Friday, September 19, 2014

Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen Excerpt

Friday, September 19, 2014 with
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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. 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. I had to read it again and then think about it until I kind of get it... 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.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book I Covet: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 with
I'm a sucker for these kinds of fun, fluffy contemporary YA and the ones I've read by Kasie West (The Distance Between Us and On the Fence) have always been fun, awesome reads for me.  I'm very sure I am going to like The Fill-In Boyfriend too.

When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend— two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party — three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.


The Fill-In Boyfriend will be released on March 5, 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. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hi everyone,
This is part two for the Haze blog tour where I share with you my thoughts about the novel. You can find my interview with Gaby here.

Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Tundra Books
Pages: 448 pages
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: The Rephaim #2
Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Gaby Winters' life used to be pretty normal. She lived with her best friend. She worked in a library. She was slowly getting over the death of her twin brother, Jude. And then Rafa came looking for her. With him, her blood-soaked nightmares stopped. But now they are reality. She is one of the Rephaim - a wingless half angel, descended from the Fallen. Demons exist and they are hunting her. She knows she's alive when she's meant to be dead. And that means maybe Jude is too. So why isn't she out there looking for him?

Because I really enjoyed the first book of Paula Weston's Rephaim series Shadows, I was eager to read the second book Haze. Now that I finally have, I am happy to say that Haze was, if not better than, just as good as Shadows with its addicting, thrilling, and interesting plot and awesome characters.

I really liked the plot of Haze more so than I did Shadows' plot mainly because the world-building was did and done in Shadows, and so in Haze, the story line was much more focused on the characters' interactions and dramas. I was glad to finally get to "hang out" with the characters of the Rephaim series again. I really learned more about them from reading Haze. In my mind, they became more than Fallen angels' half-offsprings and gradually grew into real, albeit superhuman, beings who were as emotional and scared as any other person and were struggling to find their place and purpose on Earth.

I also really liked the romance that continued on from Shadows and into Haze. Again, it was not a huge focus in the plotline; save for a few short, steamy-ish moments and some heart-to-heart moments--all of which I enjoyed reading--the story was nonetheless mainly about Gaby continuing her search for her twin brother Jude as well as her lost memories. I rooted for the couple all throughout Haze as much as I did in Shadows. Haze also included the start of and the continuation of other romances between the other, secondary characters, however, I, personally, was not fully convinced by those couples' love, maybe because I didn't pay much attention to them or didn't know enough about the characters themselves yet to really agree and root for them as well. Nonetheless, Weston once again did a great job of balancing her novel between the actual, thrilling conflict and the romances amongst her characters.

I'm super excited to read the next book Shimmer of the Rephaim series; Haze ended just as unexpectedly (yet nicely) as Shadows, making me turn to the next page and immediately exclaim "What?!" out loud when I found it was the last page of the book. I need to know what happens next!

If you haven't yet read Shadows, I recommend that you do, especially if you like paranormal YA or just want a change of pace like I did when I began the Rephaim series. Paula Weston's writing flows so nicely and her stories have a great and interesting balance between suspense, romance, action, and insight. If you have read Shadows but haven't yet picked up Haze, I recommend that you do as soon as possible because you need it in your life. Seriously. It is just as suspenseful and action-packed as Shadows and you won't be disappointed.


Happy reading everyone,
Leslie



P.S. And, once more, if you missed my interview with Gaby, you can find it here. We talked about her current favorites, her celebrity doppelganger and her bucket list.


Hi everyone,
I am so excited to be part of the Haze blog tour. If you had a chance to catch my review of Shadows a year ago, you know how much I LOVED it. I am so happy that I got a chance to be part of the blog tour again with Tundra Books (thank you! thank you!) for Haze.

I decided to split my post in two so it wouldn't be too long. This one, part 1, will have my interview with one of the characters in the Rephaim series, Gaby! Part 2 will be my thoughts about Haze (spoiler alert: there's much gushing).

First, though, here's what Haze is all about.

"But what if we can’t find Jude?"

He leans closer. His breath is warm on my ear. "We will."

"How can you be so sure?" I want to believe him so badly, but this is Rafa. The guy who’s all action and no plan. His smile is tired, knowing. An echo of a shared past I don’t remember.

"Because I’m not smart enough to give up, and you don’t know how to."


Gaby Winters’ nightmares have stopped but she still can’t remember her old life. Still can’t quite believe she is one of the Rephaim—the wingless half-angels who can shift from place to place, country to country, in the blink of an eye. That she was once the Rephaim’s best fighter. That demons exist. That Rafa has stayed.

But most of all, she can’t quite believe that her twin brother, Jude, might be alive.

And Gaby can’t explain the hesitancy that sidetracks the search for him, infuriates Rafa, and sends them, again, into the darkest danger.

Author Paula Weston
via Celia Southcombe, Flow Photography

Hi Gaby! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with me. Thanks for asking. Most people aren’t that keen to strike up a conversation with me. I must be mellowing.

What is your current favorite song in your iPod? 
I keep humming Foo Fighter songs ("Long Road to Ruin" is stuck on a loop at the moment), but on my iPod, it’s a track by Dan Sultan called "Under Your Skin" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpjhjKw-LMg). It’s got attitude and a great hook. I’ve been listening to a lot of Australian music in the past year: The John Butler Trio, Stonefield and Birds of Tokyo also get a thrashing on the iPod.

What is your current favorite movie? 
I haven’t been to the movies in ages (no cinema in Pan Beach and Maggie and I can’t afford cable), but a few weekends ago we were hanging out at Simon’s and watched Divergent. I liked it: faithful to the book, well cast and a budget to do the setting justice.

And who is your favorite author and why? 
I'd have to go with Marcus Zusak. The Book Thief was the first thing I read after the accident (or whatever it was that happened last year) and I got totally lost in the story to the point I forgot about everything else for a while. It took a pretty special book to do that. Of course, it made me cry at the end… But then I found his earlier books in the library and read them too. Australians made a bit more sense after reading The Messenger and the Wolf Brothers books.

Mila Kunis via Vogue UK
Do you have a celebrity doppelganger? 
Maggie says I look like Mila Kunis but I’m at least a foot taller, and I’ve got a lot more scars.

With your current, confounded knowledge of your actual past, name one characteristic or event that you admire most about your past self?
Given it’s saved my life more than once, I’d have to say fighting skills. I still wish I knew what I was doing, but I’m starting to trust that if I get in trouble, those old instincts will kick in. Or at least I’m more optimistic I can hold my own in a fair fight.

What are you top five places to visit (or re-visit)?
It’s hard to think about travelling without thinking about Jude, so maybe it’s easier to tell you the five places we had the most fun together (or, at least, the places I remember us having fun together):
- Peru: hiking up to Machu Picchu. Huge moment for both of us when we caught our first sight of the ruins at dawn.
- Switzerland: bungee jumping from a cable car (even though it scared the crap out of me).
- Cinque Terra, Italy: we ate so much food in those five fishing villages, but we walked or ran most of it off.
- Istanbul, Turkey: Jude loved the noise and bustle of the Grand Bazaar (and the hookah pipes) and I loved the breathtaking beauty of the Blue Mosque.
- Santorini, Greece: So much sun and sea, and wine and seafood. And galaktoboureko, a sweet Greek pastry that one of my favourite foods in the world.

Name one thing from your bucket list.
Honestly, there’s nothing I can imagine doing on that list with Jude.

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I hope you all enjoyed my interview of Gaby! A huge thank you goes to author Paula Weston for making this interview with Gaby possible. For more info, Paula Weston and the Rephaim series visit Paula's website, chat with Paula on Twitter and the Rephaim on Facebook. And if you haven't already
Add the Rephaim series by click on the button above.

Oh, and another fun thing I did as a participant of this blog tour was take a quiz to see which character I am most like in the Rephaim series and...

Yep! I'm Ez. Wanna know who Ez is? You gotta read the book! Trust me, you need to pick this series up even if you think you're over paranormal YA. The Rephaim series is sooooo good!

Happy reading,
Leslie

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