Monday, September 15, 2014

GIVEAWAY CONTEST: Win a September 2014 YA, middle-grade, or new adult book!


Happy September, guys! It's been awhile since I've done one of these hops, but there are so many amazing books coming out this fall that I couldn't deprive you. =)

You know the drill: I'm giving away one young adult, middle grade, or new adult book released this month. In the interest of not making myself crazy, I'm only posting covers for the ones I'm super interested in reading, but feel free to comment with your own choices!




                 My review of Falling into Place           My review of Jessica Darling's It List #2

                         Review coming this week!       My blog tour post for The Art of Getting Stared At


Review to come this month!               Review to come this month!





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 a September 2014 YA, MG, or NA new release.
  • I will not be responsible for lost or damaged packages from The Book Depository or Amazon. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

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


Author: Emery Lord 
Publisher: Bloomsbury (Penguin Canada)
Expected publication date: March 31, 2015 

Following her pitch-perfect debut Open Road Summer, Emery Lord pens another gorgeous story of best friends, new love, & second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for a year, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics, The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

I haven't finished my review yet of Open Road Summer even though I read it way back in May, and there's a big reason: it's probably one of my favourite books of the year, and possibly of the last few years, and a book like that doesn't just get a review - it gets a lot of thought and a full-on essay from me. =p A truly heartfelt book, ORS floored me with its honesty and writing from the heart. The friendship and romance in that book were arrestingly good so I can't help but be on the edge of my seat waiting for Emery Lord's sophomore title. 

Plus, just look at that gorgeous cover! It perfectly evokes all-the-feels, summer, and contemporary...and you guys know I love those things! Look out for my review of Open Road Summer soon, and in the meantime, swoon over that synopsis!

Are you guys waiting for THE START OF ME AND YOU, too? Have you read (and fallen in love with) OPEN ROAD SUMMER? Isn't that cover amazing? What are you waiting for this week? Sound off in the comments!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Harry Potter and the 2014 Re-Read: Books 1-4 (SPOILERS)

At the beginning of the year, Michele from Just A Lil Lost and a few other bloggers decided to do a Harry Potter re-read. I started with the first book, but never got around to reviewing or doing any of the subsequent months.

Then, last week, Melissa from YA Bookshelf started reading the Harry Potter books for the first time. I can't tell you how jealous I was - you only get to read for the first time once, after all! So I decided to read along (at last!), and give a few of my thoughts, since Goodreads and my blog didn't exist when I first read the books.

Please keep in mind that these are totally spoilery mini-reviews - for fans only.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling:

 

 -There's so much Dursley in this one! I'd forgotten about how Harry talks to the snake at the zoo!
-The scene setting is brilliant, as are all of the red herrings that Rowling throws in, and the little pieces that will come back in later books (centaurs, anyone?)
-I still have the same feeling about how, if you see a Nimbus Two Thousand in Act One, Harry will inevitably have one by the end of the book (see: Prisoner of Azkaban/Firebolt).
-There's a lot more Hagrid than I remember, too - he really was kind of a father figure to Harry, Ron, and Hermione at the beginning, wasn't he?
-Hermione is amazing and I'm so glad Rowling gave us such a brave, brilliant know-it-all for a female character
-The ending reminded me of A Wrinkle in Time the first time, and it still does - the fact that love is the answer, always
-Harry Potter might be my book boyfriend. I totally had a crush on him throughout the series, and that feeling is still there - he's just so darn good, without being a douche about it!


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling:


I definitely noticed that this book is a bit more descriptive than I like...maybe because I'm an adult reader. Also, the middle plods a bit - the lead-up to finding out about the Chamber of Secrets should have a more foreboding, uneasy sense, but it felt weighted down by plot. Still, very, very creepy, especially when we first meet Tom Riddle through the diary...I can't believe I didn't notice just how dark this book is the first time (I *was* reading on a plane), what with the Deathday Party for Nearly Headless Nick, Aragog the spider, the blood on the walls...yeesh. The ending is actually terrifying.

That said, so many clues for later books in this one...very impressed by the number of seeds planted in this book that will come back later. Dumbledore's final speech to Harry about how it's our choices that define us, not our abilities, seems far more potent now, knowing what we know about his history.


Read the rest of my review on Goodreads



Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling: 

 

I remember now why Prisoner of Azkaban sold me on the whole series. This is the book when Harry starts to really look around and realize that the outside wizarding world isn't as good as it seems, that they have problems just as the Muggle world does. Where the book prevails is that it never gets preachy about doing the right thing, and you always believe Harry's character as authentic, despite him being very innocent and pretty near to perfect.

I'd forgotten just how big a fight Ron and Hermione are in during this book over Hermione's cat, Crookshanks, and Ron's rat Scabbers. You can definitely see shades of how much Hermione and Ron care about each other and how it might turn romantic. I loved how this book also gave us a larger glimpse into some of the people who will play a bigger role in Harry's life later. You really see who Cedric Diggory is and his sense of fairness when Harry lost himself because of Dementors during their Quidditch game. I liked how Ginny, while still crushing on Harry, is starting to be revealed as a funny, sarcastic young woman with a lot to say. It's obviously a deliberate choice on Rowling's part to show how Harry is starting to notice more about the people around him as he grows up. 


Read the rest of my review on Goodreads


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling:


The second time around, I think I liked Goblet of Fire much more than Prisoner of Azkaban, and would argue that it has the strongest structure and delivers the most in terms of making this coming-of-age story into something epic. 

I had forgotten (again!) about the big fight that Ron and Harry have over him being the Triwizard Champion, and how it was a long time coming. I had also forgotten about Hermione's teeth being cursed, and then shortened back so she doesn't have buckteeth! I loved how much this book focused on those aspects of growing up and friendship. And of course, I really enjoyed all the hints at Ron and Hermione's burgeoning romance.

If I have a criticism, it's that the Quidditch World Cup scenes at the beginning lasted far too long, as did some of the middle scenes with Harry training. That said, Harry's training for the tournament becomes the practice for his showdown with Voldemort at the end, proving what Dumbledore says at the end of book 5 - that in choosing Harry as his foe and constantly underestimating him - to the point of putting him through the tournament - Voldemort has also equipped Harry with the very tools he needs to defeat Voldemort.

I can't talk about this book without talking about the brilliant ending - the Cup as the Portkey, the way Harry and Cedric take the Cup together, the deaths, the rebirth of Voldemort from Harry himself, the speech, and yes, the beautiful moment of Priori Incantatem. I remember being completely enthralled by the latter scene during my first read. My second read was different only in that I felt ALL THE FEELS this time. 


Read the rest of my review on Goodreads


Have you read the Harry Potter books? Have you re-read them recently? What do you think of them, given time and space and less hype? Were there moments that I talked about that you remembered? Sound off in the comments, and look for more mini-reviews of the rest of the series soon!

Monday, September 8, 2014

"All These Things I've Done" Early Review: Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

Falling into Place
Author: Amy Zhang (website | twitter)
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (Harper Teen)
Source/Format: ARC from BEA14 
Expected publication date: September 9th 2014 (tomorrow!)
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.

Review:


So many publishers and bloggers recommended this one that it was at the top of my BEA list - and I'm so grateful that I've read it.

You've probably heard the premise by now. Liz Emerson is a queen bee at her high school, the kind of popular Mean Girl that you have legitimate reason to hate because she destroys lives, her own included. The book starts with Liz's attempt to commit suicide. What happens before, during, and after is told in fragmented pieces throughout the book.

The narrator of the book is an onlooker, someone who has followed Liz's life for a long time. I think the identity of the narrator is supposed to be a bit of a twist, but honestly, it's not much of one - and it doesn't need to be. Whether you guess who the narrator is or not is not the point. What's interesting about the narrator is the voice and insight he/she gives to Liz's story.

This is a book written by an author who is wise beyond her years. I am completely floored that author Amy Zhang just graduated high school, and wrote this novel in high school. I'm even more impressed that the writing is not only honest and poignant, but also quite literary. The form of the novel follows the themes perfectly. The starkness of her writing strips all of her characters bare, down to their most secretive, knowing places, in bald contrast to the very public nature of Liz herself.

Because while Liz is your typical Mean Girl who drinks and makes out with lots of boys and is truly nasty, she's also a desperately lonely person. I know a lot of bloggers said they couldn't connect with her right away. She's not the kind of person you feel sorry for. She pretty much defines the Me Generation. She certainly doesn't have the nerdy life that I had in high school. And yet, the more you get to know her, the more you see her as a girl with so much potential and heart. Everything that has happened in her life has led her to this.

I feel like I'm spouting cliches here. But this book moved me and surprised me. I expected it to be very dark and depressing...and at certain points, it was. But with every moment of darkness, there was another fragment that gave us more of a clue to Liz's character, and those pieces were fascinating to behold. The mystery of her character is what compelled me to keep reading.

Falling into Place is, at its heart, a character study of a deeply depressed and lonely person. But Zhang takes it up a notch and builds in very strong, layered secondary characters, especially in best friends Julia and Kennie. They are so much a part of who Liz is and what she became. What's even more fascinating, though, is how people around her who didn't know her that well also added to Liz's character. The guy who called the ambulance. The kids who are playing cards at the hospital waiting to hear her diagnosis. The teens she bullied. Liz is not just the sum of her own parts, but what she's touched and influenced throughout the years, and we see, again and again, how little ripples can change and shape a person.

Bonuses:


Physics: Can I just applaud Zhang for using physics in such a clever and distinct way? I don't think I've ever seen a science thread written like this before, and it's quite brilliant. It's not going to make you say "Wow, science!", but it will, like the rest of the book, make you contemplate your own actions.

Stunning Writing: I mentioned already that this is a very literary book, but I couldn't finish this review without adding in a quote or two, because the writing is just beautiful:

"When she threw her head back, she could see the sky bending away from her, and it seemed closer than usual. As though if she tried, she could snag a star on her fingernail, but she didn't move."

"It struck him that perhaps she thought just as many thoughts in a minute as he did, felt just as many emotions, inhaled and exhaled just as he did. And it was then that he began to fall in love with her for the second time, for the same reason that he had picked up his flute again: because he believed in broken things."

The Final Word


Falling Into Place is a book to read when you need to look at life as clearly as possible. I didn't cry at this book. Maybe you will. I was too busy thinking and processing and trying to figure out how to hold on to both the feeling I got while reading, and the feeling that I can be better, stronger, and kinder, with my own life.

FALLING INTO PLACE comes out tomorrow! Will you be picking up a copy? Have you been anticipating this one like I have? How dark or poignant do you like your YA? Are you as amazed as I am by the age of the author? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dear Teen Me: The Art of Getting Stared At Blog Tour: Guest Post by Author Laura Langston

Hey guys, today I'm excited to be part of the official The Art of Getting Stared At Blog Tour! I didn't have time to read the book (too many BEA ARCs!), but I really wanted to be part of the tour for this book because I think it addresses self-esteem and appearance issues that we all faced - and still face - as teens and adults.

Here's more on the book!

Author: Laura Langston
 (website | twitter | facebook)
Publication date: September 9, 2014

After a school video she produced goes viral, sixteen-year-old Sloane is given the biggest opportunity of her life – a chance for a film school scholarship. She has less than two weeks to produce a second video, something with depth, and she’s determined to do it. The trouble is she has to work with Isaac Alexander, an irresponsible charmer with whom she shares an uneasy history.

On the heels of this good news/bad news opportunity, Sloane finds a bald spot on her head. The pink patch, no bigger than a quarter, shouldn't be there. Neither should the bald spots that follow. Horror gives way to devastation when Sloane is diagnosed with alopecia areata. The autoimmune disease has no cause, no cure and no definitive outcome. The spots might grow over tomorrow or they might be there for life. She could become completely bald. No one knows.

Determined to produce her video and keep her condition secret, Sloane finds herself turning into the kind of person she has always mocked: someone obsessed with their looks. She’s also forced to confront a painful truth: she is as judgmental as anyone else…but she saves the harshest judgments for herself.


On a Personal Note: 


Penguin Canada asked me to talk about one thing I wish I could tell my teen self about body image/self esteem. Where do I start? I was definitely not a pretty teenager; I had braces, terrible glasses, and no matter how much I spent on my clothes or my hair or my body, I always felt like it didn't look quite right. If I started losing my hair like Sloane, I don't know what Teen Me would have done, because I already felt like a secondhand version of what was cool - a really artificial knockoff. 

In high school, it feels like everyone is holding you up to a magnifying glass and you can't hide anywhere. It's like you're one of the giant people in Gulliver's Travels, and the cool people are little Gulliver, seeing all the gross parts of you.

The thing that I've realized is that EVERYONE FEELS THIS WAY. And most of the time, they're too busy scrutinizing themselves to see all of those things you see as imperfections. The people who do see them, and pick at them? Those are the people who are so scared that you'll see their imperfections that they have to shift the focus to you.

What I would tell my teen self is this: You are the only person who is scrutinizing yourself this closely. You are the only person who sees every tiny pore in your skin, every little pimple, every scar. No one else is looking this closely, and if they are, it's because they're scared. You can't control other people's reactions to you, but you can control how you feel about yourself. And no matter what anyone else says, you should own YOU. Do what you love, wear what makes you happy, and smile at yourself in the mirror.

I hope Sloane learns to own it in this book. I hope she stops judging herself so harshly, like I did in high school. And I really hope that she doesn't let her disease stop her from becoming the filmmaker she can be. 

On that note, because I'm a huge movie buff, I asked author Laura Langston to tell us a bit more about Sloane's favourite movies.

Guest Post: Sloane's List of Must-Watch Films

by Laura Langston


Sloane loves documentaries and wants to become a documentary filmmaker, so her picks are strongly influenced by her love of film making itself. Having said that, she also likes to laugh and she has a romantic streak too. Her picks in no particular order are:

See What I’m Saying (a documentary referenced in The Art of Getting Stared At)

Project Nim (a thought-provoking documentary with some dramatic re-creations and animatronics)

Juno (romance and laughter with heart)

Rise of Planet of the Apes (for its amazing special effects & because it’s set in her hometown of San Francisco)

Shrek (her favorite movie as a child)

Thanks, Laura! That's definitely an eclectic list of movies. I think I'd enjoy getting to know Sloane.

Here's more about Laura:

By the time she hit Grade Four, Laura Langston knew she wanted to be a writer. So did the teachers. It was the persistent daydreaming and invisible friends that tipped them off. Since Laura grew up knowing no writers – and consequently didn’t know how to be one – she became a journalist instead. The trouble is, journalists are expected to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

But making stuff up is way more fun. So eventually Laura traded one notebook for another and today she writes books for tweens, teens, children and sometimes adults.

When she’s not writing, reading or walking her Shetland sheepdogs, Laura can be found spying on people in the grocery store or twisting herself into a pretzel in yoga class.

To learn more, visit www.lauralangston.com. Follow her at www.facebook.com/LauraLangston.Author

THE ART OF GETTING STARED AT comes out on Tuesday, September 9th! Will you be picking up a copy? What would you tell your teen self about body image and self-esteem? What would you do if you started losing your hair? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"On Wednesdays, We Wear Pink" Early Review: Jesslca Darling's It List #2: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Friends, Foes, and Faux Friends by Megan McCafferty

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 (website | twitter)
Publisher: Poppy
Source/Format: ARC from BEA 2014
Expected publication: September 16, 2014
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars. 

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.


Review:


This is the second book in Megan McCafferty's middle-grade Jessica Darling series, and it's just as full of heart as the first. Jessica is just as innocent, witty, and feisty about friendship as she was about popularity.

The premise is similar - Bethany, Jessica's beautiful, much-older sister, has yet another list that guarantees that Jessica will be able to navigate friendships in her middle school years. The problem? The list is, once again, written in Bethany-speak, and leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In Jessica's case, that usually means the wrong interpretation and a lot of fumbles and embarrassing moments.

What It List #2 perfectly conveys is that confusion that happens when your friends are changing and puberty is hitting, and you don't know how to bridge new and old friends. I don't know a girl in the world who won't identify with Jessica and her attempts to navigate friendships - it's that real. And even if Jessica does go to extremes in her ideas of how to solve friendship problems, it's all done with such heart and innocence that you just want to hug her.

It List #2 also has amazingly accurate descriptions of girls' mind games, and how they hurt and change people. Truth be told, it reminded me a lot of the movie Mean Girls, because the representation of just how these games are played is so spot-on:

"The worst part about the nastiness Manda and Sara and Dori and Bridget were spreading about each other? Well, besides the fact that I was at the center of it? Some of the smack talk--just a teensy little bit--was possibly true. I could see how Dori and Bridget might envy Manda's persuasive personality or Sara's all-knowingness. I understood why Manda and Sara might wish they had boyfriends like Dori and Bridget or a friendship that went all the way back to crib. 
I just wish they didn't have to be so mean about it."

What I liked most about It List #2 is that it isn't preachy about how to navigate these problems, and there really are no right answers. Jessica gains a lot of wisdom about how to be a friend, but I think what she ultimately comes away with is more of a feeling that it is OKAY for friendships to change, and it's okay for her to not understand. She can just let people be and try her best to be a good friend.

Of course the other thing about It List #2 is that it's advances our characters, turning them into the people they are and will be in the original Jessica Darling series. Manda and Sara are kind of similar to who they will be in Sloppy Firsts, but Jessica's friendship with Hope and some of the cross-country team girls deepens in this book.

And, like in the first book, there are definitely some interactions with Marcus Flutie. I really don't want to spoil these, but let's just say that Tween Marcus is a very accurate representation of who he will turn out to be in the later books - even more so in this book than in It List #1. The friendship between Jessica and Marcus is absolutely adorable and like a true fangirl, I totally gobbled it up.

Bonuses: 


The Giggles: Like the original Jessica Darling, this series had me laughing out loud quite a few times - the things that happen are so out there, especially when they

Wisdom Comes With Age: If you're a fan of the older Jessica Darling novels, you know that Jessica's grandmother Gladdie is, like, the coolest elderly person in fiction. I was SO happy to see her in this installment, and she is just as hip, and wicked smart about life as she was in the original books, with an added bonus: younger Gladdie BAKES. I am desperate for her recipe for Jessica BARlings!




The Final Word: 


If you love the original Jessica Darling series, reading these books will give you so much joy and insight into the characters and how they came to be - it's definitely a fun, light, and quick read for fans. But beyond that, It List #2 left me wishing that I'd had these books as a guide to my tween life when I was a kid. As a 10-13 year old, you need a dose of reality and to know that it's totally normal to not understand what's cool, and what isn't. I really hope there are librarians, teachers and parents out there who are giving this to pre-teens - I think it will help a lot of young girls through middle school.

Recommended for: Tweens who are starting junior high and trying to navigate girl friendships, major Jessica Darling fans

Are you interested in reading JESSICA DARLING'S IT LIST #2? Are you a major Jessica Darling fan like me? Did you have run-ins with friendships and mean girls in junior high? How did you solve them? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond

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


Expected publication: May 1, 2015 

Lois Lane is starting a new life in Metropolis. An Army brat, Lois has lived all over—and seen all kinds of things. (Some of them defy explanation, like the near-disaster she witnessed in Kansas in the middle of one night.) But now her family is putting down roots in the big city, and Lois is determined to fit in. Stay quiet. Fly straight. As soon as she steps into her new high school, though, she can see it won’t be that easy. A group known as the Warheads is making life miserable for another girl at school. They’re messing with her mind, somehow, via the high-tech immersive videogame they all play. Not cool. Armed with her wit and her new snazzy job as a reporter, Lois has her sights set on solving this mystery. But sometimes it’s all a bit much. Thank goodness for her maybe-more-than-a friend, a guy she knows only by his screenname, SmallvilleGuy.


I have to thank Giselle at Book Nerd Canada for introducing this one to me - I saw her mark it on her TBR on Goodreads and I completely fell in love with the premise. 

Some of you probably don't know that I'm mildly obsessed with strong female characters in comics. It's not that I read so many comics, it's just that whenever I do or whenever I watch a superhero movie, I'm always looking for women who are portrayed strongly and well. It's not a coincidence that my husband is a huge comic book reader and some of my favourite YA bloggers are ones who work for Women Write About Comics

So obviously, Lois Lane: Fallout completely appeals to me, because it takes her out of the Superman comics and puts her at the center of her own YA novel. I've always liked Lois - I like how feisty she is, I like that she's a nosy reporter, and I like that more recent incarnations of her have made her a lot less of a damsel in distress (although I did NOT like Man of Steel. At all). 

The cover of this book is super cool, artsy without being too comics-ish, and definitely makes me think that this isn't going to be kiddy or cute. And that thing about SmallvilleGuy? LOVE THAT SO MUCH. 

(P.S. If you're like me and into comic book characters as YA characters, you might want to check out the Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane comics by Sean McKeever or the Runaways series by Brian K. Vaughan - some of the best bridging of YA concept and comic bookness out there!)

Have you heard about LOIS LANE: FALLOUT? Are you into comic books or graphic novels? Do you like the Superman mythology? How do you feel about comic book characters as YA characters? What are you waiting on this week? 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids
Author: Sarah Ockler (website | twitter)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Expected publication: June 2015

Sometimes, there are no words…

The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them . . .



I know fall is coming on super fast, but I can't keep myself from looking at beautiful summer-y books...for next year. And this one is a Little Mermaid adaptation! When I was a kid, I was completely obsessed with the Disney movie - it was the second movie I ever saw in a theatre, and I sang Part of Your World constantly afterwards.


I really, really like the sound of this concept - I like how modernized it is, how it plays with the fantastical elements of the original fairy tale and makes them contemporary. As a singer myself, I obviously connect to Elyse's passion for music. And even though the boy is sounding a touch too "new adult love interest",  I like how he's a bit more of a go-getter than Eric from the Disney movie.

I haven't read any Sarah Ockler yet, but you can bet that if this is the first one, it's getting my full attention next summer. And yay for diversity on the cover!

Have you heard of THE SUMMER OF CHASING MERMAIDS? Are you a Sarah Ockler fan? Are you a Disney or Little Mermaid fan like me? What do you think of this concept? What are you waiting for this Wednesday? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"We Are Family" Early Review: Reluctantly Royal by Nichole Chase

Reluctantly Royal (Suddenly #3)
Author: Nichole Chase (website | twitter)
Publisher: Avon Romance
Genre: New Adult/Adult Romance
Source/Format: eARC provided by publisher on Edelweiss (thank you!)
Publication date: August 26, 2014 
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Maxwell Jameson Trevor, prince of Lilaria, hates his royal role. Despising the limelight, he takes solace in his art studio and steers clear of any drama. But when one of the newly discovered royals passes away, Maxwell's brother Alex asks him to break the news to the old man's granddaughter. Though he hates to be the bearer of doom and gloom, he doesn't want the poor girl to find out from the tabloids. For Maxwell knows all too well how devastating that could be.

Coming from a broken home and modest background, newly ordained Lady Meredith Thysmer has seized her chance to make a better life for herself and her son. She's not afraid to use her best assets to get what she wants. But when the unpretentious yet devastatingly handsome Max delivers his news, her plans for the future come crashing to a halt. In the challenging days ahead, Max's compassion, humor, and steadfast loyalty to Meredith and her son win her over. She quickly finds herself doing something she swore would never happen again: falling in love. And yet Maxwell still refuses to completely drop his guard. Somehow Meredith's got to find a way to seduce this reluctant royal.


Review:


Reluctantly Royal is the last of Nichole Chase's Suddenly series, the first of which was such an enjoyable romance for a royalty sucker like me. The first book, Suddenly Royal was originally self-published, and did so well that Harper Avon picked it up for another two books.

I really enjoyed the first book, which was steamy and kind of like The Princess Diaries. The second book, Recklessly Royal, was a bit disappointing, because I felt like it didn't live up to the beautiful fairytale of the first book. This last one falls somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed it more than I did Recklessly Royal, but there were a few hiccups that stopped me from really loving it.

First, the good: I liked the feistiness of the female characters, especially the MC, Meredith Thysmer. One thing Chase does very well is create women who aren't afraid to stand up to their male counterparts, and who are strong enough to take some tough times. Meredith has an alcoholic father, her mother died, and she grew up fairly poor. Before the book starts, you know that she's the grand-daughter of one of the recently found dukes of Lilaria, the country where the whole series takes place. Meredith sees her newfound royalty and wealth as an opportunity for her to pursue her dreams of being a musician, while being comfortable enough to take care of her son Marty.

Unfortunately, Meredith's grandfather has recently passed away and it's up to Prince Max of Lilaria to deliver the bad news. Max is known as the slacker prince because he avoids the limelight at all costs. He's a painter who tries to stay away from the media, and because of that, he's been a bit isolated and cold. In this book, you see how close he is with his family, though.

Family is a big theme throughout the series - Lilarians believe family comes first no matter what - and I liked that this book was really about both Max and Meredith trying to find a place for themselves as royal family members. I also liked that Meredith had a son - it was a different take on romance than the other two books because of Marty, and I enjoyed how Max developed a relationship with him.

Unlike the other two books in the series, which were narrated by the female MCs, this book alternated between Max and Meredith's point of view. I thought that worked pretty well, and they had fairly distinct voices, although there were a few times I got a bit lost in the book and unsure of who was narrating.

I did have a big quibble with the the insta-love/timing of the romance. It's very quick and very intense, and while I get that they're dealing with extenuating circumstances that bring people closer...it's just a little too fast. I didn't find it believable. The entire book lasts approximately three days, and since it's a romance, you know that the "L" word is going to be uttered, and it's just too soon.

I also found it hard to believe that Max, being the slacker prince, seemed to change so instantly from being a no-commitment guy to full-on committed to Meredith. We are told many times that Max is not into commitment, but the second Meredith needs help, he's there. It was a little baffling.

Still, there was definitely some chemistry between Meredith and Max. This book isn't going to knock your socks off, but it's a fast romp (har har!) when you're looking for a quick romance.

Bonuses: 


Sexy Times: The romance was definitely upped a notch from the second book in the series - there are quite a few sexy scenes, and they're pretty smoking.






Cameos: If you enjoyed the other two books in the series, please indulge, if nothing else but to get an update on the other characters' lives! Samantha, Prince Alex, and Princess Cathy are all instrumental to bringing Meredith and Max together, and it's very cute and I enjoyed the family ribbing alot.



The Final Word


Reluctantly Royal is a cute romance, and it's definitely a beach read. I am glad I read it to find out more about the rest of the characters, but I don't know if it has a lot of reread potential. Still, a fun escapism read that I recommend for days when you need to believe in love at first sight.

RELUCTANTLY ROYAL comes out today! Are you interested in reading it? Have you read the other two books in the series, Suddenly Royal and Recklessly Royal? Do you read romances? Are you obsessed with reading royalty books like me? Hit the comments and let me know!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

GIVEAWAY & Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (no spoilers!)

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss #3)
Author: Stephanie Perkins (website | twitter)
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin Canada)
Source: Pre-ordered from Mabel's Fables in Toronto
Format: Hardcover, 339 pages
Publication date: August 14, 2014
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.


Review:

This review is a bit of a comparison between Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door - there might be some gentle spoilers for Lola and Anna here, so if you haven't read them and you're deathly afraid of being spoiled, please skip to my final thoughts!

Here's what you need to know about Isla: this is a different sort of story from Anna and Lola. While those two were mainly unrequited love stories, Isla is a full-fledged couple-y story. Where Anna and Lola are strong personalities, Isla is shy and unassuming. And where Anna and Lola are confident, Isla is uncertain.

Both Anna and Lola had a fantastical quality to them - Anna was just learning about Paris in her book, so the city became the landscape for her romance. And being a film buff, her story had a bit of a cinematic quality, culminating in a perfect moment. Lola's life, meanwhile, was a sweet, adorable fairytale, with her love for colour, her picture-perfect house, her dreaming out the window at the moon, and yes, the magic of falling in love with the boy next door.

Isla, though, is a realist - both the book and the person. She's a city girl who grew up in both New York and Paris, and she immediately tells you that the School of America in Paris is only for people who are pretty well off. As soon as you get that sentence from her, you know that this is going to be a different kind of book.

For me, Isla was the most difficult to get to know of the three characters - but also, the most real. She really reminded me of myself at her age: she's a bookish nerd, a bit shy, with a love of fashion, and a real drive to be the best student in her class. She's not the most popular girl, but she has friends and family around her that she really loves. With Anna and Lola, I loved them immediately, but they were both kind of loners. Like me, and like most people I know, Isla brings with her all the baggage of family, friends, and past lovers.

Isla is also, unlike Anna and Lola, totally unsure of what she wants out of life, and that lack of a goal plays strongly in how she and the book develop. In fact, I didn't feel like I fully knew Isla until about two-thirds of the way into the book, and I know that was a deliberate choice on Stephanie Perkins' part. If you feel this, PLEASE KEEP READING, because the book is worth it, and I think a lot of girls will see themselves in Isla.

Josh, too, is much more of a realist than either St. Clair or Cricket. With St. Clair, I always felt like he was larger than life, but tempered that a bit because of his (sigh!) love for Anna. Cricket, like Lola, sort of floated around in a dream world, where he could make automatons that amazed and delighted.

When we meet Josh for the first time in this book, he's not in the greatest state. All of his friends have graduated and he's depressed and lonely. And the book goes much more into his problems in school.


This is the book in the trilogy where external forces - and people - encroach the most into the characters' lives. Because Josh and Isla seem like opposites, despite Isla's insane crush on him. Josh is seen as a slacker, and Isla is the top student in her class. Josh is from a political family where he is the only child and his parents seem to have little time for him, and Isla has a loving family, and a boy best friend.

All of these things play into the romance between them, and it's beautiful and heart-rending to see how they wrap themselves around Isla and Josh, who WANT to have a fairytale romance, but who find that they can't always achieve that perfection. 

Don't get me wrong, the romance is no less lush than in the first two books. You will feel all the feels, I promise! But Isla and Josh's story feels so grounded in reality to me - we don't just get to see them get together, we see them come together, how their friends and schoolmates react, and how their own foibles and insecurities play into their lives. Their issues were ones that I experienced in my first big relationship, and I'm really grateful for that portrayal of how relationships can sometimes be.

I'm being very vague, but what I most want to say is that I really applaud Stephanie Perkins for taking on a different kind of love story, and I'm glad to say that the final book in this trilogy warms my heart, but also feels very close to my heart.

Bonuses: 

From Joann Sfar's The Rabbi's Cat
Les Bandes Dessinees and Art: Josh is a comic artist, as you probably knew from Anna, and he and Isla share an admiration for French comics. It's really cool to see how Perkins brings alive that love of this art form.

I Want To Go To There: I don't want to spoil anything, but there's quite a bit of travel in this book, and one particular trip that is VERY memorable. Something I noticed much more in this book than the last two was just how great Perkins is at travel writing - her descriptions of places had me enthralled.

The Giggles: Like Anna and Lola, there are some seriously funny bits in this book. Stephanie Perkins is a master at banter and witty comebacks and I totally laughed out loud a few times.

Source: yulia7
Cameos: I can't say anything more, but my heart may have swelled a few times...

Heart-Squeezing Romance: I mean, come on. This is Stephanie Perkins, guys!

The Final Word: 

Isla and the Happily Ever After is like me and my favourite bookish people - she and the book are a little shy, and it takes awhile to warm up to her/them. But don't be put off by this. The romance is delicious, but what's even more wonderful is discovering Isla slowly. She has a lot to offer - as a character, AND as a book. Once you do know her, I think you'll adore her, and I think you'll see how nicely she fits into this YA trilogy. Stephanie Perkins was already an auto-buy and favourite author for me, and I'm very sad that this is the end, but man, what a beautiful ending.

ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER came out on August 14th! Have you read it yet? Did you read and love Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door? Are you as sad as I am that this trilogy is over? Let me know in the comments and check out my giveaway of an ANNA-LOLA-ISLA tote below!

Want to win one of these?! Sign up below!
I stole this image from Stephanie Perkins - I hope she doesn't mind!


a Rafflecopter giveaway