fat." Living on a Southern California beach with her workout fiend dad, underwear model sister, and former model mother, it is impossible for Emery not to be aware of her weight.
Emery is okay with how things are. That is, until her "momager" signs her up for Fifty Pounds to Freedom, a reality show in which Emery will have to lose fifty pounds in fifty days in order to win the million dollars that will solve her family's financial woes. Emery is skeptical of the process, but when the pounds start to come off and the ratings skyrocket, she finds it hard to resist the adoration of her new figure and the world of fame. Emery knows that things have changed. But is it for the better?

This was a hilarious yet touching story of not only just a "fat girl" trying to come to terms with herself and her body, but also a satire against "reality" TV. I think for the most part, we are all aware how staged reality TV actually is, but this gave us a closer, actual look at how things are behind the scenes.

Emery is 16-years-old, the black sheep of an otherwise "perfect" family. Her father is never home, her mother is obsessed with her looks and getting her husband to notice her (spoiler: nothing works) and having a perfect family, and her sister is just obsessed with herself. Emery deals with her stress about her family by eating, which has led to her being severely obese. She's fine with it, until her mother wants her to sign up for a reality TV show where she would have to lose 50 pounds in 50 days.

Emery was so...real. She had her flaws, and that made her much easier to relate with. She is just a teen girl. There are enough problems with that as it is, but she has to deal with this crazy family on top of that. She was hilarious and fun, although she did spend a lot of time making fun of herself or being self-deprecating, to mask her pain. And although she acted like she had no care in the world, everything her family said hurt, but she is a master at hiding her pain.

I don't know how Baker did it (especially being a dude) but Emery's voice was so real and perfect. He was able to exactly capture the essence of a teenage girl and her struggles. Sure, she might have some issues and flaws, but so does every teenage girl, and hers were realistic. She was still a likeable character, one that you will be rooting for.

The rest of the characters, although not worth mentioning separately, were also entertaining. Their depth--or purposeful lack of--was enough for them to help serve their purpose for the story without either taking over or fading too much into the background. Ben was also such a sweetheart. I do like that the romance was one that was already there. There was no hot guy that only liked her after she got hot. Ben was already there for here from the beginning, no matter what happened or what she looked like. (Okay, slight disappointment that nothing happened with Ryan. No fear, there wasn't a love triangle or anything.)

Baker's writing will keep you entertained. You will laugh, but you will also feel for Emery. I admire the way she handled everything that was thrown at her. Emery grows and matures throughout the story, and that speaks a lot for her character. I also appreciate the themes of loving yourself first and being comfortable in your own body, no matter what it looks like.

The secrets were a bit predictable, and I think there needed to be a lot more closure at the end. However, this was still a very enjoyable read, one that I would recommend.

I received an ARC in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way.

This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Ken Baker:

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Friday, May 16, 2014

One More Last Chance {by Cathleen Armstrong}

Title: One More Last Chance
Author: Cathleen Armstrong
Series: A Place to Call Home, #2
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sarah Cooley has come home to Last Chance, New Mexico, for one reason–because it doesn't change. After an engagement gone bad with a man who wanted to change everything about her, Sarah is more than ready for the town whose motto may as well be, “If it ain't broke, don’t fix it.”
Chris Reed, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to spark some change in the little town. As the new owner of the Dip ‘n’ Dine, he’s shaking things up to draw folks from all over the Southwest into his restaurant.
As it turns out, the winds of change are blowing into Last Chance–just not in the ways that Sarah or Chris might expect.
With the same evocative writing and fascinating characters that won fans for her debut novel, Cathleen Armstrong invites readers back to Last Chance for a soul-searching, romantic story of two people navigating the twists and turns of small-town life.

Let's just get it out of the way: I had huge problems with the main character. From the get-go, she annoyed me. Although that was one of the reasons I couldn't fully enjoy this book, I also found myself not really being able to get into it, fully emmerse myself in the story. 

Now, I will say, I didn't read the first book in the series. But as this was one of those series where the MC's of the first book only make an appearance, and there are all new MC's, I didn't have any issues. There may have been more family background, but nothing vital was missing. 

Chris has moved to the little town of Last Chance. He has bought the local diner, and had plans to change things up a bit. He never imagined that he would face such opposition from the people of the town. He also never imagined his sister would leave her 7-year-old, Olivia, with him. The poor guy has hands full trying to run a sinking diner, and now care for a little girl when he has no clue how to do either. 

Sarah has moved back after being away at college. After breaking things off with her long-time boyfriend, she just wants a place to refresh, a place where things never change. Except, she finds out that not only is there a new guy in town, he's trying to change things up. 

There was no excuse for Sarah to treat Chris the way she did, and that was really set the tone for how I felt about her. She comes back to town, finds out Chris might want to make some changes (additions, really) to the menu at the Dip 'N Dine, and treats him so rudely. …what? I just didn't understand. And then yeah, the poor dude had a very obvious crush on Sarah, but she continues to be rude and embarrass him. She does redeem herself a bit with taking Olivia under her wing, and she seems to mature as the book goes on. Until Brandon comes back into the picture. 

This love triangle also got on my nerves. I mean, I'm with Sarah's grandmother in thinking that Chris was the obvious choice. He was sweet, and kind, and shared her faith, and took in his niece. But Brandon, her ex-boyfriend comes back, feeds her some crap about how he loves her, and she falls for it. That wasn't the part that bothered me, necessarily. It was that she should have had some confidence in her new found independence after escaping from under his oppressive thumb (not abusive…more like stifling creativity) the first time. I think the author was trying to write a strong, independent character in Sarah, but it didn't really come through. 

The redeeming parts though! Definitely Chris and Olivia. Chris is going through a lot, but he doesn't let it stop him from caring about other people, especially Olivia. The way he cared for her and loved her was just so sweet. And although he is frustrated, he doesn't assert himself as a dictator, which he easily could have done, being his restaurant. Instead, he listened to his employees, and was willing to compromise with them. 

Olivia will just break your heart. The poor girl has been through so much, and is so bitter, you forget she's only seven. And while all her problems can't be fixed by the end of the book, there is a lot of change in her. Chris and Olivia were the main thing that kept me so interested, enough to keep going. 

Sarah's grandmother was another redeeming part. She was so sweet and caring, even if she was a bit biased toward Chris ;) The rest of the townspeople, with their meddlesome ways, will keep you on your toes and make you laugh. 

So do I recommend this book? If this is your usual type of book, then yes. I think you will enjoy it. If it isn't what you usually read, it might be better to hold back. I know most people won't have the issues with Sarah that I did, so take from that what you will. 

I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way.
This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Cathleen Armstrong:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Second Star {by Alyssa B. Sheinmel}

Title: Second Star
Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete's nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up--and the troubled beauty trapped between them.

As you probably know, there has been a lot of mixed reviews on this book. For the most part, I've seen some ranting and extreme dislike for it, I've seen some meh reviews, and some that didn't feel too strongly either way, although I haven't seen any that really liked it (if you have, please send them my way!). This is going to be one of those that didn't feel too strongly either way.

I've never really been super into Peter Pan, and I've never been a fan of Wendy. This one definitely did nothing to redeem her character, but although I do agree that she made some very dumb choices, she didn't make the character all that worse for me. Maybe it was because I already went in knowing not to expect much, but by the end, I was left with literally feeling nothing towards the story I just read.

the good:

I will say, Sheinmel is an amazing writer. The prose in this story was beautiful, in a way that captivated you from the beginning. Even if you hate the story, her writing is almost enough to keep you reading. It's for this reason that I may try to pick up something else by her and see if I have better luck. 

The story itself was unique. I don't think anyone else would have the guts to take Peter Pan and change it the way she did. The synopsis calls it a radical reinvention of a classic, and I would definitely say that it fits that bill. Some might be okay with the way she chose to reinvent this story, others may hate it. For me, this wasn't the part that ruined what could have been an otherwise great story.

The mystery behind the Darling boys and why they were missing was, at first, also a pro. I was interested in why they were missing, and Wendy's fascination with finding them. However, the way this was drawn out, and the final reveal, sort of ruined this.

the bad:

The characters. That would probably be the biggest thing. None of them had any depth, any reasoning behind anything they did, any reason I would want to keep reading about them. Especially Wendy. Although I can see how losing your two brothers might be traumatizing, nothing she did made sense. In the beginning, she was so focused and serious on finding them, but as soon as she meets Pete and Jas, except for mentioning it here and there, it didn't seem like a lot of searching was going on.

Which leads us to...the love triangle. Hands down the worst part of this. Sure, love triangles are never usually any good, but they can at least be tolerated. This one...not at all. It was just terrible. Nothing about either of the guys made sense. They were honestly both so shady, and I couldn't stand to read about either of them. And Wendy was just dumb when it came to the two of them.

Other than that, I was very meh about the rest of the book. I was confused for a lot of it, and more so in the end. Although I wasn't expecting the twist that did occur, and although it did sort of explain the way Wendy acted for most of the time, it mostly served to just confuse me more. Especially with the twist at the end end. I mean, I'm all for open endings, but this was just more confusion.

I can't honestly say I recommend this book. If you know what you're going into before you read it, you may enjoy it a little better. I know plenty of people who were able to overlook the romance and enjoy the rest of the book. And like I said, Sheinmel's writing is enough to suck you in. So, proceed at your own risk.

I received an eARC through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way.

This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Website // Twitter // Goodreads

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bathsheba Bathed in Grace {by Carol Cook}

Title: Bathsheba Bathed in Grace
Author: Carol Cook
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Adultery, lies, deception, scandal, murder, cover-up, heartache, pain, and loss--stories with these sordid elements are relevant today. And women with shady pasts--labeled, shamed, and linked with tragedies--are part of our heritage. Bathsheba, a victim or temptress, Eve outside of Eden, Tamar posed as a prostitute, Leah stole her sister Rachel's fiance...Sarah gave Hagar to her husband and Rebekah masterminds a grave deception.

Stories about Biblical characters have always fascinated me. Not only do I love anything from this time period, but I also love trying to imagine their lives and what went on in the heads of people that don't even seem real. So I was definitely excited to give this book a shot.

As a whole, this book was just alright. Nothing really stood out to me. Although there were 8 different stories, the voices all sounded the same. I realize that life was very different for women back then compared to how it is now. But even with that in mind, they all sounded very...simple. I do understand that, since they were all short stories, the stories were condensed and not fully drawn-out. However, they just were not really that fulfilling. 

And now for each short story's review (and I would hope that since I'm sure most everyone has a basic enough idea of the Bible stories that anything I say won't be a spoiler...can you even spoil a story that's thousands of years old?):


First off, I'm not sure why this one was first. Then again, the order of these stories didn't really make sense at all. Second, I did not feel I gained more insight into Bathsheba at all. This was probably the story I was most anticipating, because I've always wondered how she felt, what she was thinking. But apparently the answer is..nothing. Seriously. The beginning of the book she is so in love with her amazing husband. And I'm not going to say anything about what happened with David, because she was a woman with no rights and he was the king, and I don't believe she could have helped it or acted any differently. But when she finds out Uriah dies, sure she's sad, but not as much as I feel someone who was that in love should have been. When David wants to marry her, she is so grateful that she won't be shamed and her baby will be legitimate. And actually, I can get that, really. She is a woman, who in her time period, would have been stoned as an adulteress. But even when she finds out that David murdered Uriah, she does not act in the way that a woman in love should. She doesn't react at all. She is just still so grateful that David took her in. I just didn't understand.

If you're interested in Bathsheba's story, I suggest Bathsheba by Jill Eileen Smith, as well as the rest of the series about David's other wives, Michal and Abigail.


Sarah's main story was going to Egypt and lying about being Abraham's sister, but also, of course, Hagar and Ishmael and Isaac. This one was a bit more interesting. Sarah is a dutiful, loving wife, although she's tired of packing up and moving all the time. Then, Abraham not only tells her that they're moving again, but that she has to lie and tell everyone that she's his sister. At the same time, Abraham has been promised that he is going to be the father of many nations, but all Sarah can feel is the intense amount of pressure that puts on her, especially seeing as how she is barren. I felt more emotion from Sarah, about her unbelief, her doubts, her anger at God and Abraham. This was probably one of my favorites out of all of them.

If you're interested in Sarah's story, I suggest Sarai by Jill Eileen Smith


First off, I've not seen that many stories about Hagar. Second, I think it was really neat to get to see both sides of the story, since we only ever get to see Sarah's. Hagar is a young servant girl in Egypt, who becomes part of Abraham's caravan. She is overjoyed when she gets picked to be the personal servant of Sarah, who she admires. I'm not exactly sure how old she is supposed to be, because I imagined her as pretty young. I admire her for putting up with Sarah, and then for her repentance, although the rest of it was just what I already knew from the Bible. I didn't feel like I got that much from her, which saddened me because I was really interested in Hagar.


I don't really have much to say about Rebekah, probably because I'm already so familiarized with her story. There, again, wasn't a lot of depth to this one. I did enjoy the first part of it, the well and finding out about marrying Isaac. It was interesting to see what she thought about something like that, moving so far away from her family and marrying a man she hadn't even seen yet. As for the betrayal of Isaac and Esau, I felt I learned nothing new because it's a story we're so familiar with. However, I did like her perspective on the boys growing up, and why they were favored by each parent, and her dilemma in knowing she shouldn't love one boy more than other, but doing so anyway. It was interesting.

If you're interested in Rebekah's story, I suggest Rebekah by Jill Eileen Smith


Another one where we'll get to see dual perspective. I have always like Leah more than Rachel (even though she's my namesake). I'm not sure why, I've just always felt that she got the short end of the stick. Since the Bible does not really give us that much background on the sisters before Jacob, I thought it interesting that the author interpreted the sisters being very close before Jacob arrived. Other than that, it was nice to see things from Leah's perspective. The whole making up at the end seemed a bit forced and unreal, because I'm not really convinced that was something that would actually happen.

If you're interested in Leah and Rachel's story, I suggest the 18th century Scottish retelling, Thorn in my Heart (and the rest of the series).


I mean, I know I already said I didn't like her as much, but that's not really the reason I didn't like this story. Yeah, Rachel's a bit bratty and childish, but the story was pretty much the same as Leah's. Even the voice sounded mostly the same, with the exception that Rachel was a lot more bitter and seemed more immature. The making-up at the end seemed even more realistic coming from Rachel's perspective. But other than that, it seemed a lot like Leah's story.

If you're interested in Rachel's story, I suggest Rachel by Jill Eileen Smith 


This was probably the best story of the bunch. Tamar's story is one that is pretty scandalous, so it doesn't get talked about much. Since we don't really get to hear about her that much, this story was very interesting and insightful. Tamar's voice was also able to stand out from the rest. The story was done well enough that it's not going to be scandalous or make the reader uncomfortable, which could have happened when dealing with subject matter such as this. This was probably the most insightful and interesting story out of all of them.


This was probably the worst. I think it was too much of a task for the author to imagine what the first woman would have been like. Eve was very simple, childlike person. I suppose this may have been true, but the whole story was very simplistic. Trying to imagine what Eve thought when she first woke up, how the creation of woman even went, the first was probably too much for someone to attempt. It did lend an interesting perspective to the serpent and the apple, the fall of man, and how they had to learn to fare after leaving the garden. 

All in all, this was an interesting read, although not completely captivating, probably due to how short each chapter was. But if you don't want to read a full book on each of the characters, then this would be a good way to gain some insight into some of the Biblical women (although not too sure on the scandalous part in the title).

And no, this is in no way me trying to push you to read Jill Eileen Smith, She just writes good books. If you're interested in fictional retellings of other Biblical women as well, here are some more recs:
Esther: A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf
Hosea and Gomer: Love in a Broken Vessel by Mesu Andrews
Solomon and Arielah: Love's Sacred Song by Mesu Andrews
Rahab: Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar 
Annah (wife of Shem): The Heavens Before by Kacy Barnett-Gramckow
Samson and Delilah: Desired: The Untold Story of Samson and Delilah by Ginger Garrett
Mary Magdelene: Daughter of Jerusalem by Joan Wolf
Martha: Martha by Diana Wallis Taylor
Ruth: Ruth: Mother of Kings by Diana Wallis Taylor
and more that can be found from these authors.

I received an ecopy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way.
This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Carol Cook:

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Monday, May 12, 2014

{Guest Post by Corey Ann Hadyu} Under the Radar YA

Hey guys! Today, I am excited to have Corey Ann Haydu on the blog, talking about some of her favorite Under the Radar YA books! If you didn't already know, she's the author of OCD Love Story and Life By Committee (which comes out tomorrow), so you should definitely check out both books!

Under the Radar YA

Great news: none of us are running out of books to read.

If you love YA literature, you are living in the right moment of time. New wonderful books are coming out every single day (or, like, mostly on Tuesdays and sometimes Thursdays). Your tastes can be incredibly specific and you will STILL have a huge list of books that, if you’re anything like me, it feels like you will never ever get through.

And this is a wonderful thing. Except it also means that some books get a little lost. Or maybe tons of people read them but for some reason no one’s talking about them. Or they are critically beloved but haven’t reached enough readers. Or maybe they’re library favorites but not talked about on blogs or Twitter. It’s hard to know.

Recently, people started tweeting more about their favorite Under the Radar YA novels, and I've been so happy to see people promote books they believe in that their friends might not have heard of for whatever reason. This is such a beautiful part of Twitter, and I wanted to dedicate a blog post to exactly that.

I don’t want to define Under the Radar with too heavy a hand, because it can mean almost anything. For the purposes of this post, I consider Under the Radar anything that I don’t think is getting talked about ENOUGH, given how fantastic it is.

We all want our favorite books to be huge. We want them to have tons of readers. Mostly, selfishly, so that we have more people to talk to about them.

In the case of contemporary YA, I’d say most books could be considered “under the radar”, since even books that get great recognition critically don’t usually make it to bestseller status or get the reader love they deserve.

I want to have more people to talk to about the following contemporary YA and MG books:

Her and Me and You by Lauren Strasnick:
Anything Lauren Strasnick. If you love contemporary YA with unique characters and truly spectacular writing, I expect you to be reading Lauren Strasnick. Today, every day. Always.*
sidenote: I champion her work so often she is probably going to start to think I’m stalking her. I’m not. I am, however, stalking her books.

This Full House and True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff: 
I got my MFA in Writing for Children at The New School, and True Believer was on one of the best course reading lists I've ever had—the reading list for David Levithan’s class on YA literature. These verse novels are everything. Gorgeous. Diverse. Heartbreaking. Enlightening. Authentic. I’m so grateful True Believer was on that course list, since I may never have read it otherwise—I didn't know much about novels in verse, and like so many readers, I’m naturally drawn to stories about people like me. The sad thing about doing that is that you never find out how many people are actually “like me” even if they’re not “just like me”. This character is from a wildly different background and culture than my own. But she’s curious and ambitious and loved learning and in so many ways she, too, is “like me”. What a huge lesson to learn.

Speaking of novels in verse! Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay:
If you have been curious about this whole YA novels in verse thing but are scared you won’t like it, this is the book to start with. It’s a quirky, romantic read with great writing and a classic, confused, unique main character. It’s like reading a great indie movie.

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers:
 I want to believe this author isn't Under the Radar, but not enough people have read this book. I was inspired to write more challenging, complicated, layered characters after reading this one.

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor:
This is MG for anyone who loves dark, difficult contemporary YA and isn’t so sure they’ll be able to relate to an MG voice. If you love reading about troubling family circumstances and strong characters and the search for hope in a world where it’s hard to find any—this is for you. Give MG a try. You’ll like it. This book was recommended to me when I was trying to find my own MG voice for my upcoming MG debut, Rules for Stealing Stars and man did it help me and inspire me and push me to be better.

The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George: 
I heard Madeleine George read at an event in NYC and she was so much more than a reader, she was a performer. The excerpt she read was hysterical, and this book is really unique—both in terms of its alternating perspectives and its content. Plus it’s an LGBTQ read, and a really interesting one about two girls falling in love, even though one of them isn’t ready to own their relationship yet. This should be on every YA list and especially every LGBTQ list.

And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky:
 I love Sylvia Plath. You probably love Sylvia Plath. This book is an ode to Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. And it is one of my favorite YA novels of all time. It is criminially under-talked-about.

Pure Sunshine by Brian James:
 This is a kind of incredible book about intense drug use. It has a compact, tight, physically intense feeling to it. It came out in 2002. I’ve never read anything like it. If you love Ellen Hopkins, you need this one immediately.

The Vow by Jessica Martinez:
Martinez writes such fantastic and diverse YA fiction I am in awe of her. This book is a great pick and very timely. It’s about friendship. And marriage. And immigration. And the meaning of love. It’s got a great structure and a lot of heart. (Her upcoming novel, Kiss Kill Vanish is one of the most arresting, unique YA novels I've ever read, so you’ll have a wonderful follow up to read after this one. But here’s hoping Kiss Kill Vanish is very much above the radar.)

Kendra and Tyrell by Coe Booth. 
Again, these are books assigned to me in David Levithan’s class that, again, I might not have picked up because of that awful impulse to read about girls whose high school experiences remind me of my own. And again, I came to realize I enjoyed even more reading about lives outside my comfort zone, and that I’d find emotional common ground with these characters even if our high school circumstances were world’s apart. These are raw, beautiful, challenging books that I couldn’t put down. As we continue to search for diversity in YA, Coe Booth and her incredible characters and superb writing should be on everyone’s lists. Tell publishers you want more books with characters you haven’t met before. And remember that the best part of reading is often finding emotional truths that resonate beyond circumstances.

Thank you, Corey, for that great post! I know by TBR just got a little bit longer! And in honor of her new book coming out tomorrow, let's take a little look at it, shall we?

the book:

Title: Life By Committee
Author: Corey Ann Haydu
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: May 13, 2014

Tabitha might be the only girl in the history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. But her so-called friends say she’s changed, and they've dropped her flat.

Now Tab has no one to tell about the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her: Joe, who spills his most intimate secrets to her in their nightly online chats. Joe, whose touch is so electric, it makes Tab wonder if she could survive an actual kiss. Joe, who has Tabitha brimming with the restless energy of falling in love. Joe, who is someone else’s boyfriend.

Just when Tab is afraid she’ll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she finds Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe.

Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she’d ever go on her own.

But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go?

the author:

Corey Ann Haydu:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Corey Ann Haydu is a young adult novelist currently living in Brooklyn, NY. Her first novel, OCD Love Story, came out July 2013 from Simon Pulse. Her second novel, Life by Committee will be out in Summer 2014 from Katherine Tegen Books at Harper Collins.
Corey grew up outside Boston, Massachusetts where she learned a deep love for books, cheese, cobblestone streets, cold weather and The Gilmore Girls. She has been living in New York City since 2001, where she has now developed new affections for New Yorky things like downtown bookstores, Brooklyn brownstones, writing in coffee shops, the Modern Love column in the Sunday Times, pilates, leggings, and even fancier cheeses.

So what are some of YOUR favorite Under the Radar YA books?