Friday, 30 January 2015

Stepbrother Dearest by Penelope Ward

Stepbrother Dearest
by Penelope Ward

Summary:  You’re not supposed to want the one who torments you.

When my stepbrother, Elec, came to live with us my senior year, I wasn’t prepared for how much of a jerk he’d be.

I hated that he took it out on me because he didn’t want to be here.
I hated that he brought girls from our high school back to his room.
But what I hated the most was the unwanted way my body reacted to him.

At first, I thought all he had going for him were his rock-hard tattooed abs and chiseled face. Then, things started changing between us, and it all came to a head one night.

Just as quickly as he’d come into my life, he was gone back to California.

It had been years since I’d seen Elec.

When tragedy struck our family, I’d have to face him again.

And holy hell, the teenager who made me crazy was now a man that drove me insane.

I had a feeling my heart was about to get broken again.
I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. The cover, the summary... it sounded like it would just be one of those kind of mediocre, trashy guilty pleasure reads. And it was in some ways, but it was actually really entertaining too.

I wanted to read it because I'd seen positive reviews of it, then when I checked out the summary it reminded me of a story I used to love from fictionpress (which has finally been released as an e-book). I went it to it expecting to be disappointed but hoping I wouldn't be. And I wasn't.

The characters, I actually ended up really caring about them and rooting for them, and once I started reading the book I didn't want to put it down. I also liked that the author didn't make Greta too catty -- she didn't vilify the other girls that were interested in/involved with Elec and that made me like Greta a lot...and she was a nice person, seemed kind of awkward but wasn't afraid to stand up for herself or people she cared about.

The plot was pretty weird, but if you can handle soap opera-ish plot twists and a whole lot of angst then it's fine. One of my only big issues with the book was the writing -- it was just... it was bad at times, mediocre at others. I wouldn't describe any of the writing as particularly good, but after the beginning of the story I didn't notice it much (I don't think it improved really, I had just got so caught up in the story).

I'd rate the book 3.5 stars out of 5. It was an addictive story that I didn't want to put down and it's a good read if you're looking for an angsty romance.

Later.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Onyx by Jennifer L Armentrout

Note: The cover below is actually a bind up of the first two books (it's impossible to find the individual editions in the UK now) and it has a bunch of bonus content at the end (mostly scenes from Daemons POV).


Onyx
by Jennifer L Armentrout


Summary: Being connected to Daemon Black sucks… Thanks to his alien mojo, Daemon’s determined to prove what he feels for me is more than a product of our bizarro connection. So I’ve sworn him off, even though he’s running more hot than cold these days. But we’ve got bigger problems.

The Department of Defense are here. If they ever find out what Daemon can do and that we're linked, I’m a goner. So is he. And there's this new boy in school who’s got a secret of his own. He knows what’s happened to me and he can help, but to do so, I have to lie to Daemon and stay away from him. Like that's possible. Against all common sense, I'm falling for Daemon. Hard.

But then everything changes… I’ve seen someone who shouldn’t be alive. And I have to tell Daemon, even though I know he’s never going to stop searching until he gets the truth. What happened to his brother? Who betrayed him? And what does the DOD want from them—from me?

No one is who they seem. And not everyone will survive the lies…
I absolutely loved the first book in this series -- it's one of the first books in a long time that have been able to recreate the same sort of feelings I had when I first read the Twilight series (think what you want about Twilight, but when the books first came out, they were addictive and it was so easy to get swept up into the fandom). The second book could've been such a let down after the expectations the first one set,but it wasn't, I loved it.

It wasn't quite as good as the first book because the story seemed to lag a little bit in the beginning, but once the pace started to pick up, it was excellent. And most of all, I still loved the characters--Katy and Daemon were great (both together and as individuals), and relationships like theirs are one of my favourite kind to read about...the kind that are made up of like 50% teasing banter, 50% crazy about each other.

The plot in this one got more complex too and I'm really liking the direction it's heading so I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

I think that's all I have to say about this one. I'd rate it 4 out of 5 stars, it has really cemented this series's place on my favourites shelf (and the authors place on my insta-read list...I need all of her books now).

Later.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones's Diary
by Helen Fielding


Summary: Meet Bridget Jones—a 30-something Singleton who is certain she would have all the answers if she could:
a. lose 7 pounds
b. stop smoking
c. develop Inner Poise

Bridget Jones' Diary is the devastatingly self-aware, laugh-out-loud daily chronicle of Bridget's permanent, doomed quest for self-improvement — a year in which she resolves to: reduce the circumference of each thigh by 1.5 inches, visit the gym three times a week not just to buy a sandwich, form a functional relationship with a responsible adult, and learn to program the VCR.

Over the course of the year, Bridget loses a total of 72 pounds but gains a total of 74. She remains, however, optimistic. Through it all, Bridget will have you helpless with laughter, and — like millions of readers the world round — you'll find yourself shouting, "Bridget Jones is me!"
I really, really love the movie version of this book but I wasn't sure if the book would be my kind of thing. Now that I've read it, I can say that I was wrong -- I really enjoyed the book -- but I still think this is one of those rare cases where the movie did it better.

Bridget was... well, she was really funny (quite often laugh-out-loud funny), but because the book is basically her journal, sometimes she was a bit too annoying and whiny (probably why the movie works better -- we're not constantly stuck in her head, seeing people through her eyes). But still, I loved her.

The other cast of characters were great too, especially her three best friends. And they're all really realistic with all their quirks and flaws in a way that I really loved. I have never wanted to kick a fictional character more than I have with her mother in this though -- movie version is annoying, book version is insanely infuriating... but again, we're seeing everything from Bridget's perspective.

I'm not sure what else to say really. The book is funny and it's fun, and I'm glad I read it now instead of when I first saw the movie because there are parts of it I can appreciate more now that I'm in my 20's than I would've been able to in my teens.

But yeah... The movie is definitely better (better at building the Mark/Bridget relationship, better at writing her mothers plot and things--it did get her friendships down pretty well though), but the book wasn't disappointing. I'd rate it 4.5 stars out of 5.


Later.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Captive by A.J. Grainger

Captive
by A.J. Grainger


Summary: I open my eyes. The cell is flooded with sunlight; the window is a slice of pale blue. Dust particles dance in the sparkling light, pirouetting in a golden line from the window to the opposite wall of the cell, where they seem to converge into shapes. It is like looking into a kaleidoscope.

Dad isn't here. No one is, but me.

Robyn Knollys-Green is an A-list celebrity, famous for being the daughter of one of the world's most powerful men. But not even the paparazzi can find her now.

Robyn begins to realise that she is trapped in a complicated web of global corruption and deceit - and that the strange, melancholy boy who has been tasked with guarding her might not be an enemy after all . . .
So... One of my favourite books is Stolen by Lucy Christopher. Ever since I read that book, I've been searching for another book about kidnapping that could get under my skin just as much as Stolen did but no other book has come close. Until now that is.

I really, really loved Captive. It wasn't perfect and I'm not sure how realistic the political stuff was (there were definitely some things that did require suspension of disbelief about the kidnapping side of things, particularly in the last half of the book), but it hooked me from the very first page and I didn't want to put it down so any flaws just didn't seem to matter while I was reading it.

I loved the plot and the characters. It really made me care about Robyn and her family and Talon, and I loved the way the relationships in the book were written, especially her relationship with Talon...it's not easy to write a relationship forming in those circumstances and make it seem genuine instead of being just case of Stockholm Syndrome, but the author managed it really well.

I'd rate the book 4.5 stars out of 5. It was awesome and addictive and totally got under my skin. I'll definitely be checking out whatever A.J. Grainger writes next.

Later.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up (26)

On the Blog

Wednesday: Julie reviewed ALL FALL DOWN
Thursday: We discussed our feelings on paid content
Friday: Lanna reviewed CONSPIRACY GIRL



Julie

Book Haul



Joyride by Anna Banks (ARC from publisher)
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (egalley from Netgalley)
Last Year's Mistake by Gina Ciocca 
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
The Write Stuff by Tiffany King (freebie ebook)

Books Read


Teen Idol by Meg Cabot
Some Like It Royal by Heather Long
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

There were some other books for my haul and books I read, but my laptop just crashed and I'm now stuck using my circa 2010 laptop that hasn't been used in 2 years, so it's not running great and I'm not digging the idea of finding and updating everything on this computer so...next week it is!

--Julie

Friday, 23 January 2015

Conspiracy Girl by Sarah Alderson

Conspiracy Girl 
by Sarah Alderson


Summer:Everybody knows about the Cooper Killings – the Bel Air home invasion that rocked the nation. There was only one survivor - a sixteen year-old girl. And though the killers were caught they walked free.

Now eighteen, Nic Preston - the girl who survived - is trying hard to rebuild her life. She’s security conscious to the point of paranoia and her only friend is a French Mastiff bulldog, but she’s making progress. She’s started college in New York and has even begun dating.

But then one night her apartment is broken into and the life Nic’s worked so hard to create is shattered in an instant.

Finn Carter - hacker, rule breaker, player – is the last person Nic ever wants to see again. He’s the reason her mother’s killers walked free from court. But as the people hunting her close in, Nic has to accept that her best and possibly only chance of staying alive is by keeping close to Finn and learning to trust the person she’s sworn to hate.

Fleeing across a snowbound New England, frantically trying to uncover the motive behind the murders, Nic and Finn come to realize the conspiracy is bigger than they could ever have suspected. But the closer they get to the truth and the closer they get to each other, the greater the danger becomes.

To survive she has to stay close to him.
To keep her safe he has to keep his distance.

I don't really know where to begin with this one... I enjoyed reading the book a lot. I guess I'll start with that -- I really, really enjoyed this book.

I really loved the characters. I liked the plot too, because it was fast paced and exciting (although the twist at the end was predictable), but the characters were my favourite part.

Nic was awesome. So many authors go to extremes when writing characters like Nic, who have gone through something (some have them crying every other page, others have them barely impacted at all) but Sarah Alderson really got the balance right with Nic. She was changed by what happened to her, in both negative and positive ways, and came out the other side of it stronger than before. I loved that she could defend herself but wasn't too stubborn to let people help her.

And Finn... Finn was lovely. He was so patient and kind with Nic, and protective without crossing the line into being possessive or underestimating her (which I see too much in these types of stories). I loved how their relationship developed; in the end, they brought out the best in each other.

Then there's Goz (yes, the dog gets a mention). I loved that dog so much, I wanted him to be real just so I could hug him. The dog may or may not have made me cry at one point during the book (actually, the only thing I hated about the book was a scene where Nic lets Finn feed Goz something that she knows is going to give him an upset stomach, which seemed kind of cruel).

Also, it has to be mentioned that Sarah Alderson managed to write the alternating POV's really well. I don't like books with alternating POV's, that's the rule and there aren't many exceptions (and I hate that it seems to be the thing that most authors of New Adult books are doing now).

But Sarah Alderson is not only an exception to my rule, she is one of the few authors that actually manages to write it in a way I really like--she makes it so I love both characters equally and I'm genuinely interested in what they both have to say, and it doesn't feel like she's using it as a crutch or like it's spoiling the book for me.

Anyway, I'd rate the book 4 stars out of 5 because it was fun and fast paced and I really loved the characters (and, it gets bonus points for not being ruined by my aforementioned pet peeve).

Later.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Discussion: The Role of Bloggers in Publicity

Yesterday, the fab ladies of Cuddlebuggery raised the question of bloggers getting paid to host content (guest posts, interviews, blog tours, etc.) by publishers. This lead to a number of discussions about publicity and payment and what's going on in other blogging-spheres and other parts of the publishing media industry.

There were some really good points made for bloggers getting paid - it does happen fairly often in other blogging circles. And some bloggers put a lot of money into their blogs - hosting their website, shipping for giveaways, going to conferences, travel, etc. - but don't see much back from just ad revenue. Bloggers and reviewers are compensated in some channels, so why not the average book blogger?

As much as I love the idea of getting compensated for this in more than just books (and trust me, my bank account would be SO HAPPY), I just don't think it's a viable option.

For one thing, it is possible to blog pretty cheaply. Lanna and I have been at this blog for about 6 years and we don't pay for hosting, our stat trackers or follower methods. We don't do many self hosted giveaways. I only go to BEA and NYCC because I live in NYC and therefore don't pay for accommodations, just the actual badge. I only went to ALAMW because bus fare was cheap an so was registration and then I was able to crash in a hotel with some friends - meaning it was split 5 ways. I probably paid $100 for the whole thing (which is actually less than I pay to go to BEA).

Putting money into your blog for anything besides the actual books is a choice you don't have to make to have a successful or long term blog. And even as far as the books go - my publishing connections, the friends I've made, and the conferences I go to provide me with PLENTY of books, so I don't need to buy as many. I can save my money for authors and books that I love and decrease my chances at being disappointed in a book I bought (which, as mentioned, I can't really afford to do much).

There's also just too many book bloggers at this point. Book bloggers are still valuable for creating buzz in the blogging community and in our own communities, but it can also become a bit of an echo chamber here. And there are so many bloggers, you can't get a consensus. If a large group of bloggers started saying they wanted compensation, there would still be dozens of other bloggers who would be happy to do it for free. 

But for everything else, I'm going to have to take off my blogger cap and put on the cap of someone who's worked in publishing and has many friends to gossip about publishing with.

Why do other industries offer up paid/sponsored content? Because they can afford to. Book publishing is a tricksy beast and the publicists are just the people bloggers interact with most. When a book is acquired, the marketing and publicity teams figure out what they can give to that book as far as plans and budgets go. You can see the basic plan, and get an idea of what budget might exist, if you look at the back of most ARCs. Publicists don't see that money. If it's paid for, it's a marketing thing, not publicity. This is why a lot of publicists can create bookmarks and offer up blog tours and review copies, but that's about it. 

So if book bloggers started charging, it would cut back greatly on what books publicists can promote. As I mentioned above, the word of mouth promo bloggers provide is still highly valuable and publicists want to use it. But they don't have any money to offer.  The focus would stay on the big outlets like Hypable, EW, Fangirlish, Bustle etc. that don't charge. Yes, their writers are paid to feature the books that they feature, but not by publicists. And they have SO many books to cover and so little space, it means even more books lose exposure.

I know it can feel sometimes like blogs have become this free labor for publishers, and in a way, I understand. Years of terrible pitches or really random ones and unsolicited books we'd never touch do make it seem like we're not really appreciated by publicists - but again, we can't fault publicists. I've worked in two different houses and have heard plenty about other houses and it's totally fair to say that a lot of publishing houses have understaffed publicity departments  - especially in the YA community. YA has grown so quickly that publishers just can't keep enough publicists on staff to cover everything fairly. This means that publicists can't always personalize everything, they can't reply to all of our emails, and they're not going to get every pitch or book mailing right on for everyone. It doesn't mean publicists hate you or bloggers or don't care about books - nobody gets into publishing for the money, you have to love it - but they're kind of swamped. Bloggers aren't the only thing most publicists are balancing to promote their titles and sometimes, they come last. Publicists are just trying to stick to the plan laid out for the book or they're trying to get a book as wide an audience as possible because they love it. I also know from experience that if a blogger asks for compensation, the offer will be rescinded or an offer of review/giveaway copies will be made again. It's nothing against you, it's just policy and lack of money to offer.

So, yes, bloggers put a lot in to what we do. And yes, sometimes it does seem like publishers don't appreciate what bloggers can do and don't respect bloggers. But if bloggers are charging and all of the online focus turns to a few titles, bloggers go back to a problem many of us are even more concerned about - the books we never hear about. Entire publishing houses seem not to exist, all of their books foreign, because they don't have any blogger outreach. Other titles are swallowed up by the sheer number coming out from certain imprints or houses. And sometimes, titles just get lost because publicists can only do so much. This is something we've discussed quite a bit recently, the trend of bloggers not knowing about books, and therefore being unable to read and discuss them. This would become even more common if bloggers start charging for promo on a larger scale.

I'm not saying that what bloggers do isn't valuable and that no compensation is needed - it would be amazing, like I mentioned. I just don't think it's feasible if we, as a community, want to continue to promote books that need it most. The only way that would change would be if publishers restructured how their publicity departments function, but as YA book sales continue to rise, I don't see that happening any time soon for YA. Publishers won't change a system that's working. Maybe in other categories and genres they can - I'm not as well versed in their success - but it doesn't look promising.

At the end of the day, as bloggers, we have to decide what's best for us and our individual blogs. For Lanna and I, it means not putting much money into it and reviewing what we want to review. Any guest posts, cover reveals, or interviews are things we agreed to for our own reasons, but we probably turn down 2 or 3 times as many as we accept or invite. You can decide to completely cut off ties with publishers or publicity companies, or cut off ties with certain ones, you can be selective, or you can invite in whoever. Your blogging space is your blogging space and you have to decide what role you want your blog to play in this community. I just wouldn't expect to see any sponsored or paid content coming to blogs any time soon.

--Julie

Lanna:
Julie said it all pretty well, so I'll try not to repeat what she's already said.

What it comes down to for me mostly is that I don't trust paid reviews. One of the reasons I love book blogging and trust book bloggers opinions more is because we do this because of our love of books...money generally isn't the motivating factor.

I don't trust reviews from people whose job it is to review books, because I don't trust money not to influence what they write. To me, they're like the book review equivalent of presenters on shopping channels -- they're talking up a product, but it's because it's their job and they're paid to do it (while if a friend said to me, "You should try this thing, it's awesome!" I know it's genuine). If I personally don't like to read paid reviews, then it would be totally hypocritical of me to take money to publicize books.

Plus, on a personal level, I think money would ruin book blogging for me. Back when publishers were sending out floods of unsolicited ARC's (instead of their new method of letting bloggers tell them the books they're interested in), it sucked so much fun out of blogging. It made reading feel more like a chore than something I was doing because I wanted to. I always felt so much pressure. And if I hated a book? I'd feel so guilty about writing a review of it.

I imagine being paid to do this would feel like that too, only much worse.

And Julie is right...blogging doesn't have to be an expensive thing. Hell, you don't even need to spend a load of money on books either if you don't have it (used books are really cheap, there's libraries, and then there's sites like Edelweiss and Netgalley, and there's always cheap/free e-books on offer).

Blogging is something we choose to do, no one is forcing us and no one is forcing anyone to spend money on their blogs if they don't want to. No one is forcing us to be on the mailing lists of publishers, we put ourselves there.

Being a part of this community, getting to see a side to publishing a lot of the general public don't get to, getting sent books to review...all of that is more than enough for me. I only started blogging to talk about books I love with some like-minded online friends, everything since then has just been a bonus.

I've seen quite a few tweets talking about how other types of bloggers (beauty bloggers, for example) have made businesses out of what they do so why shouldn't book bloggers? But then, plenty of book bloggers have. Some have started freelance work (Julie is currently at school pursuing a career in publishing and is also a freelance editor), some sell bookmarks and book-related things on Etsy, some have started up their own e-magazines...there's even some who have become authors themselves. No one is saying you can't find a way to make money off of your hobby, it's just about finding the right way to do it.

If any bloggers are charging for their services* then that's fair enough. I'm not going to judge them harshly for it, they're just not the kind of blogs I'd personally like to read and it's not the kind of blogger I want to be which is a decision we all have to make for ourselves. And on that note...



Later.

*Please note, I'm just talking about talking money from authors/publishers, it's not talking about the blogs that have ads (although we don't do that either, it's different).

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

All Fall Down by Ally Carter

All Fall Down
Ally Carter
Scholastic Press
[January 20, 2015]
ARC via publisher

A new series of global proportions -- from master of intrigue, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter.

This exciting new series from NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter focuses on Grace, who can best be described as a daredevil, an Army brat, and a rebel. She is also the only granddaughter of perhaps the most powerful ambassador in the world, and Grace has spent every summer of her childhood running across the roofs of Embassy Row.

Now, at age sixteen, she's come back to stay -- in order to solve the mystery of her mother's death. In the process, she uncovers an international conspiracy of unsettling proportions, and must choose her friends and watch her foes carefully if she and the world are to be saved.
I haven't read many Ally Carter books - 1 to be exact. But I really enjoyed the one I read (Heist Society) and I've heard wonderful things about her other series, so I knew this would be good. But I didn't quite expect what I got from this.

For one thing, I could be wrong here, but I think All Fall Down is darker than the other books Ally has written. Grace isn't doing well after her mother's death and she's not doing well being back with her grandfather and that showed in her actions and in her thoughts. And I loved that. I loved seeing this darker edge to the story brought on by Grace's grief and how she wasn't just the usual kind of sad about it. It sunk into her life and what she wanted.

Ally Carter is also kind of a genius when it comes to mysteries. She crafted this incredibly conspiracy that was amazing and twisty and I never knew where it was going to go. It was genuine mystery the whole way through and it's left me aching for book 2 because I need to know what's next.

I loved the cast Ally created too. Grace was so easy to connect to and she had this really interesting team around her of other Embassy kids and her grandfather. And there were definitely some interesting developments going on with some of those other kids. 

I don't have much to say about this book except to repeat how much I loved it over and over again. It was phenomenal, more than I ever expected from it. And not picking it up would be a mistake.

--Julie

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up (25)

On the Blog
Wednesday: Julie's giving away some ARCs for our blogaversary!
Saturday: Lanna reviewed the CODE NAME VERITY audiobook

Julie

Book Haul



Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (egalley via Edelweiss)
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh (ARC from publisher)
Velvet by Temple West (ARC from publisher)
Sweet by Emmy Laybourne (ARC from publisher)


A slow week this week, which was nice. And I'm VERY excited to get reading these! Also kinda sad - I tried reading Nimona, but my Kindle's older and my iPhone5 can't zoom in properly, so I might wait until I get my phone upgrade and see if it's easier to read then.


Books Read


We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist
Tracked by Jenny Martin
I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

A little all over the place this week with my reading, and I have very different feels about them all, so I'll be covering that soon!

  Upcoming Reads

As much as I've liked not having a strict schedule lately, this week is my last week without school and I need to get down to business!

Teen Idol by Meg Cabot
Some Like It Royal by Heather Long
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
I'm Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil

And since that's a bit of a lengthy list, we'll see how anything else goes. But I definitely need to read at least 1 book a day for the next week and a half!

--Julie

Lanna



I got A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas for review and may have fangirl'd just a bit. It came with this pretty mask tied around it too.

And I bought The Book of Negroes (a.k.a. Someone Knows My Name) by Lawrence Hill because the cast of the mini-series is awesome and made me want to read it.

I did include the books that I'm currently reading too, but the post messed up and I'm really not in the mood to retype it all, so I'll just leave it at that.

Later.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Code Name Verity Audiobook Review

Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein
read by Morven Christie & Lucy Gaskell


Summary: Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy? 
I haven't listened to many audiobooks before. Actually, this is only the second one I can think of, so I don't have much to compare it to but still, I really, really enjoyed it.

I read the book ages ago and loved it (it'd be sitting on my all time favourites shelf right now if I hadn't finally pestered my best friend into reading it), and this was my alternative to re-reading it. Listening to the audiobook still had me caught up in the story, it still made me cry like a baby at the end, so I'd say they did a good job with it.

I really liked the people they had reading the book, particularly in the first part (maybe because she would switch between a posh accent, to a Scottish accent, to a German one flawlessly).

I'm not sure what else to say about it really. If you haven't read Code Name Verity before, then I really, really recommend you do something about that because it's heartbreaking and fantastic. And if you like audiobooks -- or aren't sure if you like them -- this is a good one to check out.

The only thing I'd say is that I think this may be a story that is better read before listening to it, because there's something in the first part of the book that you have to see and it can't really translate into audio form (anyone familiar with the story will know what I mean). You can still enjoy the story and characters just as much, you'd just miss out on some little details.

Anyway, I'd rate the book 5 out of 5 stars overall (still) and I'd rate the audiobook 4.5 stars out of 5.

Later.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

2015 ARC Giveaway!

It's been a while since we've done one of these, eh?

Well, this past December, we celebrated our (official) 5 year blogovesary, though we've both been blogging for closer to 6 years now (my 6-year-blogoversary is next month, actually) (there's an explanation for this in the Blog History tab). And I'm also getting ready for several moves in the coming year, so I need to downsize my book collection!

Thus, it's the perfect time for a giveaway.

What books am I giving away? Well, it'll be your choice of:

We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist
Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark
The Boy Next Door by Katie Van Ark
None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
Sekret by Lindsay Smith
The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

I'm going to be picking up a box from the post office and I'll put as many of these titles as the winner wants into it! If there are any books left over (plus any books I made read between now and then and want to giveaway), I'll probably host twitter/instagram/tumblr contests or something.

Giveaway is US/Canada only and for those 13 years or older. 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

  

Good luck everyone!

--Julie

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up (24)

On the Blog

Monday: We helped reveal the cover for NARVLA'S CELTIC NEW YEAR
Wednesday: Julie reviewed THE CONSPIRACY OF US
Friday: Lanna's trying a new reading challenge

Julie

Book Haul


Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler (ebook purchased with Amazon gift card)
Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence (bought at Strand)
Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath (bought at Strand)

Books Read


Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare
The Bride Says No by Cathy Maxwell
The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

I haven't totally held up on the reading a book a day this month so far (a couple of these were actually read last week, but since I left for vacation on Friday and got back Sunday, they're counted here), but I'm not doing too badly, eh?
 
Upcoming Reads


Pretty much whatever was on this last last week and hasn't been read. But...see below.

Odds and Ends 

I got to do a super fun trip back to my apartment and fit in a lot of fun friend time, which was lovely. 

And this week, we're doing another bout of Book in a Week, in which we try to write a first draft of a novel in a week. Lanna, myself, and a few others will be joining in. If you're interested, or just want to follow the progress, you can jump in on twitter with #BookinaWeek.

--Julie

Friday, 9 January 2015

2015 Reading Challenge

Last year wasn't a particularly good reading year for me. I mean, I did read a decent amount but I also had a lot of reading slumps and didn't really venture much outside of my comfort zone. Most of all though, I didn't really make a significant dent in the pile of books that have been on my shelves for ages (particularly my classics).

So, this year, I'm setting myself a reading challenge because I've seen a few of these on tumblr and youtube and they look fun (click for the full size):


They've been selected mostly because they're just things that I've just been meaning to do (like reading more classics, more graphic novels, listen to more audio books, and read more diverse books*).

I don't expect to be able to complete all of these (I mean, maybe I could, if I didn't have the attention span of a very small flea...), so I'm aiming for as many as I can but I'll be satisfied with completing at least 5 of the challenges (b-i-n-g-o!... Only not really, because it can be any 5, doesn't have to be 5 in a row).

I may not review every book I read for the challenge, so I'll post an update nearer the end of the year to show how well or how bad I did.

Anyway... feel free to join in (you can use the same challenges as me, or edit it with your own challenges instead--I'll include a blank version below).

Later.

*To clarify, I do intend to read more diverse books than listed for the challenge. Those are just on there because I want to read at least that many. I'm actually going to make a separate challenge card specifically about diversity.

The blank one, if anyone wants it (click for full size):

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

The Conspiracy of Us
Maggie Hall
Putnam Juvenile
[January 13, 2015]
ARC from publisher


A fast-paced international escapade, laced with adrenaline, glamour, and romance--perfect for fans of Ally Carter

Avery West's newfound family can shut down Prada when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war. Part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Circle, they believe Avery is the key to an ancient prophecy. Some want to use her as a pawn. Some want her dead.

To unravel the mystery putting her life in danger, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the monuments of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul with two boys who work for the Circle—beautiful, volatile Stellan and mysterious, magnetic Jack. But as the clues expose a stunning conspiracy that might plunge the world into World War 3, she discovers that both boys are hiding secrets of their own. Now she will have to choose not only between freedom and family--but between the boy who might help her save the world, and the one she's falling in love with.
Oh this book. This book and the FEELS.

I'm going to preface this review by saying reading the synopsis is SUPER important, because in my head, for some reason, I'd decided this was a dystopian? I was looking at the cover (and clearly missing the details on the bottom) and just assumed it was. Then I started reading and was really confused because of my own failure. But that definitely threw me and is probably the only reason I can't call it a favorite - I just wasn't in the right mindset for a contemporary when reading, but was enjoying it too much to put it down. I definitely need to give this one a reread and that'll probably bump it's status up. So, go back and read the premise again. Just make sure you're not stupid and confused as I was.

I really, really did like this book though. I adored Avery and how she handled this totally new, and somewhat bizarre, new station in life. Especially when considering how other characters who were already involved in this life acted. Her reactions were SO great. And these other characters? Man how I loved them and how complex and mysterious they were. Jack and Stellan, especially.

But what I think I admire most was just Maggie Hall's straight up skill. Reading this, I felt like I was reading an Ally Carter book. It had that same level of manipulating plot and characters to ensure the reader was never fully sure what was going on or who could be trusted. The full reality of the situation and who was good and who was bad was nearly impossible to figure out. There were constant twists and turns and all the characters were, as I mentioned, rather complex. 

And then you have to consider the premise itself. It's actually kind of realistic, but still out there enough to seem a little bit fantastical. So there's all this action and travel to amazing places and incredible scenarios that could maybe happen, but certainly wouldn't happen to me. I love my really realistic contemporaries and sweet little romances, but sometimes it's nice to read something that's so grand and amazing, but set in this world. I'm probably completely failing at explaining it, but it's basically a really intriguing premise that Maggie Hall pulled off so well. I was totally enthralled from beginning to end...once I got over my own bizarre belief it was a dystopian.

Basically, if you want a fun, fast-paced, action packed, romantic read with amazing characters? The Conspiracy of Us is right up your alley. I'm not even exaggerating when I said it's like reading an Ally Carter novel and I'm just going to sit here and wait for the sequel and maybe beg for an ARC to anyone who can give me one. Literally, anyone. I'm past the point of shame. So, you know, you should pick it up when it comes out next week and then wait really sadly with me (and share your ARC with me if you get one before I do because who TOLD you about this magic? Me. I did. Be fair. Sharing is caring).

--Julie

Monday, 5 January 2015

Cover Reveal: Narvla's Celtic New Year by Therese Gilardi

Today we have a super exciting cover reveal for a YA that sounds pretty freaking amazing to me. Why does Narvla's Celtic New Year sound so epic to me? Read for yourself:

Narvla’s life is as precisely choreographed as the routines that have made her a national step-dancing champion. She has a loyal best friend, a devoted boyfriend, and a lock on admission to her dream college, the University of Notre Dame. Until her mother is named U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, and her life unravels. First Narvla receives a disturbing picture of her boyfriend and her best friend. Then she struggles to qualify for the Irish elite step-dancing squad, and her grades plummet. 

But the biggest obstacle in Narvla’s new life is Dublin Boy, a cheeky musician with a disdain for academics and a distrust of Americans. Although Narvla is upset when she’s paired with Dublin Boy for the most important semester of her life, her real concern is the growing attraction she feels toward him. As the Celtic New Year unfolds, Narvla is pushed to abandon her lifelong need for control and embrace the charm of the unexpected.

Now check out this cover:



It's SO pretty! I love the coloring and I'm really a sucker for good coloring. And I'm very excited for Narvla's Celtic New Year's release on April 6, 2015. What do YOU think of the color?


About the Author: Therese Gilardi adores blue cameos, Irish pub music and the Paris metro. She lives with her own Irish Man, fluffy dogs and Viennese hare in the hills above Los Angeles. Despite her fear of heights Therese's favorite place in Ireland is Slieve League Cliffs, near her family's ancestral home in Co. Donegal. Therese believes sticky toffee pudding, Celtic knot jewelry and Oscar Wilde are Ireland's greatest exports. She is available for guest posts and interviews. You can also find her on her website or on Facebook and Twitter.

--Julie



Sunday, 4 January 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up (23)

On the Blog

Tuesday: Julie talks about her DNFs of 2014
Wednesday: Julie reviews MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME
Thursday: Another roundup of non-contemporary New Adult
Friday: Julie reviews THE BOY NEXT DOOR and has feels



Julie

Book Haul



Oh boy. Remember, this is two weeks worth of books, including the yearly Christmas haul, aka books I've read as ARCs/galleys, but needed finished copies of! I also think I mentioned last time some excellent finds from publishers. Well, to explain a bit more, there was a massive clean out at one publisher and my friend invited me to raid the shelves. Then she mailed the box to my parents', so I now have all of those too.


Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway (egalley via publisher on Edelweiss)
Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel (egalley via publisher on Edelweiss)
The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi (egalley via publisher on Edelweiss)
Don't Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom (egalley via publisher on Edelweiss)
Dead of Winter by Kresley Cole (finished copy via publisher)
Bloodlines by Richelle Mead (from publishing house)
Sirens by Janet Fox (from publishing house)
Gathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes (from publishing house)
Strange Angels & Betrayals by Lili St. Crow (from publishing house)
Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey (from publishing house)
The Last Time We Say Goodbye be Cynthia Hand (from publishing house)
Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel (purchased for Kindle using gift card)
Never Less Than a Lady by Mary Jo Putney (purchased for Kindle using gift card) 
Shopping for a Billionaire by Julia Kent (free download on Kindle)
At Any Price by Brenna Aubrey (free download on Kindle)
Forever His by Shelly Thacker (free download on Kindle)
Some Like it Royal by Heather Long (borrowed from library)
Teen Idol by Meg Cabot (borrowed from library)

For Christmas:
Being Wendy by Fran Drescher
Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick 
The Kiss of Deception by Mary Pearson
Sekret by Lindsay Smith
Hook's Revenge by Heidi Schulz
Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Thing to Mend by Katie Finn
Love by the Morning Star by Laura Sullivan
Cress by Marissa Meyer
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore
Soulless by Gail Carriger

Books Read


If Wishes Were Earls by Elizabeth Boyle
The Boy Next Door by Katie Van Ark
Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark 
Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman 
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff 

YAY for vacation! And this is just what I've finished by Friday morning.
 
Upcoming Reads


As I'm writing from the past, these are the books I'm bringing on vacation plus a couple I'm hoping to read next week.

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
Love, Lucy by April Lindner
This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner
Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare

Annnnnd hopefully a few others, but I think that's a good list to get through for now!


--Julie

Lanna:
Sooo, I'm writing this quickly sometime after midnight and I'm kinda sleepy and my throat feels like it's been sliding down a cheese grater... I may forget things is what I'm trying to say.

New books 
(well, these are from early December until now)

Review books (netgalley):


All Fall Down by Ally Carter
Conspiracy Girl by Sarah Alderson 

Bought: 

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Elijah's Mermaid by Essie Fox
Stepbrother Dearest by Penelope Ward (which I got because the summary reminded me of Reason and Romance)

E-books: 


Reason and Romance by Jenn Young (e-book, I've read and loved multiple versions of this over the years on fictionpress, so I'm glad the author finally published it)
The State We're In by Adele Parks (was on offer on Kindle, I think)
Oceanswept by Lara Hays (free on Kindle)

Currently reading:

The Cuckoo's Calling by J K Rowling/Robert Galbraith
Onyx by Jennifer L Armentrout

I think that's it. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year.

Later.

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Boy Next Door by Katie Van Ark

The Boy Next Door
Katie Van Ark
Swoon Reads
[January 6, 2015]
ARC from publisher
Maddy Spier has been in love with the boy next door forever. As his figure skating partner she spends time in his arms every day. But she’s also seen his arms around other girls—lots of other girls.

Gabe can't imagine skating with anyone but Maddy, and together they have a real chance at winning some serious gold medals. So, he’s determined to keep thinking of her like a sister. After all, he’s never had a romantic relationship that lasted for more than two weeks.

But when their coach assigns a new romantic skating program, everything changes. Will this be the big break that Maddy’s been hoping for or the big breakup that Gabe has always feared?

I enjoyed A Little Something Different from Swoon Reads, so I was really excited to see what they'd do next and another cute contemporary with a boy next door premise sounded like a perfect next step. So while I was still in my de-stress from finals mode and couldn't handle the heavier reads, this was the first book I turned to and it was absolutely perfect.

This is one of the tropes that I totally adore and I'm probably kind of biased to love when I read them, but it's still rather uncommon in YA (why????). So, if it wasn't clear, I loved watching it play out in The Boy Next Door. It came in pretty quick and was one of those unrequited crushes, which isn't my favorite way of going about it when the protagonist is already in love, but we got both perspectives, so I still got that falling in love aspect. The way it was introduced was also unusual and lovely, having it all stem from their skate program.

There was also this really great character development from both of them. Gabe had to open his eyes and seriously consider what a real relationship requires, while Maddy had to learn to not rely on Gabe all the time. They both had to make these big leaps and Maddy also had some family issues going on while everything's happening with Gabe that rocked her world, so she had to handle that as well, which really helped build her character arc.

The story itself could've used some trimming. There was a lot of back and forth on whether or not Gabe could handle this relationship, but they had these other components woven in to balance out the story and help it feel too ridiculously repetitive. There were some side characters I loved and plot lines that went with them that I appreciated seeing in the story. Maddy's was one and it was pretty major, but Gabe's was smaller. It addressed the stereotype that male skaters are all gay and turned it around a bit in a thoughtful, though sometimes over the top, way.

This wasn't necessarily an award winner, a life changer, or a favorite book of all time, but it was the exact book I needed to read when I read it, so it's going to stick with me. It was incredibly adorable and sometimes a little sexy and I instantly wanted to see what Katie Van Ark will publish next. When you're ready for something sweet or need a little break, this is definitely the read to pick up next.

--Julie

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