Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

This week's can't-wait-for-it release is a debut author's book that hits VERY close to home: 

No Place to Fall
Author: Jaye Robin Brown 
Publisher: Harper Teen
Expected publication: December 9, 2014

Amber Vaughn is a good girl. She sings solos at church, babysits her nephew after school, and spends every Friday night hanging out at her best friend Devon’s house. It’s only when Amber goes exploring in the woods near her home, singing camp songs with the hikers she meets on the Appalachian Trail, that she feels free—and when the bigger world feels just a little bit more in reach.

When Amber learns about an audition at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she decides that her dream—to sing on bigger stages—could also be her ticket to a new life. Devon’s older (and unavailable) brother, Will, helps Amber prepare for her one chance to try out for the hypercompetitive arts school. But the more time Will and Amber spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes . . . and Amber starts to wonder if she’s such a good girl, after all.

Then, in an afternoon, the bottom drops out of her family’s world—and Amber is faced with an impossible choice between her promise as an artist and the people she loves. Amber always thought she knew what a good girl would do. But between “right” and “wrong,” there’s a whole world of possibilities.

If there were ever a book that sounded like it was ripped out of the story of my life, it would probably be this one - like Amber, I was a churchgoer in high school, I sang in a lot of choirs, and I was a SERIOUSLY nerdy good girl. I was also looking to go into music after high school...but some stuff happened with my family and I had to make a choice between going to the school I wanted to go to or going to a school I hadn't even considered going to before. 

No regrets, I went to the latter school, and I think it was meant to be - I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made a very good professional musician (for one thing, I lack the talent to be one!), and I love keeping music as my hobby. But suffice to say, this book is me in a nutshell. And I'm curious to see what similarities and differences there are here.

That was probably more than you needed to know about me! As a more general thing, I LOVE books about musicians and people who are auditioning for things - it's inspiring, and this one sounds like a self-discovery journey that I want to be a part of. 

Does NO PLACE TO FALL have similarities to your life? Is this the kind of contemporary book you crave, ones that really relate to your life? Do you like music books? What book are you waiting for this week? Sound off in the comments!
Want to win a book published this month? I'm giving away an April new release - come sign up for a chance to win!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

GIVEAWAY CONTEST: Win an April 2014 YA, New Adult or MG New Release!


Happy mid-April, guys! Is it actually feeling like spring where you are? Here in Toronto, it's still pretty up and down with the cold...so to make it all better, I'm giving away an April 2014 new release!

You know the drill, any young adult, middle grade, or new adult book released this month is up for grabs. There are SO MANY good ones this month! In the interest of not making myself crazy, though, I'm only posting covers for the ones I'm super interested in reading, but feel free to comment with your choices!



Look out for my review soon! | My review

My review | Look out for my review soon!










Rules:

  • Giveaway open internationally provided you can receive shipments from The Book Depository.
  • You're welcome to choose a book I didn't mention here as long as it's an April 2014 new release.
  • I will not be responsible for lost or damaged packages from The Book Depository. 





Monday, April 14, 2014

Early Review: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been Gone
Author: Morgan Matson (twitter | website)
Source/Format: ARC won from Goodreads First Reads program (thank you SO much!)
Expected publication date: May 6, 2014
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Pre-Sloane Emily didn't go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn't do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just... disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try... unless they could lead back to her best friend. Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough.Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a Stranger? Wait... what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Um...


Review:


Since You've Been Gone was my most anticipated contemporary YA of this spring - I LOVED Morgan Matson's first novel, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. I loved it so much that she inspired me to start writing my own novel...which is currently sitting dustily on my computer. ANYWAY.

Because Matson has previously written about loss, I wasn't sure what to expect from this book about the loss of a friendship - one that the protagonist, Emily, feels deeply. Emily is a kind of shy, timid teenager when we first meet her - she's a girl who only gets noticed when she's around her wild best friend, Sloane.

Because of Sloane, Emily has done a lot of things she never thought she could do - she's gone to parties, she's made out with guys, and she's had the kind of best friend that a lot of us only dream of - one who she can call or text at any moment with a silly idea, and one she can always count on to deliver her "best night ever." But now that Sloane has disappeared for the summer, Emily feels completely bereft. This was a little hard for me to connect with because I've never had a friendship that wound so tightly into my existence.

The thing is, Matson writes the book so that you DO believe that Emily would feel this badly about Sloane leaving. The more I got into Emily's character, the more I understood - it's like she's in mourning for Sloane, and she doesn't know who or what to do with herself because so much of her is about Sloane. The only thing she can do is follow a list of crazy tasks that Sloane has left for her (Hug a Jamie. The backless dress - and somewhere to wear it. Kiss a stranger...etc), and hopefully, Sloane will come back and everything will go back to being how it used to be.

As a reader, you know where this is going. Everything is not going to be the same, and Emily will have to grow and change because of it. But despite that slightly obvious concept, Matson never lost me as a reader. I never felt like I was reading a single cliche because of how beautifully and cleverly she unfolds the story, through both her words and the plotting. Each chapter in Since You've Been Gone is titled with one of the tasks that Sloane has given Emily, and within each chapter, there's usually a flashback to a time when Emily is hanging out with Sloane. These flashbacks illuminate Sloane and Emily's character and why Emily is being assigned that task.

But they also illuminate how much Emily has built Sloane up into a magical, ideal best friend. The more I read about Sloane, the more I thought, "Manic Pixie Dream Girl alert!"- that is, a character who is so charming and the perfect romantic foil who shows up at the precise right moment for no other reason than to push the main character along his/her path. What's interesting with this version of the MPDG conceit is that Sloane is that person for another girl, and their relationship is not romantic. Moreover, the more you find out about Sloane and Emily through flashbacks, the more you realize that Sloane is only an MPDG to Emily - she might not be that in reality.

This is one of the masterful, deceptive strokes of this beautiful book - that it is not only a sweet summer romance and a journey of self-discovery - but that it's also a book that deals so realistically with friendship and how we relate to people. I felt like the story was unique because of that friendship - losing oneself in one's friends is something that happens often, but isn't explored much in YA.

I'm making this review sound very serious, but Since You've Been Gone is actually a lot of fun - and funny! The list of tasks that Sloane leaves for Emily makes for a lot of daring moments, and that, plus Emily's new friends and acquaintances that she meets during the summer, creates hilarious and meaningful moments that had me squealing in delight.

Since You've Been Gone had me from page one. I read in huge, giant chunks with not a lot of time in between because it was SO delightful. I couldn't stop reading or thinking about the book - it felt like Morgan Matson reached in and squeezed my heart after every single chapter. This is one of those books where you almost don't want it to end because you're enjoying it so much - but at the same time, you can't wait for it to end so you can read it all over again.

Bonuses:


Kick-Arse Secondary Characters: I love EVERYONE in this book. Every single secondary character is a gem, from Emily's parents, the playwrights, to her little daredevil brother Beckett, to Dawn, the pizza delivery girl to Collins, the doofy best friend of Emily's love interest, Frank (more on him in a second). I even love Emily's sort of ex, Gideon, the quiet guy who wants to be more, but was only a convenience to Emily. I'm just listing people at this point, but know this: Matson never takes the easy way out with any of these characters. They all have real personality quirks, and even if they only show up for a few seconds, they are beautifully imagined and surprising every time.

Frank is like Colin Hanks in Orange County...sorta?
The Love Interest Who Is Not the Typical Hot Boy: FRANK PORTER, be mine! Ok, first of all - how often is the love interest in a book a class president? Frank is a super-focused dude who goes after causes...but he's not the most popular, hot guy, and he's definitely not  a guy who's nerdy. Basically, he's just a really good leader who just kind of wants to be a normal guy. His relationship with Emily is so evenly-paced, and so well-developed...this is the opposite of insta-love, guys, and I LOVED it.

Knock-Me-Over-On-My-Ass Writing: Morgan Matson writes beautiful prose. It's a rare writer who can use SAT words, name-drop playwrights in an eloquent way, and still write in the very authentic voice of a teenager. It's an even rarer author who can take a book with what I consider to be a very simple concept, and make it into such a meaningful story. What Matson has is finesse - the ability to not only write the words clearly and succinctly, but to round out each sentence, each chapter, and each moment so that the words kind of curl around your heart like a blanket and leave you feeling hugged. Here are some examples:

     "But that was my best friend, the kind of girl your eyes went to in a crowd. While she was beautiful - wavy hair, bright blue eyes, perfect skin dotted with freckles - this didn't fully explain it. It was like she knew a secret, a good one, and if you got close enough, maybe she'd tell you, too." 
- Since You've Been Gone, Morgan Matson


     "I closed my eyes only to open them once more, and make sure it was all still there - the riot of stars above me, this whole other world existing just out of reach."
- Since You've Been Gone, Morgan Matson



The Final Word:


One of my biggest wishlist items for YA is more about friendships - and friendships dealt with realistically. Since You've Been Gone delivers on that, and then some. This is a book about taking chances on friendship, about letting go and holding on, and about carving your own path in life. It's a book with adorable romances and moments that can only happen when you're a teen. And it's a book about bravery and strength. This is a book that any girl - and some boys, I'm sure - can relate to. I'm inspired by Emily, and I know that I will definitely learning from - and re-reading Since You've Been Gone several times in the future.

Are you excited for SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE? Have you read any of Morgan Matson's other novels, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour or Second Chance Summer? Are you a summer book or a bucket list girl/guy? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Jessica Darling's It List #2: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Friends, Foes & Faux Friends by Megan McCafferty

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

This week's WoW pick is the continuation of the prequel to one of my most beloved YA series (whew! That's a lot of qualifiers!): 

Jessica Darling's It List 2: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Friends, Foes & Faux Friends (Jessica Darling's It List #2)
Author: Megan McCafferty 
Publisher: Poppy
Expected publication date: September 23, 2014

Jessica Darling is getting the hang of seventh grade -- finally! While her old BFF, Bridget, is busy talking (nonstop) about her new boyfriend, Burke, Jessica tries to fit in with her new friends, Sara, Manda, and Hope. The IT List instructions from her sister, Bethany, and an epic slumber party may help Jessica secure her spot in the cool clique, but does she even want it?

Megan McCafferty's It List series introduces readers to Jessica Darling, an unabashedly brainy seventh grader who stays true to herself, even if it means being (totally not) cool.

I honestly can't believe that this time two years ago, I hadn't read any Jessica Darling. WHAT WAS I THINKING? If you are a YA contemp fan, this series is, like, the series to end all series. Now, Megan McCafferty is putting out the second book in her middle-grade prequel to Jessica Darling. The first book was such a lovely, honest portrayal of a kid who really doesn't realize just how smart or weird she is. It also featured all of our favourite characters from the original series...and shows how they met and became friends. Needless to say, I was all over that shizzle. 

Book two sounds like it delves deeper into the idea of being "cool" and into how Jessica and Hope get closer. I'm really excited for this one because I was TOTALLY not cool in middle school or high school, and I think Megan McCafferty really gets that dynamic of being cool vs. being yourself. 

Are you excited for JESSICA DARLING'S IT LIST #2? Did you read IT LIST #1? Have you read the Jessica Darling series at all (if you haven't, you MUST READ IT NOW)? Were you cool in high school/middle school and do you still have the scars from it? What are you waiting for this week? 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Early Review: Great by Sara Benincasa

Great
Author: Sara Benincasa (website | twitter)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source/Format: eARC provided by publisher on Edelweiss 
Expected publication date: April 8, 2014 (tomorrow!)
My rating: 3.25 stars out of 5 stars

In Sara Benincasa's contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, a teenage girl becomes entangled in the drama of a Hamptons social circle, only to be implicated in a tragedy that shakes the summer community.

Everyone loves a good scandal.

Naomi Rye usually dreads spending the summer with her socialite mother in East Hampton. This year is no different. She sticks out like a sore thumb among the teenagers who have been summering (a verb only the very rich use) together for years. But Naomi finds herself captivated by her mysterious next-door neighbor, Jacinta. Jacinta has her own reason for drawing close to Naomi-to meet the beautiful and untouchable Delilah Fairweather. But Jacinta's carefully constructed world is hiding something huge, a secret that could undo everything. And Naomi must decide how far she is willing to be pulled into this web of lies and deception before she is unable to escape.

Based on a beloved classic and steeped in Sara Benincasa's darkly comic voice, Great has all the drama, glitz, and romance with a terrific modern (and scandalous) twist to enthrall readers.


Review: 


I've read The Great Gatsby quite a few times, so I'm coming at this knowing a lot about the source material. Because of that, this review is kind of different, and I'm breaking it down to the good, in-between, and not-so-good parts of this novel.

The Good: 


The writing, the setting, the mood: All of these things felt so much like the feeling of The Great Gatsby. The lavish parties. The lustre of the Hamptons, always with a dark current of tension and not quite right-ness. Benincasa nailed the mood of the original, and for me, that's the most important part of any writing by Fitzgerald (but especially Gatsby).

The relationship between Jacinta and Delilah: As dumb as this sounds for someone who has a masters in English with a concentration in modern fiction (meaning I read and studied Fitzgerald a LOT), the way that Benincasa approached the main relationship made my understanding of The Great Gatsby that much stronger. I really felt like I understood Gatsby and Daisy a lot more because of their counterparts, Jacinta and Delilah. In a lot of ways (and without spoilers), the reasons for their relationship and the way it's set up made WAY more sense in this book than it did in the original.

The uncliched LGBTQ-ness: One of the biggest surprises of the book for me (I hadn't read a synopsis) was the gender-swapping of Gatsby for Jacinta. As soon as I figured that out, I realized that the book would probably involve a girl-girl relationship (in fact, it involves two lesbian relationships). What I liked about this relationship was that the book wasn't focused on fact that it was a lesbian relationship - there was no coming out or fanfare about it. It simply was, and the characters reacted accordingly and appropriately.

The ending: The ending deviates from the original quite a bit, and I liked it a lot. I don't want to spoil anything, but suffice to say, it's a bit open-ended and it REALLY suits the material. I loved it. Reminded me of Cruel Intentions (click on the link if you don't mind having an idea of the ending...but that's all I'll say about it!).

The In-Between: 


The characters: While I thought Benincasa did an admirable job with making most of the characters feel authentic, I did not like the characters. But then...I don't know if I liked the characters in The Great Gatsby either. I like the original for it's stunning writing and mood - but I'm pretty sure that I hate the characters and I'm supposed to. In both the original and this retelling, pretty much everyone is a vapid, snobby socialite, people who play at life and can get out of anything because of daddy or mommy. And yet, they have this lustre that only comes with living that charmed life...in Great, I felt the same way, so I guess Benincasa did a good job making her characters just as unlikeable.

The Not-So-Good


The disconnect: The main character, Naomi, is supposed to be the everyman through which we enter the story. But for me, she felt a little shallow. She's honest about the fact that she starts out hating the Hamptons society and then as she slips further in, she realizes what it is to be accepted and gets a little wrapped up in it. That seems natural. But somehow, I never really got her, and as the only eyes that we see through, I think I needed to care about her more than I did.

The retelling: This, to me, was the biggest issue in this book: it just felt like TOO much of a retelling and not enough of a unique story. I guess I like my retellings to be more adaptation than straight retelling? Everything in The Great Gatsby, from the "eyes" to the heat of the day that ends in a car crash, to the green light, to the lavish parties...it all lined up just a little too perfectly in GREAT. I was left with a feeling that I'd just read,  a 2010 synopsis of The Great Gatsby, not that I'd just read a great book.

Bonuses: 


Gossip Girl Fashion: Jacinta is a fashion and party blogger, so it's obvious from the beginning that we're going to get some crazy outfits - and I loved it. Benincasa did a great job describing the outfits and, as a former fashion blogger, they always seemed right for her character and for that scene. And yeah, there's totally a white party in the book.

The Final Word: 


GREAT was an enjoyable read. It definitely felt a little too similar to The Great Gatsby for me, but it completely captured the mood and setting of Fitzgerald's original. I think this would be a great classroom read as a compare-and-contrast, and it's definitely interesting as an LGBTQ read that doesn't involve cliches. This is one for people who like unlikeable characters and a little big of tension and darkness in their reads.

GREAT comes out tomorrow. Are you interested in reading it? Have you read The Great Gatsby? How do you feel about dark YA or unlikeable characters? Are you into classic literature retellings? Hit the comments and let me know!


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

This week's WoW pick is the second in a very popular series:

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Expected publication date: September 16th 2014

The riveting follow-up to the New York Times bestselling The 5th Wave, hailed by Justin Cronin as “wildly entertaining.”

How do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.

Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.

Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.


I never got a chance to write a review of The 5th Wave but I do have to say that it was one of the most stressful and terrifying books about the future that I've read in the last few years. It's not what I consider a fun read, but it is a DAMN good one, and nothing will stop me from reading book #2. I need to know what happens to kick-butt Cassie, Evan, and the crazy people who are trying to kill off humanity. September can't come soon enough!

Have you read The 5th Wave? Are you waiting insanely for The Infinite Sea like I am? What are you waiting for this week? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Early Review: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares (twitter | website)
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format/Source: eARC from publisher on Netgalley
Expected publication date: April 8, 2014 (tomorrow!)
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

My synopsis: 

Prenna James is a teenager from a terrible, disease-ridden future who has come to 2010 with a group of other refugees. Prenna's group has a ton of rules, the biggest being that they shouldn't be changing very much in this time, and that they can never be intimate with any "time natives" - that is, people from 2010. But Prenna is having trouble with that, because she's in love with Ethan Jarves, a guy in her physics class. Add to that that Prenna is sick of the rules and she's been hearing some things that make her doubt the leaders of the group...and you've got a time-travel thriller with Prenna at the center of what could make or break the future.

Review: 

As a fan of Ann Brashares' The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, I was really excited to read this - her first YA novel since that series, and a time-travel one, too! I'm really sad to say that while the book had some really gorgeous passages that made me think, I found the plot and characters to be pretty trite.

I was engaged in the plot most of the time that I was reading, and I did want to know what would happen...but at the same time, I was bored. Firstly, the plot fell into cliche territory - if you've read any dystopian or sci-fi novels, you know that if you're given a set of rules at the beginning of the novel that feel like they violate an individual's freedoms, the main character is going to need to break some rules and change the course of things in order to make things better. While there were a few twists and turns in the plot that had me into the book, for the most part, the story went pretty much the way that I expected.

That would have been okay had it not been for the fact that the characters felt really inauthentic to me. There was very little description of who they were, what they liked, or what they even looked like. They were like shells of people who only had one or two traits: Prenna was a time-traveller trying to break away, and her only real trait or interest was that she was in love with Ethan. Ethan was a cute guy interested in physics and Prenna. The rest of the characters are secondary characters that are archetypes of villains (the counselor that wants Prenna to obey the rules) or heroes (the aged, homeless man who sits behind the A&P who befriends Ethan and has more information than he seems to have), fading into the background throughout the novel, and only appearing when necessary.

The few times there was described characterization or behavior, it was usually a deus ex machina. For instance, at one point, we are told that Ethan has put a tracker bug on someone. A TRACKER? Ethan is a normal human teenager - what teenager do you know who just happens to have tracker technology sitting around his bedroom?

Because we don't know much about the main characters, and much of their early interaction is before the novel even starts,  we are simply told that they are in love with each other - and so the romance feels very much like insta-love. There were a few moments that were a bit swoonworthy - Brashares knows her way around good romantic dialogue - but ultimately, that lack of connection made it hard to be invested in their survival or their romance. I cared enough about the plot and the writing to keep going with the book, but that was it.

The one thing I will say this book had going for it was that it had themes and ideas that got me thinking. I felt like Brashares was using this medium in order to discuss the vagaries of information sharing, privacy, technology, and climate change. That part of the book - where we discover more about the future and Prenna and Ethan discuss how to make things better - was measured and beautifully written. For me, these themes and the writing saved the book and made it worth reading.

Bonuses: 


Time Travel That Makes Sense: I find that most people who write time travel usually don't know what they're talking about - or they go somewhere between what my husband calls the "Back to the Future" version of time travel (where everything you do changes something) and the "Bill & Ted" version of time travel (where everything you do was always that way, and you can't change anything). Brashares manages to keep to one version of time travel, and I feel like it works quite well.



The Final Word: 

I wanted to like this book so much, but I was disappointed in its cliched plot and its lack of real character development. I did like the pacing of the book and it had some thoughtful, beautifully written moments that made it worth reading, but ultimately, this isn't one I'll be recommending a lot.

THE HERE AND NOW comes out tomorrow. Will you be picking it up? Did you like Brashares' Traveling Pants series? Are you okay with insta-love? Do you like time-travel books? Hit up the comments and let me know!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

This week's WoW pick is one I just found on Edelweiss, and it sounds so intriguing:

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Expected publication: May 15, 2014

A love letter to the craft and romance of film and fate in front of—and behind—the camera from the award-winning author of Hold Still.

A wunderkind young set designer, Emi has already started to find her way in the competitive Hollywood film world.

Emi is a film buff and a true romantic, but her real-life relationships are a mess. She has desperately gone back to the same girl too many times to mention. But then a mysterious letter from a silver screen legend leads Emi to Ava. Ava is unlike anyone Emi has ever met. She has a tumultuous, not-so-glamorous past, and lives an unconventional life. She’s enigmatic…. She’s beautiful. And she is about to expand Emi’s understanding of family, acceptance, and true romance.


Firstly, the font treatment on that COVER. Holy moly. This is definitely on my list of best covers this year. 

Secondly, I am a huge Hollywood book fan - and I love the idea that this one isn't about an actress, but about someone who works behind the scenes and really loves movies. 

Thirdly, I just love the sound of Ava - she sounds like a total manic pixie dream girl...but in the best sense of the term. I think it'll be interesting to see how she opens up Emi's world. 

And can I just say, yay to LGBTQ YA that's not just about a person coming out? =)

Are you interested in reading Everything Leads to You? Are you into Hollywood books like me? What do you think of this awesome cover? What are you eagerly waiting for this week? Let me know in the comments?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Early Review: Recklessly Royal by Nichole Chase

Recklessly Royal (Suddenly #2)
Author: Nichole Chase (website | twitter)
Publisher: Avon
Source/Format: eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss
Publication date: March 25, 2014 (today!) 
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Catherine has spent her life being the perfect princess. She’s kept her hands clean, her head down, and most importantly—men at arm’s length. After all, most men are after only one thing, and for Cathy there’s a lot more at stake than her bed; she has to worry about the fate of an entire nation. But at the rate she’s going, Cathy is afraid she’ll give the Virgin Queen a run for her money. She is tired of waiting for someone good enough to come along. She has a plan, and it all hinges on seducing the one man who seems utterly unimpressed by all things royal. The one man she is tempted by more than any other . . .

When David arrives at the royal wedding of his friend, the newly ordained Duchess Samantha Rousseau, he expected to feel uncomfortable and out of his element, but he wasn’t prepared to be targeted by Prince Alex’s gorgeous younger sister. With Cathy’s giant blue eyes, killer figure, and sense of humor, it won’t take long before he gives in. But when he finds out just how innocent the crown princess really is, will he play the part of knight in shining armor or the dashing rogue?


Review:


After I enjoyed Suddenly Royal so much, I knew I had to get my hands on Recklessly Royal - especially after the first three chapters of the latter were included with the former! Two things got me with those first chapters: 1) it takes place just before a very special event involving characters from the first book 2) there's a pole-dancing class that made me laugh. Just based on those two things, I was definitely raring to go for Recklessly Royal.

Recklessly Royal focuses on crown prince Alex's sister, Princess Catherine of Lilaria. She's a very funny, strong character - a little younger and more immature than Samantha from the previous book. In that book, she was a little big headstrong and really interested in having fun and partying, but it's been a year since she did that, and you can see that she's grown up a lot. Just in time, too, because along comes David Rhodes, Samantha's good friend, and a seriously sexy dude.

David is sweet, sexy, and hella passionate, and it's hard not to fall for him. He's obviously a really amazing guy who cares a lot about Cathy - and who doesn't care about her princess title. He's basically perfect for her...and their relationship is very cute and pretty sexy. But it was missing a little something.

For me, Recklessly Royal fell a little flat. The internal conflict in this book was basically Cathy trying to figure out how to be more herself as a royal. The external conflicts - like dealing with the paparazzi and a new assistant in the midst of someone else getting sick - were more prominent, and weren't exactly life-altering. For me, these conflicts were dealt with well, but not in a substantial way. They also didn't really get to me that much because, frankly, Cathy is pretty strong and has had to deal with being a royal all her life.

The other problem for me was that the romantic conflict was kind of fluffy. It stems from the fact that Cathy really doesn't believe there's anyone out there who will love her because she's a woman, not a princess. Throw in the fact that she's still a virgin, and she's at an age where she feels like she's ready to give up her V-card to pretty much anyone - and when David comes into the picture, he wants to wait and make sure she gets to experience everything - not just sex right away. It's a very adorable and noble gesture, but it makes the conflict pretty silly, because you know in the end they're going to get to it. It's definitely not something that drives the story along. I didn't feel like Cathy really changed or grew as a person because of it.

That said, as a fan of the series, it was still really fun to see what happened to the characters in the last book. It was also great that Chase continued to explore what it meant to be a modern royal - Cathy spends a lot of time trying to get an art program for kids started, and her work life is interesting and meaningful to her. Since I liked her character, it was nice to see her find someone to share her life with, and I liked the continuation of the series. While Recklessly Royal didn't set my world on fire, it's definitely a sweet and fun book, and one for fans of the series.

Bonuses:


Romance Writing: I gotta say, Nichole Chase does a great job building the tension to a sexy moment. She's very, very good at making her readers (and characters) wait for the perfect moment for sexy times. She also kind of kicks arse at finding ways to make sexual encounters interesting, and adventurous, but not TOO adventurous, you know what I mean?





The Final Word:


Overall, I enjoyed Recklessly Royal, but I felt like it fit a little too much with the stereotype of a romance novel - fluffy and insubstantial. Even though David and Catherine's relationship is cute, it's not quite on par with Alex and Samantha's relationship in Suddenly Royal, and because of that, this romance wasn't quite as strong for me. Still, this is a good guilty pleasure read and it definitely left me wanting to go back and read Suddenly Royal again, and waiting for the next book in the series, Reluctantly Royal (due out in August).

RECKLESSLY ROYAL comes out today! Will you be picking it up? Have you read SUDDENLY ROYAL, the first book in this series? Are you obsessed with royalty books like me, or do you prefer real life stories? Hit the comments and let me know!

Monday, March 24, 2014

GIVEAWAY & Book Blitz: Upside Down by Lia Riley


Hi guys, today I have a promotional blitz for Upside Down by Lia Riley - I don't do these very often, but this one sounded like such an awesome new adult romance (which, as you know, I'm just getting into) that I couldn't resist! Read on for more about this travel-friendly, steamy book coming out in August!

Upside Down (Off the Map #1)
Author: Lia Riley (website | twitter)
Publisher: Grand Central
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Publication date: August 5th 2014
Pre-order it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis:
If You Never Get Lost, You’ll Never Be Found

Twenty-one-year-old Natalia Stolfi is saying goodbye to painful memories—and turning her life upside down with a trip to the land down under. For the next six months, she’ll pretend to be a carefree exchange student. Everything is going to plan until she meets a surly surfer with hypnotic green eyes, and the troubling ability to see straight through her act.

Bran Lockhart is having the worst year on record. After the girl of his dreams turned into a nightmare, he slunk back to Melbourne to piece his life together. Yet no amount of disappointment could blind him to the pretty California girl who gets past all his defenses. He’s never wanted anyone the way he wants Talia. A single semester abroad won’t cover something this serious. But when Bran gets a stark reminder of why he stopped believing in love, he and Talia must decide if what they have is once-in-a-lifetime . . . or if there’s a plane to California with her name on it.


Author Bio

Lia Riley writes offbeat New Adult Romance. After studying at the University of Montana-Missoula, she scoured the world armed only with a backpack, overconfidence and a terrible sense of direction. She counts shooting vodka with a Ukranian mechanic in Antarctica, sipping yerba mate with gauchos in Chile and swilling fourex with stationhands in Outback Australia among her accomplishments.

A British literature fanatic at heart, Lia considers Mr. Darcy and Edward Rochester as her fictional boyfriends. Her very patient husband doesn't mind. Much. When not torturing heroes (because c'mon, who doesn't love a good tortured hero?), Lia herds unruly chickens, camps, beach combs, daydreams about as-of-yet unwritten books, wades through a mile-high TBR pile and schemes yet another trip. Right now, Icelandic hot springs and Scottish castles sound mighty fine.

She and her family live mostly in Northern California.

Twitter: @liarileywrites

Ready for a pretty intense excerpt?

Excerpt from UPSIDE DOWN by Lia Riley


“Never have I ever worn handcuffs,” I say.

Bran reaches over, yanks the lid off the water bottle and takes a sip.

“Really?” My stomach lurches at the idea of another girl within five feet of him.

“Once. Wasn’t for me. I prefer more control, you know?”

“Nope—not really.” My sex life is shorter than a haiku. I bite my inner cheek and pretend not to notice his gaze slant toward me. “All right, Kink Boy, your turn.”

“Never have I ever done something I regret.”

I giggle but he looks dead serious. “Wow, that must make you alone in the universe.” I take a drink.

“Your smile, it lights up your whole face, but your eyes stay sad.”

Is he being serious or is this yet another bait? “Never have I ever sleepwalked.”

Bran drinks. “When I was eight, my neighbors woke to me in their bedroom. Don’t remember a thing. Lucky they didn’t call the coppers.”

“Whoa, crazy. Do you still do it?”

“Sometimes. Lock your door tonight. Let’s see. . .never have I ever shot a gun.”

I don’t drink.

“Isn’t that Anti-American?”

“I’m a pacifist. Never have I ever kissed in the rain.”

“This is the single most depressing fact I’ve ever heard.” He drinks.

“Hence my sad eyes.”

Traffic starts moving. I hang my hand out the window and hot wind blows through my fingers.

“Bran?”

“Natalia?”

I stiffen. No one ever calls me that except for my mom. “How’d you know my full name?”

“Read the luggage tag on your bag—Natalia Stolfi.”

“Oh, right.” I shake my head and regroup. “Is it true you have no regrets, not even one?” Hopefully he has no idea how serious I am about his response.

“There’s no point.” His fingers tighten infinitesimally on the wheel. “The past is past. End of story.”

“Like whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?”

“No, that’s a dumb ass cliché. I mean there’s no meaning to life, despite what people pretend. Once I figured that out, everything got easier.”

“Has anyone ever said you are intense?”

“Since the day I was born.”

-------

Squee - I am definitely getting my hands on this one. Love the banter.

So thanks to Lia and Giselle at Xpresso Reads, we've got a $25 Amazon gift card and swag pack giveaway for you! US/Canada only - sorry, guys!