Tuesday, April 28, 2015

ARC: 179 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: April 28, 2014
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: The Ladybirds #1
Synopsis
Bea Hogg is shy but fiery inside. When national dance competition Starwars comes to her school looking for talent, she wants to sign up. It's just a shame her best friend agreed to enter with school super-cow Pearl Harris. Bea will fight back! But when school hottie, Ollie Matthews, who also happens to be Pearl’s boyfriend, decides to enter the competition with Bea, she will have more than a fight on her hands. This warm, nuanced, hilarious story about friendship, fortitude . . . and dancing is impossible not to fall in love with. Jenny’s voice is fresh and convincing, and she handles both darker and lighter elements of the story with equal panache.


After reading so many required books and poems for school, I decided I wanted a light, fun, and easy read for my Spring Break. Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan delivered perfectly. For a book I knew little to nothing about going into it, I was happy to find that it was exactly what I needed. I laughed; I oohed; I awwed, and I remained so glued to the book that I finished it within days--a big feat for a slow reader like me. So I'm giving Flirty Dancing
First of all, I really connected with the main character Bea. Just as the blurb says, Bea is a shy girl with a fierce spirit, a combination that stems from her insecure and submissive self hiding her amazing talent, determined character, and big heart. She always felt uncomfortable around others outside her home and small circle of friends, and that characteristic of hers totally reminded me of my taciturn self, so I really felt for Bea with every tease and mock she received from her ex-friend-turned-bully and with every self-doubting thought that ran through her mind. I rooted for her all throughout the book, and sometimes, even wanted to reach into the story and either shake her or hug her because I knew she was stronger and more capable than she believed she was. I admired watching Bea grow more and more comfortable with herself as she surrounded herself with more considerate company who saw her as what she truly was, and I liked how her character was so fond of dance, it found freedom in it, releasing whatever insecurities Bea held. Since Flirty Dancing is the first of a series that tells the individual stories of each of the four different Ladybirds, I am both sad and excited to be leaving Bea in her book as I plan to read the other Ladybirds books because I wouldn't mind at all reading more about Bea but I am also interested in learning about her fellow Ladybirds and seeing her as a secondary character. I really saw myself in Bea's character and I enjoyed reading about her.

I also really liked the secondary characters of Flirty Dancing, which were Bea's family, particularly her little sister and Nan, and Bea's friends, such as Ladybirds Betty and Kat and school hottie Ollie. Bea's family was what really made Flirty Dancing a very entertaining read for me. Her crazy, loud little sister Emma was one of those lovable little kids with endless amounts of energy as they run around naked, color themselves, whine, scream, yell, and laugh, and I was both embarrassed about her and very much entertained by her. Her crazy, careless antics made me laugh and smile throughout the entire book, and I loved her relationship with Bea, who, although did have some embarrassment for Emma, accepted her and adored her just the same. Emma struck me as no other child I have ever met in real life, and I don't know if I would have handled her as well as Bea did, so she and Bea, individually and together, were very admirable. Bea's Nan was also really cool. She played a key role in helping Bea grow into herself, and her careless actions, such as her loud outfits, un-shy comments, and optimistic input, also put smiles on my faces. Her quirky character reminded me of some of my own relatives. Bea's friends Betty and Kat were interesting as well. Betty was unconventional, funny, and fearless in her disinterest with cliches and status quos, and Kat, although was on the opposite side of the spectrum from Betty, turned out to be a better character than I expected. From the blurb, I thought she was going to completely betray Bea in the typically cruel jealous-friend fashion, but I was happy to find that she didn't. Even though she did leave Bea and from the very beginning showed herself as not the greatest friend, in my mind, she redeemed herself by the end of the book. Then, finally, Ollie was a sweetheart. I liked that his popularity and supposed utter hot-ness did not eclipse Bea and her character development, let alone create in him one of those cold, arrogant, or reserved heroes. He was nonchalant, yes, so much that his character's presence was only acknowledged in my mind because Bea and her friends thought he was cute, but he was also kind, caring, and charming enough to be liked. Even the secondary characters in Flirty Dancing stood out to me and they made the book all the more fun and interesting to read.

The plot of Flirty Dancing was neither boring nor overly-dramatic, and it was easy to follow with its straightforward conflict and easy pace. Beyond that, though, I honestly don't have much to say about it; the characters were what really kept me interested as I read. Maybe that is why I do not feel compelled to give Flirty Dancing a full five stars because the plot was nothing particularly special. Each event flowed logically to the next and there were little to no surprises in the book, which I liked and found refreshing as I did want an easy read. Since the length of the book is under two hundred pages, the easiness of the plot made Flirty Dancing all the more a light read. I didn't dislike the plot but I didn't find it in any way very exciting.

For a debut novel, I think McLachlan did a nice job creating and writing a story that is relatable and realistic but not overdone, illogical, or awkward. Her writing was easy to understand and it conveyed Bea's voice and thoughts really well. I usually like writing that is lyrical and descriptive, but I appreciated McLachlan's uncomplicated writing style. I also liked the sense of humor she put into the dialogue and actions of her characters, which was neither dry nor sarcastic but just plain comical. I'll definitely consider McLachlan's books if I am ever in the mood again to read something light and fun.

Flirty Dancing was a light, easy, fun read that brightened my mood after a stressful semester and a half. I recommend it to anyone and everyone in need of a mood lifter because the quirky and funny characters will make you laugh and smile as they did for me. However, as a note for those younger readers and/or those with more sensitive ears, I must warn that there is a little bit of explicit language in Flirty Dancing, such as the words b**ch, a**, and ar**. Other than that, Flirty Dancing is a great and humorous read.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis
Sarina Mahler thinks she has her life all nailed down: a growing architecture practice in Austin, Texas, and an any-day-now proposal from her loving boyfriend, Noah. She’s well on her way to having the family she’s hoped for since her mother’s death ten years ago. But with Noah on a temporary assignment abroad and retired Olympic swimmer — and former flame — Eamon Roy back in town asking her to renovate his new fixer-upper, Sarina’s life takes an unexpected turn.

Eamon proves to be Sarina’s dream client, someone who instinctively trusts every one of her choices — and Sarina is reminded of all the reasons she was first drawn to him back in the day. Suddenly her carefully planned future with Noah seems a little less than perfect. And when tragedy strikes, Sarina is left reeling. With her world completely upended, she is forced to question what she truly wants in life — and in love.

Full of both humor and heartbreak, The One That Got Away is the story of one woman’s discovery that, sometimes, life is what happens when you leave the blueprints behind.



Some spoilers.

I really, really enjoyed The One That Got Away, author Bethany Chase's debut novel. It has all the ingredients I love in what I consider really good women's fiction and a very satisfying read. 

I'm not going to summarize what the book is about because the synopsis did a really good job of that. I'll just jump into my thoughts.

Sarina. I liked Sarina--she was likable, smart, confident and witty. She has great friends, a loving boyfriend (albeit he's currently abroad), her architecture practice is taking off--she basically had a pretty good life. She's far from perfect, though, and there were instances when I thought she acted more like someone in her mid-20s than her 31 years. But now that I think about it... we're close in age (I'm 28) and both at that point in our lives where we feel like we know what we want with our careers, we're on the right path, and it's starting to take off, but we don't have the responsibilities of marriage and kids. So, she can still go out during the weekends, party with her friends and have a drink (or three) guilt-free. 

I do love her easy relationship with her stepfather John. Their mutual love for her mom, their shared love for architecture, how they both celebrated her successes and despite them living far away from each other, they still have that connection. I just loved that! 

Noah and Eamon. They're both good men. I was unsure about Eamon at first though. We're in Sarina's first person POV the whole time and he's one of those flirty, charming types so I wasn't sure what his intentions were until it became glaringly obvious. Then, I felt sorry for him because he really, really liked Sarina but she was with Noah. 

As for Noah, he wasn't my type of guy so I never warmed up to him. We differ in opinions about women's role when it comes to children versus careers so he irritated me at times. But he was a good guy. I felt really bad for him too.

Emotional infidelity. I liked Sarina overall, but all the emotional infidelity going on with her rubbed me the wrong way. She was attracted to Eamon (and vice versa) but because she was with Noah they developed this great friendship, which I loved that. They would hang out, have a great time and there was always this sexual tension between them. Then, there were times when Sarina was upset with Noah and they kind of cross the friend line a little bit and her rationalizations were flimsy at best. I found myself screaming at one, Break up with Noah already! You keep saying you love him but you don't love him that way! Gah! I hate cheating of any kind and as I reader I was very torn. I wanted to root for Sarina and Eamon because they're so good together, but then there's still poor Noah who was also good guy in his own way. 

Other things I loved. I really enjoyed all the other secondary characters, especially Sarina's group of friends. Theirs was was the kind of friendship that makes me want to use the #friendshipgoals. As someone who loves to watch HGTV, I found the whole building design/renovation fascinating. I really want to see Eamon's house when it's all finished. Hmmm... I wonder if the author has a Pinterest and had some visuals in mind for his house? The One That Got Away is set in Austin and it sounds like a fun city and I like the contrast the author made of Austin and Sarina's hometown of Floyd County, Virginia. I looked up pictures of both places and I fell in love with Floyd's small-town charm--I'm a country girl at heart. 

Writing and plotThe One That Got Away is author Bethany Chase's debut novel and I am very impressed. The concept of The One That Got Away wasn't original, but it read fresh. Ms. Chase is an excellent writer--I found her writing to be very coherent, straight-forward and engaging and I was sucked in from chapter one and I kept turning the pages late into the night. I mentioned my dislike of infidelity but I still really, really enjoyed it a lot despite having some elements that I normally avoid. This novel will definitely not be my last novel by Ms. Chase. Actually, after reading the excerpt that was included in the paperback edition, I'm very much looking forward to her next novel, which will feature Eamon's brother Colin and Sarina's veterinarian friend Hilary.

OverallThe One That Got Away is reminiscent of Emily Giffin's earlier works (Something Borrowed and Something Blue--I'm not a fan of her newer books) and Catherine McKenzie's (her novel Arranged is one of my all-time favorite women's fiction title) novels. If you're a fan of rom-com type of women's fiction, then I highly recommend this one, and with summer coming up, add it to your list of pool-side reads.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hello everyone,
It's been so long since I did a post that is not a review and I miss doing posts like this, but I've just been so busy with work (I'm a second grade teacher). Even when I'm not working I'm thinking about work and during the weekends all I want to do is read and nothing else. BUT summer vacation is 5 and a half weeks away so I can see the bright light at the end of the tunnel.

Anyway, I'm experiencing a two-book hangover, you guys. I read The Deal by Elle Kennedy and The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan about two weeks ago and I'm still thinking about both of them. Both were the perfect mix of swoony romance, humor, witty banter, and drama. I just ate them up one right after the other and now I don't know what to do with myself. I've read a few books since I read them, but everything I've read couldn't quite satisfy me because I'm still thinking about The Deal and The Hook Up and wanting more of the same kind of read.

Just in case, you have not heard of The Deal and The Hook Up, they are new adult contemporary novels. You guys might be familiar with Elle Kennedy and Kristen Callihan--Elle writes the extra smexy series called Out of Uniform (which revolves a group of hot Navy SEALs) as well as a few Blaze novels and Kristen writes the fantastic historical/paranormal series called Darkest London (which I love and obsessed with--read my review of book 7 Soulbound here). Instead of me trying to explain the synopsis of each, I'll instead just include the cover and the description.


She’s about to make a deal with the college bad boy...

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she’s carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush’s attention, she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice... even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date.

...and it’s going to be oh so good.

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he’s worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he’s all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn't take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn't going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.


The rules: no kissing on the mouth, no staying the night, no telling anyone, and above all… No falling in love.

Anna Jones just wants to finish college and figure out her life. Falling for star quarterback Drew Baylor is certainly not on her to do list. Confident and charming, he lives in the limelight and is way too gorgeous for his own good. If only she could ignore his heated stares and stop thinking about doing hot and dirty things with him. Easy right?

Too bad he’s committed to making her break every rule…

Football has been good to Drew. It’s given him recognition, two National Championships, and the Heisman. But what he really craves is sexy yet prickly Anna Jones. Her cutting humor and blatant disregard for his fame turns him on like nothing else. But there’s one problem: she's shut him down. Completely.

That is until a chance encounter leads to the hottest sex of their lives, along with the possibility of something great. Unfortunately, Anna wants it to remain a hook up. Now it’s up to Drew to tempt her with more: more sex, more satisfaction, more time with him. Until she’s truly hooked. It's a good thing Drew knows all about winning.

All’s fair in love and football… Game on.

If you're not a big new adult reader, don't let the man flesh on the covers deter you from picking it up. Both are not all sex, sex, sex (though there are a few hot smexy scenes in both books) and angst, angst, angst. Both are well-plotted with strong characters and the sex scenes were not just stuck in there for the sake of having a sex scene. They were there for a reason, which that builds the main plot or was a natural progression of the main plot. The writing in both is fantastic--yes, the plot lines are familiar and they've been done before, but Elle and Kristen wrote them in a way that felt fresh and engaging and so entertaining. The main male characters, Garrett and Drew, are the die for and I fell in love with both of them. Both are book boyfriend, no, book husband material, and Hannah and Anna are girls I'd want to be friends with.

Five more days until Logan!!!!
You guys, I am obsessed with these two books. I already pre-ordered The Mistake, which is the next book after The Deal and it features Garrett's best friend John Logan. It's out next week Tuesday! I'm soooo friggin' excited!!! I would've pre-ordered The Friend Zone (the book after The Hook Up) as well but it's not available to pre-order yet. Kristen just recently announced that it's coming out on May 5th so **YAAY!!!** not too long of a wait.

Yeah, so this post is basically a looooonngg gush about The Deal and The Hook Up, but, you guys, I friggin' LOOOVVEEE these books. I need to get my feelings out and fangirl about both books in a post that is not a review post because those tend to be more formal. I'll stop now, but not before urging you (if you haven't already) to pick up The Deal and The Hook Up in that order, which was the order I read them in. For me, The Deal is a smidge better (but just a teeny tiny smidge) than The Hook Up so start with The Deal because it's going to make you so very hungry for more sports-playing hotties and The Hook Up will be there to stave off that hunger until you can read The Mistake (which is coming out in 5 days!!). And then when you're done with The MistakeThe Friend Zone will be there to fill whatever hole The Mistake left you with... [but, then, it's probably going to be a while until book 3 for both series will be out, but let's not think too far into the future]

I hope if you haven't picked up either books this post convinced you to do so. I do have to mention though that if you're younger than 17 The Deal and The Hook Up do have mature sexual content, so read at your own discretion. I don't want to say don't read it, because I started reading adult romance novel when I was was 15... so, yeah.

Happy reading,
Michelle

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Putnam
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: n/a
Synopsis
A laugh-out-loud high school adventure set in Greece, perfect for fans of Meg Cabot

High school sophomore Zona Lowell has lived in New York City her whole life, and plans to follow in the footsteps of her renowned-journalist father. But when he announces they’re moving to Athens for six months so he can work on an important new story, she's devastated— he must have an ulterior motive. See, when Zona's mother married an American, her huge Greek family cut off contact. But Zona never knew her mom, and now she’s supposed to uproot her entire life and meet possibly hostile relatives on their turf? Thanks... but no thanks.

In the vein of
Anna and the French Kiss, Zona navigates a series of hilarious escapades, eye-opening revelations, and unexpected reunions in a foreign country—all while documenting the trip through one-of-a-kind commentary.


I really enjoyed Ms. Zeitlin's debut novel Freshman Year and Other Natural Disasters (my review) and her second novel, Sophomore Year is Greek to Me, was just as fun and fabulous.

Zona Lowell is the daughter of two-time Pulitzer winning journalist David Lowell. Following in her father's footsteps, Zona also wants to be a journalist. It had always been just Zona and her dad, because her mom died when she was born. Even though she's not as well off as her private school classmates, she has a pretty good life: she has two best friends (Hilary and Matty), she's the features editor of her school's paper, and she has a great relationship with her wonderful, albeit absentminded (especially when he's on deadline), father.

She is in the middle of her sophomore year of high school when her dad announced that they are moving to Greece for about six months. He wanted to write about the Greek government-debt crisis, but also so Zona could reconnect with her mother's family. Zona never knew her mom and didn't want anything to do with her Greek side of the family, especially after they disowned her mom after she ran away and married her father. But her dad wouldn't budge, and Zona was forced to leave the only life she's ever known to face hostile relatives and a new school in a foreign country. Will Zona survive her sophomore year?

I really enjoyed Zona's character. She's smart, thoughtful, even-tempered, a bit boy crazy, a good student and a great daughter. She wasn't snarky like Kelsey Finklestein was, instead she has a vocabulary I envy (especially when she's upset and she's in her "SAT prep mode") and talks in headlines with her dad. I loved her relationship with her dad. Yeah, he can kind of be neglectful and sometimes Zona is the one taking care of her dad, but he let's her be her own person and when she really needs him, he's there to talk to her. She has a lot of freedom to go about and do what she wants but she doesn't abuse it. Zona has a good head on her shoulders.

I love it when a book takes me to a different country and I am able to travel vicariously through a character. Greece wasn't on my list of places to travel to (like Zona, all I really saw of it was from the movie Mamma Mia with Meryl Streep and I'm not a fan of Greek food), but after reading this novel I just might add it. I really enjoyed seeing Greece through Zona's eyes. It was also great learning more about the Greek economic collapse and having it talked about by a local.

My favorite scene was the one with the geese. I bust out laughing because I could picture the entire scene in my mind and if I were in Zona's shoes, I'd totally react the same way. Some of the situations Zona found herself in when she was with her relatives brought me back to a trip I took with my family when we went to visit our relatives in the Philippines. I was there with her in having to use an outdoor shower and toilet, and having to use public transportation. 

I guess my only minor issue were the newspaper article excerpts that were peppered throughout the narrative. Zona, budding journalist that she was, wrote about her life in news-article-speak as if a newspaper was covering the story (for an example, see here). I enjoyed them for the most part, a lot of them made me laugh and they added an interesting flair to the novel, but sometimes they're put in the middle of a scene and it took me out of the story. I was tempted to skip over some of them and just keeping going with the main narrative and then go back later, but being the OCD reader that I am I have to read the words in the order they come. Anyway, this is a very minor complaint and did not really take away my enjoyment of the novel.

Oh, and if you've read Freshman Year and Other Natural Disasters, Kelsey Finkelstein makes a cameo here, as well as a few of the characters we've met in Freshman Year. It was really fun seeing Kelsey again.

The synopsis compares Sophomore Year is Greek to Me to Anna and the French Kiss, but I disagree with that comparison. Yes, both involved the main character traveling to a different country and attending an international school there, but Sophomore Year is Greek to Me is more lighter in tone and less focused on the romance and more on friendship and growing up. Overall, Sophomore Year is Greek to Me was an enjoyable, feel-good read. There's a bit of everything: friendship, family drama, high school, a light romance, navigating through a foreign country... I really enjoyed it and I basically read it in two sittings. It's one of those books that you read to get out of a reading funk because it's very readable, witty, funny and charming, like a great Disney channel movie. I highly recommend it to teens seventh grade and up, but be aware that there's some teen partying and drinking--it didn't bother me but others might.


Monday, April 13, 2015



Mass Market: 320 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Animal Magnetism #6
Synopsis
Darcy Stone is game for anything — except sexy Navy veteran and physical therapist A.J. Colten, the guy who'd rejected her when she'd needed him most. Now the shoe is on the other foot and he needs her to play nice and help him secure grants for his patients. Unfortunately, Darcy can't refuse. She needs the money to fund her passion project: rescuing S&R dogs and placing them with emotionally wounded soldiers.

A.J. admits it — Darcy is irresistible. But he's already been battle-scarred by a strong-willed, vivacious, adventurous woman like Darcy, and he's not making the same mistake twice—until he and Darcy are forced to fake a relationship. Growing closer than they'd ever imagined possible, Darcy and AJ have to ask themselves: how much between them is pretend? What's the real thing? And where does it go from here?



Reading a Jill Shalvis romance is always such a treat and Still the One is no different.

While Still the One is not my favorite in the series (Rescue my Heart is) it is still very, very good. Of course we get Jill's signature humor and a fun, sweet, swoony and ultimately heart-warming romance. I read it in a weekend and what a fun weekend it was, spending it with Darcy and A.J.

Darcy was a free-spirit and went on crazy adventures until a terrible car accident nearly took her life. She needed a lot of physical therapy and spent her recovery and rehabilitation period in Sunshine, Idaho. Enter Navy veteran and physical therapist A.J. Colten. He pushed Darcy during her recovery and was with her every step of the way and saw her get up from her wheelchair and take her first steps again. But A.J. also rejected her when she needed him the most.

A.J. had an undeniable attraction to Darcy and feelings for her, but he's been burned by another woman before and he was not willing to risk his heart again. But he needed her help to convince a wealthy investor to give a grant to his patients who still need physical therapy to finish their rehab but are cut off by their insurance. Forced to spend time together, they grow closer and get to know each other better. Their mutual attraction also grows, but both have trust issues that keeps them from fully embracing a relationship beyond a sexual one.

I really enjoyed Darcy and A.J.'s characters. Darcy was prickly, snarky and stubborn, and she doesn't really let anyone get close to her, but I loved her anyway. I felt for her and I get where she was coming from. A.J. was a brooding alpha, but he had his caring, passionate side--he was very swoon-worthy. They were perfectly matched and I rooted for them to get their happily ever after.

Still the One was a very satisfying romance. I enjoyed everything about it! I love Darcy and A.J.'s romance as well as the friendship among them and the other Sunshine residents from the previous books. There were a lot of funny moments and witty banter that I just ate up. Don't let the fact that Still the One is the sixth book in the series. Each book in the series is a standalone and you can read the Animal Magnetism book in any order that you want, but, trust me, you don't want to miss any of them. I highly recommend Still the One (as well as all the other books in the series), especially if you're in the mood for a fun, sweet romance that will make you smile and laugh and leave you in a happy, swoon-y mood after you turn the last page.



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Friday, April 10, 2015

Hello everyone,
Happy book birthday to Twist, the sequel to Loop! To celebrate, we have author Karen Akins on this here blog.

Twist is Karen's newest book and came out earlier this week. You all know how much I enjoyed Loop, which was a fantastic time travel adventure YA novel with lots of action and introduced us to Finn, one of the best book boyfriends ever. If you missed my review of Loop, read it here.

Anywho, here's the for synopsis of Twist.

The unbelievably thrilling sequel to the time-travel YA novel Loop.

Bree Bennis finally has it all—a non-comatose mother, an uber-hot (albeit anachronistic) boyfriend named Finn, and a new-found mission to protect the timeline from those who would skew it for their own gain. But when she leans over one day to smooch said boyfriend, her lips meet those of her arch-nemesis Wyck instead. The timeline has been altered, and Bree is caught in the crosshairs. But when she goes back to repair the damage, she is stopped by none other than her Future Self, who delivers an urgent message: Someone is kidnapping Shifters from the distant past. It’s up to Bree to stop them. But first, she has to figure out who... and why.

To follow the trail of chronocrumbs, Bree reluctantly accepts her new undercover gig as Wyck’s girlfriend. Everything goes spiffy until Finn shows up in the 23rd century on the eager arm of a gorgeous fellow Shifter, Blark. Even as Bree struggles with jealousy, she battles the nagging dread that Finn might be better off with someone less chronologically complicated. Her worst fear is confirmed when Finn becomes the kidnapper’s next victim. As Bree zeroes in on the culprit, they unravel her life one timeline-change at a time. She realizes that she alone has the power to save herself and everyone she loves. But to do that, she may lose Finn forever.


Author Karen Akins
Hi Karen! Thank you for stopping by our blog. I enjoyed Loop and I'm excited to see what Bree and Finn are up to after all the things happened. Are we going to meet any new characters in Twist? What are some new things to expect?

Thank you so much for having me!

And, YES! There are a few new characters in Twist, my favorite being the mysterious and man-snatching Jafney. Jafney actually had a tiny cameo in Loop. She was mentioned in passing as the only other Institute student Bree knew of who had been force-faded back from a Shift. You find out exactly what she did to make that happen in the first several chapters of Twist. Let’s just say that Jafney gives Bree a run for her money when it comes to complex family situations.

In Twist, Bree explores a lot more of her world outside of the Institute. We get to know her mom more, which was a relief for me to write because that was a relationship that I really developed behind the scenes in Loop, so I knew a lot of things about Bree and her mother that didn’t make it to the page.

How was writing Twist different from writing Loop? Did you come across challenges in Twist that you didn't have in Loop?

The main difference in writing Twist was that I knew it was going to be published. While writing Loop, I had this feeling the whole time that it might be “the one,” but I didn’t know for sure. There’s a lot of freedom in that. I could experiment with voice and humor and dialogue without my internal editor saying, “But what about reviews? What about reader expectations?”

The biggest challenge in writing Twist was that I had to make sure that it fit together with Loop as one continuous story arc. I was drafting Twist at the same time that I was doing editorial revisions for Loop, so when I changed something in Loop’s worldbuilding, it had a huge impact on Twist’s plot. And then, once Loop went into print, I was bound by those worldbuilding rules.

I love Finn's character! He's such a sweet, good guy with a great sense of humor.

Aww, thanks. I kind of love him, too.

Loop cover
Where in history would you want to travel to with Finn? How would he make the experience better?

Ooh. This is a good question. I think it would be fun to go back to a time/place where get-togethers involved a lot of obscure etiquette rules and complicated dance steps. Maybe a ball in Elizabethan court, something like that. I think everyone who has read Loop would agree that watching Finn attempt to navigate that situation would be EPIC.

With all the time traveling and jumping around going on, how did you keep the plot and everything straight?

Lots of graphs, timelines, post-its, margin notes, and coffee. A lot of coffee.

What was your favorite scene to write in Loop and why? What about in Twist?

I loved writing the scene in Loop where Bree and Finn sneak off to the greenhouse and talk. Not a lot happens in the scene. It was a late addition to the story. I think the reason I enjoyed writing it, though, was that it was such a late addition. By that point, I knew the characters well, and it really did feel like just sitting down and having a conversation with them.

In Twist, I had two favorite scenes to write. The first is early on, when there’s a major change to Bree’s timeline and she finds herself in her worst nightmare—kissing her arch-enemy. She’s a character who was a lot of fun to write in a panic-inducing situation because through much of both books, she works so hard to keep everything together. It’s interesting to see her when she isn’t in even a semblance of control.

The second scene is the final scene in Twist. I won’t give anything away other than to just say that when I finished it and typed The End, I sat back and said, "Well. That’s exactly how it was supposed to end."

Thanks so much for having me! I hope you and yours readers love both Loop and Twist.

*****

A big thank you to Karen for answering our questions, and for St. Martin's Press and Michelle for the opportunity to interview Karen. Bookish friends, Twist is already out in your favorite bookstore and public library.


For more info about Karen and her novels, stop by her website, Twitter and Facebook. For more interview fun, I also did a really fun Kiss, Marry, Kill post with Karen.

Happy reading,
Michelle



**We are not affiliated with any of the retailers listed and will not earn any referral fees if you click on the links.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

ARC: 336 pages
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Sekret #2
Synopsis
The dramatic sequel to Sekret, this psychic Cold War espionage thriller follows Yulia to Washington, DC, where she fights to discover the truth about her family without losing control of her mind. 

 My mind is mine alone. 

 Life in Washington, D.C., is not the safe haven Yulia hoped for when she risked everything to flee communist Russia. Her father is reckless and aloof, and Valentin is distant and haunted by his past. Her mother is being targeted by the CIA and the US government is suspicious of Yulia's allegiance. And when super-psychics start turning up in the US capitol, it seems that even Rostov is still a threat. Ultimately, Yulia must keep control of her own mind to save the people she loves and avoid an international Skandal.


When I heard that the sequel to Sekret was coming out, I was excited. I really enjoyed Sekret (my review here) and I was missing Yulia, her family, her friends, her world, and even her enemies, so I couldn't wait to delve into it all again. I had high expectations for Skandal and was looking forward to reading it. However, Skandal didn't excite me as much as I hoped it would. The mystery and suspense in the characters' interactions were there, but it did not grip me until towards the end of the novel. Because of this, I can only give Skandal


I want to end on a good note, so I'll begin with why I didn't enjoy Skandal and then mention all the things I liked in the end.

One of the main reasons why I was into Sekret was that I loved how Smith weaved history into the story line. The novels are set during the Cold War, and because I only know the historical event through the eyes and mouths of Americans, I was really excited to find that Sekret referred to the war in the eyes of the Russians in the Soviet Union itself. The element made the story all the more real and exciting for me. So in Skandal, when the story was set in the U.S. capitol, I found myself missing the Russian history. Like a traveler with itchy-feet back home from an amazing trip, I wanted to be back in the foreign country I knew little to nothing about and am only beginning to understand but had to motivate myself to stay where I was and see what there was to come. I know that Sekret ended in a cliffhanger that suggested a new setting and I know that in order for the story to have continued moving in the direction it moved in the first half, the second half of the duology had to be set in the place of the other half of the Cold War, but I still wish that that same interesting history was more included in Skandal. Learning about the inner-workings of the CIA was somewhat interesting because I didn't know much about that either, but I personally found more interest in learning about the Soviet Union and the government and the life of the people there. Only the nostalgia for home felt by Yulia, her family, and Valya brought me back to where I wanted to be.

I also didn't think the mystery and suspense built up in Skandal was very engaging, not until the last hundred or so pages of the book. To me, the built up felt as if I was walking in a circuitous path with the characters, and in the beginning I was enjoying the chase, but then my enjoyment changed into boredom and disinterest. The constant inconclusive and twist-y nature of the evidences frustrated and angered the characters and confused and disappointed me. I even came to a point where I felt I was only waiting, waiting for the breakthrough of all the gathered evidence to come and finally get things rolling somewhere. Thankfully, eventually, that breakthrough came when the story was just a few chapters away from its climax, and from there to the very end, I was hooked and into the chase again. But for the majority of Skandal, I was mainly "running along" with Yulia and her team.

That suspense toward the end that finally hooked me completely into the story, though, was really great and it was what saved Skandal for me so that it is still memorable now. Just like in Sekret, I cheered Yulia and her team (but mostly Yulia because I really like her) on as they raced against their psychic enemies with their own psychic powers, and I was riveted during the entire conflict. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone, so I'll just say that when the evidences all finally came to a head and then that sacrifice was made, I was breathless and completely shocked, for lack of a better word. Everything was just so crazy and, for Yulia, really challenging and upsetting, so as much as I admire Yulia for overcoming all of those trials in the end and Smith for having the boldness and creativity to write the story in the first place, I am, to this day, still so stunned by it all. When I was reading, I had to put the book down to process everything and calm myself down, taking deep breathes and trying not to let my emotions overcome me, and when I reached the end, I was happy, but still dizzy from the suspense. The twist was that good. I'll always look at Skandal with appreciation for the emotions it churned in me, however late into the novel the effect may have been.

Also, as evident, I continue to admire and praise Yulia who shined yet again in Skandal. Talented, loving, brave, stubborn, and strong (physically and emotionally), Yulia is one of those characters that are real and true no matter her heroic attributes. She does not always understand everything that happens around her nor does she always act cleverly and rationally, but her intentions are always good and her messes are always cleaned up by her. Even if she may grow distrustful or afraid of her own loved ones, as she did in Skandal with her dad and a little with her boyfriend Valya, her suspicions do not consume her so much that she forgets to love, care, and forgive them. I also truly admire her for her strength. In Skandal, Yulia was tested beyond measure as her loved ones were often threatened by her enemies in an attempt to ruin her, and while I chewed my nails and held my breath for Yulia, Yulia braved through them all to the best of her ability, which was not perfect but enough. I was so happy to be reading about her again when I picked up Skandal and am now so sad to be leaving her and her world again, but always will Yulia stand out in my mind in my list of genuine yet kick-butt heroines.

Skandal did not live up to my expectations with its uninteresting setting and disengaging suspenseful build, but it did not completely disappoint as its plot quickly revved up toward the climax, at the climax, and finally to the end. I still enjoyed the action and the characters, particularly Yulia, and those will always be what makes these books by Lindsay Smith so great in my mind. If you haven't yet, pick up and read Sekret and then, if you enjoyed it, Skandal because the storyline that Smith weaves with her passion for Russian culture and knowledge and imagination of psychics and spies is something that cannot be passed up without trying. The vivid history and exciting spy missions will dizzy your mind as they are all seen, explored, and told through the powerful, psychic mind.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Silver Valley #1
Synopsis
Fourteen months. For fourteen months, Puck Redhouse sat in a cell and kept his mouth shut, protecting the Silver Bastards MC from their enemies. Then he was free and it was time for his reward—full membership in the club, along with a party to celebrate. That’s when he saw Becca Jones for the first time and set everything in motion. Before the night ended he’d violated his parole and stolen her away from everything she knew.

Five years. It was five years ago that Puck destroyed Becca and saved her all in one night. She’s been terrified of him ever since, but she’s even more terrified of the monsters he still protects her from... But Becca refuses to let fear control her. She’s living her life and moving forward, until she gets a phone call from the past she can't ignore. She has to go back, and there’s only one man she can trust to go with her—the ex-con biker who rescued her once before.

Puck will help her again, but this time it’ll be on his terms. No more lies, no more tears, and no more holding back what he really wants...



Silver Bastard was my first book by Joanna Wylde but it won't be my last.
The story began when Puck, then 21 years old, just got out of jail. I'm not sure why he was in jail exactly but he was there in order to protect his motorcycle club, the Silver Bastards. Puck and his MC brothers were celebrating his release in a bar in California the night he met sixteen year old Becca Jones. The next morning he rode away with her on his motorcycle, saving her from her slimy stepfather, and brought her to a small mining town called Silver Valley in North Idaho.

Fast forward five years later. Puck is now a full-fledged member of the Silver Bastards. He and Becca see each other around town in the years since that night, but they don't really talk or hang out. Puck kept a close eye on Becca, though, and Becca was always aware of Puck--neither was really far from each other's thoughts. Then, a series of events happened that thrust Becca and Puck together and Becca couldn't escape the undeniable attraction and chemistry between.

I don't want to say too much because I think it's best going into this book without knowing too much about the plot--there's a reason why the official synopsis is very vague. But the story of Puck and Becca was fantastic! I was glued to the pages, reading late into the night because I wanted to know what will happen next. I was also immersed in the world of rough, gruff men who may or may not be on the right side of the law. These MC men hold a different set of standards; they follow a different set of codes than the ones I'm familiar with and it's very fascinating. They're very much the anti-heroes and I wanted to know more (and I will, because I just bought two more books by Ms. Wylde).

Becca and Puck's first person narration alternate so we get both of their sides. Ms. Wylde did such a great job writing their characters. I was never confused whose POV I was in--both characters had such clear voices. I warmed up to Becca right away. She and I had a lot in common, especially with her juggling going to school and working to save up money. I was there less than two years ago. She worked really hard and made a nice life for herself despite where she was five years ago. She stands up for herself and doesn't take crap from Puck or anymore, well, except from her mom. I was so mad when her mom started calling her again. When Puck asked her why she's bothering with the woman who didn't protect her from her slimy stepfather, I was like, yes, Becca, WHY?! That was the only thing that aggravated me about her.

Puck was different from other romance novel heroes I've read in recent memory. I've come across heroes who were operating on the wrong side of the law before but none quite like Puck. I don't quite know how to describe him except that he's shady and does shady things and he's not quite likable but I liked a lot him anyway. I loved how he was patient with Becca and how he protected her. I loved their banter. I loved them together because they made each other better.

The only reason why I couldn't quite give it a five-star rating was that I felt that some things that happened in Becca's past were glossed over. I don't want to spoil anything but her stepfather was a slimy bastard and he ran a very shady bar. Becca was a young teenaged girl living under his roof--you know she wasn't going to leave unscathed. Before Puck took her away, her stepfather physically and sexually abused her and then passed her on to other men. Rape is a touchy subject and what Becca went through as a young girl... I don't know... I feel like it should've impacted her more or there should've been more side effects or, at least, it should've been addressed more than it was. Obviously, it's a minor complaint since I took away only half a star, but I had to mention it because how issue of abuse and rape was treated in this novel didn't quite sit well with me.

But, overall, I loved Silver Bastard despite my one tiny issue with it. It was a very addicting read and I now have a new fascination with motorcycle clubs--hmmm... I might even check out that tv show Sons of Anarchy... I loved Becca and Puck's characters and the secondary characters were equally interesting. I am very excited to read the next books in the series (as well as read Ms. Wylde's older titles) to learn more about some of the side characters. Whether you were like me and you've yet to pick up a book by Ms. Wylde (this one is a good one to start with since it's book 1 in a new series) or you're already a fan (characters you know and love from the Reapers MC series are secondary characters here), you don't want to miss Silver Bastard. It's deliciously gritty, dark, sexy, addicting and I highly recommend it.


Bonus: The paperback edition of Silver Bastard comes with a bonus never-before-published 70-page long novella called Charming Bastard featuring Boonie, the president of the Silver Bastard MC, and his old lady Darcy.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Hello everyone,
Happy 1st of April! Today is my day to talk about A Kiss to Build a Dream On, a contemporary romance novel by Kim Amos (aka YA author Lara Zielin).


Twelve years ago, beautiful, blond, wealthy Willa Masterson left White Pine, tires squealing, for New York City, without looking back. Since then, she's enjoyed everything New York has to offer a girl with unlimited resources. But the recent discovery that her boyfriend has squandered her inheritance in a Ponzi scheme sends Willa back to White Pine, to the only asset she has left: her childhood home, which she plans to turn into a high-end B&B.

Enter Burk Olmstead, the best contractor in town-and Willa's high school boyfriend, whom she left high and dry when she moved away. Hard-working, hard-bodied Burk, who has been taking care of Willa's childhood home for years, also has plans for the beautiful old house-plans that conflict with Willa's B&B. When these two argue, sparks fly and reignite the fire that's always been between them...but it may take the whole town of White Pine to get these two lovers back together for good.




A Kiss to Build a Dream On is the first book in the White Pine series (book 2 is called And Then He Kissed Me and book 3 is Every Little Kiss--they're not out yet until later this year, but the cover and synopsis for both books are already on Goodreads so check them out via the links).

I'm supposed to review A Kiss to Build a Dream On for the blog tour, but unfortunately I haven't finish reading it yet so I cannot do a full review yet (it's my students' 3rd quarter report cards are due this week and somehow I'm always scrambling even though I try to stay on top of my grades throughout the quarter--but this means hardly no reading time for me). But I am going to share my initial thoughts about it now and then post my full review next week.


When I first heard of A Kiss to Build a Dream On I was immediately drawn to the title because it has the same title as one of my Louis Armstrong song (you know, this one). So, of course, I had to look more into it.

Then, I learned that it's set in a small town--I love small-town romances!

It's a second chance romane! I can't get enough of this trope.

The heroine was a former mean girl who broke the hero's heart in high school when she moved away from the tiny town of White Pines without looking back. I love me a former mean girl!

Basically, this book was calling my name. So, of course, I had to pick it up. And I'm always looking for new contemporary romance authors to read because it's my favorite genre.

I'm not very far in (a measly 29 pages--I'm about to start chapter 3) BUT I already really like it. I like the author's writing, her voice. If I had more time, I'd totally power through it because Willa Masterson is fun and Burke is a sexy, gruff contractor and I can already sense the sexual tension between them. Burke has these (very understandable) antagonistic feelings towards Willa but he's still very much attracted to her. I love it when the hero and/or heroine dislike each other at first. It makes everything more interesting.

A Kiss to Build a Dream On kind of has that Jill Shalvis/Lucky Harbor feel to it, with kind of similar brand of humor. I really, really like it! I cannot wait for read more of A Kiss to Build a Dream On. I have a feeling it's going to be a 4-star or a 4.5-star read for me.

*******

If you haven't heard of A Kiss to Build a Dream On I hope I piqued your interest. I'm sorry I didn't finish reading it in time for this blog tour post so I can't give my full thoughts on it. But if you're interested, add it to your Goodreads. 

About the Author


A Midwesterner whose roots run deep, Kim Amos is a writer living in Michigan with her husband and three furry animals.

Visit Kim's website for more info on A Kiss to Build a Dream On, as well as the upcoming books in the series. She's also on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest (she has boards dedicated to each of her books and you can see which celebrities she pictured for Burke and Willa and also some photo inspirations for the B&B they're converting in the novel).

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Happy reading,
Michelle