Month: August 2016

My Favorite Cat Videos | The Cat King of Havana Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Posted August 29, 2016 by Jana in Blog Tour, Giveaway / 3 Comments

My Favorite Cat Videos | The Cat King of Havana Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Welcome to my stop along the blog tour for The Cat King of Havana by Tom Crosshill! This book sounds like SO much fun! Rick is a major lover of cat videos. Seriously. He even gets dumped for it! So what better way to celebrate the release of this awesome 2016 debut than by sharing a few of my favorite cat videos with you? I’ve spent thousands of hours of my life watching cat videos online, so the hardest thing about this was narrowing the list down to these.

After you’re done playing and replaying these adorable videos, read more about the book and enter to win a copy of your own!

Which of these videos do you love the most?
Link me to any others you think I need to see!

The Cat King of Havana by Tom Crosshill
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on September 6, 2016
Genres: Young Adult – Contemporary
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Rick Gutierrez is . . . the Cat King of Havana! A cat-video tycoon turned salsa-dancer extraordinaire, he’ll take Cuba by storm, romance the girl of his dreams, and ignite a lolcat revolution!

At least that’s the plan.

It all starts when his girlfriend dumps Rick on his sixteenth birthday for uploading cat videos from his bedroom when he should be out experiencing the real world. Known as “That Cat Guy” at school, Rick isn’t cool and he knows it. He realizes it’s time for a change.

Rick decides joining a salsa class is the answer . . . because of a girl, of course. Ana Cabrera is smart, friendly, and smooth on the dance floor. Rick might be half-Cuban, but he dances like a drunk hippo. Desperate to impress Ana, he invites her to spend the summer in Havana. The official reason: learning to dance. The hidden agenda: romance under the palm trees.

Except Cuba isn’t all sun, salsa, and music. There’s a darker side to the island. As Rick and Ana meet his family and investigate the reason why his mother left Cuba decades ago, they learn that politics isn’t just something that happens to other people. And when they find romance, it’s got sharp edges.

About Tom Crosshill

Tom Crosshill’s fiction has been nominated for the Nebula Award (thrice) as well as the Latvian Annual Literature Award. His stories have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed. In 2009, he won the Writers of the Future contest. After some years spent in Oregon and New York, he currently lives in his native Latvia. In the past, he has operated a nuclear reactor, translated books and worked in a zinc mine, among other things.

Tom’s young adult novel “The Cat King of Havana” is forthcoming from Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins) in 2016.

Website | Twitter 

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Tour Schedule:

8/29: That Artsy Reader Girl – Best Cat Videos
8/30: Rebelle Reads – Review
8/31: Pondering the Prose – Playlist
9/1: He Said Books or Me – Review
9/2: The Story Sanctuary – Top 10
9/5: Lekeisha the Book Nerd – Review
9/6: The Irish Banana Review – Fast 5
9/7: One Night Book Stand – Review
9/8: Little Reds Reviews – Cat Kings of Little Reds Reviews (Cat Video)
9/9: Live to Read – Review

The Babcock Sisters of Tell Me Something Real | Author Guest Post (+ Giveaway)

Posted August 22, 2016 by Jana in Blog Tour, Giveaway, Guest Post / 1 Comment

Welcome to my stop along the blog tour for Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin, hosted by The Irish Banana Review! I’m excited to have Calla on the blog today, discussing the sisters in her debut novel! Following Calla’s post, read a little more about the book and enter to win one of three copies!

Jana: Tell us a little about the sisters and the incredible sisters dynamic in this book. Did you model them after real people? Was it difficult to give each of them unique voices?

Calla: Tell Me Something Real follows three sisters. Profane and passionate Adrienne. Shy and observant Vanessa. And devout and quirky Marie, the baby and most loved in the family.

I have two sisters, Irish triplets, only a year apart each. They are nothing like the Babcock girls in my novel, and I think my desire to make them different from my own family drove me to develop them deeply. I didn’t want them to resemble my own sisters. I do have a similar relationship with one sister, to whom I dedicated the novel, as Vanessa does with Adrienne. Two very different people in the world who have a fierce bond and truly understand each other despite being opposite in so many ways. I drew from that love as I wrote the book.

This novel began as a short story and I couldn’t stop writing about these girls. The very first draft of Tell Me Something Real was a collection of linked stories with chapters written from each character’s point of view, and it followed them into adulthood. While the novel focuses on the dramatic events of one summer, I spent so much time exploring each sister, from college majors to romantic relationships to careers. I think I brought those early drafts to the final one, and I so vividly see each girl. They are real people to me, which may sound a bit strange, but I am invested in them as characters and I wrote them with the same compassion and empathy I try to bring to the real relationships in my life.

Music helped me develop each one. Vanessa, the narrator, is a pianist, so I listened to Chopin and Beethoven and this contemporary Italian composer who is amazing, Ludovico Einaudi. Adrienne is much more into pop, so because the book is set in the seventies, she starts out idolizing Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac and moves onto Blondie. Marie, only nine years old, becomes obsessed with virgin saints, young girls who were burned at the stake for believing in something greater than themselves. I listened to choral music as I wrote those scenes. I think listening to dramatically different kinds of music helped me shift gears as I shifted my focus between the sisters.

I hope the Babcock sisters resonate with readers. They are a buffet of sorts, each a different flavor, and I hope readers connect with them and find them emotionally satisfying. I hope they are as real to you as they are to me.

Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin
Published by: S&S/Atheneum on August 30, 2016
Genres: Young Adult – Contemporary
Amazon • B&N • Indiebound • iBooks • Book Depository • Add to Goodreads

Three sisters struggle with the bonds that hold their family together as they face a darkness settling over their lives in this masterfully written debut novel.

There are three beautiful blond Babcock sisters: gorgeous and foul-mouthed Adrienne, observant and shy Vanessa, and the youngest and best-loved, Marie. Their mother is ill with leukemia and the girls spend a lot of time with her at a Mexican clinic across the border from their San Diego home so she can receive alternative treatments.

Vanessa is the middle child, a talented pianist who is trying to hold her family together despite the painful loss that they all know is inevitable. As she and her sisters navigate first loves and college dreams, they are completely unaware that an illness far more insidious than cancer poisons their home. Their world is about to shatter under the weight of an incomprehensible betrayal…

About Calla Devlin

Calla Devlin is a Pushcart nominee and winner of the Best of Blood and Thunder Award whose stories have been included in numerous literary journals and in anthologies, including Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers Reflect on the Mother-Daughter Bond, for which she was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Magazine.

Tell Me Something Real is her first book.

Website | Twitter 

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Tour Schedule:

8/22: That Artsy Reader Girl – Guest Post
8/23: Pondering the Prose – Review
8/24: Rebelle Reads – Top 10
8/25: The Litaku – Review
8/26: Never Too Many to Read – Q&A
8/29: Arctic Books  – Review
8/30: Such a Novel Idea – Guest Post
8/31: The Book Return – Review
9/1: I Turn the Pages – Mood Board
9/2: Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Review

The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson | Book Review

Posted August 11, 2016 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 3 Comments

The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson | Book ReviewThe Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson
Series: The Remnant Chronicles #3
Also in this series: The Kiss of Deception, The Heart of Betrayal
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on August 2, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 688
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
Amazon Add to Goodreads
2 Stars
Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous - what will happen now? This third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles is not to be missed.

Bestselling author Mary E. Pearson's combination of intrigue, suspense, romance and action make this a riveting page turner for teens.

Alright… This is painful. This is really painful for me, as I have been SO EXCITED about this final book in the Remnant Chronicles. And when my wish was granted on Netgalley to read this early, life was golden. But I’m so disappointed and so sad. This was just not in any way what I wanted for these characters and this ending. I love Mary E. Pearson. But I don’t love this book. I don’t even like it. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I was bored. Overall, I was very, very bored with this book to the point where I seriously considered giving up. I couldn’t do it, though, because a small part of me kept hoping things would turn around. We read about a lot of traveling and planning, but very little actually happens for the bulk of the book. And when it does, I felt like someone was telling me a synopsis of what happened rather than reading about it myself. Not sure if that makes sense, but the telling far outweighed the showing. I was never immersed in the story.

2. My beloved characters became flat, shells of themselves.

– Lia. What even happened to her? I’m so mad at who Lia has become. She went from barely understanding her gift to using it as a crutch to get whatever she wants. All of a sudden, it’s her way or the highway because of this random gift that has become a character of its own. When people indicate that they don’t trust her gift (because why should they? It’s not been a big deal at all up until now), she turns into such a jerk and doesn’t care about anyone or what they think. I hate this gift. It was the excuse and the explanation for everything and turned Lia into this pompous, uncaring, inconsiderate person. Yet when times get rough she waxes philosophical and almost cheesy as she strives to save everyone with her words. After everything we’ve been through, words resolve it all.

Lia has also gone from making smart decisions to blindly following Vendan prophecies regardless of anyone’s feelings. My friend Alyssa said it best in her review: “For a girl that tried to escape her fate by running away from her wedding, Lia is quick to jump right back into letting someone (i.e. the book of Venda, and her “gift”) control her.” I remember her feeling so overwhelmed at the prospect of ruling a kingdom, and now one kingdom isn’t enough for her. She’s telling Rafe what to do and trying to rule his kingdom too.

Rafe has completely lost his backbone, blindly loving Lia despite how much of a brat/jerk/idiot she has become. She treats his so badly, and he just takes it. She takes him for granted and doesn’t even care that she might lose him. Yet he continues to save her when she doesn’t even deserve it and shows no gratitude for him doing so. Usually the girl is the doormat in novels, so yay for that finally not being the case… but now the guy is the doormat and that makes me just as mad. You’re a king, Rafe, man up.

I think I’m in the minority, but I’ve always loved Kaden. Where is he in this book? Again, he’s a shell and he gets a happily ever after right at the end (and it comes right out of left field and was not at all convincing). I think he was legitimately forgotten and then the author said, “Oh! Kaden! Can’t forget him! Let’s give him an ending.” He goes through some pretty emotional things in this book, not to mention some life-altering experiences, but I saw no growth and change or development because he was given very little time to go through these things and react/recover accordingly.

3. So much time was wasted on traveling and talking about things that are going to happen that the resolutions were way too easy and way too fast. I don’t know why this book is so long because the parts of it that actually mattered were so rushed and abrupt. 

4. The romance is barely there. Lia and Kaden kind of resolve things between the two of them, but do they? Lia and Rafe have this rift and he actually gets engaged to someone else. Neither of them even seem to care much. Kaden gets a love story of his own, but it didn’t even make sense to me. How do you suffer such betrayal from someone you loved and then fall for someone else right away? I don’t know, I’m just meh about all the romance-ness at this point. I quit caring, to be honest.

5. The ending was so vague, with so many loose ends. Perhaps the author wanted us to assume things or create our own future for the characters, but I just wanted to know. So many books end with a final battle, and this one was just like all the others except Lia gets a new “gift” that… saves everything. So there. Lia didn’t do anything. Her gifts did.

So… I’m not happy. I skimmed some passages out of sheer boredom in the hopes of getting an amazing character moment or an awesome climax of events or something. I wanted a satisfying resolution, but I’m left feeling so disappointed. Would I recommend this book? I honestly don’t think so. Mary’s writing is typically amazing, but it felt tired here. I’m not sure what happened. I wish I had quit with The Kiss of Deception. I loved that book (I also loved The Heart of Betrayal, but this book made me regret reading it.), and considering how open-ended this book’s ending was I think you could easily read The Kiss of Deception as a standalone and move on.

A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody | Book Review

Posted August 9, 2016 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Young Adult / 1 Comment

A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody | Book Review

A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody | Book ReviewA Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on August 2, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars
When I made the wish, I just wanted a do-over. Another chance to make things right. I never, in a million years, thought it might actually come true...

Sixteen-year-old Ellison Sparks is having a serious case of the Mondays. She gets a ticket for running a red light, she manages to take the world’s worst school picture, she bombs softball try-outs and her class election speech (note to self: never trust a cheerleader when she swears there are no nuts in her bake-sale banana bread), and to top it all off, Tristan, her gorgeous rocker boyfriend suddenly dumps her. For no good reason!

As far as Mondays go, it doesn’t get much worse than this. And Ellie is positive that if she could just do it all over again, she would get it right. So when she wakes up the next morning to find she’s reliving the exact same day, she knows what she has to do: stop her boyfriend from breaking up with her. But it seems no matter how many do-overs she gets or how hard Ellie tries to repair her relationship, Tristan always seems bent set on ending it. Will Ellie ever figure out how to fix this broken day? Or will she be stuck in this nightmare of a Monday forever?

From the author 52 Reasons to Hate My Father and The Unremembered trilogy comes a hilarious and heartwarming story about second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances. Because sometimes it takes a whole week of Mondays to figure out what you really want.

I have been having a really hard time with contemporary YA novels right now, which has been so sad for me because I have always loved them so much. Am I getting too old for these books, or am I just reading the wrong ones? I’m happy to tell you that I’ve been reading the wrong ones! A Week of Mondays was so cute and so sweet and so swoony that I’ve decided I can continue reading contemporary YA! Phew! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I loved watching Ellie relive her Monday over and over again because I got to see her directly learn from her mistakes. She got to develop and change and discover herself (she even went through a rebellious phase). Honestly, I think we could all benefit from going through something like this.

2. I loved the relationships. I loved Ellie’s friendship with Owen and with her sister. Both relationships are true and tug at the heartstrings. Her sister relationship actually reminds me of the relationship my own little sister and I have.

I so wish I had someone like Owen in my life. They grew up sneaking into each other’s rooms having sleepovers and being camp counselors together every summer. Now they watch law dramas on TV and use courtroom jargon in every day conversations. They remind me of Zack and Jessie from Saved By the Bell, but cuter.

I even enjoyed the exchanges between Ellie and her parents, and the ebb and flow of their coexistence and support of one another.

3. Ellie reminds me so much of my teenaged self: a bit of a perfectionist, someone who bites off more than they can chew, a people pleaser, a worrier, and a hopeless romantic. I loved watching her think through all the possibilities of who she could be, and ultimately how she could be the truest to herself. I loved her inner thoughts and her sense of humor. She’s just such a sweet, down to earth heroine and I really loved her.

4. Oh my goodness, Owen is my new favorite book boy. He is hilarious! He’s got this obsession with using British slang even though he’s not at all British (Codswallop! My new favorite word!). He also loves fortune cookies and hosts the school’s book club. He’s so funny and nerdy and sweet. I love how he unconditionally cares for Ellie (even if he’s having a bad day), and the fact that every time she explains to him that she’s reliving the same day he believes her and even helps her figure things out. He’s just so perfect!

5. As much as I wanted to hate Tristan, I actually liked him for a long time until a Monday showed us how shallow he is. I loved the story of how he and Ellie met, and had fun reading pieces of that at the end of each Monday’s section of the book. I think this goes to show how great Jessica Brody is at writing sweet, magical romances. Don’t worry, though, I’m forever and always team Owen.

6. The romance is adorable. I don’t want to go into this point too much because I’ll spoil things, but young love is so wonderful and new and exciting.

7. This book is funny! Ellie’s thoughts, Owen’s quirks, and other little snippets of teen life just made me giggle and wax nostalgic. I hated being a teenager and, in retrospect, high school was pretty sucky. Most of my friendships were not true friendships and I can see now how much I was taken advantage of by people I thought cared about me. Jessica Brody’s imagination and writing have made me wish I could be a teen again! WHAT!? I wish my high school years were filled with the kind of memories Ellie will have at my age.

8. At times I got slightly tired of reading some of the same passages multiple times, but now that I’m done with the book I don’t even care. I loved reading it!

All in all, A Week of Mondays was just what I needed right now. I loved seeing such sweet relationships, such funny moments, and such great character development. It was a joyous reading experience for me, and I’m so glad I didn’t let my lukewarm feelings about contemporary YA steer me away from this sweet and heartwarming story. I highly recommend this book!

The Debut Dish: August 2016, Issue #1 (+ Giveaways)

Posted August 7, 2016 by Jana in Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish / 2 Comments

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Chris Russell (Songs About a Girl) and Karen Fortunati (The Weight of Zero).

Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell
July 28, 2016 from Hodder Children’s Books
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Charlie Bloom never wanted to be ‘with the band’. She’s happiest out of the spotlight, behind her camera, unseen and unnoticed. But when she’s asked to take backstage photos for hot new boy band Fire&Lights, she can’t pass up the chance.

Catapulted into a world of paparazzi and backstage bickering, Charlie soon becomes caught between gorgeous but damaged frontman, Gabriel West, and his boy-next-door bandmate Olly Samson. Then, as the boys’ rivalry threatens to tear the band apart, Charlie stumbles upon a mind-blowing secret, hidden in the lyrics of their songs…

Describe your book in five words or less.
Heartbreak, obsession, pop music, fame.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I’m rather fond of the scene where my main character, Charlie, first gets to know Gabriel, the gorgeous but damaged frontman of world-conquering boy band Fire&Lights. They’re on an empty stage in a massive venue, and they lie back on a podium, staring up at the bright lights above them. Gabriel points out clusters of lights as if they were constellations, and they share secrets with each other for the first time.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in my kitchen in South London, having lunch. I can’t remember exactly what I was eating, but I can tell you I was eating it off a chopping board (I eat all my meals off a chopping board; makes me feel like I’m in a fancy restaurant). My phone rang, and it was my agent, Ed. When your agent calls you, it normally means the news is either too good or too bad to be delivered by e-mail, so seeing their number on your screen sends you into a bit of a tailspin – maybe you’ve got a book deal, maybe it’s the dawn of the apocalypse. On this occasion, the news was about as good as it gets. I remember literally punching the air, then doing a small victory jig.

What’s your favorite junk food?
My band, The Lightyears, has been lucky enough to tour America several times, and we’re full-on OBSESSED with your food. Thinking about Taco Bell actually makes me a bit giddy. I would also drop-kick my own grandma for a Wendy’s burger, or a Wawa sub. Or an authentic Philly Cheesesteak from Pat’s King Of Steaks. Also, I know it’s not junk food, but I once ate fresh corn-in-the-cob at a BBQ in New Jersey and I thought my head was going to explode.

When I’m in the UK, though… McDonald’s. I love a cheeky McDonald’s. I always order a cheeseburger to go on the side of my Big Mac, like a starter. A McCanapé, if you will.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
This may be slightly dodging the question, but the oddest thing *about* my desk is that it’s well over a metre tall. I stand up to work, as we all should (much better for your health, y’know). IKEA don’t actually make metre-tall desks, so I build mine every morning by stacking a bedside table on top of a coffee table, along with a couple of super-chunky textbooks for extra height. It’s a feat of engineering.

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The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati
October 11, 2016 from Delacorte Press
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Seventeen-year-old Cath knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disease, has almost triumphed once, propelling Catherine to her first suicide attempt. With Zero only temporarily restrained by the latest med du jour, time is running out. In an old ballet shoebox, Catherine stockpiles meds, preparing to take her own life when Zero next arrives.

But Zero’s return is delayed. Unexpected relationships along with the care of a new psychiatrist start to alter Catherine’s perception of her diagnosis. But will this be enough? This is a story of loss and grief and hope and how the many shapes of love – maternal, romantic and platonic – impact a young woman’s struggle with mental illness.

Describe your book in five words or less.

YA hopeful realistic mental health.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
The last five chapters or so are my favorite collection of scenes. I can’t really describe them without giving away the resolution. What I can say is that they are exactly what I had first envisioned when this story came to me and even now, when I go back and read them, I am thrilled and grateful.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Visiting my parents in Florida! It was amazing to share that with them!

What’s your favorite junk food?
I’m easy – anything with chocolate = favorite. Chocolate chip cookies or ice cream or cake or brownies. All good.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I write at the kitchen table so there’s usually food stuff. When I move to the sofa, I’m usually sandwiched between my two dogs.

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Debut Author Challenge 2016: August Review Link-Up

Posted August 1, 2016 by Jana in Debut Author Challenge / 0 Comments


Good morning, August! This is the month school starts up for me again, but it’s my final semester and then I’ll have my Master’s degree in December! The light at the end of the tunnel has appeared, and I’m just hoping to make it to the end. Haha. Are you starting school this month, or are you lucky and have until September?

Since the summer is winding  down, tell me the best thing that happened to you this summer! Did you go on any trips or read an amazing book that you just HAVE to gush about?

Which debuts are you looking forward to this month? I’m excited about The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee and A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess! Have a wonderful month!

Some things to remember:

– It’s never too late to join the fun! If you’d like to join or make sure you’re signed up, there is a sign-up list and list of participants located in the Debut Author Challenge tab at the top of my blog.

– In order to get credit for your review, you must have read the book in 2016. If you read an ARC of a 2016 debut in 2015, it does not count. (I don’t want people with access to ARCs to have an advantage over those who don’t.)

– I’m here if you have any questions at all, so don’t hesitate to shoot me a message via Twitter or comment or homing pigeon.

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