Monday, September 29, 2014

Hello everyone,
Sorry for the lack of posts last week. Work was super busy and when I got home all I wanted to do was some aimless net surfing and then sleep. But fall break is coming up and that means I have a week off from work. Yay! And all I'm planning to do is catch up on my reading.

Anywho, my thoughts about A Blind Spot for Boys...

Format: Hardcover
Publisher: LBYR
Pages: 392 pages
Release Date: August 12, 2013
Source of my copy: publisher/BookSparks
Series: n/a
Synopsis
Shana has always had a blind spot for boys. Can she trust the one who's right in front of her?
Sixteen-year-old Shana Wilde is officially on a Boy Moratorium. After a devastating breakup, she decides it's time to end the plague of Mr. Wrong, Wrong, and More Wrong.
Enter Quattro, the undeniably cute lacrosse player who slams into Shana one morning in Seattle. Sparks don't just fly; they ignite. And so does Shana's interest. Right as she's about to rethink her ban on boys, she receives crushing news: Her dad is going blind. Quattro is quickly forgotten, and Shana and her parents vow to make the most of the time her father has left to see. So they travel to Machu Picchu, and as they begin their trek, they run into none other than Quattro himself. But even as the trip unites them, Quattro pulls away mysteriously... Love and loss, humor and heartbreak collide in this new novel from acclaimed author Justina Chen.



A Blind Spot for Boys had a lot of my buzz words: it's contemporary YA, it involves a cute boy and, hence, a romance, and traveling to a difference country. I'm happy to say that I enjoyed it and I give it

Then-sophomore Shana Wilde was secretly dating 22-year old Dom. The relationship ended badly and she quickly went through a whole slew of guys before she finally put herself in a Boy Moratorium. Shana was a photographer, a passion she shared with her dad. She met Quattro when he literally ran into her just as she was about to take the perfect shot of Seattle's Gum Wall (read the excerpt of this scene). Quattro was cute and smart, and normally Shana would be all over him but she knew it was smarter to stay away. Then, her dad received devastating news: he's going blind and have about six months until he loses his sight. Her parents decided that, while there's still time, they're going to travel and at the top of their list is Machu Picchu. And, who does Shana ran into in Peru but Quattro... Just when Shana realized she's ready to drop her boy moratorium, Quattro pulls away.

First of all, I love that Shana and her family travel to Machu Picchu. I wish Machu Picchu was on A Blind Spot for Boys' cover because it's such a big part of the story. We were with Shana, her parents and their group as they hiked the Inca trail. It was great living vicariously through Shana. It's been a while since I did a hike and after reading about it, I really wanted to do another one. Their hike (their whole trip, actually) was crazy, though, because the worst things that could happen, did. I don't know how I would have dealt with the situation if it was me but it was great reading to see how they got out of it and how the whole experience changed Shana.

I also really liked that both of her parents were very much in the novel. It was awesome that there was as much a focus on Shana's relationship with her parents as her growing relationship with Quattro. Shana saw the strain her dad's diagnosis had put on her parents but she also saw how strong their love was that they were able to weather though it as a unit because their relationship was solid. You don't often see parents of YA characters having that big a role in YA novels, and the parents being an inspiration for the kind of relationship a YA character would want for his or her own.

There was a scene towards between Shana and her dad towards the end of the novel that moved me to tears. It was just so wonderful to watch Shana's character grow and see her gain a new perspective on love, friendship, family and her talent.

My one [minor] issue with this book was that we're told (rather than shown) that Shana was a flirtatious, attractive and fashion forward girl (she runs a very successful and popular urban fashion blog) and boys come to her like flies. There was mention of her blog throughout the novel and that her closet was filled with trendy clothes at the end of the book, but there wasn't really anything about her style of dress (you know, like in Lola and the Boy Next Door where we really got a feel for Lola's unique style). As for being super attractive, even though she was swearing off guys, you'd think there'd be some tourists boys giving her the eye while she was in Peru. I don't know... I never really got any of that flirtatious, fashionable vibe from her character.

This isn't an issue, but I would have liked more Shana and Quattro happy times. I liked Quattro even though he was a bit hot and cold. I understood why. He's dealing with his own heavy issues. Both Shana and Quattro were intelligent people and I wanted them to have more banter. We kind of got some of that in a couple of scenes early on in the story and I would have liked more. I love intelligent banter between characters.

Overall, I enjoyed A Blind Spot for Boys. I really liked Shana's character and her growth, the older women in their trekking group who added to the humor of the story, her mom and dad, Quattro (who was pretty dreamy) and the Machu Picchu setting. It kind of reminded me of Kirsten Hubbard's Wanderlove (my review) because of the South American setting but A Blind Spot for Boys had more funny moments, which I really appreciated. Live vicariously through Shana and travel to Machu Picchu by reading A Blind Spot for Boys this fall season.



Happy reading,
Michelle

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book I Covet: Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 with
I confess this was mostly a cover pick. It's just so pretty! The synopsis sounds really interesting too, though. As someone who goes to church every week, I've always been fascinated with extremes in religion and I'm looking forward to seeing how this novel will explore that.

Rachel Walker is devoted to God. She prays every day, attends Calvary Christian Church with her family, helps care for her five younger siblings, dresses modestly, and prepares herself to be a wife and mother who serves the Lord with joy. But Rachel is curious about the world her family has turned away from, and increasingly finds that neither the church nor her homeschool education has the answers she craves. Rachel has always found solace in her beliefs, but now she can’t shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul.


Devoted will be released on June 2, 2015. Click on the cover to go to the book's Goodreads page.



What book(s) do you "covet" this week?
Leave us a comment with a link so we can check your WoW of the week too.



 
"Books I Covet" is a weekly or bi-weekly blog post series we do here on Wednesdays. It will feature books we are very excited about reading and plan on buying/borrowing in the near future. It is basically the "Waiting On" meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine, but we just like the title "books we covet" better. We will include the books' blurb, cover art, and/or release date if they're available. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Two Weeks In a Nutshell + New Books

Saturday, September 20, 2014 with
Hello everyone,
This is two weeks worth of posts and books.














Michelle: I'm currently reading Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen.



Review Books
Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen
Every Breath by Ellie Marney
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin (ARC)
Come Dancing by Leslie Wells

Books I Bought
The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines
The Vincent Brothers by Abbi Glines
Waiting On You by Kristan Higgins
A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard

I also got the following E-ARC via Netgalley.
Rock Courtship by Nalini Singh

What new books did you guys get? I wanna see! Leave your STS* link so I can come gush over them. And if you guys read any of the books I mentioned above, let me know your thoughts.

Happy reading,
Michelle


*Stacking the Shelves, or STS, is hosted by Tynga's Reviews

Friday, September 19, 2014

Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen Excerpt

Friday, September 19, 2014 with
Labels:
Hi everyone,
Happy Friday! I'm so happy the weekend is coming up because this week was exhausting at work. And to make it worst, it's been so hot lately that I'm pouring sweet at 7:30 in the morning as soon as I get to my classroom. Hawaii has no true fall season but some nice cool breeze would be nice.

But speaking of fall, I am part of BookSparks' Fall Reading Challenge and my first book is Blind Spot for Boys.

And check out my spiffy FRC badge!

For more info about the Fall Reading Challenge, check out their Facebook page and join in on the fun. They have fantastic giveaways too.

I am actually scheduled to review Blind Spot today but unfortunately I only got my copy of Blind Spot on Monday so I didn't have time to finish it. But I am LOVING it so much. It's just the kind of contemporary YA I love to read: light-hearted at times but the story has meat in it, there's strong emotions, has a sweet romance and a main character with a great voice.

Blind Spot for Boys is already out in stores but just in case you didn't come across Blind Spot for Boys yet, here's the description.

Shana has always had a blind spot for boys. Can she trust the one who's right in front of her?

Sixteen-year-old Shana Wilde is officially on a Boy Moratorium. After a devastating breakup, she decides it's time to end the plague of Mr. Wrong, Wrong, and More Wrong.

Enter Quattro, the undeniably cute lacrosse player who slams into Shana one morning in Seattle. Sparks don't just fly; they ignite. And so does Shana's interest. Right as she's about to rethink her ban on boys, she receives crushing news: Her dad is going blind. Quattro is quickly forgotten, and Shana and her parents vow to make the most of the time her father has left to see. So they travel to Machu Picchu, and as they begin their trek, they run into none other than Quattro himself. But even as the trip unites them, Quattro pulls away mysteriously... Love and loss, humor and heartbreak collide in this new novel from acclaimed author Justina Chen.

You know how the description mentioned that one morning Shana and Quattro slammed into one another? Well, here's part of how that scene played out in the novel, in which Shana and Quattro first met.

Or get it from Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Google Play | Powell's


If you read Blind Spot for Boys already, let me know your thoughts about it. Look for my review of Blind Spot for Boys next week.

Happy reading,
Michelle

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Format: ARC
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Pages: 432 pages
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Vault of Dreamers #1
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
From the author of the Birthmarked trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when your dreams are not your own.
The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success: every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.



When I first started reading The Vault of Dreamers I didn't know what the heck was going on. I mean, I know because I read the book's description but you're kind of just thrown into the action. It took me quite a bit of chapters until I was able to get the set up of the world and Forge School.

Basically, it's a mash up of a prestigious art school (think Juilliard) and the reality TV show Big Brother. Rosie, a budding filmmaker, was one of 100 students that were accepted into Forge School and be featured in the very popular Forge Show. But the 100 students have to work hard to raise their blip rank (the show's popularity meter) because half of the student with the lowest blip rank will be cut after the first ten days they're in school. Rosie was at the very bottom, but with the help of Linus and some of the students she was able to make the cut. But Rosie's relief was short-lived because she started to get suspicious of the strange rules and goings on at Forge School, especially after she stopped taking the sleeping pill the school required all of their students to take.

The Vault of Dreamers had a very interesting concept and I liked it. I was surprised to learn about 150 pages in that it's set in the not so distant future--I want to say about 40 years from now. I didn't really get a sense of that until it was explicitly said during a conversation between Rosie and Linus that an earthquake that happened in 2045 and it caused the abandonment of the trains in the town where Rosie lived. The train's boxcars became the townspeople's shelter. This information was significant because the whole futuristic aspect didn't click for me--I mean, the world wouldn't be significantly different anyway since it's only a few decades into the future. But I thought the story was set in the present until this information came up and it changed my perspective of the story a bit.

As for characters, I liked Rosie. She's a teenager so she's not going to have all her stuff figured out. She had her moments where I was like, duh, Rosie, you're kinda slow on the uptake. I didn't mind her naïveté and I'm looking forward to seeing her grow in the series (well, maybe... because of the ending, I don't know how where the next book will take us...). I also liked Linus. He was a mystery man. We know some info about him but you get the sense that there's something more about him. Is he trustworthy? I guess we'll find out. The other secondary characters were an interesting bunch too. I really like when Burnham confronted her about her using her friends and the other students to up her blip rank--I liked him and hope we see him again in the next book.

The Vault of Dreamers would've been a sold 4-star read for me if it weren't for the ending. It was really confusing and weird. I had to read it again just to make sure it really happened... it kind of came out nowhere. But I am excited for the next book in the series. I really like the unique premise of the series--it's very imaginative, twisty and I enjoyed unraveling the mystery along with Rosie. I don't really know what to expect next and I am really looking forward to finding out what the author has in store for us. I'm giving this book


**We have a Q+A with author Caragh O'Brien here. Check it out for some Linus goodness.**

Hi everyone,
Yep, we're bringing you another blog tour goodness and this time it's The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh O'Brien. We have an awesome Q+A with Ms. O'Brien today. I'll be sharing what I thought of the novel on a separate post--read it here.

But, first, here's what The Vault of Dreamers is all about.

From the author of the Birthmarked trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when your dreams are not your own.

The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success: every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.



Author Caragh O'Brien
via her website

Hi Caragh! Welcome to our blog! We're all about the romance in our YA reads and our questions will mostly be about Linus, Rosie's love interest in The Vault of Dreamers. But to start off, what are your three current favorite YA novels and which of the love interests in those books would you kiss, marry and kill? 

Hello to you, Michelle and Leslie! Thank you so much for having me by for the Vault of Dreamers Blog Tour. It’s great to be here and I’m psyched to talk a bit about the main guy in my novel. To answer your question, I’ve been reading a lot of stand-out YA novels lately, so limiting myself to three favorites is not easy, plus my heart is already taken for the kissing and such, so I’ll have to improvise there. A true favorite of mine these days is Mary Pearson’s The Kiss of Deception, and I would risk taking an evening walk in the woods with Rafe. I also devoured Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse, and for that one, I would play cards alone with Arin. Finally, I was completely engaged by Cammie McGovern’s Say What You Will, and for that one, I would willingly hire Matthew to carry my books.

Did you name Linus after Linus van Pelt from Peanuts? Do you have a model or celebrity visual for him? If you do, who? If you don't which celeb or model does he come close to in terms of looks? 

Naturally, I have a fondness for Schulz’s Linus, but I didn’t name my Linus after him. I just thought the name worked for an interesting, unusual character. Certain photos of actor Johnny Pacar when he was young fit well with how I imagine Linus. My character’s features reflect that he’s smart, perceptive, and a bit wary of others.

How did Linus' character come out when you were plotting the story and how is he different from Leon in your Birthmarked trilogy?

Linus evolved a lot over a dozen drafts. At one point I imagined him as a convict, and then he became another student on The Forge Show with Rosie. Finally he settled into his job in the kitchen where he works incredibly hard, essentially dulling himself to any dreams. Both Linus and Leon have lonely streaks, I’d say, but where Leon has a certain cool polish, Linus is more gritty and frank.

What was the biggest challenge about writing Linus' character? Did he "behave" the way you planned him to or did he take you into unexpected turns as you wrote The Vault of Dreamers?

Linus kept surprising me. Even after I worked out his backstory and wove his role tightly into the main plot, I still had to figure out when he was trustworthy and when he wasn’t. His relationship with Rosie has an element of pretend, because of the cameras, and that complicates the truth between them.

If you, Rosie and Linus were to hang out for a day... would you want to hang out with Rosie and Linus for a day and be totally third-wheeling it?... where will you all go and what will you likely talk about?

Ha! I can’t quite imagine going with them as a third wheel, but if I could give them a day off from the book, I would send them on a walk with Linus’s dog, Molly. They could head into Forgetown for some ice cream at the dairy bar, and my guess is they’d climb the water tower, which is off limits, so Rosie could film from the top.

Again, thanks Leslie and Michelle. I very much appreciate your thoughtful questions. Happy reading!

Thank you so much, Caragh, for answering all of our questions about Linus and also a big thank you to Macmillan and Mary for making this interview possible. We love getting a bit more insight on the creation of Linus' character. And I love your answer for question number one because I'm also a HUGE fan of The Winner's Curse and dying to read the other two books you mentioned.


*******

Caragh O’Brien Bio
Caragh M. O’Brien is the author of the Birthmarked trilogy and The Vault of Dreamers, both from Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Ms. O’Brien was educated at Williams College and earned her MA from Johns Hopkins University. She recently resigned from teaching high school English in order to write young adult novels.

For more info about Caragh O'BrienThe Vault of Dreamers and Caragh's other novels, visit her website, chat with her on Twitter and on Facebook. And if you haven't already
Add The Vault of Dreamers by clicking on the button above.
The Vault of Dreamers came out on September 16th so you can now pick it up at your favorite brick and mortar bookstore, library or on your favorite e-retailer


Oh, and if you live in the mainland (sadly, not us), the Fierce Reads tour is currently happening. Here's Caragh's schedule via Macmillan's Instagram page. For complete info on the tour, you can go here.


Happy reading,
Michelle

P.S. If you missed my non-spoiler review of The Vault of Dreamers, you can find it here.