Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hello everyone,
We are so excited to feature Holly Schindler's The Junction of Sunshine & Lucky. Just the title and the cover puts a smile on my face. In case it's your first coming across this book, here's the description.

Beasts of the Southern Wild meets Because of Winn Dixie in this inspiring story of hope.

Auggie Jones lives with her grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” But Auggie is determined to prove that there’s more to her—and to her house—than meets the eye.

What starts out as a home renovation project quickly becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time.

Holly Schindler’s feel-good story about the power one voice can have will inspire readers to speak from their hearts.


Does it make you smile too? Get it or add it!

Here are my thoughts about this book.


When I read the description of The Junction of Sunshine & Lucky and saw the cover I knew it was a book that will make me smile and I was right. 

From the get go Auggie's character wormed herself into my heart. I saw a lot of my younger self in her and what she went through. I moved from the Philippines to the US when I was in the third grade and Auggie moved to a new school after her old school closed down--I experienced her excitement of going to a new place and then quickly feeling like a fish out of water. And being confronted with the fact that she's from the poor side of town and suddenly feeling self-conscious about things that she took pride in or was happy with before.

Auggie was looking for her "shine," something that was uniquely her that she's really good at and I loved reading about her journey finding it and eventually seeing herself the artist that she was. I thought the author captured Auggie's voice and her unique way of looking at things so well. She was just so spunky, refreshing and delightful. 

I also loved Auggie's relationship with Gus, her grandfather. The bond that they have was lovely and the way Gus encouraged Auggie--everyone should have a Gus in their life! 

I'm a sucker for novels set in the South and in a small town because I like that that homey, nostalgic, simple life feel and I was able to find that here. The author created that small town with all the eccentric characters without going over the top. Seeing Auggie, Gus and their neighbors rally together to show that you don't need new things to create something beautiful and of value was powerful. But that was just one of the things, because The Junction of Sunshine & Lucky was filled with subtle life lessons without any preachy-ness. Now that I think about it, this would be a great novel to do with an upper elementary or middle school class--imagine all the class discussions and fun projects to tie it with!

The Junction of Sunshine & Lucky just made me smile the entire time I was reading it. It was sweet, very readable and a feel-good read that made me want to start creating something after I finished reading it. I recommend The Junction of Sunshine & Lucky everyone--all will come away with something after reading it, even the adults.

*****
Auggie and Gus also sat down with us to answer a few of our questions.


Hi Auggie and Gus! Thank you for chatting with us today. Auggie and Gus, what book (or books) are you currently reading or recently read? What did you think of it?
Gus: I do a lot of reading of the paper. Every morning. Good to find out what’s going on in town—and Classifieds are a great place to find out who’s trying to unload stuff Auggie and I could use in our sculptures. Poor folks have poor ways, after all, and sometimes, the best way for us to start a new sculpture is with an ad for junk that needs to be hauled away.

Auggie: My favorite new characters are the sculptures in our yard! Every single figure we make is better than the last. I can’t wait to see what we’re making in another few weeks, a year from now, even!

Auggie, what’s the best thing about living in Serendipity Place with your Grampa Gus?
Auggie: I love so many things about Serendipity Place! Our neighbors have such great houses. The Widow Hollis has irises that are a blue as deep as the bottom of the ocean. Mrs. Shoemacker’s place has grass as soft and plush as the carpet in a movie star’s house. And Ms. Dillbeck’s front porch sags in the middle and curls up at the ends. I think it looks like it’s smiling.

Gus, you haul trash for a living. You must have come across some very interesting things that people throw away. Can you tell us about some of those? Also, what type of appliance or furniture do people throw away most frequently?
Gus: What gets me are the things folks toss from a time gone by—makes a new memory pop to mind each time. When I pick up an old Brownie camera, I think about smiling for a picture in my best suit before going to Christmas Eve service at the Hopewell Community Church—same church Auggie and I go to now. When I pick up an old console TV, I think about the old TV that used to be in my own living room, the one my wife and Auggie’s mom and I used to watch when Auggie’s mom was just a girl. Nice to take those old memories and make them into something new, with Auggie.

Auggie and Gus, what is your advice for an elementary school class that wants to do a similar project like you did in The Junction of Sunshine & Lucky?

Gus: You need an imagination like Auggie’s.

Auggie: You need a partner like Gus—someone who tells you, “Whatever you see, will be.”

*****

A big thank you to Auggie and Gus for stopping by our blog and a huge thank you to Holly for making the interview possible. Holly is the author of YA novels, A Blue So Dark, Playing Hurt (my review) and the upcoming FeralThe Junction of Sunshine & Lucky is her first middle grade novel. 

Holly has a middle grade site called Holly Schindler's Middles. Check it out at hollyschindlermiddles.weebly.com. You can also chat with her on Twitter, Facebook and her website.

Stop by the next blog on the tour: ReaderKidz

But before you scadaddle, watch the The Junction of Sunshine & Lucky trailer.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Format: paperback
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 304 pages
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Black Sheep Knitting Mystery #6
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Curiosity Killed the Cat
Knitting graffiti, in Plum Harbor? Maggie Messina doubts it could ever happen in her quiet village. Until the new parking meters on Main Street are found covered with cat-faced cozies. In the dark of night, the mysterious Knit Kats have struck again! The infamous gang of stitching graffiti artists are totally harmless, and their pranks all in good fun. Or so Maggie and her friends think. Until a yarn-covered corpse is discovered a few days later—the tangles identical to Knit Kat handiwork.
These threads of evidence should be easy to follow. But the clever Knit Kats hide behind a website and secret identities. The murderer could be anyone. A familiar face in town, even a copy Kat. But when Maggie’s assistant, Phoebe, becomes the prime suspect, the knitting friends know the police have dropped a few stitches. With no time to rest on their needles, the Black Sheep set out to unmask the crafty killer. No simple task, when all Knit Kats look the same in the dark.




When A Dark and Stormy Knit showed up at my door I was pleasantly surprised. I read only one other cozy mystery before (another Black Sheep novel by Anne Canadeo, actually--A Stitch Before Dying) so I cannot help but compare the two in this review. Apologies in advance if the comparisons cause some confusion, especially if you haven't read A Stitch Before Dying, but hopefully this review will be helpful anyway.

Everything I loved about my previous Black Sheep novel was present in this novel: the small town setting, the women's friendship, knitting and an interesting mystery. Canadeo really captured the homey, small town feel and the wonderful friendship between the women, both of which always makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

However, I thought A Dark and Stormy Knit was slower than my previous cozy mystery. There was a lot of back story involved about the Knit Kats, the mysterious group of knitting graffiti artists and the real mystery didn't really get going until about halfway through the novel. While the mystery kept my interest for the most part, it didn't really grab me as much as the mystery did in Stitch. Maybe it was the slow start? Or that I was able to figure out who the killer was way before the women did (whereas in Stitch, I had no concrete answer until almost the very end)? Or that the women came by the clues a little too conveniently (e.g., Phoebe just happen to be there when two possible suspects were arguing and spewing up secrets)? It's probably a little bit of all those things.

Although the mystery in A Dark and Stormy Knit isn't as twisty and there were some instances where the writing took a slight feminist preachy slant, it did keep my interest. It was still a fun read and a good break from my usual YA and romance reads. The best part was really the women in the knitting group--I'd love to have the kind of friendship Maggie, Phoebe, Suzanne, Lucy and Dana have. You know, a shared interest, swapping recipes and knitting patterns, meeting once a week to have dinner together no matter how busy everyone is... it's all so cozy and sweet. They share a close bond that I'd love to have with my friends, except we are just so busy with our own lives (and it doesn't help that we live on different islands these days). Sigh.

Anyway, if you're in the mood for a cozy mystery or a novel that is just easy and relaxing to read, I suggest you try one of Canadeo's Black Sheep Knitting Mystery series (each book can be read as a standalone).
I really, really enjoyed the first book in the series The Burning Sky (my review) and I'm dying to read book 2, The Perilous Sea.

From acclaimed author Sherry Thomas comes the striking sequel to The Burning Sky, book two in the Elemental Trilogy, for fans of Cinda Williams Chima, Rae Carson, and Kristin Cashore.

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

Sherry Thomas brings her trademark blend of dazzling magic, heartbreaking romance, and exciting action in this striking sequel to The Burning Sky.

The Perilous Sea will be released on September 16, 2014. 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, February 25, 2014

Laura Kaye’s HARD AS YOU CAN + Excerpt

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 with

Hello everyone,
Today is the release day of Laura Kaye's Hard As You Can (book 2 in the Hard Ink series--but it can be read as a standalone). I just started reading it the other day and so far it's great! Look for my review in early March.

To celebrate we have an awesome excerpt for you all and an awesome giveaway.  But first here's the description of this awesome romance.

Five dishonored soldiers.
Former Special Forces.
One last mission.
These are the men of Hard Ink.

Ever since hard-bodied, drop-dead-charming Shane McCallan strolled into the dance club where Crystal Dean works, he’s shown a knack for getting beneath her defenses. For her little sister’s sake, Crystal can’t get too close. Until her job and Shane’s mission intersect, and he reveals talents that go deeper than she could have guessed.

Shane would never turn his back on a friend in need, especially a former Special Forces teammate running a dangerous, off-the-books operation. Nor can he walk away from Crystal. The gorgeous waitress is hiding secrets she doesn't want him to uncover. Too bad. He’s exactly the man she needs to protect her sister, her life, and her heart. All he has to do is convince her that when something feels this good, you hold on as hard as you can—and never let go.
Here's the excerpt.
It’s release day! And I’m so excited to share Hard As You Can, the second book in the Hard Ink series, with all of you here today! Hard As You Can follows the surviving members of a disgraced Army Special Forces team as they fight to regain their stolen honor, and finds their investigation crossing paths with a waitress willing to do whatever it takes to stay alive and protect her younger sister. For Shane McCallan, saving Crystal Dean is a mission he refuses to turn down.

Today, I’ve got a super sexy scene to share with you, one that was a total surprise to me as I was writing it! I hope you enjoy this peek at the first time Shane and Crystal find themselves alone with each other:


“Do you like to dance, Crystal?” Shane asked in a low voice.

“Uh, what? Why?”

His smile was crooked, playful. “’Cause dancing’s something people do when they’re getting to know each other.”

“Really?” Maybe where he was from. Then again, she worked in a strip club. Dancing was something people did to make money. So, okay, maybe her view of dancing was a bit jaded.

“Absolutely. Ask anybody.” The song faded away, followed by the announcement of a Southern rock station’s call sign. A new song started, and Shane turned to her with a smile. “Dance with me.”

Crystal peered up at him without the slightest idea how to respond. Because her body was saying hell, yes!, while her brain was screaming bad idea, really, really bad idea.

He stepped closer, arms raised, expression full of all kinds of invitation.

The next thing she knew, her right hand was in his and her left had slipped around his neck. Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, ran over and over in her mind. What am I doing? But then he tucked her hand against his chest and tugged her against him with the hand that settled at her lower back. And the closeness stole her breath.

He moved them to the beat of the song, a slow, sexy, bluesy number she didn’t know but would never forget. Some songs carried memories like the images were imprinted upon the very lyrics themselves, and she had no doubt this would be one of them.

All of a sudden, the air in the room felt ten degrees warmer. As they swayed to the beat, Shane’s body pressed against hers from thighs to chest. With every step and move and turn, Crystal’s breasts rubbed against the hard plane of his chest. Strong hands held and guided her body,making her want to feel them explore her everywhere. Arousal rose like a waking dragon inside her. Cautious. Curious. Dangerous.

This was wrong and stupid on so many levels. But, scary as it was, it felt so freaking good that she couldn’t force herself to pull away. One song. It’s just a dance. Just a dance just a dance just a dance.

And, holy crap, she wasn’t the only one aroused.

Against her belly, Shane hardened.

Crystal sucked in a breath, and he pressed his lips close to her ear. “We’re just dancing here. That’s all. I promise,” he said. But the adrenaline was already in her blood, setting her to a trembling she couldn’t control. Part curious interest and part instinctive fear. “Sshh,” he almost cooed. “Just dancing.”

The echo of her own thoughts from a moment before allowed her to draw a breath that almost calmed. They turned and swayed to the music, moving closer, pressing tighter, Shane’s lips so close to her face that she could feel his breath shudder across her cheekbone.

He was a fire she had no business playing with. She knew that even as she leaned her face against his . . . and got exactly what she’d hoped for.

He kissed her.

Just a brush of his lips against her cheek, but a kiss all the same.

And as much as it made her head spin, it was the little catch of breath in the back of his throat that sent a jolt of electricity down her spine to settle low in her belly. Light as a feather, he caressed her cheek, her temple, her ear with his lips. With him, always such gentleness, so different from almost every other sexual experience she’d ever had. It made her feel safe to allow this to continue.

Between them, his erection was firm, long, totally unyielding.

She shivered, caught between interest and fear, desire a river moving faster and faster inside her. The whole experience was a revelation—that her body had the capacity to respond this way, that a person existed who could pull these reactions from her.

For a moment, she gave herself over to the dizzying sensations. In her mind’s eye, she saw them undressing, fumbling their way back the hall, falling naked and wanting on the bed. What would it be like, just once, to take something that she wanted without worrying about anyone else, without being afraid? Just one wild, secret night, all for her? What would Shane be like?

So that’s Shane and Crystal for you! Did you have a favorite line? Thanks for reading!

~Laura

Like it? Get it!

For more info about Hard As You Can and author Laura Kaye, stop by her website, and chat with her on Facebook and Twitter. Also, Laura is having a Facebook Party to celebrate the release of Hard As You Can today from 12-9 PM EST. 

Or try your luck by entering the giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and happy reading,
Michelle

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up + New Books

Sunday, February 23, 2014 with
Hi everyone,
We hope you are all having a great weekend, filled with great reading.

We had quite a full week, with a lot of characters from books we enjoyed stopping by to chat with us.
Review: Temporarily Yours by Jen McLaughlin

Here are the books we got this week.

Physical Books
I bought a few books that I've had my eye on for a while from bookoutlet.com (an awesome site that sells overstock books for cheap).

Social Suicde by Gemma Halliday
Ditched: A Love Story by Robin Mellom
Sweet Peril by Wendy Higgins

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

E-books/E-galleys
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith (via Netgalley)
EEEeepp!! I'm so excited to finally got the pre-approved email I've been wishing and waiting for. 

Breathe Into Me by Sara Fawkes (via Netgalley)
Fighting for Irish by Gina L. Maxwell (bought)
Asking for Trouble by Tessa Bailey (bought)

What new books did you guys get? We wanna see! Leave your STS* link so I can come gush over them.

Happy reading,
Michelle (& Leslie)

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

Thursday, February 20, 2014



Format: e-galley
Publisher: Entangled Brazen
Pages: 205 pages
Release Date: February 3, 2014
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
This marine's the perfect hoax…if she doesn’t fall for him first.
Stats whiz Kayla Moriarity knows her way around numbers and algorithms. Men, on the other hand, are unsolvable equations. Now Kayla’s en route to her sister’s wedding—alone and without the fictional boyfriend she invented for her family. Fortunately, her plane comes complete with complimentary cocktails and a ridiculously hot ex-marine in the seat beside her. And that’s all it takes for Kayla’s inhibitions to go sailing out the airlock...
Cooper Shillings has soft spot for people in trouble, but he certainly wasn’t expecting to land in it himself—and definitely not while getting naughty mid-air with a sexy southern belle. When he hears Kayla’s predicament, however, he offers his services as a stand-in boyfriend. After all, he’s heading overseas soon...and how could he refuse a little no-strings wickedness?
It’s the perfect plan. And all Kayla has to do is ensure her family falls for the ultimate bluff, without falling for it—and Cooper—in the process...



If you're in need of a break from your heavier romance or YA reads, or want something quick that you can read in one or two sittings, consider picking up Temporarily Yours

Kayla and Cooper met at an airport. They were both heading to North Carolina--he to meet his boss and leave the country for his new job, and she was on her way to her younger sister's wedding. Kayla and Cooper hit it off and, to help Kayla get over her fear of flying, had a steamy encounter in the plane. Kayla made up a fake boyfriend to get her family off her back about her being still single and when Cooper found out, he volunteer to be her stand-in boyfriend... well, a fake-boyfriend-with-benefits (these two cannot keep their hands off each other!). It was perfect for Kayla and Cooper, who were both commitment-phobes. But then real emotions start to get in the way... 

Temporarily Yours has a really fun premise. Cooper and Kayla but had their hang-up but they were likable characters. I liked Kayla's quirk of saying random stats (she's an actuary). However, I thought their voices weren't very distinctive. The novel was in third-person and it went back and forth between Cooper and Kayla but there were a couple of times where I had to remind myself who I'm seeing through the eyes of. The dialogue (especially during their big argument) and writing in general got awkward at times too. It just didn't flow as naturally as in other Brazen titles I've read.

Overall, though, Temporarily Yours was a fun, quick read--a good reading funk breaker. There were a lot of smexy, steamy scenes, just what you'd expect from a Brazen title, that will warm up you on a cold day. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Hello everyone,
Yesterday we featured Jill Shalvis' newest Lucky Harbor novel, Once in a Lifetime. Today, we have another romance pick for you all, Temporarily Yours by Diane Alberts (aka Jen McLaughlin), which is already available to buy at your favorite e-book site. Oh, and FYI,

Yep, you get all the steamy goodness for about a buck. But just in case you don't know what Temporarily Yours is about, here it is.


This marine's the perfect hoax…if she doesn’t fall for him first.

Stats whiz Kayla Moriarity knows her way around numbers and algorithms. Men, on the other hand, are unsolvable equations. Now Kayla’s en route to her sister’s wedding—alone and without the fictional boyfriend she invented for her family. Fortunately, her plane comes complete with complimentary cocktails and a ridiculously hot ex-marine in the seat beside her. And that’s all it takes for Kayla’s inhibitions to go sailing out the airlock...

Cooper Shillings has soft spot for people in trouble, but he certainly wasn’t expecting to land in it himself—and definitely not while getting naughty mid-air with a sexy southern belle. When he hears Kayla’s predicament, however, he offers his services as a stand-in boyfriend. After all, he’s heading overseas soon...and how could he refuse a little no-strings wickedness?

It’s the perfect plan. And all Kayla has to do is ensure her family falls for the ultimate bluff, without falling for it—and Cooper—in the process...

Anywho, we got to interview Cooper who is the hero in Temporarily Yours so without further ado...

Hi Cooper! Thanks for stopping by our blog today.
Thank you so much for having me here today! I’m thrilled to be spending some one on one time with you.

via Goodreads
What songs can we find in your iPod?
I’m addicted to One Republic right now. Also, I love the eclectic sound of Bastille—especially Pompeii. It’s so fresh and fun. Then, of course, some classic rock. I like to work out to that.

What movies are in your Netflix queue?
I mostly watch shows on Netflix, but I have a few action movies in there, too. Breaking Bad, Sherlock, NCIS: LA. Those are my jams. And I watch Downton Abbey because Kayla makes me. Not because I love it. I swear.

And what titles can we find on your bookshelf?
Anything Steven King, James Patterson, Jen McLaughlin, or Diane Alberts. I have to be loyal, you know? ;)

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
You already learned my deepest, darkest secret in Temporarily Yours. But…maybe…I love to sing in the shower. Really, really loudly. In the car, too.

You were probably quite the Romeo growing up. What was the craziest thing you did for a girl before you met Kayla and pretended to be her boyfriend?
I actually didn’t do anything even remotely as romantic for other girls as I did for Kayla. She brings out the best in me. But once, I did a girl’s spelling homework for a whole year. It took me that long to realize we were never gonna happen, but man, she was pretty. We were ten.

What have you and Kayla been up to since we last saw you in Temporarily Yours?
*grins* Wouldn’t you like to know? Let’s just say…we haven’t been wearing a whole lot of clothes while we’re at home. But when we’re not? She’s been doing her job, I’ve been working my way up Shillings Agency. It’s been a slow process, but every night I come home to Kayla…and that? It’s heaven.

*****
Thank you to Cooper for answering some of our burning questions and a big thank you to Diane Alberts for making the interview possible. Just a bit more about her,

Diane Alberts is a multi-published, bestselling contemporary romance author with Entangled Publishing. She also writes New York Times and USA Today bestselling new adult books under the name Jen McLaughlin. On One Condition hit #18 on the Barnes and Noble bestseller list, and Try Me hit #76 on Amazon. Captivated by You hit #31 on the Barnes and Noble bestseller list. Diane is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency. Her goal is to write so many fantastic stories that even a non-romance reader will know her name.

Diane has always been a dreamer with a vivid imagination, but it wasn’t until 2011 that she put her pen where her brain was, and became a published author. Since receiving her first contract offer, she has yet to stop writing. Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal clear water. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her four kids, a husband, a schnauzer mutt, a cat, and a Senegal parrot. In the rare moments when she’s not writing, she can usually be found hunched over one knitting project or another.

If you want to enter the blog tour giveaway (not hosted by Michelle & Leslie's Book Picks) going right now, you can enter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy reading,
Michelle

P.S. Look for my review of Temporarily Yours tomorrow. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Hello fellow romance lovers,
If you're a long-time visitor of our blog it'll come as no surprise to you that I am a huge fan of Jill Shalvis' novels, especially her Lucky Harbor series books. So, I'm very excited to be part of the blog tour to celebrate the release of Once is a Lifetime, which comes out today (Feb. 18th).  

Once is a Lifetime is the 9th book in the series (but all the books in the series can be read as a stand-alone) and it's the long-awaited story of Ben McDaniel and former "mean girl" Aubrey Wellington. Here's more about the novel.


SOMETIMES WRONG IS OH-SO-RIGHT

After a wrenching loss, Ben McDaniel tried to escape his grief by working in dangerous, war-torn places like Africa and the Middle East. Now he's back in his hometown and face-to-face with Aubrey Wellington, the hot-as-hell woman who is trouble with a capital T. Family and friends insist she's not the one to ease his pain, but Aubrey sparks an intense desire that gives Ben hope for the future.

Determined to right the wrongs of her past, Aubrey is working hard to make amends. But by far, the toughest challenge to her plan is sexy, brooding Ben - even though he has absolutely no idea what she's done...

Can this unlikely couple defy the odds and win over the little town of Lucky Harbor?




We asked Jill 5 things you’d be surprised to learn about her and here's what she had to say:


1. I really do eat a lot of cookies

2. We really do get a lot of bears in our trash

3. Frat Boy really is named Frat Boy

4. I can’t spell to save my life

5. And I hardly ever really use real life people in my books

For about Jill and her books, visit her website and join her on Twitter.



Once in a Lifetime Excerpt

“You’re incredible, Ben, you know that? You’re an insensitive, first-class jerk, and–”

He leaned in. “And what?” he asked, voice dangerously low.

“And…” Stymied at her ridiculous and constant reaction to him, Aubrey put her hands to his chest to give him another shove, but somehow got her wires crossed and she fisted his shirt instead.

“Dare me,” he said softly.

Oh, how she hated how well he knew her. “I dare you to kiss me,” she whispered, and then to make sure he did, she put her mouth on his first…

How's that? Short but sweet, yeah?

Forever/Grand Central is also doing an awesome giveaway for the blog tour. Enter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and happy reading,
Michelle

P.S. Don't forget to pick up Once in a Lifetime at your favorite bookstore or library!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hello everyone,
I am so excited because today I share with you all the interview with my new favorite couple of YA. Chloe Baker and Patrick Sheldon from the oh-so-good, stay-up-til-morning-reading (read my full review) novel Something Real by Heather Demetrios.

But just in case you haven't come across Something Real here ya go.

Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show's cancellation, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it's about to fall apart . . . because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™'s mom and the show's producers won't let her quit and soon the life that she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.

Heather Demetrios' Something Real is the winner of the Susan P. Bloom PEN New England Discovery Award.

Without further ado...


Hi Chloe and Patrick! Thank you both for sitting down with me today. I just read Something Real and you guys are my new favorite couple of YA. I have some questions for you both.
Patrick: Thanks so much for not being a creepy tabloid.

Chloe: I’m sure you know how crazy the media has been. It’s not very often we feel comfortable talking about our relationship.

Patrick: We try to stay under the radar.

Chloe: Yeah. [gives him a gentle push] He always puts things the right way—under the radar. That’s my comfort zone.

Chloe & Patrick via Heather's Pinterest
Something Real has been out in the wilds for a couple of weeks now, how are you both feeling about it? Especially you, Chloe, after your experience on Baker's Dozen.
Chloe: I feel good about it. It was hard to put my story out there, but I really wanted people to hear what I had to say. Every time I tried to explain how much being on the show sucked or why things were so messed up with our family, MetaReel censored me. They’d edit that part out of the show or my mom would write a book that only told her side of things. And the magazines and Twitter and everything was just…[sighs] I felt like it was time people knew what it was like to grow up on TV, to have the cameras in your face all the time. I wanted everyone to know that I wasn’t okay with it. I wanted them to know the real me.

Patrick: What I appreciated most about the book is that Chloe was totally honest. She didn’t try to make herself look good, you know? There’s some rough stuff in there.

Chloe: We talked about it. I mean, Patrick and I talked about the book before I wrote it. I wanted to make sure that he was okay with me sharing stuff about our relationship. It seemed like the only way to show people what my life was like during that time.

Patrick: It’s strange, I’ll admit, but honestly, we don’t have anything to hide. And if our story can make things better, like, stop some of the crap MetaReel is pulling, then it’s worth losing a little bit of our privacy. Just a little bit, though. We never go online or read tabloids. We know people are talking about us, but we don’t let it mess with our Zen.

Patrick, you are one of the most romantic YA guy I've ever read about. What was your first impression of Chloe the first time you set your eyes on her? Was it love at first sight?
Patrick: [Blushes] Um…Chlo, do you want me to answer that?

Chloe: If you want. It’s okay. I mean, you are the most romantic guy in YA.

Patrick: [rolls his eyes] Someone paid you to say that, didn’t they?

Chloe: Oh, shut up.

Patrick: Okay, okay. To answer your question: yeah, it kinda was love at first sight. No, maybe love at first sound. Chlo was new to our school, so I noticed her right away, but it was when she spoke up in English class that first day of school our junior year that I knew she was special. Our teacher was asking what we thought about YA lit and some guy was saying that it wasn’t “real” literature. Chloe was reading this book called The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by this dude named Sherman Alexie and she gave this impassioned speech about YA saving her. She said that books can talk to you and let you know you’re not alone and that no matter how much crap you go through, it gets better. After that, I couldn’t get her out of my head. Also, side note: that book rocks.

Chloe, what's the word on Lexie™? I loved her in Something Real, especially towards the end. Are we going to see her again?
Chloe: It took me a long time to realize that I love my stupid sister. I say this with total affection, by the way. Lex is in LA now, trying to “make it.” I totally don’t get that at all, but I answer the phone when she calls, even if it’s a drunk dial to tell me what an awesome time she’s having at some celebrity party or whatever. I’m glad we made it through the crazy and that we ended up on the same side. [Laughs] You will definitely see her again—she’s totally pissed that I got a book deal before her. Expect hers to be way sexier.

Patrick: Oh, god.

So, guys, which would you prefer: sunrise or sunset?
Patrick and Chloe: Sunrise.

[both laugh]

...And speaking of, what have you both been up to since we last saw you in Something Real? Can you tell us some of your plans for the near future?
Patrick: We’ve been seeing the sights.

Chloe: Life is so awesome when cameras aren’t taping every little thing you do. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I have a sort-of normal life now. Like, I’ll be walking through my kitchen to get coffee and keep my head down. I used to do that so that the cameras couldn’t tape my heinous morning face. And then I’ll suddenly remember: no one can see me.

Patrick: [smiles] Well, almost no one.

Chloe: [kisses his cheek] So, um. Yeah. Life is good. My old therapist used to tell me to take it one day at a time. Like, if I look at my whole future, like, future with a capital “F,” I freak out. But if I think all I need to do is live today, enjoy today, then I’m okay.

Patrick: But everything that happened…that’s not going to go away completely.

Chloe: I definitely have my bad days. Sometimes I’m just sad, you know? Sad for me, sad for my family. Or angry.

Patrick: But most of the time, we’re just trying to hide out, hang out. Then school will start up again. So, you know: life.

Chloe: Yeah. Real life.

Thank you again to you both for answering my questions. Hopefully I'll see you both again in another novel in the future.

*****
**swoon** How totally adorable are they?

If you want more of Chloe and Patrick read Something Real by Heather Demetrios. I'm going to be pushing the novel to all my friends because it's that GOOD--it's right up there with My Life Next Door (Fitzpatrick) and Anna and the French Kiss (Perkins) for me.

For more info about Something Real and author Heather Demetrios, stop by her website, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. You also might want to check out the Book Boyfriends Facebook page for some swoon-y #PatrickSheldonIsMyBoyfriend and #BennyBakerIsMyBoyfriend quotes.

Thanks to Macmillan, one lucky reader will win a copy of Something Real (US only; ends 3/7). Trust me, you want this book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck,
Michelle

P.S. Don't forget to read my review of Something Real.
Format: ARC
Publisher: Henry Holt
Pages: 416 pages
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show's cancellation, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it's about to fall apart . . . because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™'s mom and the show's producers won't let her quit and soon the life that she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.

Heather Demetrios'
Something Real is the winner of the Susan P. Bloom PEN New England Discovery Award.


I brought Something Real with me on vacation to the Philippines back in December but I put off reading it. The book is about a girl who grew up on a Jon and Kate Plus Eight-like or a Kardashian-style reality TV show and I hate watching those kind of shows. The book's description doesn't tell you much and I wasn't sure what to expect. But my Kindle ran out of battery with a couple more days left on my trip so I reluctantly started reading Something Real.

And then it was really had to stop reading. I wanted to savor it but at the same time I wanted to quickly flip through the pages because I had to know what will happen next.

Something Real was an amazing read. First of all, the writing was fantastic and it immediately grabbed me. It was well-paced, well-plotted and Bonnie™/Chloe Baker's voice was spot on. I couldn't detect any debut novel awkwardness. The story just flowed liked butter and it was a joy to read.

After being born on camera and spending her all of childhood in front of the cameras on her family's hit reality TV show the Baker's Dozen, Bonnie™ Baker was finally living a normal life. In the last four years, she has reinvented herself as Chloe Baker, a normal girl (or as normal as she can get because her years on the show did a number on her psyche) trying to get through her senior year of high school with her two best friends Tessa and Meredith, crushing on the lovely Patrick Sheldon and trying to keep her reality TV past a secret. And then her mom drops a bomb on her: Baker's Dozen is going back on air. Soon, the life Chloe carefully built for herself start to crumble.

Being a reality TV disliker (I only watch the competition types like Project Runway or The Voice), I liked the behind-the-scenes look of what it meant to grow up on reality TV--the fun/okay parts and the ugly parts (people's obsession with celebrities and the awfulness that they invite, the lack of privacy, the crazy paparazzi, etc.) were explored. And it gave it a face in Bonnie™/Chloe Baker, which made me reflect about myself and my quick to judgements and dismissal of reality TV stars. How we only see one side of the story, and sometimes not even the whole story but just the version that will garner the most viewers. It is a very timely topic.

Bonnie™/Chloe Baker's character quickly endeared herself to me. Throughout the novel, I felt her pain, her anger, her depression, her joy... Chloe experienced a roller coaster of emotions and I was there with her all the way. I loved the coming of age journey she undertook--Chloe started out desperately trying to stay of the spotlight and just ran from her problems rather than face them but she bloomed and became a stronger person by the end. Her finding her inner strength to confront the challenges in her life was empowering and I rooted for her to succeed.

I also enjoyed all the secondary characters in Something Real, from Benny™ (Chloe's brother who had the best and cutest secondary plot line ever with his boyfriend Matt) to the "unlikable" characters like Chuck the evil producer and Chloe's mom. They were all fully fleshed out and some, like Chloe's sister Lexie™, just begged for their own novels.

And of course I cannot end this review without talking about the dreamy Patrick Sheldon. Man, can Heather Demetrios write a swoon-worthy love interest(s)! Patrick (as well as Benny Baker, if he's more your type) is one to add to your book boyfriends list. He was just lovely. Maybe he was a little too perfect, but whatever. We can dream. I loved how Patrick and Chloe's relationship developed and by the end of the novel you know these two are meant to be together. The romance had a very My Life Next Door (Fitzpatrick) feel to it, which I LOVED.

Something Real is the kind of contemporary YA that I prefer too read: not light and fluffy but not dark and serious either... just that perfect balance of serious and light-hearted moments. It is so, soooo good, you guys. I absolutely loved it and I urge you to pick it up.

*****
Author Heather Demetrios talks about her inspiration for Something Real + more!

And don't forget to check out my interview with Chloe Baker and Patrick Sheldon and enter to win your own copy of Something Real here.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up + New Books

Sunday, February 16, 2014 with
Hi bookish friends,
We hope you all had a good week. It's was a bit crazy for us because I started my new teaching job and, well, Leslie is always busy since it's her senior year in high school. Anywho, here are our posts this week.
Leslie's Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer
Got A Crush? Win Seventeen Ultimate Guide to Guys <<GIVEAWAY ALERT
Book I Covet: Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule
Feral by Holly Schindler Cover + Synopsis Reveal
Q+A with Mats Strandberg and Sara B. Elfgren, Authors of the Engelsfors Trilogy

Here are the books we got this week.

BOUGHT
Everyone was talking/raving about the Shatter Me series the other week and I had to know for myself so I bought the entire series, including the novellas. Now I just have to find time to read all the books.


PHYSICAL BOOKS
The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson (ARC for review)
One of our most anticipated books of 2014 arrived in the mail! EEEeeepppp!!

Giving In by Maya Banks (ARC for review)
I quite enjoyed the first book in Maya's newest series (my review) so I'm happy to get book 2.

A Promise at Bluebell Hill by Emma Cane (for review)
The Cowboy of Valentine Valley by Emma Cane (for review)
Hard As You Can by Laura Kaye (ARC for review)
Evening Stars by Susan Mallery (won)
Battle of the Beasts by Chris Columbus & Ned Vizzini (won)


E-BOOKS/E-GALLEYS
Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg (via Netgalley)
We coveted Better Off Friends so we're so excited that we got approved.
Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins (via Edelweiss)

Best Kind of Broken by Chelsea Fine (via Netgalley)
A Match Made in Texas by Katie Lane (via Netgalley)

Bitter Sweet Love by Jennifer L. Armentrout (FREE via Amazon)
Bencher Family Bundle by Inara Scott (bought)
I couldn't resist getting this since it was only $0.99 for all 3 books.

What new books did you guys get? We wanna see! Leave your STS* link so I can come gush over them.

Happy reading,
Michelle (& Leslie)

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

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

We have authors Mats Strandberg and Sara B. Elfgren here on the blog today! They wrote the Swedish sensation, the Engelsfors Trilogy. The series was originally published in Sweden (it's so huge that it will soon be adapted into a movie) but it has made it's way across the pond. The first two books, The Circle and Fire are already out and available in your favorite bookstore or at your local library.

Fire (book 2) recently came out though and to celebrate we have the authors answering some of our burning questions.

But first here's the description of Fire.

Praised by Lev Grossman as "stunning, …raw, real, smart, very thrilling and very, very wicked,” The Circle, the first book in the internationally bestselling Engelsfors Trilogy, introduced a group of high school girls with special powers who became the Chosen Ones. As book two, Fire, begins, Minoo, Vanessa, Linnéa, Anna-Karin and Ida have been struggling with their own demons all summer long. Now school is back in session, and whether they like it or not, the five Chosen Ones must stick together stronger than ever before.

Evil is back in Engelsfors and it threatens to engulf everyone and everything—and only if the five girls accept their strengths and trust each other unconditionally will they have any chance of defeating it.

The second installment of the Engelsfors Trilogy—an international sensation with rights sold in 26 countries—Fire sees the past woven together with the present, the living with the dead, our human world with demonic forces. This spellbinding novel takes the reader on a wild journey in a world where the stakes are higher than life-and-death.
And just in case you're new to the series, here's the description of book 1, The Circle.

On a night after the apparent suicide of high school student Elias Malmgren, a blood-red moon fills the night sky. Minoo wakes up outside her house, still in her pajamas, and is drawn by an invisible force to an abandoned theme park on the outskirts of town. Soon five of her classmates--Vanessa, Linnea, Anna-Karin, Rebecka and Ida--arrive, compelled the same force. A mystical being takes over Ida's body and tells them they are fated to fight an ancient evil that is hunting them. The park is a safe haven; the school, a place of danger. The six are wildly different and definitely not friends…but they are the Chosen Ones.

As the weeks pass, each girl discovers she has a unique magical ability. They begin exploring their powers, but they are not all firmly committed to their mission--to discover the truth about Elias's death. Then a horrible tragedy strikes within the circle. Newly determined to fight the evil forces, they begin to learn magic from The Book of Patterns, an ancient work with a will of its own that reveals different things to different witches.

In this gripping first installment of the Engelsfors Trilogy, a parallel world emerges in which teenage dreams, insanely annoying parents, bullying, revenge, and love collide with flirtation, dangerous forces, and ancient magic. An international sensation with rights sold in 24 countries, The Circle is razor-sharp and remarkable from start to finish.

Add the series to your Goodreads!


We meet a lot of characters in the THE ENGELSFORS TRILOGY. Which ones are your favorite characters to write?
SARA: We don’t have any favorites among the main characters. It was so much fun to tell the story from different perspectives.
MATS: Exactly. If I for instance had written a chapter about Minoo, who is very over-analyzing and "in her head" the whole time, it can be a relief to write Vanessa, who is very smart too, but spontaneous, and deals with problems more emotionally.
SARA: They all have such different journeys that we can't choose one of the Chosen Ones. But Mona Moonbeam, the shady new age-shop owner in town is a favorite among the minor characters.
MATS: Yes! Writing Mona always put us in a good mood. I'm going to start writing my own fan fiction about Monas youth in the 1980s.
SARA: I look forward to reading them.

What inspired Linnéa's personality and interests?
MATS: For me she is sort of based on the sort of friend I wish I would have had. Linnéa is very strong, and fiercely loyal, and she can be really funny, but she doesn't shy away from the darker aspects of life.
SARA: For me Linnéa is very much based on people I’ve met in different situations and also friends’ descriptions of themselves as teenagers. Anime, manga and Japanese culture is really important for many young people in Sweden today, and it felt very natural that Linnéa would be into that.
MATS: We wanted to write about an "alternative" girl who was very creative with her style and sticks to it, even if 99.9% of the town doesn’t understand it at all.
SARA: She is a kick-ass girl, but she’s very human too. It’s hard for her to trust and to show vulnerability which is understandable since she’s been betrayed so many times by people close to her and life in general. She’s got a very tough attitude and she’s quick to judge. But she is also very empathic.

Can you give us a hint of what's in store for the characters (especially the Chosen Ones) in book 3?
MATS: Well, we both really hate spoilers, but we can say that THE KEY starts right were FIRE ended. And we introduce some new characters that we both really loved writing about. Also, it's a really paranoid book. It's a lot about questions of trust - who can you trust? Can you even trust yourself?
SARA: The Swedish edition of The Key is 800+ pages. But I can honestly say there's no filler! We had a lot of storylines to wrap up, and it was probably the hardest thing we've ever done, and the most intense, but also the most fun.
MATS: We finally got to use all the big "guns" that we've been planning for since the beginning!

What is the most exciting thing about having your series translated and published in the US?
MATS: It's a bit like thinking about space. It's too big to even really fathom. I was in Vermont and Maine last year and I saw my book at Barnes & Noble stores! And I did the most embarrassing thing but it felt awesome; I sent a copy to my childhood idol, Stephen King. I don't think he'll read it, but THEORETICALLY he could. And that's exciting!
SARA: Being published at all is a dream come true. Being published in the US is, like Mats says, unbelievable. We have grown up on so much American pop culture, and been inspired by it when creating THE ENGELSFORS TRILOGY, like for example Buffy the Vampire Slayer, My So Called Life, Veronica Mars, Twin Peaks, Curtis Sittenfeld's book Prep, the 90s film The Craft...

*****

Thank you to Mats and Sara for answering our questions. You all can chat with Sara on Twitter and Instagram at @sarabelfgren and visit her on her Tumblr. As for Mats, he's on Twitter and Instagram as @matsstrandberg_ as well as Tumblr. Also, a big thank you to Overlook Press for making this post possible.

Have a wonderful Valentine's everyone and may your sweetheart get you lots of great reads!

Happy reading,
Michelle

Thursday, February 13, 2014

FERAL by Holly Schindler Cover + Synopsis Reveal

Thursday, February 13, 2014 with

Hello everyone,
We don't participate in a lot of cover reveal on our blog but we love author Holly Schindler. She is so sweet and all the books we've read by her, I really like--read my review of Playing Hurt here (a really romantic, fantastic contemporary) and I'll be reviewing her newest release, an awesome, feel-good middle grade novel called The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky on the 27th.

So, without further ado, here's Feral...

It’s too late for you. You’re dead.

Those words float through Claire Cain’s head as she lies broken and barely alive after a brutal beating. And the words continue to haunt her months later, in the relentless, terrifying nightmares that plague her sleep. So when her father is offered a teaching sabbatical in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out of Chicago, away from the things that remind her of what she went through, will offer a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire quickly realizes something is wrong—the town is brimming with hidden dangers and overrun by feral cats. And her fears are confirmed when a popular high school girl, Serena Sims, is suddenly found dead in the icy woods behind the school. While everyone is quick to say Serena died in an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it—for she was the one who found Serena, battered and most certainly dead, surrounded by the town’s feral cats.

Now Claire vows to learn the truth about what happened, but the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to discovering a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley. . .

With an eerie setting and heart-stopping twists and turns, Holly Schindler weaves a gripping story that will make you question everything you think you know.

Feral will be released on August 26, 2014. You can pre-order it on Amazon here. For more info about Holly and her books, visit her website.

Happy reading,
Michelle

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book I Covet: Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 with
I have to admit it's the cover of Strange Sweet Song that is most appealing to me. But it also has a very interesting premise.

A young soprano enrolls in a remote music academy where nothing, not even her mysterious young vocal coach, is as it seems

Outside Dunhammond Conservatory, there lies a dark forest. And in the forest, they say, lives a great beast called the Felix. But Sing da Navelli never put much faith in the rumors and myths surrounding the school; music flows in her blood, and she is there to sing for real. This prestigious academy will finally give her the chance to prove her worth—not as the daughter of world-renowned musicians—but as an artist and leading lady in her own right.

Yet despite her best efforts, there seems to be something missing from her voice. Her doubts about her own talent are underscored by the fact that she is cast as the understudy in the school's production of her favorite opera, Angelique. Angelique was written at Dunhammond, and the legend says that the composer was inspired by forest surrounding the school, a place steeped in history, magic, and danger. But was it all a figment of his imagination, or are the fantastic figures in the opera more than imaginary?

Sing must work with the mysterious Apprentice Nathan Daysmoor as her vocal coach, who is both her harshest critic and staunchest advocate. But Nathan has secrets of his own, secrets that are entwined with the myths and legends surrounding Dunhammond, and the great creature they say lives there.

Lyrical, gothic, and magical, Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule will captivate and enchant readers.

Strange Sweet Song will be released on March 11, 2014. 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, February 11, 2014

Got A Crush? Win Seventeen Ultimate Guide to Guys

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 with
Labels:
Hello bookish friends,
Are you like me and is basically hopeless around guys? SEVENTEEN Ultimate Guide to Guys by Ann Shoket & the Editors of Seventeen might be of interest to you.

When it comes to navigating first crushes, kisses, and love, millions of girls turn to Seventeen, the largest monthly teen magazine, for help. For that reason, Seventeen’s Editor in Chief, Ann Shoket, releases the SEVENTEEN Ultimate Guide to Guys, a girl's must-have manual to what he is thinking on flirting, dating, relationships, and falling in love.

Drawing from Seventeen’s popular Hot Guy Panel, the magazine’s trusted editors polled real-life guys to provide readers with insight into the wild wilderness of the male brain. Packed with answers to girls’ burning questions when it comes to guys, such as What Does His Text Really Mean; Does He Like You…or Not; What Flirting Moves Do Guys Like and Not Like, the advice-driven book is divided into four categories including:
  • Flirt Like an All-Star
  • Be a Super-Dater
  • Have the Best Makeup
  • Defining a Relationship
In addition to key advice on girls’ top relationship concerns, SEVENTEEN Ultimate Guide to Guys also features hundreds of photos as well as interactive quizzes that make the book an interactive, fun experience.
I grew up reading Seventeen magazines--I read them from cover to cover--they were my and my best friends' Bible in middle school. Whether you take the advice seriously or not, Seventeen books are always fun to flip through.

One lucky reader of this here blog will win a copy of SEVENTEEN Ultimate Guide to Guys. Or in it for your friend, you sister or for yourself!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck,
Michelle