Sunday, 28 April 2013

Book Haul (152)

So, this is over a month's worth of books. Hence why there's...a lot. This also isn't complete because I'm at my parents' house, so I'm working off what is here, what I can remember, and what I added to this post...last time I was at my parents' house. I've also passed on some middle grade books I got to my brother and don't feel like going to get them and type up all the titles. Since, even though they are ARCs, they aren't review books and I won't be reviewing them anyway, it doesn't make much difference anyway.

To make this seem even less monstrous, part of my full tuition/school awesomeness is $750 per semester to use at the bookstore. I barely made a dent in that buying textbooks, so I ended up buying lots of MasterCard/Visa gift cards to use on myself. Between that and finishing up the gift card money from Christmas, I only spent a couple of my own dollars on the ebooks I purchased.

For Review:
Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood by Abby McDonald (ARC from publisher)
One by Leigh Ann Kopans (ARC from author + egalley from author due to some errors in ARC)
Plague in the Mirror by Debroah Noyes (ARC from publisher)
School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins (egalley from publisher)
Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland (egalley from publisher)
The Rules by Stacey Kade (egalley from publisher)
The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson (egalley from publisher)
The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White (egalley from publisher)
The Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble (egalley from publisher)
Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem (egalley from publisher)
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis (egalley from publisher)
Relic by Heather Terrell (ARC from publisher)
Right of Way by Lauren Barnholdt (egalley from publisher)
Golden by Jessi Kirby (egalley from publisher)
The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney (egalley from publisher)
The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas (egalley from publisher)
The S Word by Chelsea Pitcher (finished copy from publisher)
Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan (finished copy from publisher)
Fifteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton (finished copy from publisher)
Belladonna by Fiona Paul (ARC from publisher)

Won:
Dark Triumph by R.L LaFevers
Cameron and the Girls by Edward Averett
Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden
Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde
Breath by Jackie Kessler

Gifts: 
Suddenly Royal by Nicole Chase (ebook gifted)
Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott (ARC as a gift)
Dare You To by Katie McGarry x2 (ARC from HarlequinTeen Panel and as a gift)
Ink by Amanda Sun (ARC as a gift)
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa (paperback as a gift)
The Eternity Rules by Julie Kagawa (ARC as a gift)
The Iron Legends by Julie Kagawa (paperback as a gift)
The Goddess Inheritance by Aimee Carter (paperback as a gift)
Speechless by Hannah Harrington (paperback as a gift)

Purchased:
Picture Perfect by Alessandra Thomas (ebook purchased from Amazon)
Broken at Love by Lyla Payne (ebook purchased from Amazon)
Losing It by Cora Carmack (ebook purchased from Amazon)
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy (ebook purchased from Amazon)
Bloodlines by Richelle Mead (ebook purchased from Amazon)
Austentatious by Alyssa Goodnight (ebook purchased from Amazon)
Confessions from an Arranged Marriage by Miranda Neville (ebook purchased from Amazon)
The Dreamer by May Nicole Abbey (ebook purchased from Amazon)
Along Came a Duke by Elizabeth Boyle (ebook purchased from Amazon)
The Duchess War by Courtney Milan (ebook purchased from Amazon)
Duchess in Love by Eloisa James (ebook purchased from Amazon)
Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens (ebook purchased from Amazon)
The Perfect Lover by Stephanie Laurens (ebook purchased from Amazon)
The Ideal Bride by Stephanie Laurens (ebook purchased from Amazon)
Temptation and Surrender by Stephanie Laurens (ebook purchased from Amazon)
The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae by Stephanie Laurens (ebook purchased from Amazon)
The Lady Risks All by Stephanie Laurens (ebook purchased from Amazon)
A Secret Love by Stephanie Laurens (ebook purchased from Amazon)
Scandal's Bride by Stephanie Laurens (ebook purchased from Amazon)
A Rake's Vow by Stephanie Laurens (ebook purchased from Amazon)
This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith (hardcover purchased at Books of Wonder for signing)
Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg (hardcover purchased at Books of Wonder for signing)
The Trouble with Flirting by Claire LaZebnik (paperback purchased at Strand)
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (hardcover purchased at WORD Bookstore for signing)

Fun fact, I've already read 9 or 10 of these books. I'm reading another now, but I'll probably be done with that by time most of you read this.

And, um...I'm not going to try to explain this any further because I can't. Any thoughts on these books? What have you picked up lately?

--Julie

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

New Adult on the Block: Picture Perfect by Alessandra Thomas

Picture Perfect
Alessandra Thomas
[March 26, 2013]

Fashion design major Cat Mitchell has a closet full of gorgeous clothes - and not a single thing fits. After two years of runway modeling for easy cash, an accident shattered her lower leg bone and her self-esteem in just one swift fall. Ten months of no exercise, prescription steroids, comfort eating and yoga pants meant returning to campus as a size twelve instead of her former size two.

When her gorgeous long-time friend with benefits sees her for the first time after her accident and snubs her in front of all her friends, Cat’s self-image hits rock bottom. Her sorority sisters all insist that she looks gorgeous, but all Cat sees is the roll of her stomach when she sits down, or the dimpling at the back of her thighs that wasn't there last year. Cat’s therapist prescribes something radical to stop the downward spiral - nude modeling for a nearby college's human form drawing classes.

When Cat faces her fears and bares it all for the class, she realizes that she's posing naked in front the most gorgeous, buffest guy she's ever seen in her life. He asks her out after the class, and after one steamy night together, Cat's absolutely smitten.

But when Cat goes home with Nate for Thanksgiving, she discovers something shocking from his recent past that proves that he hasn’t always been so encouraging of women of all shapes and sizes. Cat has no idea what to think, but she does know one thing - this might destroy their relationship before it's even had a chance to get off the ground.

Before Cat can figure out whether the real Nate is the sensitive, adoring guy she fell in love with, or an undercover asshole, she'll have to finally feel comfortable in her own skin - even if it means leaving him forever.
Before we get to this review, let's explain a bit, yeah?

Because I'm super cheesy, when I realized how easy it would be to switch "Kids" for "Adult," I knew I had to make this a thing on the blog. There were ZERO options on the matter. Because really. Maybe somebody's already come up with this and I just don't know it? I just don't understand how it's taken us this long to get to this title.

But back to the point, I decided this would be a good title to show when I'm talking about New Adult books, whether it's a review or a discussion. It's a sign that the post will be discussing "older" themes for anyone who's younger, doesn't have any interest, or is at work/around and doesn't want to take chances. Today, we're breaking in the title with a review of the very first (labeled) New Adult book I read.

I picked up Picture Perfect for a couple reasons. One being that I like the author on twitter. She's fun to talk to. Two being that I wanted to try New Adult ANYWAY, so why not start here? And three, it's just so easy to relate to. I can't say that most people have gone through a traumatic accident, but pretty much every person I know has or does suffer from body image issues, especially in the high school/college years.

I've never been a model and I've never hurt my leg that badly (though I DO frequently injure my knee...someday I should stop that), but Cat was still somebody a lot of people can understand. She's insecure. She's gained weight. She's not happy with her body. She knows it CAN be better and has been better and that's a massive distraction for her and brings her down often. This happens to pretty much everyone. Even if it's not your weight, there's SOMETHING about pretty much every person that they think needs to change or thought it needed to be change at some point (unless you're super confident and always have been in which case, that's awesome for you, but you're also a rare unicorn *pets*). Basically, even though it's not likely most readers had Cat's exact experience, and they probably didn't use nude modeling as a way to cope with that and find a hot dude who was an even BETTER coping mechanism, there's still something very real to it. 

And then there's Nate. Oh dear, sweet Nate. He seems like totally perfect and eventually you learn that he's NOT totally perfect, which I think is important to make characters feel like real people. It also really showed how growth can happen off the pages too. A lot of the times massive character development happens within the book for various reasons, but people have their massive life changes at different times in their lives. So to see that at least one character in this book already had their realization of who they wanted to be and made that change before even appearing in the novel was nice. I feel like that doesn't happen as much as it could. 

I loved the writing in this book. I really did. I was just on this string of reading really good books when I started reading this one I was immediately totally hooked and ended up devouring the book in a couple of days which I don't really get to do all that often. Like, I'm reading 4 books right now and I have been reading most of these for at least a week, despite how much I'm enjoying them all.

Were there issues with this book? Yes. I think that there could have been more focus on the nude modeling aspect as a coping mechanism. I also do think Nate could have used a few more flaws. But for a good look on body image and self esteem issues and how sometimes a relationship can help self image, this book worked. It was entertaining and it was fun and it was sexy and it was well written and I loved it. For a New Adult book that has some more substance to it, this is definitely a book to try.

--Julie

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick

Drowning Instinct
by Ilsa J. Bick


Summary: There are stories where the girl gets her prince, and they live happily ever after. (This is not one of those stories.)

Jenna Lord’s first sixteen years were not exactly a fairytale. Her father is a controlling psycho and her mother is a drunk. She used to count on her older brother—until he shipped off to Afghanistan. And then, of course, there was the time she almost died in a fire.

There are stories where the monster gets the girl, and we all shed tears for his innocent victim. (This is not one of those stories either.)

Mitch Anderson is many things: A dedicated teacher and coach. A caring husband. A man with a certain... magnetism.

And there are stories where it’s hard to be sure who’s a prince and who’s a monster, who is a victim and who should live happily ever after. (These are the most interesting stories of all.)
This book was odd, and I think I really loved it? Not sure why that's a question instead of a statement but that's how I felt when I finished it.

The writing style was weird and I still don't know if I liked it or if I liked the book in spite of it. It's told by Jenna talking to a police officer on a tape recorder and sometimes it kind of morphs into more traditional first person storytelling; she describes things in a way that you wouldn't say when talking to someone out loud, so it was kind of jarring when it would snap out of that and go back to her talking to Bob (the police dude). Sometimes it worked but sometimes not so much. And in the end I still wasn't sure if Jenna was a reliable narrator or not, if the way she portrays the other characters is the way they really are.

I don't think there was actually any characters I particularly liked - some were dishonest, some were creepy, some were cruel and selfish, and the main character wasn't too bad but she did frustrate me - and it's weird that that didn't influence my enjoyment of the book. If anything, I think it made me like it more. I didn't like them, and yet I still found myself caring about what happened and wanting to know more than the ending gave (the ending was fine, I just wanted more answers, wanted to know what happened next -- sometimes that's a bad thing to feel at the end of a book but I think it was a good thing in this one).

The whole teacher/student relationship in the book...sometimes there were moments when Mitch would say something or do something and it would be nice and sweet and I'd find myself forgetting the fact that them being together was kind of creepy and that he is kind of creepy but then I'd be reminded of all the reasons their relationship was wrong within a few chapters.

But even at his worst points, her relationship with him was still probably one of the healthiest in her life and that's messed up because it was not a healthy relationship. But, again, was she a reliable narrator? I don't know. Seeing her relationships through her eyes might be painting them in more positive or negative lights than they deserve and I love that I was still questioning that at the end of the book.

...This review sucks, sorry.

Basically, I was pretty much hooked reading about the train wreck that was the lives of these characters and I kind of liked that in the end I was still left unsure of what I thought of them. It kept me turning the pages and entertained from start to finish.

I'll stop with the rambling attempts at reviewing the book now. I'd rate it 3.5 or 4 stars out of 5 stars (closer to 4).

Later.

Monday, 15 April 2013

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

The Looking Glass Wars
by Frank Beddor

Summary: The Myth: Alice was an ordinary girl who stepped through the looking glass and entered a fairy-tale world invented by Lewis Carroll in his famous storybook. The Truth: Wonderland is real. Alyss Heart is the heir to the throne, until her murderous aunt Redd steals the crown and kills Alyss? parents. To escape Redd, Alyss and her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, must flee to our world through the Pool of Tears. But in the pool Alyss and Hatter are separated. Lost and alone in Victorian London, Alyss is befriended by an aspiring author to whom she tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Yet he gets the story all wrong. Hatter Madigan knows the truth only too well, and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.
I really love reimagining's of stories, especially stories like Alice in Wonderland (I adore SyFy's Alice - Hatter was awesome) and I really enjoyed this one--I wish I hadn't left it getting dusty on my shelf for the past few years. I'd rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

I don't have a lot to say about it really. It kept me entertained and I stayed up to 5am reading it, then when I was done I wanted to move right onto the second book but 1) I had to at least get some sleep, 2) there were other books I had to get to first, and 3) I have a feeling I should buy the third book before starting the second because I'll likely want to jump right into that one when I've finished Seeing Redd.
I wasn't the biggest fan of the writing style, but it didn't bother me too much. I think the reason I didn't like it much was that it was very - distant? We get a glimpse at all of the characters but in the end it doesn't feel like we really know any of them, we've just barely scratched the surface. And it works because the book is very action packed and plot driven but it would've been nice to have the narration make me feel a bit closer to the characters and more emotionally invested.
Also, it's one of those books that could be awesome as a movie because there's so much of it that would be better seen instead of read; there's plenty of fight scenes in the book and, while I don't hate those, I'm not one of those people that particularly enjoys them either.

It really felt like this was a book that was written by a guy--which it was, but I mean that it was obvious while I was reading that it was a male author. That's not a bad thing at all and it didn't impact my enjoyment of the book, it was just something that I noticed and I wanted to mention it because it was interesting to read a fantasy story written by a man that is set in a world where the women are the ones in power, and see how it comes across differently to fantasy books by female authors and how they portray female power (I don't want to say much more about that because it'll just be rambling and probably come across more negative than I intend it to be).

This book is a difficult one to review, because while I loved it, I can't for the life of me think of how to put what I loved about it into words, but I seem to have little issue saying the things I didn't love about it.
I know I loved the characters (especially Bibwit, Hatter, Dodge and The Cat), I know I loved the twist on the original tale, I know I loved the setting and desperately want to read the sequels (and the Hatter M graphic novels(?)) and for it to be a movie - but I can't pin point any exact reason why I enjoyed it so much or really go into any more detail about the things that I did enjoy.
TL;DR version: I love this book because of reasons.

If you're a fan of Alice in Wonderland, or reimagining's of stories, or just fantasy stories set in quirky worlds with lots of action then maybe check this one out.
Later.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Review: This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

This is What Happy looks Like
Jennifer E. Smith
Poppy
[April 2, 2013]

If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.

Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?

Long time, no review, I know. But guys, this is the kind of book I need to gush about. I NEED to talk to you guys about this book. Because it is so, so, so utterly perfect I can't NOT talk about it. This is the kind of book that breaks a review-slump.

So, the premise is fairly basic. Misguided emails, one person in this email is secretly a celebrity, they meet and start a relationship. Except...not quite. This story is SO much more than that. Jennifer Smith, in the excellent way she does, gives both characters their own story lines beyond the romance. Ellie has this massive secret and some family issues. Graham has family issues of a different nature, as well as the natural issues that come with being a celebrity. And both have to deal with the complications these secrets and separate issues have on their relationship. Add to the fact that, you know, Ellie didn't KNOW he was famous. Things are complicated and intricate and beautiful and heartbreaking. 

Jennifer's the kind of writer who pulls you in and never lets go. I read the beginning while sitting next to a friend because she wanted to see my reaction. Then I let myself to take a small break from homework and ended up reading the next 150 pages. I DEVOURED this book and all of it's perfections and Jennifer's wonderful writing. I was enthralled in this story and these characters and their lives. They weren't just characters. They were people. Graham and Ellie and their friends and family were so well crafted and they all had this fantastic chemistry with intricate relationships that only an excellent writer can build.

And can we talk about the setting? I've never been to Maine. The closest I've ever been is the suburbs of Boston. And you know, those mansions weren't exactly a small town on the coast of the Atlantic. But the setting was so well built, that I could picture everything. The beach and the town and the street Ellie would walk down and the set of Graham's movie. It was charming and really drew me in to this little Maine town, which can be kind of hard to do when I'm reading from my bed in the middle of a giant city.

Seriously, and then there's Graham and Ellie as people. They were far from cookie cutter characters. I mean, Graham. He has a pet pig. Do you know how epic that sounds? And usually you would think a celebrity would shy away from strangers on the internet, even if that internet doesn't know they're talking to a celebrity. But no, he wanted to reach out. Because even in the emails, there was so much personality on both ends and this fantastic chemistry made it easy for them to connect. Ellie and Graham have this wonderful dialogue, via email and in real life. It's realistic - sometimes it's awkward, sometimes it's hard to talk, sometimes everything is easy and light and fun. 

Guys, Jennifer E. Smith is just a master. She's utterly brilliant. I'm going to declare her one of the Princesses of Contemporary with Stephanie Perkins, Gayle Forman, and Elizabeth Eulberg. I will read anything she puts out in the world for us to read and I definitely have to get my hands on You Are Here and The Comeback Season because, hello, Jennifer writing a ROAD TRIP and BASEBALL? Hell yes. I am ALL OVER THAT SHIZ.

So, um. You should go buy This is What Happy Looks Like and rejoice in the wonder that is a Jennifer E. Smith book and then join me in reading ALL OF HER BOOKS EVER.

--Julie

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