Murder for Choir by Joelle Charbonneau (Review & Giveaway)

July 5, 2012 Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Book Review 14 ★★★

Murder for Choir by Joelle Charbonneau (Review & Giveaway)Muder for Choir by Joelle Charbonneau
Series: Glee Club #1
Published by Berkley on July 3, 2012
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: From the Publisher
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3 Stars
Even as a struggling opera singer, Paige Marshall has never seen anything like the cutthroat competition of the Prospect Glen High School show choir. Coaching these championship-hungry students may be her toughest gig yet...

Especially when her best young male singer is suspected of killing the arrogant coach of Prospect Glen's fiercest rival. To clear his name, Paige will have to sort through a chorus of suspects, and go note-for-note with a killer who wants her out of the spotlight for good.

Welcome to today’s stop on the JKS Communications virtual book tour for Joelle Charbonneau’s newest book, Murder for Choir, a cozy mystery filled with singing, dancing, competition, and intrigue. I’m so glad you stopped by!

Seeing as how I was a show choir girl all through high school and college, I was incredibly excited to find a mystery novel that centered around such a fun time in my life. It was also nice to step away from the young adult books for a little while and read about people closer to my age. As always my main points are bolded. :)

1. I think the idea for this book was fun and unique. You can do a lot with a show choir, and there are a lot of story elements you can tackle. I’ve never watched the TV show Glee, but a blurb on the cover said, “Imagine if Stephanie Plum joined the cast of Glee…” I’ve also never read a Stephanie Plum novel! Haha. So, I can’t agree or disagree. Perhaps this will give you an idea, though, of what the book is like. :)

2. Paige Marshall is one of those characters that you want to either scream at or be best friends with. On the one hand, she’s always getting herself into trouble. She’s that heroine in the movies who walks out in the dark in her socks because she thinks she heard someone out there. You want to yell at her, “GET INSIDE, DUMMY!” I feel like she was lacking in basic, common sense. It got her in trouble. On the other hand, though, she’s sweet and is doing all of this to save a teenage boy who was accused of murder. She had good intentions, so I guess I can look past that. Haha. She’s also pretty funny.

3. Paige’s three co-workers: Devlyn (my favorite), Larry, and Felicia, were great characters. They were all very different from one another, with dynamic personalities, which was really nice. Sometimes supporting characters are boring and kind of mush together. I really liked them, though, except for officer Mike. I did not like him at all. Throughout the entire book he seemed aloof and unorganized. Plus, he seemed to be a total playboy. Paige’s Aunt Millie was a little over the top for me. She kind of reminds me of Richard’s mother in the TV show, Castle, if you’re familiar with that: tacky clothes, money, a Mark Kay pink Cadillac, and a pushy personality. Both women love their families, though, which is why I can let the tackiness slide and adore them both. And I must admit, Millie was hilarious. Her taxidermy pets and pink platform shoes were heartwarming.

4. The mystery was very intriguing, but not entirely realistic to me. Paige, a teacher, took the police investigation on herself and ended up getting into a lot of trouble. She should have been arrested so many times for interfering with a police investigation, but she never did. If you can look past the fact that this all would most likely never happen, and just enjoy the story for what it is you’ll be fine. :) I had to keep reminding myself of this throughout the book. I guess I watch too much CIS/NCIS/Castle/Blue Bloods. I just wasn’t buying it.

5. Regardless of my former point, I was kept guessing on who did it until about the last quarter of the book. I actually figured it out before Paige did, which made me really proud of myself! Usually the ending is a surprise to me.

6. Maybe I was just lucky, but my show choir experiences were not this cut throat and ruthless. Directors did not have to sleep with adjudicators in order to get higher scores or placements. Students did not wish someone dead or threaten people in the hopes of winning a competition or getting ahead. We all just liked each other and enjoyed the music we made together. So to me, this also felt unrealistic. But the author is a major musician and performer, so maybe she saw this kind of thing happen in her choral experiences. I was just surprised. Haha.

Overall, this is a fun little mystery. I enjoyed the characters and the basic plot line. Joelle is a great storyteller, and I enjoyed her writing style. While I found things to be a little unrealistic, once I looked past that and just focused on the story I began to enjoy it more. Was it my favorite book? No. But I would recommend it to people who love mysteries, a little romance, a little suspense, and choral singing.

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Head on over to the other stops on this tour for more reviews, author interviews and guest posts, and more giveaways!

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Happy 4th of July!

July 4, 2012 Uncategorized 4

 

To all my readers from the USA, happy 4th! I really love the 4th of July because of what it represents: our freedom. I’m free to worship the way I want, read what I want, and voice my opinions. I live in an awesome country.

I’m going to a Beach Boys concert tonight, followed by a spectacular fireworks display, which I can’t wait for. I’m also going to have a delish dinner from one of the best local Mexican grills. It’s going to be a wonderful day, and I hope yours will be too. Be safe in all your activities, and eat lots of food! Oh, and don’t burn your state down. We’ve been hit by a lot of fires over here in the West lately, so please be careful!(

So, what are you doing today? :)

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The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen (Book Review)

July 2, 2012 Book Review, Young Adult 8 ★★★★★

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen (Book Review)The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen
Published by Speak on February 16, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 380
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
Pretty in Pink meets Anna and the French Kiss in this charming romantic comedy

Ella is nearly invisible at the Willing School, and that's just fine by her. She's got her friends - the fabulous Frankie and their sweet cohort Sadie. She's got her art - and her idol, the unappreciated 19th-century painter Edward Willing. Still, it's hard being a nobody and having a crush on the biggest somebody in the school: Alex Bainbridge. Especially when he is your French tutor, and lessons have started becoming, well, certainly more interesting than French ever has been before. But can the invisible girl actually end up with a happily ever after with the golden boy, when no one even knows they're dating? And is Ella going to dare to be that girl?

Here we have another cute contemporary romance, and it was just what I needed for a summery day spent reading on my cruise ship’s balcony. Oh, and I was sick. Who else loves reading cute love stories when you’re sick? They are like comfort food. :) Really, all I feel like I can say is that it was adorable! Sometimes I get so swept into a story that I forget I have to review it. Haha. That’s kind of what happened here. So, this review will most likely be short and sweet, just like the book itself! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I went into this book expecting “Pretty in Pink meets Anna and the French Kiss” since, well, that’s what the book said it was. While I certainly would not measure this book up to Anna (because it falls short in comparison), it was a sweet read that I’m glad I took the chance on.

2. I really enjoyed the wacky humor. Ella has this crush on Edward Willing, a painter from the 19th century. Obviously he’s no longer living, but she has a bust of him that she talks to about her life and inner thoughts. And he talks back and gives advice. I found that to be rather weird at first, but the idea kind of grew on me. I ended up enjoying their conversations. Ella also has this hilarious Italian family who all work at their Italian restaurant together. Their conversations and loud personalities kind of reminded me of the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

3. Ella is really easy to relate to. She’s got all the normal traits of a high school girl: a meddling family, a few best friends, a crush she is sure will never ever like her back, and some insecurities (especially regarding some severe scars leftover from a boating accident when she was younger). At the same time, though, she shines and gains the attention of that certain unattainable guy.

4. I love Ella’s two best friends, Frankie and Sadie, who go to Willing School with her. They are the misfits of their class, and have bonded together. Frankie is gay, Sadie is rich but has low self esteem, and Ella is there on scholarship. Clearly, they don’t fit in among the elite students (phillites) that surround them. Together, they help instil confidence in Ella, and help her grow as a person. Frankie is extremely flamboyant and confident, always bouncing around and voicing his opinion. Every girl needs a guy like Frankie in her life.

5. Alex is such a sweetie. He’s appointed Ella’s math tutor, and even though he’s a phillite, he is so sweet and caring towards her. They form this really cute relationship. There was no insta-love, just a simple, sweet teenage love story. They have a very real connection.

In short, I loved this book. It was cute, sweet, and light, but at the same time it touched on some of the deeper issues that teenagers face like self worth, body image, and feelings of inadequacy. I enjoyed everything about it, and would definitely recommend it to people who enjoy contemporary YA.

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ALA Anaheim, CA 2012 Event Recap

June 28, 2012 Event Recap 13

I’d been mulling over the idea of attending the ALA annual conference since January, when I found out it was going to be at the Anaheim Convention Center! I had pretty much decided I could not go, though, since I would have barely been back from my 6 weeks in Europe by the time it was time to pack up again and drive to California. My decision to just go for it came totally last minute, and was completely spontaneous! I’m so, SO glad I decided to go, though, because it was seriously one of the highlights of my life thus far.


Courtyard outside the convention center.
Photo from here.

My mom and I decided to road trip it, and have a fun little vacation around the conference. My birthday was on the 22nd, so we thought it would be a great way to celebrate! We left home on the morning of the 21st, and drove to Las Vegas to stay in Bally’s before waking up on the 22nd and driving the rest of the way to Anaheim to make it in time for the grand opening of the exhibition floor at 5:30. We were going to make it with hours to spare, but due to the major chemical spill on I-15, we were delayed for 2 hours and I ended up being about 20 minutes late to the conference. I rushed in and immediately met Magan from Rather be Reading, who I just love. I also met her two roommates, Jennifer from Novel Thoughts and Christin from Portrait of a Book. Her other room mate (Lena from Addicted 2 Novels) flew in later that night. We spent the evening meeting publishers, authors, other bloggers, and finding awesome reads! After the conference, my mom and I went to BJ’s in Huntington Beach for a birthday dinner. We totally pigged out on yummy foods, and I even got a candle in my pizookie. Then we went back to the hotel, and I completely crashed.

I woke up the next morning to find out my mom had been throwing up all night from the shrimp dinner she got at BJ’s the night before. Ugh! I was so sad for her. Luckily Magan was sweet enough to come get me from my hotel so my mom could keep the car in case she needed to go get anything throughout the day. Thanks, Magan!

The rest of my time at ALA was like this (haha): woke up super early, stood in line outside the exhibit doors before they opened, either stood in signing lines or constantly walked from booth to booth meeting people and getting amazing books, being completely weighed down by said books, meeting reps, pubs, authors, and bloggers, getting completely exhausted and weighed down, and having an amazingly awesome time for the entire weekend. Seriously, I loved everything, and was even ok going on very little sleep.


From bottom left to bottom right:
Espe (she took this pic), Me, Georgia, Jen, Magan.
Waiting in Tahereh Mafi’s signing of Unravel Me!

Awesome bloggers I met:
Magan from Rather be Reading
Christin from Portrait of a Book
Jennifer from Novel Thoughts
Lena from Addicted 2 Novels
Jen and Espe from Late Bloomer Online
Georgia from Eve’s Fan Garden
H.D. from Reading Writing Breathing
Katie from Katie’s Book Blog
Lauren from 365 Days of Reading
Liz from Consumed by Books
Lisa from A Life Bound by Books

And… SO MANY MORE! I’m so sorry if I forgot to add you to my list. ALA is such a huge blur of amazingness, and I can’t remember all the wonderful people I met!

Amazing authors I met:
Tahereh Mafi, Rae Carson, Rachel DeWoskin, Stacy Bierlein, Jessi Kirby, Nick James, Janet Gurtler, Attica Locke, Leigh Bardugo (again!), Deb Caletti, Talia Vance, Alexandra Bracken, Dan Kronos, Marlene Perez, Kinsey Leavitt, Sarah J. Maas, Marie Lu, Laini Taylor, Lex Hrabe, Thomas Voorhies, Katherine Grace Bond, Miranda Kenneally, Katherine Applegate, Michael Grant, Marissa Meyer (again!), Gennifer Albin, Tamara Ireland Stone, Lisa Schroeder, Malinda Lo, Rachel Cohn, Jessica Khoury, Kami Garcia, and Morgan Matson. 

Can I just say how awesome, nice, and likeable authors in general are? I had so much fun talking to all of them! I also met my favorite Macmillan person, Ksenia, who was so sweet. We spent a lot of time discussing books and life. I met Ms. Feiwel of Feiwel & Friends (an imprint of Macmillan), which was so cool! She’s super nice. And I met great people at Simon and Schuster, Penguin, Capstone, Random House, Scholastic, Little Brown, Harper Collins, and more! Bookish people are the best. It was so much fun standing in line and talking books with librarians, library pages, bloggers, authors, and publishers. The final attendance number was 20,134 people! OH MAN! I have never been in a room with so many book lovers!

Event Highlights:

  • Walking onto the exhibit floor for the first time. It was so huge, and there was so much to look at! I was in book heaven. 
  • Meeting Magan, who I have been wanting to meet since I started chatting with her on Twitter months ago. And adoring her as much as I thought I would.
  • Picking up my very first book, and feeling like I was stealing it.
  • Meeting my Arizona gals (Jen, Espe, and Georgia) and walking around laughing, sweating, and discussing being book drunk. 
  • Georgia worrying that her glued-together flip flops might not make it through the day.
  • Standing in Tahereh Mafi’s signing line and getting the 19th ARC, when they only had 60 total to hand out. 
  • When I found Ksenia, she knew who I was immediately, and was so excited to see me that she gave me a huge hug!
  • When I met Leigh Bardugo again, and she remembered me as “the eyelash girl” and then hugged me. (and gave me nail polish!)
  • Walking down the rows of booths and hearing, “I remember That Artsy Reader Girl!”
  • Finding out people have heard of my blog. I swear, I feel like I’m in my own little world here on the blog sometimes. It’s nice to know my thoughts are reaching others!
  • Watching H.D. (Reading, Writing, Breathing) do warm-ups and stretches in line before the exhibit doors opened. He had a specific book in mind, and just HAD to get it. Watching him power walk to Harper made me die laughing.
  • Talking to a librarian from Mississippi about how hot it was in the convention center, and watching her wipe sweat of her face before saying in her Southern drawl, “It’s like ‘nawlins in here!” (Nawlins = New Orleans) I used to live in Louisiana, so I know what that feels like!
  • Going up to one of the ladies at Harper, asking if they had Hidden by Sophie Jordan, and watching her smile before finding it in a cabinet for me! AHHH! So excited to read this one!
  • Talking about books like they were drugs: “Hey, do you have this book?” “Yeah, a few… but don’t tell anyone.” There was so much whispering and subtle book exchanges going on. It really felt like we were dealing drugs! HAHA! 
  • Getting the last copy of Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys.
  • Almost tripping on the carpet as I went from one booth to another (some booths had thicker, cushionier carpet, so the differing ground levels made me trip!). 
  • The last day, when pubs were giving away finished copies of books they had on display that I really wanted… and the nice guy at Harlequin who gave me my picks early because I wanted them so badly, and did not want someone else to get them first.
  • Sitting in hour-long signing lines to get a book I really wanted and meet that author, making me realize I love reading more than I thought I did!  
  • Going back to the hotel completely dead tired and worn out, sleeping harder than I ever have, and waking up with SO much energy to go out again!
  • The convention center was so hot for most of the weekend that people were dripping sweat, and their hair was wet. On the last day, they must have figured out the AC, because it was SO cold, and a lot of the pubs and reps were wearing jackets. 
  • Seeing Molly Ringwald!
  • Smacking into so many people with my bags, apologizing profusely, and having them smile at me and say, “Oh, don’t worry. I’ve been to BEA, so I’m way used to this.” They were so nice! 
  • Speaking with humble authors who got teary when you told them how much you loved their book(s).
  • Being in one room with thousands of bookish people like me, with so many people to talk to. We all had so much in common, and had read all the same books! 

And here are a bunch of pictures I took of the exhibit floor! 


Bloomsbury’s booth, along with Macmillan Kids just behind it.


The Macmillan Children’s booth.


Random House’s booth.


These aisles had all the books! We sat here in the lobby every morning to line up for the doors to open.
(I did not take this photo. Credit goes here.)


Sitting in line waiting for the Crewel signing. The line was SO long, and wrapped around several different booths.


Scholastic’s booth.



Half of Penguin’s booth.


Waiting in line on the last day for Simon and Schuster’s book giveaway. We each got to pick 4 of their display copies for free!


So many books!

I really had so much fun, met so many wonderful people, and came home with a TON of really exciting books! I’d like to thank all of the publishers for being so generous. I really had no idea what to expect when I signed up for ALA, but they were all so nice and always ready to recommend a book they thought I would love. I met some friends, and made quite a few new ones. Bookish people really are among the nicest in the world, and I was sad to leave such a huge book club and come home to real life. I’m already saving my pennies for ALA 2013 in Chicago! Check back for my ALA Book Haul post! I’ve had many requests for a vlog, so be expecting one soon!

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Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs (Mini Book Review)

June 27, 2012 Book Review, Young Adult 6 ★★★

Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs (Mini Book Review)Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
Series: Tempest #1
Also in this series: Tempest Unleashed, Tempest Revealed
Published by Walker Children's on May 10, 2011
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3 Stars
Tempest Maguire wants nothing more than to surf the killer waves near her California home; continue her steady relationship with her boyfriend, Mark; and take care of her brothers and surfer dad. But Tempest is half mermaid, and as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she will have to decide whether to remain on land or give herself to the ocean like her mother. The pull of the water becomes as insistent as her attraction to Kai, a gorgeous surfer whose uncanny abilities hint at an otherworldly identity as well. And when Tempest does finally give in to the water's temptation and enters a fantastical underwater world, she finds that a larger destiny awaits her-and that the entire ocean's future hangs in the balance.

This is one of those reviews that’s a little hard for me to write, because I just can’t think of a whole lot to say about the book. I liked it, but it did not have me going crazy with love (or hate), so I’m feeling some writer’s block. I absolutely love mermaid books, and have been reading quite a few lately. This one started out a bit slowly for me, though.

I did not love Tempest as much as I had hoped I would. She’s annoying, selfish, lacking in common sense, and completely self-destructive. I enjoy a heroine with a good head on her shoulders, and Tempest was really dumb sometimes. Some of her decisions had me smacking my forehead. Her silly banter/flirting back and forth with Kona seemed forced and unbelievable. I cringed reading it sometimes. You can tell they were trying to tease each other, but it just did not work. And the insta-love. OH MAN. This book is dripping with it. Seriously, this kind of instant “I will die for you or wait an eternity for you to love me back” is completely unbelievable, and I’m getting tired of it! Tempest’s thoughts regarding her mother also really bothered me. Her mom chose to live the life of a mermaid, rather than living on land with her beloved family. Tempest hated her for this, but then goes and makes the same decision (this is not a spoiler… it’s in the book summary on the back of the book). So… why can she do it, but not her mother? It just bothered me. Talk about a double standard. I loved her little brothers. They were so cute, and I really liked her dad. I always love reading about heroines who have extremely strong relationships with their dads.

Kona is wonderful, sexy, and completely swoon-worthy. He’s also a creature of the water, but you’ll have to read the book to figure out what he is. I really liked him and his world, though. He has a lot of honor, compassion, and mystery. I also liked Mark, her other love interest. You know YA novels! They almost always have a love triangle. Mark is also sweet, but I like him more as a brother or best friend than a love interest. Tempest’s guy friends are also a fun group to read about, but we don’t get to know them very well.

I enjoyed Tracy’s descriptions of the underwater world. The sea life and the scenery were so beautifully described, which is what made the story exciting to me (and also what made me give the book an extra star). I never used to enjoy a lot of detail in my stories, but I’m evolving into a lover of world building. I was left wanting more, though. I wanted the focus to move away from Tempest and Kona, and focus some more on those underwater creatures.

Overall, Tempest Rising left a few things to be desired, and left me shaking my head a little bit. The character development and relationships between most of the characters felt forced and made me uncomfortable. I loved the underwater world and would have enjoyed reading more of that than the silly teenage “Who am I? What do I want?” drama. I am planning to read the next book, and hope that Tempest will grow up a little, and that we’ll be able to learn more about merfolk and life under the sea.

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Celebrating 25 Years of Jana! (International Giveaway)

June 22, 2012 Giveaway 36

So… once upon a time, I turned 25. And it happened this very month! I think that’s worth celebrating! This giveaway is going to be a lot of fun, because in honor of my birthday, I get to surprise you! All you need to do is make a wishlist somewhere on the Internet (of 15-30 books), and link me to it. Here’s mine, if you need an example. Then, enter the giveaway as usual. Rafflecopter will decide who wins, and then I will visit the winner’s wishlist and send them something from it! You won’t know what you’re getting until it’s in your hands, so please keep your list updated throughout the giveaway. I’d hate to send you something you already have!

Rules: 

→ You must be 13 years or older to enter. Otherwise, ask a parent to enter for you. :)

→ This giveaway is International. If you live in the USA, your prize will be coming from Amazon. If you’re International, it will be coming from The Book Depository. Make sure they ship to you!

→  As part of Armchair BEA, I posted a survey asking for advice and book blogging in general. If you filled out that survey, you get an extra two entries in this giveaway. I will check, and if your name is not entered in the survey (it was question #1) then those two entries will not count.

→  I am more than willing to do pre-orders, so feel free to put those on your wishlist as well.

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Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker (Book Review)

June 20, 2012 Book Review, Young Adult 6 ★★★★★

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker (Book Review)Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker
Published by Bloomsbury Children's on May 22, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 232
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life.

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now.

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

So, I noticed the other day that I’m reading a lot of books right now with titles that are also songs. First it was Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins (Justin Bieber’s Somebody to Love), then it was the one, and next I’m reading Just Say Yes by Philippa Ashley (Snow Patrol’s Just Say Yes). This is causing me to sing more than I read! Seriously, though. I loved this book so much, and even though Toni Braxton’s love ballad thoroughly wedged itself into my mind and remained there for days, it was SO worth it. This is definitely a new favorite of mine, and I can totally see reading this book again. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Melissa did such a good job at capturing the inner turmoil and despair that a teenager goes through after a heartbreaking situation. I’ve been where Clementine is, and I hurt right along with her. It’s amazing how these heartbreaks do control every thought and action. Crying and self-deprecation almost always happen, and sometimes it takes quite a while to get over it. Clem’s world might not have ended, but she sure thought it had. The emotions in this story were real and pure.

2. I was surprised when I came to realize rather quickly that Clem was getting over a lost friendship, and not a lost relationship. I think it made Clem more relatable, though, as I think we’ve all gone through major spats with our best friends. It’s so hard to be a teenager! Haha. I’m so glad I’m done.

3. Clementine was real. She was me, actually. I loved her flaws, and that as she healed she was able to make sense of those flaws and become a better person. I’ve never cheated on anyone, but I know the ramifications of cheating, because I’ve been cheated on. Of course what she did was wrong, but the fact that she recognized that and turned it into something to learn from rather than something to be mad about was refreshing. Her character development was so enjoyable to read about.

4. Clem’s family is amazing. I think part of why I love reading books geared towards young adults is because they are still tied closely to their families. Their parents have influence over them still, and they mostly still live at home. Her parents are wonderful, and I hope that I can have the kind of relationship with my own kids someday that they have with their daughters. Clem’s sister, Olive, reminds me so much of my little sister–always wanting to tag along, looking up to you, silly humor, sweet disposition, biggest fan. It made me reminisce on the times when we would set up forts in the living room or immaculate Barbie cities in our bedrooms… late night dance parties to Britney Spears in the light of my lava lamp.

5. James, a.k.a. Red, is my new favorite young adult male character. If I could wrap him up, and add about 10-12 years to him, I’d take him for myself! What a likeable, happy, artistic, charismatic, and hilarious guy. He knows Clem is sad about something, but he’s giving her the time to tell him on her own. He’s also sad about something in his past, and as the two get to know each other better, they help each other heal. I love his philosophy, which is basically this: you can be sad and you can mourn what you’ve lost, but the memories you created before that loss are yours forever. Never discount the happy times in life, just because they ended unhappily. I can learn a lot from Red. 

6. Don’t get me wrong, this story is not all sad and depressing! Clem and her family spend the summer aboard a sailboat, spending time together, eating disgusting meals made only from canned foods, eating s’mores by blow torch, star gazing, sunbathing, laughing, and bonding. Clem, Olive, and red spend many hours hanging out trying to catch fish, perfecting their Little Mermaid moves, giggling, and teasing each other. An elderly couple is another hilarious addition to the story, and not only made me laugh with the things they said, but warmed my heart with their views on true love. I laughed and smiled a lot. And: ding ding ding! I did not cry. There was no reason to!

7. This book makes me want to do great things. It makes me want to get over my own little heartbreaks along the road, and spend more time with my family. It makes me want to value my mom and sister more. And it makes me want to get a sailboat and go sailing all summer! I can finally attest to the fact that long trips altar the person you are. They let you step away from normal life and learn about yourself. I got to experience this on my recent trip to Europe, and I want to do it again! You know that term “wanderlust” that everyone speaks of? It’s not about the love of traveling, I’ve decided. It’s about the love of getting away from your life so that you can discover what you life is all about. Clem got to discover this as well, and I was rooting for her.

Clearly, I loved this story! I love flawed characters who can pull themselves out of their pits of despair and come away better people. I love sweet, simple romances that bloom from deep conversation and friendship rather than instant attraction. And I love it when those romances turn people into better versions of themselves. I love strong families who support one another. This really is the perfect summery beach read that will have you smiling and thinking back on what it was like to be a kid. I think that’s another reason I love YA: it reminds me of the really simple times in life, when I would not have been embarrassed to pretend I’m Ariel, breaking the surface of the water.

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June is Audiobook Month!

June 19, 2012 Bookish Deals 5

 

So, June is Audibook Month (I know! I’m way late!), and I think this is a wonderful time to introduce myself to audiobooks! I’ve listened to half of The Da Vinci Code, and got really bored… fell asleep… and that was it! But since there’s an entire month devoted to audiobooks, maybe I need to rethink my decision!

Anyway, there’s this website called audiobooksync.com that is giving away two audio books a week from now until August 22nd. There are some awesome titles on their site, so I thought I’d let you know about them! The titles include Anna Dressed in Blood, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Sense and Sensibility, A Tale of Two Cities, and more. And they are FREE if you want them! I’m really excited about this!

Here is the schedule. Right now, they are giving away The Eleventh Plague and the Grapes of Wrath.

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Cicada by Belle Whittington (Book Review + Giveaways!)

June 18, 2012 Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult 5

Cicada by Belle Whittington (Book Review + Giveaways!)Cicada by Belle Whittington
Series: Cicada #1
Also in this series: Firefly, Monarch
Published by CreateSpace on September 13, 2011
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 220
Format: eBook
Source: From the author
Amazon Add to Goodreads
Summertime for Blair Reynolds and her friends had always been carefree and fun... until the summer they happened upon something that was not human. As they band together in a fight for their lives, Blair's true love becomes something more than human. Something unnatural. And their survival depends entirely upon their ability to keep a secret.

Hello! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog as I help kick off the AToMR blog tour for Belle Whittington’s Cicada, book #1 in an exciting and suspenseful young adult sci-fi trilogy (haha. Long sentence there!)! When you are finished reading my review, make sure to find the complete schedule of tour events at the bottom. Also, find the opportunity to win one of 12 ebook copies of Cicada and/or an electronic firefly in a jar in honor of the upcoming sequel to Cicada, called Firefly. Both Rafflecopters are at the bottom of this review. :)

Going into this book, I was not really sure what to expect at all. I mean… cicadas are bugs. And they are noisy little guys! I used to live in Louisiana, and every summer night was accompanied by the sounds of cicadas in the trees. One time I saw one and flipped out. I’m really against bugs in general. And then I read the book blurb, which does not tell you much, and saw the “not human” and thought: Oooo! Aliens! And sci-fi. And hopefully not huge bugs, because I would have a major problem with that. Cicada surprised me! I was not expecting such a suspenseful, romantic, creepy, mysterious, and exciting story. I’m a huge lover of reading conspiracy theories (I don’t believe most of them, but they are fun to think about!), so when crop circles and aliens and UFOs and secret government agencies came into play, I was up all night reading. This was a great story! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. This is a way different kind of story than most sci-fi books I’ve come across lately. It’s kind of a mix of the movie Signs and the Wings series by Aprilynn Pike. Weird, I know. That sounds crazy. Seriously, though! You’ve got the aliens and the crop circles and the “I’m freaking out about the fact that you’re outside in the dark right now” feeling, mixed with the “my boyfriend, who I thought was normal, is not normal at all and is changing and becoming a new person, and I might not see him for a while, but I need to pull through this and be strong” kind of situation.

2. Welcome to a young adult romance without a love triangle! Do you know how much I loved the fact that the main story was not centered around two boys fighting over one girl? It was glorious! Everett, the geeky guy in the group is Blaire’s best friend, and things develop from that. It’s a natural, common kind of real life relationship and I was very happy to see that surface in a sea of books with love triangles.

3. The characters were a lot of fun, but Blair was not my favorite at all. She was kind of an ordinary heroine to me. Her brother Andrew, though, was so great to read about. He is this sweet big brother who has a whole bunch of secrets, and really adores and protects his sister. Blair’s mom kind of weirded me out. She spoke to Blair a lot in sing-sing rhymes, which I found… well, weird. Haha. David is a baseball stud, whose batting skills came in handy and made me like him a lot. He’s also a very caring friend. Then there’s Natalie… and her role in the story confused me. She and David have a thing for each other, but don’t act on it because college is coming up and they will have to part ways. But they are still cuddly and dependent on each other, and then all of a sudden, the relationship escalates, but we were given no clues that it was happening! That romance was a bit unconvincing, but it’s probably because they are supporting characters, so we don’t get much info on them.

4. The creep-factor in Cicada had this chicken quivering under every blanket she owned. There’s just something about people walking through really dark, dense woods in the middle of the DARK. Plus, as Blair and all her friends started to get more and more involved with this non-human situation at hand, they became targets of a very dangerous group of people who were out to kill them. Now me, I’d hide in my closet. Or I’d move. Join a convent. Flee the country. What did they do? They went searching for these people! They entered mysterious buildings with green lights inside in the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. Because surely, waiting until it’s light out is not at all practical. You know how you watch a movie, and the main character hears a noise outside, so they walk out to see what it is? And they’re all, “Hello? Is someone there?” And you’re like, “DUH! GETINSIDERIGHTNOW!” Yeah. Exactly. Would you go snooping around scary city in the middle of the night? No, I think not. I was so creeped out that I called my little sister at 2:00 in the morning and asked her to go with me when I brushed my teeth, so that I would not have to walk across the dark hallway alone (because I swear I heard an alien out there). Yes, I’m admitting this to you. And I’m a chicken. This might be something your mom would read as a bedtime story to a 7-year-old you. Don’t judge me if you read this and are not scared. Toast popping out of the toaster has me practically running in place.

5. I wish there was a bit more substance. There was a lot of riding around “in the darkness” and searching a building and four-wheeling and visiting a storage facility. I wish we had been given some more character development and a few different events. The story was relatively short, though, so maybe we’ll get more in book #2. :)

6. The main climax of the book moved really quickly. It took a while to build up, which I enjoyed, but then BAM! Crazy thing happens, and then crazy thing is somewhat resolved within a few pages. I would have liked a little more time between the crazy and the resolution. We are led to believe (through what the characters say) that fixing this major, major problem is going to be extremely hard, but they do it rather easily within just a few pages. I wanted to go through more turmoil and more worry. I wanted the characters to have to struggle more. This is really hard to explain without spoiling things. If you’ve read the book, you know what I mean.

7. The vague blurb was obviously written vaguely for a reason, so I’m not going to spoil anything for you. I find that sometimes a book’s back cover summary gives way too much away. This one leaves you with a lot of questions, which brings me to my next point: this book has left me with SO MANY QUESTIONS, which really frustrated me! Haha. I’m glad there’s a couple more books coming out in this story, and hopefully I’ll know what’s going on by the end of those. :P

This is a really nice debut from Belle Whittington. Of course, there is room for improvement, but isn’t there always? I’m excited to see what she does with the following stories, and it’ll be fun to watch her writing style and storytelling develop as her books continue. The sign of a great author is that each of their books are better than the ones before. I can see Belle being one of those authors. I enjoyed the story a lot, and am going to be on the lookout for the next one. I’d recommend this to lovers of sci-fi romances and conspiracy theories.
 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here’s a link to a video of what the electronic firefly looks like. Very cool!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
These giveaways include everyone on every stop of this blog tour, so there is no guarantee that one of my readers will win. Also, I’m not the one in charge of choosing the winners. They are. :)

Follow the tour! Here’s the schedule.

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I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins-Clark (Mini Book Review)

June 16, 2012 Adult Fiction, Book Review 3 ★★

I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins-Clark (Mini Book Review)I'll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark
Published by Simon & Schuster on April 5, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Pages: 337
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
Amazon Add to Goodreads
2 Stars
Alexandra “Zan” Moreland, a gifted, beautiful interior designer on the threshold of a successful Manhattan career, is terrified to discover that somebody is not only using her credit cards and manipulating her financial accounts to bankrupt her and destroy her reputation, but may also be impersonating her in a scheme that may involve the much more brutal crimes of kidnapping and murder. Zan is already haunted by the disappearance of her own son, Matthew, kidnapped in broad daylight two years ago in Central Park—a tragedy that has left her torn between hope and despair.

Now, on what would be Matthew’s fifth birthday, photos surface that seem to show Zan kidnapping her own child, followed by a chain of events that suggests somebody—but who? Zan asks herself desperately, and why?—has stolen her identity.

Hounded by the press, under investigation by the police, attacked by both her angry ex-husband and a vindictive business rival, Zan, wracked by fear and pain and sustained only by her belief, which nobody else shares, that Matthew is still alive, sets out to discover who is behind this cruel hoax.

What she does not realize is that with every step she takes toward the truth, she is putting herself— and those she loves most—in mortal danger from the person who has ingeniously plotted out her destruction...

I think I’ve mentioned to a lot of people that I love Mary Higgins-Clark. She is the first author I got hooked on as a teenager, and I really devoured her novels. It’s kind of a summer tradition to read her newest release while on vacation, so I bought this for my kindle and was SO excited to find some time to read it while I was in Europe! I read this mostly on my cruise and in Rome, Italy! The story was entertaining and intense, and I was definitely intrigued. However, the writing in this book does not sound like the Mary I grew up reading. Sadly, I found myself getting really tired of the writing style. It really detracted from the story, and I don’t have a ton to say about it. Haha.

I honestly think that Mary has reached the point in her career where she has hired a ghost writer or two, and I can’t blame her for that. According to her bio, she’s around 85 years old. I just wish she had hired a ghost writer with real talent to match her own. It makes me so sad to think that she chose to continue producing really mediocre books under her own name, rather than just bow out and leave with some amazing books under her belt. Maybe she’s still writing these on her own, but if that’s the case she has definitely slipped. In any case, this book followed a completely different writing style and formula that made her previous books winners in my eyes.

Zan is a pretty boring, semi-crazy kind of character. We know very little about her, except the fact that she is a very rich, divorced interior designer with a child who vanished several years before and a dark past. Plus, she’s gorgeous, thin, and so much better than everyone else. She’s completely unrelatable. Her ex-husband, a PR guy, blames her for the kidnapping of their child. And seriously, this guy is annoying. Not only is he a jerk, but he plays this role of sugar daddy/lover/brown-noser to this young singer client of his and caters to her every whining whim. Again, unrelatable. The other characters in this book are also rich, stuck up, and flat. Honestly, I feel like I learned more about and related more to the nameless culprit than I did with any of the main characters.

The plot seemed incredibly unrealistic and implausible. This just would not happen. For those who wish to read this, I don’t want to spoil it. But seriously. I just kept shaking my head and going, “No.” Haha. Too many coincidences and dumb, unobservant characters. If anyone had taken a second to be smart and use today’s technology and some common sense, I really think this story would have ended much sooner. And the mini romance seemed like it fell out of the sky at the last minute. I didn’t buy it at all. I’m so sad! I think I need to go back and read some of her older novels from the 90’s. She really was an amazing author in her prime, and her books scared the crap out of me and were so well done.

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