Monthly Archives:: August 2017

Top Twelve Hidden Gems In Contemporary YA Lit

August 28, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 7

TTT

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted over at the other blog I write for, The Broke and the Bookish.

I’ve been having a lot of trouble with contemporary YA right now. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older and not relating as easily as I used to, or if trends in the genre are shifting and I’m just not as happy with the new direction? I’m not sure. I keep holding out hope, though, and I continue trying books and adding them to my TBR because of hidden gems like these that I’ve loved over the years. And I couldn’t pick just 10, so here’s twelve for you!

Note: I’m defining hidden gem as a book that I don’t remember hearing much about when it came out, or a book that is so backlisted that nobody is really talking about it anymore.


Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams
Reality TV and pizza. What more can a person ask for?

Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson
I was sold when I heard school trip to Italy.

The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller
Popular cheerleader turns nerd over the summer and falls for a boy in a comic book store. It’s adorable.

Love, Lucy by April Lindner
Summer backpacking trip through Italy! Plus it’s a retelling of A Room With a View!


The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen
Artsy character! And a super cute romance that’s compared to Anna and the French Kiss.

Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney
This book was a gift to my inner art historian. It’s about a boy who falls in love with a girl in a Renoir painting, and dances and eats dessert with her on the museum floor each night. So fun!

From What I Remember… by Stacy Kramer
The entire story had a very “Grease” kind of feeling.  Kylie is the valedictorian of her graduating class. She’s smart, and liked by pretty much nobody except her hilarious gay friend named Will. She gets paired up for a last-minute class project with the jock of the school, Max. He’s extremely hard to work with, but she HAS to get a good grade. So she pushes him. In a conglomeration of crazy events, they both find themselves smuggled across the border in a van of stolen electronics. They are in Mexico with no passports, no way of getting home, and graduation day is closing in. Geeky girl turns hard core, and jock notices. So cute!

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker
Clementine spends her summer on her parents’ sailboat nursing a broken heart. But it might not be the kind of heartbreak your mind just jumped to. She falls in love and spends a lot of time with her family eating disgusting meals made only from canned foods, eating s’mores by blow torch, star gazing, sunbathing, laughing, and bonding. I really loved this book!


Decked With Holly by Marni Bates
I have a big thing for books set on cruise ships… and cute Christmas stories… so this book won in two areas of my bookish heart. It was just as adorable and laugh-out-loud funny as I had hoped.

The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer
Adorably quirky heroine who is a self proclaimed writer, witty dialogue, mature word choices (I had to use a dictionary a time or two), tons of glorious 90’s references, a so sparkly and Christmasy story. Kate’s family has this huge traditional Swedish Christmas with lots of yummy food, decorations, great music playing all the time, a TON of snow, Christmas tree shopping and trimming, etc.

The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland
This book warmed me inside and out, and had me smiling like an idiot while I read it. It takes place in a little Outer Banks town that I’d love to visit, the descriptions are dripping with summer, I fell in love with the characters, there’s an amazing family dynamic, and I love the messages of learning who you are and having fun while you do it.

Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher
This book shocked me so many times, but how I felt at the end of it shocked me more than anything else.

Did you read and love any of these, too?
Have you added any of these to your TBR?
Any recommendations for other contemporary YA gems that have slid past me?


Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer | Mini Book Review

August 24, 2017 Book Review, Graphic Novel, Young Adult 0 ★★★

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer | Mini Book ReviewWires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer
and illustrated by Douglas Holgate
Series: Wires and Nerve #1
Published by Feiwel and Friends on January 31, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 238
Format: Hardcover
Source: From the Publisher
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3 Stars
When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers' leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the series.

I’m a major lover of The Lunar Chronicles and was pretty sad when it was all over. So OF COURSE I was over the moon when I learned about the graphic novels. Anything to get me back in that world!

I kind of knew this would happen, but the story was much simpler that the full length novels. Not as much happened, but I was ok with it because I was back with my favorite characters! I was just so happy to see them, and see them I finally did. Truth be told, I don’t enjoy seeing illustrations of beloved characters because they never look like they do in my head. In this case, though, Iko looked exactly as I pictured, so that was fun! Wolf was a little over the top wolfy for my taste (I never pictured him as such a big hulking, scruffy wolf), but I recognized everyone! It was a pleasant surprise. And I really loved the artwork! I’ve never been much of a fan of the comic book style illustrations, but I like Holgate’s work a lot.

There were lots of cute moments with all our characters, set against Iko’s wolf-hybrid soldier hunting storyline. Cress gets a cold and Thorne has to take care of her. Scarlet and Wolf are on their farm in France, so I we don’t get to see as much of them as I would have liked. Winter is the ambassador to Earth, and it was fun to see her in such a powerful position since we met her when she was pretty useless and imprisoned by her mind. I loved seeing her strength in this graphic novel. Cinder and Kai have never been my favorite couple in this series (they’re actually my least favorite, which is nuts), but it was fun to see what Cinder is up to now that she’s ruling things. Iko’s got a little thing going on with Kinney, Cinder’s royal guard, which I love. I hope she finds love, too!

All in all, this was so much fun an exactly what I needed after still being so hungover after Winter. I love this world and these characters, and I loved being there with them again. A must-have for fans of the series. I can’t wait for the next volume!


Five School Required Reads I’m Glad I Read & Five I Wish I Hadn’t

August 21, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 10

TTT

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted over at the other blog I write for, The Broke and the Bookish.

Unfortunately, school made me hate reading. I loved it as a little girl, but as soon as I hit the age where teachers force you to read “awesome” books and answer packets full of essay questions I hated reading more than I hated eating my vegetables. Many of the books upset me or were just downright boring, and it took me until I was 19 and in college before I rekindled my love of reading. I decided to use today’s topic to share five of the required reads I’m glad I read in school, and five that I’m still upset by today.

I’m glad I read…

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
I read this in elementary school and thought it was both terrifying and very fun.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller
I read this in high school, and my classmates and I all had parts. I played the part of Elizabeth Proctor, and it was so much fun.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This was required reading for my YA Lit class in grad school, and even though it took me two years to finish (because I was so scared of crying), I loved it a lot.

Night by Elie Wiesel
I had to read this for my Ethics and Values class in college, after which we sat in a big circle in our classroom and discussed it. There was no paper, no essays, no tests. We just sat and talked about it and that was our grade. Probably my favorite asignment outside of my major.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
This was also required reading for my YA Lit class, and it was probably going to be the only way I read this series. I’m so glad I did, though, and now I’m working my way through the rest of the series and having so much fun.

I wish I hadn’t read…


Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawl
Dog died. I think this was the beginning of my no tolerance policy regarding animal deaths in novels. I was in 4th grade when I read this, and it crushed me. I can still remember.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
People died. I hate death a lot.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
George. Killed. Lennie. I have a problem with death. I can still remember how upset I was.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
This is a case of me having read this way too young. Instead of getting anything good out of it, I was very upset by most of it. I’d probably feel differently now, but I really wish I had not read this when I did.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
I was INSANELY bored by this.

What required reads did you enjoy in school?
Which ones did you hate?
Do we have any in common?


Ten Book Recommendations for Historical Romance Lovers

August 14, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 8

TTT

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted over at the other blog I write for, The Broke and the Bookish.

I love historical romance, and I’ve never really given myself the opportunity to share some of my favorites, to today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was the perfect one for me. I’m not super well read in this genre, but I’m getting there and I’ve found some really great books in the process! I read some of these as a teenager and some as an adult, and I love all of them!


A Week to Be Wicked
by Tessa Dare
Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare
What I Did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long
Honor Bound by Brenda Novak
A Dance Through Time by Lynn Kurland


By Love or By Sea by Rachel Rager
The Charm School by Susan Wiggs
Catherine and the Pirate by Karen Hawkins
Tess and the Highlander by May McGoldrick
Gwyneth and the Thief by Margaret Moore

So, do you have any recommendations for me?
Which historical romance novels do you love?


Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout | Book Review

August 10, 2017 Adult Fiction, Book Review 2 ★★★★★

Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout | Book ReviewTill Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published by William Morrow on February 28, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
In New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout’s gripping new novel, a young woman comes home to reclaim her life—even as a murderer plots to end it. . .

It’s been ten years since Sasha Keaton left her West Virginia hometown . . . since she escaped the twisted serial killer known as the Groom. Returning to help run her family inn means being whole again, except for one missing piece. The piece that falls into place when Sasha’s threatened—and FBI agent Cole Landis vows to protect her the way he couldn’t a decade ago.

First one woman disappears; then another, and all the while, disturbing calling cards are left for the sole survivor of the Groom’s reign of terror. Cole’s never forgiven himself for not being there when Sasha was taken, but he intends to make up for it now . . . because under the quirky sexiness Cole first fell for is a steely strength that only makes him love Sasha more.

But someone is watching. Waiting. And Sasha’s first mistake could be her last.

I really, really love romantic suspense and was looking for a great one to read on my cruise a few months ago. Problem is, I’m pretty picky. I don’t like romantic suspense that’s super gory, erotic, or paranormal. I don’t feel like I’m asking for too much here, but apparently romantic suspense isn’t romantic enough if the love interest isn’t a werewolf trying not to eat the beautiful lady. Anyway… I LOVED Till Death. It’s my new favorite romantic suspense, and I’ve been scouring the Internet to try and find other titles like it. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. It’s super scary and creepy and ominous without being over the top and unrealistic. I’ve been reading a lot of mysteries this summer, and they’ve been pretty disappointing as a whole just because they totally would not happen in real life. This would!

2. The characters are so well developed, and I loved them all. Sasha is so strong and well adjusted after suffering at the hands of the Groom. She was the only one of his victims to escape, so obviously she’s resourceful, thinks well under pressure, and is driven to do what needs to be done. I really loved reading about her past and how she recovered and moved on from it. I also liked her best friend Miranda and her mom a lot. And Cole… the sexy FBI agent… I love this man.

3. The story has so many layers and characters that are intertwined. And it’s such a complex plot! I could not read fast enough.

4. I loved the setting. The inn is super cute on the surface, but it just feels unsafe and creepy underneath. The perfect setting for a mystery.

5. I had no idea who the Groom was until we were told. I was completely taken aback by who the culprit was. And that’s all I will say because I don’t want to spoil it.

All in all, this is the book that I will use to judge all other romantic suspense. And honestly, I haven’t found anything that has even come close yet. All those 1-star reviews I’ve been posting recently? Yeah, those were my attempts. I hope Jennifer Armentrout writes more books like this one! She’s got a knack for the genre!


The Witness by Nora Roberts | Book Review

August 7, 2017 Adult Fiction, Book Review 3

The Witness by Nora Roberts | Book ReviewThe Witness by Nora Roberts
Published by Penguin on April 17, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 492
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
Amazon Add to Goodreads
1 Stars
Daughter of a controlling mother, Elizabeth finally let loose one night, drinking at a nightclub and allowing a strange man’s seductive Russian accent lure her to a house on Lake Shore Drive. The events that followed changed her life forever.

Twelve years later, the woman known as Abigail Lowery lives on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. A freelance programmer, she designs sophisticated security  systems—and supplements her own security with a fierce dog and an assortment of firearms. She keeps to herself, saying little, revealing nothing. But Abigail’s reserve only intrigues police chief Brooks Gleason. Her logical mind, her secretive nature, and her unromantic viewpoints leave him fascinated but frustrated. He suspects that Abigail needs protection from something—and that her elaborate defenses hide a story that must be revealed.

With a quirky, unforgettable heroine and a pulse-pounding plotline, Nora Roberts presents a riveting new read that cements her place as today’s most reliably entertaining thriller
author—and will leave people hungering for more.

All I can really say about this book is, “Well… crap.” I love romantic suspense, and I’ve been really hunting for good titles all summer. I found a list of the best romantic suspense books, and this one was rated pretty highly and voted on by like 78 people. It’s got a 4.18 star rating average on Goodreads, with over 49,000 ratings, so I thought I was golden! But guys. This is not romantic suspense! It was hardly romantic, and it was not at all suspenseful. It was a huge disappointment. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Things start out very interesting, and I was definitely intrigued. The book begins with Elizabeth rebelling against her mother and making huge changes to her life. She cuts her hair, gets a new wardrobe, decides to change her educational and career path, and uses her own homemade fake ID to get into a very exclusive nightclub owned by some very dangerous men. These men set their sights on Liz and her friend, lure them back to an isolated home on the water, and all Hell breaks loose. Liz barely survives, gets put into witness protection, and all Hell breaks loose again. This girl has some pretty terrible luck.

2. Then… we shoot to 12 years later. And I realize rather quickly that I do not like Liz, now Abigail, at ALL. She’s very smart and independent, which is great. But she has no personality. She has isolated herself ever since the events of her youth, and she does not know how to socialize. She has no sense of humor, no emotions, no feelings. She’s very analytical and scientific about things that are neither. And of course I can understand this, given everything she has been through, but she just was not an interesting character to read about at all. I could not connect with her in any sort of way.

3. Brooks is a horrible main character/love interest. Of all the people to un-isolate yourself for and try to connect with, Abigail chose HIM!? Is she just trying to make her life suck more? He pursued and bugged her so much, pushing himself into her life when she so clearly had no interest in having him there. It bothered me so much that he refused to take no for an answer. And then when she wouldn’t let him in, he went and started researching her to try and figure out what she was hiding. Because there just HAD to be a reason for her to not want him around other than he fact that he sucks, right? Because what woman wouldn’t want him?

Brooks is also incredibly condescending and chauvinistic. For example, there is one moment when he pulls Abigail to her feet and demands respect. Then, he tells her she’s insulting him for being concerned that he might not love her if he knew the truth about her past. This woman does not know how to love, she has never been loved or loved anyone in her life and he was SO rude in the face of her legitimate concerns. When she said she was sorry, he said, “Good. You should be.” Then he “yanked” her in for a kiss. In what universe is this romantic? He also has a super dirty mouth and treats Abigail with such clear disrespect. She is his possession. I mean, for goodness SAKES. How many times did I read him refer to Abigail out loud as “my lady”, “my woman”, “my girl”. Grrr!

4. Insta-love. On steroids. You’ve got this awful, pushy man pursuing an extreme recluse who has like a million guns within her reach at all times and a dog that sounds about as big and fierce as a direwolf, yet… she has almost no issue with inviting him in to her place for food and wine and sex. Like… what is happening?? All Abigail’s credibility of being smart and protective of herself went right out the window when she became putty in his hands after a couple days of being talked into not pushing him away. I really felt like Brooks saw Abigail as a challenge to be conquered. A Game to be won. And instead of trying to win the game herself, she just threw in the towel because he’s a big strong man who says nice things to her. UGH.

5. It was SO BORING. By 50%, nothing had happened. There were just so many needless details, many of which were repeated over and over again. Something happens to Brooks at work, we read all about it, and then we read all about it again when he goes home and tells Abigail. We read every. Grueling. Detail again. This book is way too long. For this reason. Just tell the story and get it over with.

6. The writing was annoyingly choppy. It was filled with sentences much like: “Abigail went to the computer, checked her email.” Or “Brooks got in his car, turned it on.” Like, where are the nice, flowing sentences? I almost quit after the first few pages when I saw how often this was happening, but then it got better. And then it got worse. So the author isn’t even being consistent here!

7. The entire story was just so thin. Abigail had been keeping tabs on the bad guys during the last 12 years and anonymously feeding info about them to the FBI to try and take down their crime ring. Finally, she decides she needs to not be anonymous anymore and then everything seamlessly works out. There’s no crazy climax, no suspenseful moment at the end. Just court appearances. Can you hear my eyes rolling? I’m so annoyed I hung in there in the hopes of getting a great moment and it was just easy. I mean, I dealt with pages and pages of hearing the same mindless info about what it’s like to be a police captain. I got to read about everything that happened to Brooks when it happened and then again when he told Abigail about it. But I couldn’t get a satisfying ending as a reward for hanging in there?

So, I guess I’ve got a pretty unpopular opinion here, but I just don’t see any redeeming qualities about this book. The plot was thin, the story was implausible, the characters were awful, and the writing was crappy. Why didn’t I DNF? I’m wondering the same thing. And honestly, I have no idea. It probably had something to do with the fact that it’s NORA ROBERTS and I was giving her too much credit.


First Annual Magic, Myth & Mischief Event | Participation Invitation

August 2, 2017 Blog Event 2

 

Hi everyone! I’m pretty excited to announce this exciting collaborative event with the lovely Bonnie from A Backwards Story! If you’ll remember, Bonnie and I hosted A Week of Beauty and the Beast together this past March. We bonded over the OTSP Secret sister Project last year, and then we bonded over our love of fairy tales and retellings, too!

Magic, Myth, & Mischief is happening during the entire month of September this year, and it’s going to be so much fun! The entire month will center around fairy tales and mythological retellings, but we’ll also spotlight retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring lore about mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae!

The best part? We want YOU to be a part of the fun! Would you like to write a guest post about any aspect of this topic? Would you like to write a book review for us to host for you? Are you an author with a book that fits the event’s parameters and want to talk about it? We want you! Feel free to email us your ideas (Jana – JanaSparkles {at} yahoo {dot} com or Bonnie – abackwardsstory {at} gmail {dot} com). Or fill out the handy form below (it keeps us organized) by August 30th and we will get you on the schedule!

 

 

Even if you can’t participate, we’d love your help spreading the word! I made a banner and a button for the event that you’re free to use on social media or on your own websites. You can also help by tweeting or Facebooking links to this post and future event posts. We’d truly appreciate the publicity, plus you’ll get extra entries in our giveaway if you share now and throughout the entire month! :)

Official event hashtag: #magicmythmischief

We’d like to thank DeviantArt artists colgreyissandaraanotherwanderer, and Edil for the designs that helped make this event button and banner possible!

That Artsy Reader Girl
That Artsy Reader Girl

Please help us make this event the best it can be!
We can’t wait to share the fun with you all month long this September!