Thursday, March 29, 2012

book cover Hardcover: 516 pages
Publisher: Little Brown
Release Date: October 18, 2011
ISBN: 978-0316123528
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: 3rd book of Caster Chronicles
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Ethan Wate thought he was getting used to the strange, impossible events happening in Gatlin, his small Southern town. But now that Ethan and Lena have returned home, strange and impossible have taken on new meanings. Swarms of locusts, record-breaking heat, and devastating storms ravage Gatlin as Ethan and Lena struggle to understand the impact of Lena's Claiming. Even Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals is affected - and their abilities begin to dangerously misfire. As time passes, one question becomes clear: What - or who - will need to be sacrificed to save Gatlin?
For Ethan, the chaos is a frightening but welcome distraction. He's being haunted in his dreams again, but this time it isn't by Lena - and whatever is haunting him is following him out of his dreams and into his everyday life. Even worse, Ethan is gradually losing pieces of himself - forgetting names, phone numbers, even memories. He doesn't know why, and most days he's too afraid to ask.
Sometimes there isn't just one answer or one choice. Sometimes there's no going back. And this time there won't be a happy ending.


Leslie's Review:
When I began reading this third book of the Caster Chronicles series, a lot of time had passed since I finished the second book Beautiful Darkness--so you can imagine how lost I felt when events from the second book were mentioned as I read. Also, it didn't help how the beginning of this book was slow. But eventually, the story came together and the pace picked up and this book became a great, thrilling, exciting read.

The first two books of the series centered on the threat of Lena's Claiming on her and Ethan's relationship. But in this third book, the two, along with everyone in Gatlin, must face the consequences of Lena's Claiming--the End of Days. Blistering heat, swarms of locusts and terrible storms hits Gatlin and the Southern folks while the Casters' powers go awry. But this is only a distraction for Ethan Wate for he is experiencing some problems of his own. Every night he is haunted by something that follows him throughout the day. Everyday Ethan loses a little bit of himself--his memories--and has no idea how to stop or control this from happening.

There was a lot of mystery, twists and turns in this book and I absolutely loved it all. Throughout the book (or, when I finally into the story and the pacing picked up) I was on the edge of my seat. The plot was like a complicated math problem that I had to figure out and I loved it! I kept trying to guess what will happen next and every time I was wrong, it made me continue reading into the night. When I finally got to the cliffhanger ending (of course!), I was left breathless, speechless and amazed. I hope the fourth book in this series that will answer my burning questions.

The characters were also fantastic! All the characters from the previous books were back but they were more mature and stronger than before. I liked how Lena and Ethan's relationship wasn't as emphasized in this book. It mostly focused on how they will save Gatlin, the Casters and how Ethan will save himself. I also liked watching the development of a new relationship between two other characters (sorry, can't say who--you gotta read the book!). I rooted for them and I can't wait to see how their story will be explored.

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl are truly amazing writers! They have truly blown me away with this third installment of the Caster Chronicles. Despite its slow beginning, I think that this in the best book out of the whole series. I am impatiently waiting for the fourth book and I have high expectation. For those who have read the first two books of this series, you have to read this book for there were a lot to discover. And if you haven't read this series yet, what are you waiting for?! The story gets better and better with every book.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why Michelle covets this book: I just fell in love with the synopsis. It sounds like a fantastic, action-packed read with interesting characters.

I really like the cover too. I hope they don't change it later to a girl-in-a-pretty-dress cover.


book coverThe Darkest Minds by Alexandra Braken
(Disney Hyperion; out December 18, 2012)
In the six years since being plucked from her old life and placed in a government-run “rehabilitation camp,” the only color that has entered sixteen-year-old Ruby’s world is gray of the electric fence surrounding it. The mysterious “Kid-Killer” affliction has left most American children dead, but Ruby is not one of them—she’s one of the dangerous ones, the ones who lived. The ones who developed frightening powers of the mind.
When the opportunity to escape her camp comes, Ruby soon finds herself on the run and joining forces with a small band of other escapees: Zu, a mute girl who can telekinetically control electronics, Chubs, a skinny genius who doesn’t want another kid along to deplete their meager supplies, and Liam, the kind and good-hearted leader of their ragtag group who can move objects twice his size with the wave of a hand. They seem to be on a mission but won’t confide in Ruby, who only wants to learn to control her extraordinary ability which makes her a danger to anyone she gets close to.
The gang soon learns that there are other forces at work, organizations that want to use Ruby in their fight against the tyranny of the political regime. But they also learn there may be someone who can help them all reunite with their families after all: The Slip Kid, a leader who offers shelter to young people in danger and who possesses the secret to controlling one’s powers. As she finds herself drawn to Liam, Ruby becomes more and more desperate for the knowledge she has always craved. But the Slip Kid is not all that he seems, and Ruby soon finds herself unsure of who to trust… and who to love.
For the latest info about the author and The Darkest Minds, visit her website. Click on the cover to go to the book's Goodreads page.


What book(s) do you "covet" this week?
Leave 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 I am going to be doing here. It will feature books I am very excited about reading and plan on buying/borrowing in the near future. It is similar to the "Waiting On" meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine. However, some of the books may already be published and others may still be in pre-order. I will include the books' blurb, cover art, and/or release date if they're available. Click on the WoW image on the left to join in!

Monday, March 26, 2012

book cover Hardcover: 236 pages
Publisher: Little Brown
Release Date: January 2, 2012
ISBN: 978-0316122386

Source of my copy: publisher
Series: none
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?
Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A.
Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.


Leslie's Review:
Ever since my sister and I first heard of this book, we couldn't wait to get our hands on it and read it. Then, when it finally arrived in the mail, we couldn't help but get super excited. I got the chance to read it first and I am glad to say that, despite the fact that it didn't meet my high expectations, it turned out to be pretty good.

This cute, sweet read happens over a twenty four-hour time period, starting when Hadley missed her flight to London for her dad's second wedding. It was the last thing she wanted to attend, let alone be a part of. Then, by an unexpected chance of fate, Hadley meets Oliver, a cute British boy, who she sat next to and befriends over their flight to London. But before Hadley or Oliver could see where their new-found relationship could lead them, they lose each other as they go their separate ways. Hadley is sad to see Oliver go, unsure if she will ever see him again and even more sad to have to go to her dad's wedding, but fate has some plans of its own for her.

The book was narrated in third-person that focused on Hadley's whereabouts and thoughts. This was a bit of a letdown for me because with so many family issues and much emotion incorporated in the story, I was hoping for it to be in first-person of Hadley. But nonetheless, I got to learn a lot about Hadley, and even Oliver. Both turned out to be great characters and they made a sweet couple. I rooted for them all throughout the book.

As for the story itself, it was interesting. I liked how it was balanced between Hadley's personal family problems and her relationship with Oliver. The romance did not dominate the whole story and I am very happy about that. However, I thought the ending was quite abrupt--it left me unsatisfied and wishing that more was revealed as to what may or may not happen between Hadley and Oliver and their families.

Overall, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was a cute, sweet, quick read that I recommend to all romantics who believe in love at first sight and those looking for something fun and light to read. This book will remind you that anything is possible and that life can be full of wonderful surprises.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Taker by Alma Katsu GIVEAWAY

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 with
Labels:
We have a special giveaway for you all today. One lucky winner is going the win a copy of the paperback edition of The Taker by Alma Katsu (with its new cover) which will be released next week Tuesday, March 27th.

Here's the synopsis:
book cover
True love can last an eternity . . . but immortality comes at a price. On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural St. Andrew, Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting a quiet evening. Until a mysterious woman arrives in his ER, escorted by police—Lanore McIlvrae is a murder suspect—and Luke is inexplicably drawn to her. As Lanny tells him her story, an impassioned account of love and betrayal that transcends time and mortality, she changes his life forever. . . . At the turn of the nineteenth century, when St. Andrew was a Puritan settlement, Lanny was consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town’s founder, and she will do anything to be with him forever. But the price she pays is steep—an immortal bond that chains her to a terrible fate for eternity.
Doesn't that sound good?! And you want more? ...Well, you're in luck because there is an excerpt available:
The Taker by Alma Katsu

The hardcover edition came out late last year with a different cover and if you missed it the first time around here is the cover:
book cover

I prefer the hardcover cover myself but the new cover is lovely as well. Okay, unto the giveaway (open to US only):
Why Michelle covets this book: The synopsis reminds me of The Host but I am intrigued just the same. And Never Let Me Go meets His Dark Materials? An interesting pairing.


book coverWhat's Left of Me (Hybrid #1) by Kat Zhang
(HarperTeen; out September 18, 2012)
NEVER LET ME GO meets HIS DARK MATERIALS in a beautiful, haunting YA debut, the first book in The Hybrid Trilogy.

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t…

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable–hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet…for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.
For the latest info about Kat Zhang and What's Left of Me, visit her website. Click on the cover to go to the book's Goodreads page.


What book(s) do you "covet" this week?
Leave 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 I am going to be doing here. It will feature books I am very excited about reading and plan on buying/borrowing in the near future. It is similar to the "Waiting On" meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine. However, some of the books may already be published and others may still be in pre-order. I will include the books' blurb, cover art, and/or release date if they're available. Click on the WoW image on the left to join in!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

book cover ARC: 342 pages
Publisher: Brava
Release Date: March 1, 2012
ISBN: 9780758266385

Source of my copy: publisher for review
Series: Phoenix Rising #1
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
When Dr. Alyssa Foster is taken hostage by a prison inmate, she knows she's in deep trouble. Not just because Teague Creek is desperate for freedom, but because the moment his fingers brush against her skin, Alyssa feels a razor-sharp pang of need...
A man with a life sentence has nothing to lose. At least Teague doesn't, until his escape plan develops a fatal flaw: Alyssa. On the run from both the law and deadly undercover operatives, he can only give her lies, but every heated kiss tells him the fire between them could be just as devastating as the flames that changed him forever...


Michelle's Review:
There were a lot of things I liked about Joan Swan's debut Fever but there were a couple of things that bothered me a little--although not enough to take away my enjoyment because ultimately Fever was a good read.

I really enjoyed all the non-stop action. In almost every scene there was always something going on and I really liked how Alyssa and Teague worked together as a team. It didn't start out that way because Teague, an escaped convict, did take Alyssa as hostage and he hurt her (though unintentionally). However, Alyssa soon finds that there was more to Teague that meets the eye and decided to stay and help him. I liked how strong, resilient and take-charge Alyssa was--for me, her character shined more than Teague's character.

Another thing I liked: that the heroine was of mixed raced! Usually, I hardly make a note of the characters' ethnicity when I am reading but when it is something like part Caucasian, part Japanese and part Filipino, which the heroine in this book (Alyssa) was, I take notice. It wasn't significant plot-wise and was only very briefly mentioned once but it was just a fun little tidbit for me... But since we're talking about race, there was a minor character who was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood. I cringed every time this character opened his mouth because of all the racial slurs he spouted. He was killed off eventually but I wish he was gotten rid off sooner. Some readers might take offense to him but it added to his character's nastiness and despicable-ness.

We find out early on that Teague has this strange ability: he can change his body's temperature and can generate heat strong enough to melt metal and sometimes heal. He acquired his "power" after a strange accident when he was working as a firefighter. We also meet a couple of the firefighters who worked with Teague and also has their own strange abilities and I am looking forward to reading their own stories.

Because Fever is the first book in the series, the author had to introduce certain elements to the story--essentially, laying groundwork for future books and all the while telling Alyssa and Teague's story. This made the story a little too busy for my taste. Besides the main plot, with Teague and Alyssa trying to dodge the cops, there were a lot of different secondary plot lines and details about Teague's past to keep up with. However, I liked the author's voice and that made up for it.

Now that the over-arching story and the world is all set up, this series can only get better. Though Alyssa and Teague's story wrapped up neatly, there were a big questions that were left unanswered at the end of Fever. I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

Monday, March 19, 2012

book cover Hardcover: 354 pages
Publisher: Little Brown
Release Date: December 27, 2011
ISBN: 978-0316127256

Source of my copy: publisher
Series: none
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.
Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.


Leslie's Review:
I'm going to say right now that I really liked this book--it was honest, vivid, relatable, and heartbreaking but sweet and true. I loved the characters--how they were all so real that I could imagine them and see them as real teenagers going to high school with me; how they were all both good but flawed. I also loved how the book was written as a personal letter from Min to Ed for it made the whole story all the more real and easy to connect to and get lost in.

I will admit that at first it was hard for me to get a hang of Min's voice in the beginning but it eventually got easier to follow and I ended up actually liking the style of writing. How the plot was laid out was also great. When I got to the end, I was totally amazed and speechless and couldn't believe how unexpected the events had occurred--until I sat and reflected. I realized that the clues were all there and I could have predicted what had happened if I read more closely but I was just too caught up in the story to do so--the book was so good and executed so well. I also enjoyed and love the illustrations (by Maira Kalman), they complement the narrative well and vice versa.

I really recommend Why We Broke Up to everyone because I think everyone will find something they will like in this book. You will laugh, cry, reminisce, sigh, then laugh again, as you read this amazing book.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Michelle Covets: Defiance by C.J. Redwine

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 with
Why Michelle covets this book: As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew I need to read this book. It sounds like a great adventure book with a great romance and action. Love the cover too!


book coverDefiance (Defiance #1) by C.J. Redwine
(out August 28, 2012)
Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.
For more info about C.J. Redwine and her books, visit her blog. Click on the cover to go to the book's Goodreads page.


What book(s) do you "covet" this week?
Leave 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 I am going to be doing here. It will feature books I am very excited about reading and plan on buying/borrowing in the near future. It is similar to the "Waiting On" meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine. However, some of the books may already be published and others may still be in pre-order. I will include the books' blurb, cover art, and/or release date if they're available. Click on the WoW image on the left to join in!
To celebrate the release of Wanderlove, which hit the bookstore shelves yesterday, we have a fun giveaway for you all!

Author Kristen Hubbard (Like Mandarin) has created a brand-new Wanderlove-themed Tumblr site to celebrate its release. Wanderlove is set in Central America--in over a dozen locations and many of the places are exist in real-life and based on the author's own traveling adventures.

Kristen have been featuring all the destinations in Wanderlove with her personal photos but she is also inviting everyone to share their favorite places.

Here's the info from the submit page:
wanderlove is about celebrating our favorite places, and experiencing each other's. take a photo, or find a photo (one you’ve taken yourself & have the rights to) of your favorite place. it could be a place you’ve traveled to, long ago or recently; a special spot in your neighborhood, city or town; or even in your house or backyard. be as creative as you want. include a few sentences about why the place is special to you – why you *get* it, why it sticks in your heart. thank you!
You can also submit via email at wanderbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.
If you haven't already, feel free to go to the Wanderlove website and submit your own photo of your favorite place. I did!

I submitted a photo of my grandparents' house in the Philippines that I took last year when I visited the house I grew up in (until my family moved to the US when I was eight years old):

For this giveaway, we would like to know where your favorite place is or where would you like to travel to and you can win a copy of Wanderlove! I am currently reading it and, trust me, you want this book. 'Tis fantastic!

Giveaway details:
  • Fill out this FORM.
  • One winner; US only.
  • Ends March 31, 2012. Extended til April 6th.
  • +2 - Tweet/Facebook: I want to #win WANDERLOVE by Kristen Hubbard at Michelle & Leslie's Book Picks http://booksandmakeup.blogspot.com/2012/03/wanderlove-giveaway.html. Leave a link on the form.
  • +10 - Submit a personal photo of your favorite place on the Wanderlove website AND post on Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/your favorite social media site (so we can see it immediately). Leave a link of the post on the form.
  • Read our Giveaway Policy for complete rules and disclaimer.
Thanks to Paul and Random House for sponsoring this giveaway. Good luck everyone! And don't forget: Wanderlove is now available at your favorite bookstore. Go check it out!

Monday, March 12, 2012

I am so excited for our blog to be part of Forever's Romantic Suspense Blog Tour, featuring two fantastic romantic suspense.

Before we get to entering, check out the two books you can win. First up is Run from Fear by Jami Alden.
book cover
With each step she takes, he tracks her every move, waiting for the perfect time. The perfect revenge. Until then, he'll watch her...

RUN FROM FEAR

More than anything, Talia Vega wanted to leave behind her harrowing past. Moving eight hundred miles away, she succeeded . . . until the one man who knows her darkest secrets wanders into the restaurant where she works. Now the agonizing memories come crashing back-along with an undeniable desire for Jack Brooks, the ex-Green Beret who rescued her from a sadistic monster two years ago.

Jack Brooks knows that showing up unannounced is a purely selfish move. Talia doesn't need his protection anymore, but he can't get the raven-haired beauty out of his mind. And when a twisted madman is hell-bent on resurrecting her torturous past, Jack vows to do anything to keep her safe-even risk his own life to save the only woman he's ever loved.
For more information about Run from Fear and Jami's other books, stop by her website. Up next is Dee Davis's Deadly Dance, book 5 in the A-Tac series (but it can be read as a stand alone).

book coverAs the intelligence officer for A-Tac, a black-ops CIA unit masquerading as Ivy League faculty, Hannah Marshall is used to working behind the scenes. But when a brutal murder hits too close to home, Hannah finds herself in the middle of the action, falling in love while racing to outwit a sadistic mastermind.
A KILLER CLOSES IN
After the death of her A-Tac partner, Hannah doubts everything she thought she knew about love and loyalty. When handsome Harrison Blake joins the team, she's reluctant to trust him - or to act on her intense attraction to him. Then Hannah receives a podcast of a gruesome murder, and the only person who can help her find the killer is Harrison.

Harrison has spent years trying to hunt down the cunning monster who killed his sister. Now investigating with Hannah, he faces a shocking possibility - his sister's murderer has resurfaced. As the danger escalates, Hannah and Harrison grow closer, the desire simmering between them ignites. And when Hannah disappears, Harrison has only one chance to save the woman he loves.
For more information about the A-Tac series and Dee Davis, check out her website.

I have two sets (which includes a copy of Run from Fear and Deadly Dance) and that means TWO winners! A big thank you to Forever and Brianne for sponsoring this giveaway.

To enter:
  • Leave a comment and include your email address (no email, no entry).
  • +2 entries - Tweet/Facebook: #Win both RUN FROM FEAR by @jamialden & DEADLY DANCE by @deesdavis at Michelle & Leslie's Book Picks http://bit.ly/yP8t4u @ForeverRomance (Include a link to your tweet/facebook in the comments.)
  • Open to US addresses only.
  • Ends March 31, 2012.
  • Read our Giveaway Policy for complete rules and disclaimers.
Good luck and happy entering! Look for my review of Run from Fear later this week.
book cover ARC: 420 pages
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: February 28, 2012
ISBN: 9780758246851

Source of my copy: publisher/author
Series: none
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
From the award-winning author of Letters from Home comes a poignant novel of love and courage, set against one of the most controversial episodes in American history: the aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Los Angeles, 1941. Violinist Maddie Kern's life seemed destined to unfold with the predictable elegance of a Bach concerto. Then she fell in love with Lane Moritomo. Her brother's best friend, Lane is the handsome, ambitious son of Japanese immigrants. Maddie was prepared for disapproval from their families, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after she and Lane elope, the full force of their decision becomes apparent. In the eyes of a fearful nation, Lane is no longer just an outsider, but an enemy.
When her husband is interned at a war relocation camp, Maddie follows, sacrificing her Juilliard ambitions. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.


Cherry's Review:
I love stories about WWII--both fiction and non-fiction--so when I found out that Michelle was reading this book, I immediately asked to read it.

Bridget of Scarlett Leaves is a great book that explores the experience of Japanese Americans and of those who willingly choose to take their sides during the War. It is a story that is not usually told: the ugly side of America during the war. It is also a story that captures different types of love: family, friendship, kinship, and romance in a type of setting that does its best to break the bonds of love.

McMorris use of three different points of views (Maddie, Lane, and TJ) makes the book really interesting. You see WWII from the eyes of a soldier, a woman at home, and a Japanese-American trying to prove that he belongs. I noticed that she did her best to pay tribute to the WWII stories that she learned during her research. I thought that this was a great way to pay respect to those who lived through WWII even though their stories weren't as popular as other WWII stories. There is also the difference in culture - American vs. Japanese - that butt heads with Maddie all the time! At first, I didn't like Maddie. I thought she lived in a sort of happy bubble, but I grew to love her for the strength that she possessed to follow her heart and to let it go free. The ending which I will not reveal made me cry throughout an entire chapter. So rarely do I read a book that could do that to me. But this is not a sad book. Bridge of Scarlett Leaves is a story that highlights both what is good and bad about our race but, most importantly, it is a testament to the strength of our human souls.

After I read this book, I had to pass it on to my sister. It was fantastic! Read it!

Friday, March 9, 2012

book cover Paperback: 322 pages
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: January 3, 2012
ISBN: 978-0451235541

Source of my copy: publisher
Series: 2nd book of Falling Under
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
She fell for him in a nighttime world. But the time for dreaming is past—and the here-and-now can be just as fragile their love…
When Theia Alderson first encountered a mysterious, handsome boy in her dreams, she never imagined how finding Haden Black—and falling in love—could change her life. To save Haden, Theia sacrificed everything. And the dangerous bargain she made could have lasting repercussions. Now Theia has returned to Serendipity Falls, and she finds herself struggling with the same deadly hungers that have tortured Haden. When students at their high school fall prey to a mysterious illness, Theia can’t help but wonder if Haden’s control is slipping—and how much longer she’ll have a grip on her own. And still the nightmare realm of Under won’t let them go. Someone from Haden’s past is determined to destroy Theia from the inside out, starting with those closest to her, forcing Theia to choose between family and friends and a love that may have been doomed from the start…


Leslie's Review:
Ever since I finished Falling Under, the first book of Gwen Hayes's Falling Under series, I couldn't wait to read the next book. When it finally came out and I got the chance to read it, I must say that I was completely blown away--again. Dreaming Awake was as fantastic and enjoyable as Falling Under. All the same characters were back but they had to dealt with new problems and face many twists that made the book a thrilling, suspenseful, and unpredictable read. It was great to have come back to Theia and her friends' world again through another amazing read by Ms. Hayes.

Falling Under left me on the edge of my seat with its cliffhanger ending. But thankfully, Dreaming Awake picked up where it ended with only a time lapse of one week. I mentioned in my review for Falling Under that I really liked Theia, most especially because I related and connected with her shy, good-girl character so well. But then in Dreaming Awake, Theia had become quite a heroine--she was strong, determined, independent and immensely courageous, but not to the point that I would question her sanity (okay, maybe at some points I did). And although I am none of those, I still was able to connect with Theia and love her just the same. I also loved Haden (of course--who wouldn't?) and how despite how stubborn and difficult Theia would be with him, he would nevertheless stay true, loyal and loving toward her all throughout the book. Theia and Haden's relationship really blossomed in this book from Falling Under and I continued to root for the two of them. But of course, Theia and Haden could not have survived the obstacles they faced without their friends--Donny, Amelia, Gabe and Varnie. Those four, like before, were great, intelligent and supportive characters. It was also nice seeing on the side Donny and Gabe's and Amelia and Varnie's relationship grow and develop too.

Gwen Hayes has amazed me once again with her beautiful and powerful writing, thrilling plot and fantastic characters. I'm not exactly sure if there will be a third book in the series, but if so, I am definitely going to read it. If you haven't yet checked out Ms. Hayes's Falling Under series then you must do so. It's an amazing series I recommend, most especially to those who love their paranormal YA novels.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

We are excited to welcome the awesome Meredith Zeitlin on our blog today! I recently read and reviewed her hilarious debut Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters.

But before we start one of our favorite interviews [ever!] here on the blog, here's the synopsis:
book cover
Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny.

Things start out great - her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

Kelsey’s hilarious commentary throughout her disastrous freshman year will have you laughing out loud—while being thankful that you’re not in her shoes, of course…

4 favorite places to hang out in Brooklyn.
In the spring, there's no place more beautiful in Brooklyn than Prospect Park. Aside from the obvious flora and fauna (and lake!), Prospect Park is great because it's far less crowded than better-known Central Park. So you can always find a nice big tree to read under or explore a trail without being disturbed if you want some alone-time. Plus, evening events in the summertime are rarely over-crowded. I love going with a group of friends to see the NY Philharmonic from the comfort of a picnic blanket. ::sigh::

Cog and Pearl (http://cogandpearl.com/store/), a tiny shop on 5th Avenue in Park Slope. This is one of my favorite stores to poke around in, especially if I'm looking for a unique gift or to show a visitor how super eclectic and edgy we Brooklynites are. (It's exhausting, I tell you.) This store has pretty jewelry, sure - but what I really love are the bowls made out of records, shelves made out of old books, urn-shaped terrariums with tiny unicorns hidden inside, books on Russian prison tattoos, and antique china stamped with pinup-girls and skulls. There's also a wide variety of "arty" items that fall squarely into the "Who would pay this kind of money for something so incredibly hideous?!?!" category. Also, once a little bird flew into the store while I was browsing and everyone there lost their minds, reacting as though it was actually a rogue helicopter. It was incredible.

BARCADE (http://barcadebrooklyn.com/) in Williamsburg. There are lots of great bars to hang out in, but here is what's great about this one: it is dog-friendly, super low-key, and there are old-school video games for you to play. They have Q-bert, you guys. When's the last time you saw a Q-bert?! Um... yeah. I think that about covers it.

The Dekalb Market - This place is special to me because it's in my neighborhood, which up until the last year or so was basically a wasteland totally bereft of anywhere to eat, drink, or sit down. (Except Applebees. Need I go on?) Now we have this great open-air market; all the stores and food options are housed inside old shipping containers, there's a lovely community garden - which grows mostly herbs used in the little restaurants! - and rotating art projects. This one was there for a while and it was AWESOME: http://thedumpsterproject.com/.


3 crazy/disastrous experiences during your freshman year in high school that may or may not have inspired Kelsey's experiences.
Oh, my. Well, now you've stumbled onto the truth: almost all of the stories in the book really happened to me at some point. Yes, names and details have been changed, but for the most part, almost all the disasters are mine. But let's see what I can think of that specifically happened to me my FRESHMAN year! Hm...

1) I started at a new school my freshman year, an all-girls' private school. Being new is never easy, but it was especially hard because many of these girls had been friends since these were babies and cliques were pretty tightly formed. The first week, I was happy to have started making friends and, to get a couple of the girls in my homeroom to laugh, I started writing notes featuring improvisational limericks about the teachers. (I know, I'm an idiot - I admit it. But I was trying to be cool!) This would've been a big hit - IF one of the girls hadn't tossed them at the end of class as we walked out (cracking up) and IF the teacher hadn't for some reason I have never understood taken the notes out of the trash and read them and IF she hadn't been, unbeknownst to me, the MEANEST TEACHER IN THE WORLD. She somehow knew I had written the poems and never forgot it. Ask anyone in my graduating class and they'll tell you she absolutely loathed me. The worst part? She was the Lit teacher, and brilliant. Oh, cruel irony...

2) I was in the spring production of "Into the Woods" my freshman year, and I played Li'l Red. The girl who played Cinderella had insisted on wearing these ridiculous fake boobs with her costume, and sure enough, she had trouble with them one night in the middle of the first act. A senior playing Jack's Mother managed to get them off stage, but she came off laughing so hard that none of us could figure out what was going on. Then, just as I was about to go back onstage, she thrust the offending cutlets at me and ran off to the dressing room. I had no choice but to go on and sing my big song... with Cinderella's false tits in my basket. At least it wasn't the scene where i had to give Granny some bread out of it!

3) Here's one that does show up in the book: my first kiss. It was exactly like Kelsey's, right down to the dialogue, and it happened just before my freshman year. I was at summer camp (Stagedoor Manor shout-out!) and I actually did like the guy and wanted to kiss him (unlike Kelsey and poor Keith Mayhew)... but the horribleness, the saliva on my chin, the choking on a gross foreign tongue, and the assurance that his "brother in college" had told him how to do it so I must be the bad kisser? It all really happened. And I had waited sooooo long to have the perfect first kiss, just like Kelsey. (Positive note: practice does make perfect.)


2 things that recently made you laugh out loud.
I'm very lucky because I laugh all the time - often at myself, to be sure. I had to really think to come up with specific funny things that happened (other than seeing Bridesmaids and Hangover Two on the same day, which seems too obvious, though true).

1) The first thing that comes to mind is an absolutely AMAZING "newsletter"-style Christmas card my friend was sent by her crazy cousin. I can't go into too many details (I have to protect the innocent), but it was mostly about many, MANY different cats, a bike race she participated in with a blind friend of her elderly father's, and the Great Sardine Run in South Africa. The front of the card featured a watercolor of a dolphin which appeared to be choking on a Chinese New Year dragon while leaping over a tinsel-festooned tropical island. (The inside of the card was filled with pictures of cats and a group of people identified as "Family" that my friend - part of said family - had NEVER SEEN BEFORE.)

Seriously.

2) My friend Sara and I were on the subway a couple of weeks ago and we started laughing about something so hard we were both weeping. Two entire families moved to get away from our lunacy. Sara almost felt out of her seat at one point. It was one of those great, stomach-shredding laugh sessions that seem like they're about to end and then start all over again. Unfortunately, neither of us can remember what the heck it was about - but that's sort of a great thing, isn't it? To have a friend you can laugh that hard with about possibly NOTHING? I think so.


1 favorite scene in Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters.
This might seem like a weird answer because the scene I'm going to talk about isn't a funny one, and I know people have been focusing on the humor in the story - which is great. But there are a few serious moments in the book, too, and one of them is when Kelsey and her friends go to an upperclassman's party and Kelsey ends up in a bedroom with a guy who wants to take things farther than she does. I think it's a really crucial moment - both for the character and, hopefully, the reader. This kind of thing happens all the time, on small scales and big ones, and talking about it is really important. Kelsey doesn't end up getting physically hurt, but she does go through a pretty intense period of self-doubt afterward, and also spends a lot of time worrying that he thinks she is a loser because of the way she handled it. I don't actually know a single girl - or woman, actually - who hasn't found herself in this kind of situation, I'm sorry to say, and that's really not okay. The sooner we can find a way to start really respecting each other and ourselves, the better.

Thanks so much for having me! You guys are awesome.


*******
A big thank you to Meredith for answering our questions. To learn more about Meredith, check out her online portfolio (she's a voice actor and done work all over--chances are you've heard her voice on TV) and follow her on Twitter. Kelsey Finkstein has her own website.

And don't forget to pick up your copy of
Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters
It came out on March 1, 2012.
Check out my review here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

book cover ARC: 282 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Release Date: March 1, 2011
ISBN: 9780399254239

Source of my copy: author/publisher
Series: none
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny.
Things start out great - her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.
Kelsey’s hilarious commentary throughout her disastrous freshman year will have you laughing out loud—while being thankful that you’re not in her shoes, of course…


Michelle's Review:
I was expecting something light and fluffy when I started reading Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters and there were a lot of humor but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't just a fluff of a novel. Beneath the shenanigans and the mishaps that had me laughing out loud, there were also some important life lessons. It reminded a lot of the early Alice books by Phillis Reynolds Naylor.

I love Kelsey Finklestein! I really enjoyed her witty/sarcastic voice. She was far from perfect and could be a little selfish at times but she was a great person and friend. She was about to start high school and has decided that she was going to change and finally make a name for herself. Of course, nothing goes to plan. However, Kelsey didn't let anything get her down and her determination and humor throughout her stressful freshman year made me like her all the more. My own freshman year was not as eventful as Kelsey's but there were instances in the book that took me back to my own high school years. I really wish I had this book back then.

My favorite part of the novel was definitely the theater part. Kelsey decided to audition for Fiddler on the Roof and ended up getting the part of Lazar Wolf. From her audition (she unknowingly sang "Defying Gravity" a few octaves lower) to the crazy last performance involving her character's beard had me laughing the whole time. Hilarious!

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters was charming and fun. It was a very character driven novel, which I really enjoyed. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop--it was quite a roller coaster kind of read with never a dull moment--I read this book in one day! There was a lot of humor, drama, friendships, boys and growing up. It was a fantastic debut novel by Meredith Zeitlin. I cannot wait to read more by her. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

In Our Mailbox (57)

Sunday, March 4, 2012 with
It was a fantastic week in books for me. So excited!!

For Review
(All ARCs)
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (I final cover!)
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Wanderlove by Kristin Hubbard
The Masked (Talents #2) Inara Scott
(Thank you to Henry Holt/Ksenia, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Delacorte/Paul and Inara/Hyperion!)



Won
Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay
Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Kiss Crush Collide by Christina Meredith
Forbidden by Syrie James & Ryan M. James
The Disenchantments poster
(Thank you to Jessica of Total Bookaholic and Penguin Teen!)


What did you guys get in your mailbox?

inourmailbox
"In My Mailbox" is a weekly event that gives book bloggers a chance share with each other what books got added to their to-be-read pile for the week. It was inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie and hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

book cover ARC: 374 pages
Publisher: Zebra
Release Date: January 31, 2012
ISBN: 9781420117066

Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Sinful Family Secrets #2**
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Evelyn Hadley-Attwater has it all -- a genteel Victorian life replete with loving husband, ball gowns and elegant parties. No one, including the man she married, suspects that she was once "Eve," a spy for England's most enigmatic intelligence agency. Summoned for one final assignment, the excitement of her former life and memories of her mysterious, flirtatious boss "Sir" prove too tempting...

Adrian Hadley-Attwater is a respectable, dignified gentleman. But even the most proper gentlemen have secrets of their own. Secrets from the rest of the world, from their families, from their wives. Secrets that have a price. Now, as a veil of secrecy frays, a tantalizing game of cat and mouse will test the bounds of unfailing love...


Michelle's Review:
I wanted to read this novel because it has a second-chance-at-love/Mr. and Mrs. Smith plot line and I really enjoy that romance trope. My Wicked Little Lies ended up being a fun, light read.

The hero, Adrian and the heroine, Evelyn (or Evie) have been married for two years when the story began. Their marriage was wonderful and they were both very happy--until Evelyn, who was a spy for the crown before her marriage, was summoned for an assignment only she can carry through. When Adrian noticed his wife's odd behavior, he suspected she might be cheating on him. He trusted his wife but in the two years, their marriage had gotten... comfortable--Adrian himself had been restless lately so maybe his wife was feeling the same and decided to spice things up by indulging in an affair?

I really liked the relationship between Adrian and Evie. Unlike more romances out there, the story was not about the courtship and falling in love or rediscovering love again. There was no question that these two loved and enjoy each other--which was wonderful and refreshing to read. The conflict came in when Evie's pulled back to spying and Adrian's insecurities surface. I also really like the secondary romance between Evie's secretary and best friend and Adrian's friend. Their romance was just as fun as to read as Adrian and Evie's.

I love the second-chance-at-love/Mr. and Mrs. Smith romantic trope and I thought My Wicked Little Lies was a fun, quick read. There is little spying in the story though but it didn't bother me, I liked that it focused on the characters than the mystery. There was nothing I disliked about this novel but it was just an okay read--if you are looking for a light, fast and fluffy read over the weekend this book is for you. I liked it but it's not something I would keep and re-read again.

**My Wicked Little Lies is book two in the Sinful Family Secrets series but it can be read as a standalone. You do not have to read the first book to enjoy it.