Friday, August 30, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in our Stars, by John Green.

Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying. (Cancer is also a side effect of dying. Almost everything is, really.)

Interestingly enough, The Fault in Our Stars is written by a man, but is in first-person by the main character, Hazel, who has cancer. Pretty much everyone and their mother has told me to read this book, and I had been on the waitlist at the library for it for a long time, but I finally was able to read it - and everyone was not lying. It's also being made into a movie starring Shailene Woodley as Hazel - who seems to have been working hard lately in book-to-movie translations, between The Spectacular Now, Divergent, and now this - and Ansel Elgort as Augustus, the male lead.

Official (rather short) synopsis:
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

This book captivated my attention from the very first page (the excerpt above being from said page) and made me laugh a lot throughout, despite its serious subject matter. I think I've read maybe one other book by Green, but he really knows how to "get" his characters, and their personalities shine through the pages. Paragraph after paragraph made me laugh because Hazel is very sarcastic. Example: her mother likes to celebrate holidays ... a lot of holidays:
"Do you know what today is?" 
"It's not my birthday, is it?"... 
"I am really tired of guessing." 
"IT IS BASTILLE DAY!" She pulled her arms from behind her back, producing two small plastic French flags and waving them enthusiastically." 
"That sounds like a fake thing. Like Cholera Awareness Day."
Hazel attends a cancer support group, where she eventually meets Augustus, who had to have one of his legs amputated because of his cancer but is mostly cancer-free now. He's friends with Isaac, another of her support group friends, and Hazel and Gus eventually become more than friends. There's a twist midway through the book, too, that some might not see coming, although I did, and most people may need some Kleenex to deal with the ending of this book.

I really hope they don't screw up the movie adaptation of this book. I recently disliked The Spectacular Now in movie form, despite its high critic reviews, and the book was fantastic, as was this one. Shailene Woodley is in both movies, but she's a talented actress (TSN's downfall was more the slow-moving script, rather than the casting or acting, in my opinion) so I don't doubt she will do well in the role, if it's well-written. The author of this book, John Green, recently got to go to the set of the film and take some video with the actors, too, and Woodley has already cut her hair short for the role of Hazel and looks the part. Interestingly enough, Ansel Elgort (Gus) is also in Divergent, the other movie Woodley is currently filming, too.

Ansel Elgort (Gus) and Shailene Woodley (Hazel) on the TFIOS set
I should probably go back and read some of Green's other novels now, as well, since Fault in our Stars was so great - hopefully at some point I will have time to read them.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Alone Yet Not Alone

Alone Yet Not Alone, by Tracy Leininger Craven.

Outside, the tall figure, who just hours before had stood still as a statue watching the family, had long since sneaked back into the slumbering forest just as quickly as he had come. He now sat in front of his own campfire, his eyes burning as bright as the light that flickered before him. His face did not soften in the gleam, but instead the dancing reflection highlighted his hardened features and accentuated the furrows in his brow. Soon his companions joined him, engaging in deep and agitated conversation until, at last, all was settled and they too fell asleep. Only, their dreams were of a different sort than Barbara's; they were not of peace and tranquility.

Alone Yet Not Alone is a faith-based book that focuses on the true story of the Leininger family's abduction (the relatives of the author, as you may have guessed) during the French and Indian War. I myself am not very religious, and I think this book is definitely geared more towards those who have a strong Christian faith; however, the story was interesting and it's a quick read, which is good for kids.

Official synopsis:
French and Indian WarSettled in the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania, deep within America's new frontier, the Leininger family celebrates the blessings of a beautiful homestead and bountiful harvest. That is, until tragedy strikes with the beginning of the French and Indian War and the devastating raid known as the Penn's Creek Massacre.

The lives of this simple, God-fearing family are forever altered when Barbara and Regina, two young sisters, are carried away by the Delaware tribe. Driven by their faith in God and the powerful bonds of family, Barbara and Regina hold firmly to the belief that they are never alone, even in their darkest hour, and that they will be reunited again.

Rich in historical details, Alone Yet Not Alone is an inspirational, true story of a family caught in the cross fire of the French and Indian War.

The book is actually being made into a film, which will be out on September 27th, and the trailer does look interesting. One of the main problems I have with the book is that it didn't go into much depth - at about 150 pages there's not a lot of time to do that - but a feature-length film looks like it can adding more to the story.

Also be aware, as I mentioned above, that this is an extremely faith-based book. In one scene, Barbara, the oldest girl who was captured, asked one of her Native American captors how his world was created, and he talks about a god of sorts that created everything. Barbara wishes he could "know" Jesus Christ and how Jesus looks out for everyone, as she puts it. In another scene, Barbara is in love with a good friend of her brothers, but declines his marriage proposal because he's not religious; it's only after he "accepts Jesus into his heart" that she agrees to marry him. I myself am not Christian or religious, so to me this was a little jarring, but I believe that someone like me was not the intended audience for this sort of book to begin with.

I also would have liked to have known more about the true Leininger story, to see how closely this book captures the sisters' experiences - it took place in the 1700s, so obviously the author can't know everything about the experience, but I assume that the gist of their adventure that took place in real life takes place in the book, too.

2.5 stars out of 5.

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

You can view the movie trailer here:


I have one copy of Alone Yet Not Alone to give away. U.S. and Canada only, please. Enter to win via the Rafflecopter below. The contest ends Thursday, September 5th at 11:59pm - winner will be notified September 6th and have 24 hours to respond or an alternate winner will be chosen.

Good luck!

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The First Affair

The First Affair, by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus.

My nights were spent sitting in the tub for too long, the phone stretched to the bath mat - even though it was always much later when it rang, two, three in the morning. He called - the records show he called - at least every other night, keeping me on the phone for hours sometimes. To tell me jokes, ask about my life and my day, and yes, believe it or not, seek my advice.

I want to make that point about the calls, because I know that's not what people remember.

The events in The First Affair will inevitably be compared to the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal - indeed, even the dress that the girl portrayed on the book's cover is wearing is blue. I was eleven years old at the time, but I remember it being a big deal - Clinton's face was splashed all over every news outlet in the country. In this novel, it's 50-year-old President Greg Rutland and 21-year-old intern Jamie McAlister; but what drew me in is that it's written from Jamie's point-of-view, and we get to see what might have gone on in a young girl's head when such a powerful man begins to pay attention to her.

Official synopsis:
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola KrausJamie McAlister has resigned herself to the fact that in this job market, her painfully expensive degree might only get her a position at Starbucks, when she suddenly lands a prestigious internship at the White House. Although she doesn’t hit it off with the other interns—lockjaws who come from so much money that ten weeks without a paycheck doesn’t faze them—she is eager to work hard and make the best of the opportunity while it lasts.

An unexpected encounter late one evening with the charismatic President Gregory Rutland seems like just a fleeting flirtation, but when he orchestrates clandestine meetings and late-night phone calls, their relationship quickly escalates. Jamie knows what she is doing is wrong: he’s married, he has kids, he’s the President. Yet each time she tries to extricate herself, Greg pulls her back in.

With the conflicted desires of the most powerful man in the world driving her to her breaking point, Jamie can’t help but divulge intimate details to those closest to her. But she must have confided in the wrong person, because she soon finds herself, and everyone she cares about, facing calculated public destruction at the hands of Greg’s political enemies, and—perhaps no matter how much he cares about her—at the hands of Greg himself.

Others who have already reviewed this book on Goodreads have been bashing McAlister's character for being "so young and naive." In my opinion, though, the authors - who also penned The Nanny Diaries, as well as its sequel - did a great job of getting the reader into Jamie's head, and showing why she was so susceptible to having an affair with the President, even though she knew he was married with kids. Jamie had recently moved to D.C., was having trouble making friends, and also was working an unpaid internship, with no guarantee of a job afterwards; to suddenly have the attention of a powerful man - the most powerful man in the country, to be specific - was a bit of a rush for her, and something she couldn't ignore.

There were a lot of pros and a few cons for this novel - the writing is a bit choppy in some places, perhaps that's because the book has two authors - but overall the story was very interesting, and I couldn't help but wonder how much of it was the same in the Clinton/Lewinsky case. In that case, it was the blue dress that was the most damning piece of evidence; here, it's Jamie's wool coat, which she kept and had never cleaned. The ending of The First Affair, too, was interesting; I enjoyed it, although it seemed a little unrealistic.

The First Affair is in stores starting today, August 27th. 4 stars out of 5.

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

Monday, August 26, 2013

Review and Giveaway: A Southern Place, ends 9/3

A Southern Place, by Elaine Drennon Little.

How did Calvin know these guns?

"But your daddy's favorites are these two: The Webley Mark IV and Mark 5. These here was officers' guns in World War I that his daddy brought back from the war, hidden in a box of silverware."

Later, Phil couldn't remember when Cal had left, and knew he must have drunk three bottles by himself. That night he dreamed of bears and wars and guns, and fathers who treasure beautiful old things.

Not their sons.

This novel starts in the present - late 1980s - where Mary Jane "Mojo" Mullinax is in the hospital, badly beaten up. It then spools us back so that we can learn about her mother and her family history, and it's interesting to know the story behind the stories. I was also surprised to learn that this is the author's debut novel, as it was written beautifully and will keep you captivated throughout its entirety.

Official synopsis:
Mary Jane Hatcher--everyone calls her Mojo--is beat up bad. She's in the ICU of Phoebe Putney, the largest hospital in South Georgia, barely able to talk. How Mojo goes from being that skinny little girl in Nolan, a small forgotten town along the Flint River, to the young woman now fighting for her life is where this story begins and ends.

Mojo, her mama Delores and her Uncle Calvin Mullinax, like most folks in Nolan, have just tried to make the best of it. Of course, people aren't always what they seem and Phil Foster--the handsome, spoiled son of the richest man in the county--is no exception.

As the story of the Mullinax family unfolds, Mojo discovers a family's legacy can be many things: a piece of earth, a familiar dwelling, a shared bond. And although she doesn't know why she feels such a bond with Phil Foster, it is there all the same, family or not. And she likes to think we all have us a fresh start. Like her mama always said, the past is all just water under the bridge. Mojo, after going to hell and back, finally comes to understand what that means.

The reader will learn about Mojo's mother, Delores, and how she ended up pregnant with Mojo, as well as her uncle, Cal, and how everyone's stories are entertwined. Mojo's father, Phil, never knew that he was her father, as well, because Delores kept it a secret; Phil's father was Cal's former employer, and he threatened Delores to break off her relationship with Phil, otherwise he would revoke the money that Cal had received in a settlement from his company for disability.

The decision to start at the end, for the most part, and slowly bring the story back up to the present was an interesting one by the author. I believe that overall it did work, but I found myself wanting to flip back to the front of the book (which I unfortunately couldn't, since I had it in PDF form and it would have taken forever) throughout the novel to re-read the beginning and see if I could try and connect the dots. I think A Southern Place would make a great movie, too, because it's one of those "epic" tales that span centuries and generations; it would be interesting to think of my ideal casting for it, too.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I was given an e-copy of this novel for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


I have TWO e-copies of A Southern Place for some of my lucky readers. Enter to win via the Rafflecopter below. Two winners will be chosen, and the contest ends Tuesday, September 3rd at 11:59pm - winners will be notified September 4th and have 24 hours to respond or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen. No international restrictions for this one, also, since they're e-books and not print copies!

Good luck!

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Beautiful Bombshell

Beautiful Bombshell, by Christina Lauren.

"The smartest thing I've ever done was recruiting Max Stella to help plan your bachelor party."

I looked over at my brother, Henry, after he practically sang this. He was leaning back in his plush leather chair, fresh vodka gimlet in hand, recently returned from a private "session" in a mysterious backroom location, and wearing the biggest grin I think I'd ever seen. He wasn't looking at me when he spoke; he was watching three beautiful women onstage dance and strip to a slow, pulsing rhythm. "Gotta remember that next time," he murmured, bringing the glass to his lips.

"I plan on only having the one," I said.
Beautiful Bombshell Christina Lauren
I've now read three of the books in the Beautiful Bastard series, and Bombshell is the fourth, a novella. Max Stella (he of Beautiful Stranger fame), Bennett Ryan and his brother, Henry, and their friend Will all go to Vegas to celebrate Bennett's impending nuptials to Chloe, whose relationship we first saw in Beautiful Bastard, but things don't exactly go as planned ... and the girls end up in Vegas too, which of course distracts Bennett and Max.

Official synopsis:
The gentlemen from Beautiful Bastard, Beautiful Stranger, and Beautiful Player are out for a wild night on The Strip.

When Max, Henry, and Will steal Bennett away for a weekend of shenanigans and strippers in Vegas, the first stop of the night doesn’t go at all as planned. With their scheme for a Guys Weekend completely derailed anyway, Max and Bennett begin to play a wild game of stealth and secrecy in order to have their bombshells all over Sin City.

I loved that this was set in Vegas, because I recognized all of the landmarks and hotels that the author references - Bellagio, the Palazzo, the Strip, etcetera. We also get more "time" with Will, star of the future novel Beautiful Player (and there's an excerpt from it in the back of this book, too!) as well as Henry, Bennett's brother, who I think might have been in a few of the previous books but not in any large capacity.

Max has recruited Chloe, Bennett's fiance, to surprise Bennett when they're in Vegas, and although Bennett kind-of feels bad about ditching Henry and Will so fast, of course he invents excuses so that he can see her; they scheduled their bachelor party over Valentine's Day, too, which didn't help.

This was a super quick read and a great addition to the series. If you liked the others in the series, or are thinking about reading the series, I'd recommend reading this novella as well. Each chapter was either written from Bennett's point-of-view or Max's, too, which was interesting because we got to see a little of both men's perspectives - it was almost like a hybrid Beautiful Bastard and Beautiful Stranger novella.

Beautiful Bombshell will be in stores on September 3rd. 4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this novel for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

For your reference:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Castle of Sand

A Castle of Sand, by Bella Forrest (A Shade of Vampire #3).

The sight was sickening, but despite my mortification over the sheer magnitude of death surrounding me, my prime concern was Derek Novak. I can't lose you.

He was a vampire. He was a prince. He was the man I loved. The mere thought of losing him made breathing a struggle.

A Castle of Sand is the third book in the A Shade of Vampire series, and I reviewed both the first novel, A Shade of Vampire, and the second, A Shade of Blood, this year. The story of Sofia Claremont, a human, who loves vampire prince Derek Novak, keeps getting more and more complicated, and these books are excellently written and a fun read.
A Shade of Blood, Bella Forrest

Official synopsis:
What Sofia has with Derek feels like a sandcastle; temporary and something that the waves of life and time will soon ruin...

Since the return of Gregor Novak, the island has turned several shades darker. His hatred toward Sofia and thirst for fresh blood lead to a brutal war igniting between father and son.

Meanwhile, the hunters are gaining formidable strength and resources by the day; they know that the safety of The Shade hangs entirely on its ability to remain hidden from them.

And a sinister secret lies in wait for Sofia within the bowels of an Egyptian desert... a secret that threatens to crush her sandcastle much sooner than she could have expected.

First of all, you should read the previous two novels before reading this one. I guess it works as a standalone novel, but to get the full experience, you should know Derek and Sofia's history together, as well as The Shade, where they live, and The Oasis, where the enemy vampire clan The Maslens live.

In this novel, Derek wants to marry Sofia, but she knows it won't work: sooner than he thinks, she will be old, and he will still be his immortal 18-year-old self. At the same time, Derek's father, Gregor, orders a culling - a killing of all non-essential humans, so that The Shade's vampires will have enough "food" to drink - which Sophia is vehemently against, for obvious reasons.

This third installment of the A Shade of Vampire series was just as engrossing as the last two, and I can't wait to read the next two in the series: A Shadow of Light, which is already available, and A Blaze of Sun.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from the author to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Winds of Salem

Winds of Salem, by Melissa de la Cruz (Witches of East End #3).

"Who is it? Who is making you do this? Who is trying to make you sign the devil's book, you poor child?" Reverend Parris asked.

Abby sat up, eyes wide, staring. Betty followed her lead.

"Do you not see her?" said Abby, pointing. "Why, there she stands!"

They all turned to me.

-Freya Beauchamp, June 1692

Winds of Salem is the third book in the Witches of East End series, the first being its namesake and the second being Serpent's Kiss (both of which I previously reviewed). I'm a big fan of de la Cruz's series' (Blue Bloods and others), and I was able to interview her back in October 2012 as well. Unsurprisingly, Winds of Salem is just as good as her other work, although it does something interesting: it jumps back and forth in time between the present-day Hamptons and Salem, 1692, which sometimes works and sometimes does not.

Official synopsis:
Beauchamp sisters, witchesFreya Beauchamp is trapped in 1692, in Salem of all places, with no recollection of her past. A powerful enemy spell has sent her spiraling away so that she is separated by centuries from her mother, Joanna, and sister, Ingrid. This is not good news for a twenty-first-century witch. Not to mention the immediate threat she faces from the wealthy and influential Putnam family. When little Annie Putnam is one of the first to make accusations of witchcraft, her landowner father jumps at the opportunity to consolidate his power and expand his holdings in Puritan Salem Town. If Freya is caught using magic, she will be forced to relive the witch trials, and this time, even her immortality is in question.

Meanwhile, twenty-first-century North Hampton has its own snares. Joanna and Norm consult the Oracle for advice, and Freddie and his pixie allies search for a missing totem that could reopen the passages of time and help bring his sister home. When Ingrid bumps into an old flame, she finds that her new love for Detective Matt Noble is in doubt.

Moving between past and present, Winds of Salem's dizzying plot twists and page-turning suspense is sure to bewitch fans old and new.

I'm a huge history buff, and I found the Salem portions very interesting. de la Cruz has mentioned Salem before in this series - after all, the Beauchamp women are witches - but never in this much detail. At the same time, though, instead of rotating between the past and the present chapter-by-chapter, there are chunks of the book that are set in each place, so after a while you start to forget about either Salem or the present, which wasn't great.

Ingrid learns more about her mortal boyfriend, Matthew Noble, in this book too, and she runs into an old flame, Thor, now going by the name Troy, who tries to tempt her into being back with him, instead of with Matt.

I would recommend Winds of Salem, but make sure you read the other two books in the series first - it's okay as a stand-alone book, but it makes a lot more sense put into context, especially since it references events and people from the past two novels.

4 stars out of 5.

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

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Contest: You Are Cordially Invited ... to win a book, plus other great prizes!

wedding rings 2e

Love is in the Air.. And weddings are all around. The MI Savings Mama family is getting married!!!!
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Saturday, August 10, 2013

The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani.

"Do not question the School Master's selections," said Pollux. "All of you will respect each other, whether you're Good or Evil, whether you're from a famous tale family or a failed one, whether you're a sired prince or a Reader. All of you are chosen to protect the balance between Good and Evil. For once that balance is compromised ..." His face darkened. "Our world will perish."

A hush fell over the hall. Agatha grimaced. The last thing she needed was this world perishing while they were still in it.

Soman ChainaniI started this book before BlogHer, and then didn't bring it with me because it's so large (about 488 pages) ... I then returned to it a few days ago, and it was as whimsical as I remembered it to be. It definitely evokes the Harry Potter series many times through it, with a dash of Hunger Games thrown in, but it also has its own unique story and characters too.

Official synopsis:
At the School for Good and Evil, failing your fairy tale is not an option.

Welcome to the School for Good and Evil, where best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she'll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil.

The two girls soon find their fortunes reversed—Sophie's dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School for Good, thrust among handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.

But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are . . . ?

The School for Good and Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

Sophie has always been Good - she dresses the part, anyway - and Agatha has always been Evil: she likes to wear all black, and learn spells. When the two girls are stolen away from their sleepy town by the School Master, however, Agatha gets placed in the School for Good and Sophie gets placed in the School for Evil. There's surely been a mistake made! ... right?

There's a scene near the end of the book that imitates what would happen if the Hunger Games and Harry Potter worlds collided, in my opinion, but for the most part The School for Good and Evil treads its own path. In the School for Good, the boys are princes and the girls learn how to be princesses, and in the School for Evil, they learn how to create devious spells and facial features like moles and warts are handsome and beautiful.

This book was very long but it was also fun to read. Sophie slowly begins to be more witch-like and Agatha learns that she is Good at heart, and some of the scenes near the end are epic. There's also a sequel that will be published, entitled A World Without Princes, that I'd love to read - check on August 15th for the cover reveal - and the movie rights for the first novel have already been purchased by Universal.

I would definitely watch The School for Good and Evil on the big screen, especially if it's as great as the book was to read.

4 stars out of 5.

And check out the book trailer - it's awesome!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Let Love Stay book tour

Melissa Collins Let Love Stay

Let Love Stay, by Melissa Collins (The Love Series, #2).

I try to swallow back my hurt and fail miserably. Driving back to my hotel roomm, I'm lost in thought at the strange turn of events. 

I'm being pushed away from the one person who I never thought I would be without, while being pushed toward the one person I never thought I would have to see again.

Full disclosure here: I read about ten pages of Let Love In, the first book in this series, and then tried to dive in to book #2. Book #2, however (Let Love Stay), basically picks up where book #1 ended, and so I was "forced" to go back and read the first book to get some back story on the main characters, Reid and Maddy (I say "forced" because I love YA books, so it really wasn't that much of a hardship!).

Melissa CollinsInstead of doing an official synopsis, I'll try to summarize the books for you in my own words. In the first novel, 18-year-old Maddy goes off to college in Ithaca, NY, with her best friend Melanie. Maddy's parents died in a car crash when she was only 10 years old, and Melanie and her mom took Maddy in and have been her surrogate family ever since. At a house party one night, Maddy meets Reid, her suitemate's boyfriend's roommate, who comes across as very standoffish at first, but soon (surprise, surprise) they are attracted to each other and fall in love. At the end of Let Love In, Maddy and Reid have just had a fight, and she gets in a car accident while driving his car and learns that she's pregnant.

At the beginning of Let Love Stay, Maddy and Reid must sort through their issues, especially after she tells him she's pregnant, and figure out what they're going to do. Reid's mom, too, has cancer and is dying, and a girl from his hometown calls him to tell him this; he's been estranged from her for 4-5 years, and must decide if he wants to make amends with her or not before she dies.

There were a lot of things I liked about these books and a few things I did not; since this is a review of Let Love Stay and not Let Love In, I'll try to keep my ramblings contained to this book. The book was a mix of Beautiful Bastard and Beautiful Disaster, in my opinion, and although both of the main characters have tragic backgrounds/pasts, the characters in Disaster (Abby and Travis) did as well, which is probably why I started comparing the two novels so quickly. LLS also has a lot of sexual scenes, but it's classified as NA - "New Adult," the more sexualized version of YA (Young Adult) - so that's to be expected.

I was a little taken aback that neither Maddy's character nor any of her friends even brought up the idea of having an abortion, once she learned she was pregnant; to me, the author was trying to convey a very pro-life message. Although Reid is 21 in the book, Maddy is only 18, which is pretty young to be having a baby; but she immediately decides she's going to keep the baby, even if Reid leaves her over it.

I will say that I really liked the characters in this book, even though they weren't really unusual compared to other YA/NA books, as well as the core story. At the same time, however, I felt their relationship was a little unrealistic. They jumped into being in love very soon after they met, in the first book, but were somehow able to survive all of the hardships and challenges thrown their way, even though there were a ton of them, including accidents, deaths, and the pregnancy. Perhaps I'm a bit jaded from reading a lot of YA stories, but I couldn't help but think that they fell in love super quickly. I did like, however, that they each helped each other get over their painful pasts.

I thought this was the last story in the series, but a third, Let Love Heal, that will focus on Maddy's friend Melanie, will be published in October 2013, and I will most likely read it, as I'm curious to see how Melanie's story turns out.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this book and the prequel for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Review and GIVEAWAY: Wink

Wink, by Eric Trant.

You pour kerosene over the Dead-Eye. You rub it clean. You put it in your mouth and suck off the kerosene, then spit it into your palm. You hold open the lid of your left eye, and you shove the Dead-Eye into the empty socket.

Something is released inside you. The pain of losing your eye is gone in a breath. You are filled with electricity, and when you open your Dead-Eye, you see the world for the first time. You see a Boogerbear with such detail that you could count its feathers.
Wink by Eric Trant
Wink has been compared to a Stephen King novel, but I've read Carrie and The Shining and this is a bit more "tame." However, it's definitely one of the weirdest/most "unique" books I've read lately, and because of that, it might be geared towards a specific audience.

Official synopsis:
In this thriller set in a rural Gulf Coast town, twelve-year-old Marty Jameson finds refuge in the attic from his mother’s abusive rages. But only during the day. At night the attic holds terrors even beyond what he witnesses in his home. With a family made up of a psychotic mother, a drug-dealing father and a comatose older brother withering away in the spare bedroom, Marty feels trapped.

Next door, wheel-chair bound Sadie Marsh obsessively watches Marty’s comings and goings from her bedroom window, despite her mother’s warning about the evil in that house. Evil which appears to Sadie as huge black-winged creatures.

Marty, emotionally torn by the violence and dysfunction in his family, is drawn to Sadie and her kindly mother. But if he is to save his new friend from the supernatural horror threatening them all, Marty must transform himself from victim to hero. And to do so, he must first confront what lurks hidden in the shadows of his attic.

This novel reminded me a LOT of Betty's Child, which I recently reviewed, at least before it got more in to the supernatural side of the book. Marty lives in an abusive household, and his mother doesn't really care about him; his father knows his mother is a wacko, basically, but keeps her around for sex. He had a brother, Gerald, who he accidentally shot when he was younger, and who lives in the house but is barely alive - he's on a breathing machine and is fed via tube. Marty's neighbor, Sadie, who is in a wheelchair, likes to watch Marty from her house, as he's always up to something interesting.

One of the things I liked about this book is that it let us see different POVs (points-of-view) throughout. Marty used to be close to his Uncle Cooper, and even though Cooper is now deceased, we get a few excerpts from his POV. In addition, we get to peer inside his crazy mother's head too - I thought this passage was especially poignant, about Marty's shooting:
Your youngest son, the mistake, the goddamned stupid mistake from one night of careless sex that wasn't even that great is sitting in a chair on his knees, holding that .38 pistol your husband calls Mad Annie because it is a woman's gun with a woman's one-pound pull on the trigger. The smoke from the shot lingers around the mistake like a gray, smoldering halo.
On the floor beneath the mistake is your oldest son. He is eighteen. He is beautiful. He is a god in a god's body. He rests on the floor beside the chair the way a puppet might fall if you cut his strings and let him drop, arms flayed with his chest on his knees.
"I didn't mean it," your mistake says.  
The ending and also an incident in the middle of this book were especially crazy, and the author (Eric Trant) must have an especially vivid imagination in order to have written it.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this novel for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


I have one copy of Wink to give to a lucky reader. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. The contest will end next Monday, August 12th, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will be emailed on August 13th and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

Open to all countries but U.S/Canada winners will receive a print copy; all other residents will receive an e-book copy.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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