Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Quick Pick: Don't Even Think About It, by Sarah Mlynowski

  • Opening lines: We were not always freaks. Sure, most of us occasionally exhibited freakish behavior. But that's not the same thing.
  • Reason I picked up the book: My friend Mandy over at The Romance Bookie recommended it, and I had received an e-galley from NetGalley. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • We weren't always like this. We used to be average New York City high school sophomores. Until our homeroom went for flu shots. We were prepared for some side effects. Maybe a headache. Maybe a sore arm. We definitely didn't expect to get telepathic powers. But suddenly we could hear what everyone was thinking. Our friends. Our parents. Our crushes. Now we all know that Tess is in love with her best friend, Teddy. That Mackenzie cheated on Cooper. That, um, Nurse Carmichael used to be a stripper.

    Since we've kept our freakish skill a secret, we can sit next to the class brainiac and ace our tests. We can dump our boyfriends right before they dump us. We know what our friends really think of our jeans, our breath, our new bangs. We always know what's coming. Some of us will thrive. Some of us will crack. None of us will ever be the same. So stop obsessing about your ex. We're always listening.
  • Favorite paragraph:
  • Of course, it wouldn't be fine. Not at all. But Olivia couldn't know that. It's not like she had ESP. Ha, ha. Not yet. 
    This is the story of how we became freaks. 
    It's how a group of I's became a we.
    Maybe you think Olivia is telling the story. Or Mackenzie, or Cooper, or someone else in our homeroom you haven't met yet.
    It could be any of us.
    But it's not.
    It's all of us. We're telling you this story together.
    It's the only way we know how.
  • Recommended for: YA fans or anyone who wants to read a fun and fast story.
  • Something to know: Sarah Mlynowski has written a few other YA books, I think I read one or two a while back - she's a good writer.
  • What I would have changed: Nothing that I can think of. The ending was surprising but I also liked it. 
  • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here.

    *Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

GIVEAWAY: Beautiful Secret, by Christina Lauren, ends 4/15

As you may know, I'm a big fan of Christina Lauren's books, and I reviewed their {it's actually 2 authors, with Christina Lauren as their pen name} newest novel, Beautiful Secret, last month.

Beautiful Secret will be released on 4/14, and I now have two paperback copies to give away to my lucky readers!

{and if you just can't wait that long ... click here to pre-order}

Official synopsis:
When Ruby Miller’s boss announces he’s sending her on an extended business trip to New York City, she’s shocked. As one of the best and brightest young engineers in London, she knows she’s professionally up to the task. The part that’s throwing her is where she’ll be spending a month up close and personal working alongside—and staying in a hotel with—Niall Stella, her firm’s top urban planning executive and The Hottest Man Alive. Despite her ongoing crush, Ruby is certain Niall barely knows she’s alive…until their flirty overnight flight makes him sit up and take notice.

Not one for letting loose and breaking rules, recently divorced Niall would describe himself as hopeless when it comes to women. But even he knows outgoing California-girl Ruby is a breath of fresh air. Once she makes it her mission to help the sexy Brit loosen his tie, there’s no turning back. Thousands of miles from London, it’s easy for the lovers to play pretend. But when the trip is over, will the relationship they've built up fall down?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, by Paige McKenzie, ends 4/10 {2 winners!}

Nolan was the one to read the book, to find the word and say it out loud first. It is, I suppose, appropriate - considering what he will be to her - that he be the one who puts the pieces together. But this is not about him. It is about her.

It is good to see just now much fight she has in her. Her will is strong, her essence forceful. I wonder how long she will go on fighting before she realizes she must put that fight to better use.

I believe this is the first book I've ever read that is based on a YouTube series, which made it interesting. I read a few chapters and then Googled to find the series (which you can find here), and each video is about one to two minute long. The book is written by Paige McKenzie, the actress in the videos, along with Alyssa Sheinmel, a NYC native who has written a few young adult novels. The book seems to follow the beginning of the videos, for the most part, and I will probably watch a few more of them at some point.

Official synopsis:

Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Sunshine Griffith and her mother Kat move from sunny Austin, Texas, to the rain-drenched town of Ridgemont, Washington. Though Sunshine is adopted, she and her mother have always been close, sharing a special bond filled with laughter and inside jokes. But from the moment they arrive, Sunshine feels her world darken with an eeriness she cannot place. And even if Kat doesn’t recognize it, Sunshine knows that something about their new house is just ... creepy.

In the days that follow, things only get stranger. Sunshine is followed around the house by an icy breeze, phantom wind slams her bedroom door shut, and eventually, the laughter Sunshine hears on her first night evolves into sobs. She can hardly believe it, but as the spirits haunting her house become more frightening—and it becomes clear that Kat is in danger—Sunshine must accept what she is, pass the test before her, and save her mother from a fate worse than death.

(Note from Liz: this video makes it seem much scarier than the book actually is!)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Quick Pick: Breakwater Bay, by Shelley Noble

  • Opening lines: Alden wasn't supposed to take the dinghy out today. That's the last thing is dad said when he left for work that morning. "Don't go on the water. There's a bad storm brewing."
  • Reason I picked up the book: It seemed like a fun "beach read," and it also takes place in Rhode Island, where my relatives live and one of my favorite places.
  • And what's this book about?
  • An abandoned baby, a glorious old Newport mansion, and awakening romance combine in Breakwater Bay, an engaging story that echoes the flair, humor, and emotional depth of Kristin Hannah's popular novels.

    Preservationist Meri Hollis loves her latest project, restoring one of Newport's forgotten Gilded Age mansions. And with summer approaching, she'll be able to spend more time with her Gran on the Rhode Island shore. She has a great job, a loving family and she's pretty sure her boyfriend is going to propose on her thirtieth birthday.

    But everything Meri believes about family, happiness, truth and love is shattered when her family's darkest secret is exposed.

    Thirty years before, Meri's neighbor and friend, Alden Corrigan, took his father's dinghy out to fish. In a sudden storm, he rushed to help a woman stranded on the breakwater. She was just a girl . . . a very pregnant girl who disappeared soon after they reached safety-But not before she left behind a very special gift.

    Now that the truth it out, life will change for everyone in Breakwater Bay, and Meri and Alden will have to make decisions that could insure their future together . . . or separate them for good.
  • Favorite paragraph:
  • Meri hesitated when they reached the kitchen door. Alden opened it and nudged her inside, shutting the door behind her. Then he shoved his hands int he pockets of his rain slicker and began his solitary walk home.

    Was his promise to that poor girl fulfilled now that Meri knew? And when had his promise changed from obligation to joy?
  • Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys a quick read. Also anyone who knows/loves Rhode Island; most of the book takes place in Newport, which I had visited in October 2013, and I loved reading the descriptions of the mansions and the Cliff Walk, since I had been there ... funny, too, since I had just published this guest post about using real locations in novels.
  • Something to know: The author, Shelley Noble, mostly writes "beach reads" - I reviewed another of her books, Beach Colors, back in 2012.
  • What I would have changed: I hated the ending. It was way too short ... you can extrapolate what happens after, but I wanted to know more. This is the type of book where you know the ending almost from the beginning, but I still am interested in seeing how the characters get there. 
  • Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here.

    *Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Guest Post: Using Real Locations in Fiction

Written by: Dana Michelle Burnett

When I’m reading a novel, one thing that really makes me feel connected to the story is the setting. Is it believable? Does it fit the story?

There are several books out there where the setting feels almost like an additional character. First coming to my mind is The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. The Mayfair house is as much a part of the story as the ghost that haunts it. Another example would be The Shade from A Shade of Vampire series by Bella Forrest, where the island is crucial to several elements of the story.

When I set out to write The Gifted and The Damned, I knew that I wanted the story to take place in a small town that had an old time, almost out of time, feel to it. As with my last two series, I chose Corydon Indiana, but this time for a very different reason.

It wasn’t the Civil War era homes that drew my attention this time. The entire town has feel of permanence. You can feel the history almost oozing up from the sidewalks. It made me wonder if it wouldn’t be possible for another, more paranormal history, to exist there as well.

Using an actual location gave a sense of reality to my work. If I was having trouble with a certain chapter, a quick walk through downtown Corydon would help me connect with my story and put me back on track.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Vanishing Girls, by Lauren Oliver, ends 3/30

I have the feeling of finally hitting ground after a long fall. The breath goes out of me and yes, weirdly, I feel a sense of relief, of finally touching solid earth, of knowing.

This is it: somehow, in these pictures, the mystery of the accident is contained, and the explanation for Dara's subsequent behavior, for the silences and disappearances.

Don't ask me how I know. I just do. If you don't understand that, I guess you've never had a sister.

I finishing Vanishing Girls yesterday while on my work lunch break, and in the final few chapters, everything I thought I knew about the book went completely out the window. It probably didn't help that I was tired that day, too, and it took me a minute or so to wrap my mind around the twist that occurs at the end of this story. I'm a fan of Lauren Oliver's books in general, but this one had a twist that I did not see coming.

Official synopsis:
New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident.

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late.

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Before I Go, by Colleen Oakley, ends 3/27 {2 winners!}

I pick it up and watch my hand curiously - as if it's a rebellious, petulant child that's acting of its own accord - and heave the entire plastic cup, green liquid and all, across the room where it smacks the cabinet beneath the sink. Green slop sprays the maple, the fake Saltillo tile, the baseboards. The cup then hits the floor where it rolls to rest at the foot of the refrigerator. 

And in the silence that follows, the stupid therapist's voice from the stupid first time I had stupid cancer once again rings in my head:

Your anger is grief wearing a disguise.

I slump back against my chair.

My anger is all over my kitchen floor.

I received this book sometime late last year, I believe, and it was sitting on my shelf for a while. I'm very glad I eventually got to read it, however, because it was both heartbreaking and wryly funny.

Official synopsis:
A heart-wrenching debut novel in the bestselling tradition of P.S. I Love You about a young woman with breast cancer who undertakes a mission to find a new wife for her husband before she passes away.

Twenty-seven-year-old Daisy already beat breast cancer three years ago. How can this be happening to her again?

On the eve of what was supposed to be a triumphant “Cancerversary” with her husband Jack to celebrate three years of being cancer-free, Daisy suffers a devastating blow: her doctor tells her that the cancer is back, but this time it’s an aggressive stage four diagnosis. She may have as few as four months left to live. Death is a frightening prospect—but not because she’s afraid for herself. She’s terrified of what will happen to her brilliant but otherwise charmingly helpless husband when she’s no longer there to take care of him. It’s this fear that keeps her up at night, until she stumbles on the solution: she has to find him another wife.

With a singular determination, Daisy scouts local parks and coffee shops and online dating sites looking for Jack’s perfect match. But the further she gets on her quest, the more she questions the sanity of her plan. As the thought of her husband with another woman becomes all too real, Daisy’s forced to decide what’s more important in the short amount of time she has left: her husband’s happiness—or her own?