Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: From Twinkle, with Love, by Sandhya Menon {ends 6/6}

Crap. I'd missed what Sahil was saying—againbecause I was ogling his brother. Anyway, context. Come on. Look around. Look at his face. What might he have said? Oh, right. He was holding out a business card. I took it, frowning slightly.

Sahil Roy, Film Critic, it said. There was a phone number below it.

"You're into films, aren't you? he asked, tugging at his T-shirt.

Am I into films? Ha. Ha ha ha. Only like Bill Nye is into science. "Mmhmm," I said. "Definitely."

This is Sandhya Menon's second book, and I LOVED her first book, When Dimple Met Rishi, which I reviewed last June. Although I didn't enjoy this one quite as much, it's still a cute story, and is worth a read, especially if you enjoy YA books.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: From Twinkle, with Love, by Sandhya Menon
Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers,
From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

The best part of this story is how Twinkle slowly falls in love with Sahileven though it's his twin brother, Neil, that she was originally crushing on (and had been, for a while).

Sahil and Twinkle work on a school project together, which is a reimagining of Dracula — called Draculass, with flipped genders (the main character is a woman)and get to know each other during the filming of it, since she's the director and he is the producer. 

There's also a "B plot" where Twinkle has been getting mysterious emails from someone named "N," whom she assumes is Neil, saying that he has a crush on her and wants to meet her ... but I figured out who "N" was before his identity was revealed (hint: it's NOT Neil).

I'd recommend this book for anyone who likes teen/YA stories, or anyone who likes a good romance. Much like her last book, the protagonist here is Indian, and we learn a bit about Indian culture as well. The protagonist isn't close with her mom and dad, but by the end of the novel they have repaired their family a bit, which was also a nice side plot.

3.5 stars out of 5.
{click here to purchase}

*Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

GIVEAWAY:

Three of my lucky readers will win a copy of From Twinkle, with Love!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, June 6th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Hardcover copy of From Twinkle, with Love

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Emergency Contact, by Mary H.K. Choi {ends 6/5}

"I wanted to be a documentary filmmaker," he said. Penny wondered about the past tense. "There are so many unbelievable stories going on in the world, just quietly happening around you. There's this Hitchcock quote about how in regular movies the director is God and how in documentaries God is the director. I always loved that."

He stacked his espresso cups.

Penny knew emoji hearts were flying out of her eyes. She was smitten mitten kittens. She'd never heard anyone her age talk about the work they wanted to do. Not that Sam was her age exactly. Penny swallowed the rest of her questions: whether he felt like a ghost trolling the living, mining their existence for ideas; whether or not he got lonely watching other people the way Penny did.

"Jesus, you're emo," observed Mallory, scrolling through her phone.

This book is the writer's first novel, though she's written many other stories, and it was quite good. I love YA books and this one focused on a girl who has just graduated high school, and is on her way to college in Austin, TX.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Emergency Contact, by Mary H.K. Choi {ends 6/5}
For Penny Lee, high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a cafĂ© and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to
see each other.

Sam and Penny end up meeting because technically Sam is the ex-uncle of Penny's college roommate (long story...) so she calls him Uncle Sam.

Sam and Penny's chemistry is great in this book, and it was interesting to see how they built that up over texting vs. seeing each other in real life.

I liked how this book showed how awkward people need love too, to paraphrase, and it also talked about Penny's home life and her relationship with her mother, which affected why Penny wanted to "go away" for school (even though Austin is only about 79 miles from where she's from). It was also interesting to read a YA book that showed the transition from high school to college, as most only take place in one life period or the other.

4.5 stars out of 5. 
{click here to purchase}

*Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book. All opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Emergency Contact!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, June 5th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only please and no P.O. boxes.

Good luck!

Hardcover copy of Emergency Contact

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Matchmaking for Beginners, by Maddie Dawson {ends 6/5}

And I—I am just a damaged object they're all trying to patch up and haul back onto the sales floor. They love me and they will sit with me while I find the necessary prerequisites for their estimation of a happy life: a new job, a new man, a car, and later on, furniture, a house, some babies. I need endless help, apparently.

In the meantime, they say, here's the story we're giving you: California was a mistake. Your life up to now has been a big, blurry mistake, but luckily you're moving on. We caught you just in time.

My California life, my adulthood, quietly folds itself up like a map and tiptoes away. Nobody but me even sees it go.

I really enjoyed this book, and later I realized that the author wrote another novel I also reviewed, The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness. This novel was very different from that one, but still just as good.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Matchmaking for Beginners, by Maddie Dawson
Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancĂ©’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would.

When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn’t believe she’s anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.

And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.


Marnie is engaged to Noah, and she meets his "kooky" great-aunt Blix at their engagement party. Blix senses a kindred soul in Marnie: they're both "matchmakers," meaning they know things and they know who might work best together. Despite the fact that their meeting was short, when Blix passes away a few months later, she leaves her Brooklyn brownstone to Marniewho has never been to New York, much less Brooklyn.

Once the New York part of the book starts, it reminded me of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt a bit (which also takes place in Brooklyn)—the brownstone is large and Blix had tenants, which makes Marnie's decision to stay or to sell the brownstone a bit harder, even though her life (and new fianceenot Noah!) is now back in her home state of Florida.

The characters were all very well thought-out here, too, and although I had a feeling how the book would end—Blix kind of predicts it early on, actuallyI still was curious to see how the author would get the characters to that point.

4.5 stars out of 5.
{click here to purchase}

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

GIVEAWAY:

Three of my lucky readers will win a copy of Matchmaking for Beginners!

Enter to win via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, June 5th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. and Canadian residents only, please.

Good luck!

Matchmaking for Beginners book

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Blood Thing, by James Hankins {ends 5/24}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

As he spoke, Pickman allowed his eyes to drift slowly across the mosaic filling the wall opposite him, as he often did when in this room. The colors and connections. The angles and patterns. A seamless web, the labor of a year of his life. It could have been hanging in a museum of modern art, more beautiful by far than anything painted by Jackson Pollock. But where the appeal of Pollock’s work grew from what Pickman perceived to be a chaos barely contained by the edge of the canvas, the beauty of his own masterpiece lay in the fact that the colors and connections and patterns and angles represented order, rigid precision, and efficiency – a study in complex yet flawless perfection. It was stunning in both form and function. It was, by far, his greatest work.


I actually finished this book more than a week ago, but I’m still working out the details in my mind. Wow! The plot of A Blood Thing by James Hankins was so intricate and well thought out, then expertly presented. The beginning of the book had crimes committed that you really hoped couldn’t have been done by the alleged criminal who all the evidence pointed to—but who else would have done it?

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Blood Thing, by James Hankins
Vermont’s promising young governor, Andrew Kane, is at another public meet-and-greet when a stranger from the crowd slips him a cell phone and whispers, “Keep this with you…keep it secret…you’re going to need it after the arrest.”

Hours later, Andrew’s brother, Tyler, is taken into custody—framed for the brutal murder of a young woman—and Andrew discovers there is only one way to free him: answer the mysterious phone and agree to a blackmailer’s demands. All the governor has to do to make it all go away is compromise everything he stands for and grant a full pardon to a convicted felon. With no better option, he complies. Which is his first mistake…because the stranger isn’t through with him. He has another little condition. Then another. And another. And Andrew has no choice but to play along until he can find a way out of this personal and political nightmare. But he isn’t prepared for what he will face, or how far he will have to go to save his brother and keep his family together.


I can’t wait to catch up on my reading and read this again. Yup. The bad buy’s plan is so intricate and convincing, reading it again will give me another chance to see how it all fits together, while knowing that it does indeed fit.

Someone slips a phone to the governor at a public appearance, and a blackmailer’s plan is set in motion. Every time it seems the governor and those in his family are getting closer to solving and stopping the plan to ruin their lives, they come up to another dead end, or more incriminating evidence against them.

I would definitely recommend this book. I give it 5 out of 5 stars, because I want to read it again. The characters were likable and complex on their own, and the plan against them is truly staggering to unravel.

A Blood Thing will be in stores and online on June 5, 2018.

{click here to pre-order}

Becki Bayley is a school employee looking forward to the summer off to read more and blog at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

Three of my lucky readers will win a hardcover copy of A Blood Thing!

Enter to win via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, May 24th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

U.S. and Canadian residents only, please.

Good luck!

Hardcover copy of A Blood Thing - 3 winners

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Someone to Love, by Melissa de la Cruz {ends 5/16}

"I'm not seeing anyone besides you," Zach says. "And I don't plan to." Does that mean he wants to be exclusive? That he wants to be an official couple?

Couple is such a weird word. Two people who are closely associated, who are of the same sort. I start thinking. Are we of the same sort?

I hope so. I've needed someone to love for so long.

I'm a big fan of Melissa de la Cruz's books, and this was her first "normal" YA book I've read—I say "normal" meaning it wasn't about vampires or other paranormal people. Alex & Eliza was about humans, as well, but it was about Alexander Hamilton and thus set in the past. Someone to Love is set in the present and focuses on a congressman's daughter, and her struggles with bulimia and with acceptance.

Official synopsis:
Constantly in the spotlight thanks to her politician father's rising star, Olivia Blakely feels the pressure to be perfect. As the youngest girl in her class, she tries hard to keep up and to seem mature to the older boy she's crushing on, even as she catches his eye. But the need to look good on camera and at school soon grows into an all-consuming struggle with bulimia.

As Liv works toward her goal of gaining early admission to art school, including taking part in an upcoming student show, her life spirals out of control. Swept up in demands to do more than she's ready for, to always look perfect and to succeed, Liv doesn't know who she is anymore. It will take nearly losing her best friend and even her life for Liv to learn that loving herself is far more important than earning the world's approval.

Olivia is an interesting character. Even though she's already skinny, she binges and purges—her goal weight is 100 pounds, and she weighs about 112 pounds in the beginning of the book—because of her bulimia. She has a crush on a guy at school, Zach, and eventually they start dating, but he's not who he seems. She also is very interested in art, and wants to make a name for herself outside of her congressman father's legacy.

This was not my favorite of de la Cruz's books, but is still a good read, especially if you like reading books about high school students or those who struggle with issues. Olivia is immature but matures throughout the novel, and by the end of it, she's more aware that she has an issue (bulimia) and that it's not healthy for her to continue like she has been doing. She also "finds herself" throughout the book and has a more set career path by the end of it. 

3.5 stars out of 5.
{click here to purchase}

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Someone to Love!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, May 16th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day via email and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Someone to Love, by Melissa de la Cruz

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Book Review: Beautiful Bodies, by Kimberly Rae Miller

Guest review by: Erin Krajenke

"I'm addicted to dieting. I've never meet a diet I didn't want to try. Okay, maybe the Master Cleanse (I imagine there's a lot of heartburn involved), but other than that I would try them all, and I have. Well, most of them. I have eaten nothing but meat, nothing but raw vegetables, nothing but fruit, nothing but juice. I have counted points, calories, and macros; scarfed down all of my meals in a six-hour feeding window; banished gluten and dairy; and had pre-portioned food delivered to my apartment in the wee hours of the morning by elves. I have paid an arthritic old Romanian woman in a dentists' office to sodomize me with a hose, flood my colon with filtered water, and the suck my feces out with the very same hose. All of it in the name of weight loss. Dieting is my only real hobby.”

“…I have come to rely on the structure and hope diets provide as a way of anchoring myself to the world. When there are no rules or promises to life, a diet provides them. When things are at their most stressful, calorie counting is a refuge of control. I am aware that this is very much in line with disordered eating behavior. I have no concept of what ordered eating looks like. I'm not in the slightest bit alone, though; disordered eating has become so culturally ubiquitous that we now have a name for people who are too healthy, relentlessly healthy, people who take every article someone like me writes to heart and adjust their life accordingly. Orthorexia is just one of a long list of new feeding and eating disorders we can now be classified as having."

"…Weight gain and loss is a simple equation: we gain weight because we take in more calories that our body needs to fuel its functioning. We lose weight by expending more energy than we take in as calories in our food. What isn't quite that simple is determining just how many calories each of us needs to achieve our personally, medically, or socially acceptable body - whatever our goal is. Our bodies don't come off an assembly line. Two people of similar weight, height, body shape, and lifestyle can eat the same foods but with vastly different results. Some people require fewer calories than others. Their bodies are models of metabolic efficiency: they seem to hardly need any food at all to function in the world, and if they were to eat the recommended amount of food suggested by governing guidelines, they would actually gain weight. Their body is a great betrayer, who can bump up the needle on the scale in one moderately indulgent weekend.

Then there are a lucky few who have metabolic cycles that essentially burn off excess fuel as it enters the body, regardless of their energy output, people with the coveted "good metabolism" who seem to maintain a slim build regardless of eating habits. Although to be fair, men and women of this type have a harder time building muscle for the same reason that they have a hard time retaining body fat. Most of us are somewhere in between these two, but most of us also feel firmly we're the former. I do."


Initially, I was really into this book. It is part a history on diets which I found interesting, and part memoir which seemed relatable and funny. I liked the book and I liked the author. Her writing style was fun and breezy, but the more I read, I couldn't help but think that she needs to get some serious help: that she has body dysmorphia and that she should not be dispensing health and fitness advice to anyone. She seems to have an addiction to it that is not healthy.

Official synopsis:
Like most people, Kimberly Rae Miller does not have the perfect body, but that hasn't stopped her from trying. And trying. And trying some more. She's been at it since she was four years old, when Sesame Street inspired her to go on her first diet. Post college, after a brief stint as a diet-pill model, she became a health-and-fitness writer and editor working on celebrities' bestselling bios - sugar-coating the trials and tribulations celebs endure to stay thin.

But what is the ideal body? Knowing she's far from alone in this struggle, Kim sets out to find the objective definition of this seemingly unattainable level of perfection. While on a fascinating and hilarious journey through time that takes her from obese Paleolithic cavewoman, to the bland menus that Drs. Graham and Kellogg prescribe to promote good morals in additional to good health, to the binge-drinking-prone regimen that caused William the Conqueror's body to explode at his own funeral, Kim ends up discovering a lot more about her relationship with her own body.


Warm, funny, and brutally honest, Beautiful Bodies is a blend of memoir and social history that will speak to anyone who's ever been caught in a power struggle with his or her own body...in other words, just about everyone.
While I enjoyed the carefree writing style of the author, at times it got to be too much. The personal parts of the story were not told in a linear fashion which made the story feel disorganized and jumbled. She would start to talk about one thing, switch over to something else, and then it was like she forgot that she never made her original point and went back to it many pages later. 

In the beginning of the book, she mentions going to the New York Public Library to conduct research. Nothing comes of that story and she switches over to another topic. Over 100 pages later, she goes back to finish that story in the library. And based on the lifelong struggle she portrays, one would think she is morbidly obese: when in reality, she is 5’6” and for most of the story, has a healthy BMI. The heaviest she admits to being is a size 14, her smallest a size 8, which according to her is still too big. I feel like once many readers discover this, it might turn them off from her struggle and stop viewing her story relatable as she does not really seem to have the weight problem she is portraying. I have to admit that I was feeling for her struggle up until that point. From there, I felt more like she was not qualified to complain about her weight struggles when many people have it significantly worse than her.

Fortunately, towards the end of the story, she seemed to realize being a certain weight is not that important in the grand scheme of things as long as you are healthy and happy and she was able to come to terms with her life and her body which brought her to a more body positive conclusion. This story started out great, took a slump, and then regained itself in the end for me:

"…There are seven billion bodies in the world, and I got this one. It may not be the best one, but it's far from being the worst. It comes from a long line of people who have survived things much more harrowing than social-media bullying…I've gotten the best they had to offer. It's a strong body and a soft body, and while it's not as beautiful as I'd have liked, it's the only one I will ever have, so I'm, working on being thankful for it."

3 stars out of 5.
{click here to purchase}


Erin Krajenke is a chatty Virgo. She is glad warmer weather is finally here so she can enjoy brunch on many of metro Detroit’s outdoor patios.

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