Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Blog Tour & Book Sketch: The Harper Effect by Taryn Bashford

By: Taryn Bashford
Published By: Sky Pony Press
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Series: None
Pages: 336
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Sixteen-year-old Harper was once a rising star on the tennis court--until her coach dropped her for being "mentally weak." Without tennis, who is she? Her confidence at an all-time low, she secretly turns to her childhood friend, next-door neighbor Jacob--who also happens to be her sister's very recent ex-boyfriend. If her sister finds out, it will mean a family war.

But when Harper is taken on by a new coach who wants her to train with Colt, a cold, defensive, brooding young tennis phenom, she hits the court all the harder, if only to prove Colt wrong. But as the two learn to become a team, Harper gets glimpses of the vulnerable boy beneath the surface, the boy who was deeply scarred by his family's dark and scandalous past. The boy she could easily find herself falling for.

As she walks a fine line between Colt's secrets, her forbidden love, and a game that demands nothing but the best, Harper must decide between her past and her future and between two boys who send her head spinning. Is the cost of winning the game worth losing everything?

A sizzling tennis romance perfect for the summer months, The Harper Effect, will be a grand slam for fans of Kasie West, Miranda Kinneally and Simone Ekeles.

First Thought After Finishing - I knew there was a reason I always loved the color purple!

After reading Miranda Kenneally’s books, I’m a sucker for sporty contemporary romances. I was never a sports person, so the vicarious experience (plus the passion these characters have) are definite draws to these stories. 

Harper Hunter dreams of being a tennis champion, but she can’t seem to make it past the first round in any competitions. Saddened by defeat and dumped by her tennis coach, Harper is almost ready to give up on her dreams. Enter Milo, a new coach, and Colt, a new doubles partner. Soon Harper finds herself training harder than ever but also trying to discover Colt’s secrets. On top of it all, her childhood friendship group may be falling apart. Her sister is distant, but she might finally have a chance with the boy she’s loved for years. Can Harper juggle everything without letting her game—or her heart—suffer?

I love reading comeback stories. There’s something inspiring about rooting for an underdog and trying to channel their motivation. I’ve never really followed tennis, but this book makes it seem like an exciting sport—different from the team sports with its individual battle, but in some ways this makes it more relatable. Even without sports in my life, Harper’s emotional journey resonated with me. This book is about much more than sports or even first loves; it’s about the inevitable changes that come in life and how we can either struggle against them or choose to grow with them. Harper may not have had a smooth path, but it was all the more real for that reason.

This book also explores different types of relationships—what family and friendship can look like, and also what they shouldn’t look like. I loved that Harper’s parents were so involved, and I especially enjoyed seeing her relationship with her coach develop. Milo certainly had some good advice that can be applied far beyond the tennis world. As for Harper's romantic relationships, this isn't your typical love triangle. Jacob is her childhood best friend; he has her memories, and there is something gratifying about having a chance with your first love. ON the other hand, Colt is her mixed doubles partner. He is withdrawn, moody, and secretive, but there is no denying an electric connection both on and off the court. For me, there was only one choice, only one guy who I wanted to learn everything about and wrap in a hug when I finally did.

Throughout the book, the characters rarely make the best decisions; in fact, as an adult reading this book, there were times I wanted to shake sense into the characters who were, from my perspective, insensitive and foolish. However, as a teenager, these choices may not have always seemed so clear. As teenagers, we all make mistakes. The important thing is how we react to and learn from them. Harper's story shows this process and how we all have to face up to consequences for bad judgement. Navigating teenage years can be difficult, and accepting change can certainly be scary at any age. Reading someone else's story--even a fictional one--gives hope that something good can come even out of bad decisions if only people are willing to learn and grow.

Most Memorable Aspect: Harper and Colt's dedication to tennis.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Taryn lives the typical writer’s life alongside supportive husband, teen children, and characters from her latest book insisting they help make dinner. This can be disconcerting as Jacob is always sticking his fingers in the cheese sauce and Harper can’t cook.

Taryn’s been an English Literature Honours student, an advertising sales rep and a CEO of an internet company, but writing is her first love. The Harper Effect is her debut novel.

Find Her Online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
5/7/18 - Sophie Reads YA - Review
5/7/18 - YA Books Central - Interview

5/8/18 - To Be Read - Review
5/8/18 - Margie's Must Reads - Guest Post

5/9/18 - Portrait of a Book - Review
5/9/18 - Book Sniffers Anonymous - Excerpt

5/10/18 - Bri's Book Nook - Review
5/10/18 - Twirling Book Princess - Excerpt

5/11/18 - FirstBookLove - Reviewt
5/11/18 - A Dream Within a Dream - Excerpt

Week Two:
5/14/18 - taylortalksbooks - Review
5/14/18 - Bookhounds YA - Interview

5/15/18 - Books of a Shy Girl - Review
5/15/18 - Confessions of a YA Reader - Excerpt

5/16/18 - Lattes & Paperbacks - Review
5/16/18 - Wishful Endings - Excerpt

5/17/18 - Two Chicks on Books - Interview
5/17/18 - Paulette's Papers - Excerpt

5/18/18 - Books A-Brewin' - Excerpt


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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Blog Tour & Book Aesthetic: Love Songs & Other Lies by Jessica Pennington

By: Jessica Pennington
Published By: Tor Teen
Release Date: April 24, 2018
Series: None
Pages: 288
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: ALA Midwinter
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: It’s summer romance and second chances, the songs that stay in your head, and the boy you’ll never forget.

Two years after rock-song-worthy heartbreak, Virginia Miller is looking forward to a fun, carefree summer. Her friends just landed a spot on a battling bands reality show, and Vee is joining them for her dream internship on tour. Three months with future rockstars seems like an epic summer plan. Until she learns she’ll also be sharing the bus with Cam. Her first love, and her first heartbreak. Now Vee has more than just cameras to dodge, and Cam’s determination to win her forgiveness is causing TMZ-worthy problems for both of them. With cameras rolling, she’ll have to decide if her favorite breakup anthem deserves a new ending. And if she’s brave enough to expose her own secrets to keep Cam’s under wraps.

With the explosion of Bookstagram, often we really do reduce a picture to a thousand words! With that in mind, here are the six images that I think best represent Love Songs & Other Lies!

Love Songs & Other Lies involves music, and specifically people playing guitars. The experience of playing, singing, and performing is integral to the story, which is what drew me initially, but the book is so much more than that.

There's a pretty significant road trip involved. I loved the beauty of this picture as well as the idea that there's always something ahead of you, and only you can decide if you will run from it or run toward it.

We couldn't have a book about rock without some rock concerts! Everyone in a venue getting swept up in an emotional high...isn't that what a good concert does?

We live in a world of social media, but sometimes the best thing is still the feeling of pencil and paper...particularly for song lyrics.

Setting can be crucial to a story, and the beach plays a huge role in this one. There's something so comforting and freeing about hours spent on the shore in solitude (or almost solitude) that can be life-changing.

"Summer lovin'...had me a blast..." Really though, it is called love songs. You'll fall in love with the romance in this book!

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Jessica Pennington is no stranger to the combination of love and drama. She’s a wedding planner, after all. A writer since the age of ten—when she sought publication for her poem about a tree—Jessica likes the challenge of finding the humor in a sad situation or highlighting the awkwardness in a romantic one. She lives in a Michigan beach town suspiciously similar to the one in her books, where she's currently finishing her second novel, WHEN SUMMER ENDS, out April 2019.

Find Her Online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
4/16/18 - Lil Book Lovers - Interview
4/16/18 - Ashleigh's Bookshelf - Review

4/17/18 - The Clever Reader - Dream Cast
4/17/18 - Tale Out Loud - Review

4/18/18 - Smada's Book Smack - Top 10 Quotes
4/18/18 - BookCrushin - Review

4/19/18 - My Fangirl Chronicles - Excerpt
4/19/18 - A Blunt Book Blog - Review

4/20/18 - Bookish Bits Blog - Guest Post
4/20/18 - Books, Life, and Everything Else - Review

Week Two:
4/30/18 - The Candid Cover - Interview
4/30/18 - Belle's Archive - Review

5/1/18 - The Cursed Books - Playlist
5/1/18 - The Heart of a Book Blogger - Aesthetic

5/2/18 - Portrait of a Book - Aesthetic
5/2/18 - Vicky Who Reads - Review

5/3/18 - The Mind of a Book Dragon - Interview
5/3/18 - Boundless Bookaholic - Review

5/4/18 - Clarie's Tales - Fanfiction
5/4/18 - Librarian Laura - Interview and Excerpt


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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Release Day Blitz: Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake

By: Jessica Leake
Published By: Harper Teen
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Series: None
Pages: 384
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: The ancient land of Éirinn is mired in war. Ciara, Princess of Mide, has never known a time when Éirinn’s kingdoms were not battling for power, or Northmen were not plundering their shores.

The people of Mide have thankfully always been safe because of Ciara’s unearthly ability to control her enemies’ minds and actions. But lately, a mysterious crow has been appearing to Ciara, whispering warnings of an even darker threat. Although her clansmen dismiss her visions as pagan nonsense, Ciara fears this coming evil will destroy not just Éirinn, but the entire world.

Then the crow leads Ciara to Leif, a young Northman leader. Leif should be Ciara’s enemy, but when Ciara discovers that he, too, shares her prophetic visions, she knows he’s something more. Leif is mounting an impressive army, and with Ciara’s strength in battle the two might have a chance to save their world.

With evil rising around them, they’ll do what it takes to defend the land they love…even if it means making the greatest sacrifice of all.


Once upon a time, Jessica Leake was a psychotherapist, but even though she loved her clients, she couldn’t stop writing.

She wrote and wrote until she got her first book published, and then she wrote some more. In between all that writing she had four beautiful and hilarious children with her husband (best friend and man she’s known since high school; also hilarious), moved back to her adopted hometown of Greenville, SC, built a chicken coop, and got a bunch of chickens that poop breakfast every morning. She also has two dogs to keep the chickens in line. (The dogs made her write that last bit.)

Arcana and The Order of the Eternal Sun are available now, and Beyond a Darkened Shore, her YA debut from HarperTeen will be released in April 10, 2018.

Find Her Online:
Website | Twitter | Facebook


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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Blog Tour and Book Sketch: Antipodes by Michele Bacon

By: Michele Bacon
Published By: Sky Pony Press
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Series: None
Pages: 288
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: When Erin Cerise steps off her plane in Christchurch, New Zealand, she is focused intently on her mission: do something unique that will erase the mess she made of her life on her 17th birthday. She’s already lost her swim team captainship, her boyfriend Ben, and her reputation. Her mother is certain studying abroad will regain Erin’s chances of a good future. Once Erin sees her uninspiring host family and city, though, she’s not so sure.

Before Christchurch, Erin wasn’t always intense and focused. Years ago, a mission sounded like a fun adventure, and the only ivy she cared about was the stuff growing around her grandparents’ back porch at their peaceful Upper Peninsula home. When had her priorities gone upside down?

Now Erin balks at NZ’s itchy school uniforms, cold houses, and her hosts’ utter inability to pronounce her name correctly. Christchurch does boast amazing rock climbing, gorgeous scenery, and at least one guy who could make her forget Ben if she lets him. With months ahead of her, Erin slowly begins to draw on the years behind her, one step back into her memories at a time. As she rebuilds her life from the other side of the world, she finds that when life turns your world upside down and you’re far from home, every way you move takes you closer to where you came from.

First Thought After Finishing: I want to go to New Zealand, stat!

I love books with foreign settings, and I’ve always been intrigued by the beauty and lifestyle of Australia and New Zealand. I was excited to dive into Antipodes and experience a different way of life vicariously through Erin’s study abroad experience. Needless to say, this book everything I didn't know I wanted and needed at the moment.

Erin has her future all planned out. Clinch a swimming championship, be a fabulous cellist, get into Columbia, become a doctor, have a great life. Under the watchful eye of her powerful mother, Erin has worked her entire life to reach this dream. But new swimming students and one drunken night derail Erin’s plans. To save her college applications, Erin’s parents send her to study abroad. The new plan is simple: find something to wow Ivy League colleges. Instead, Erin discovers that sometimes you have to travel around the world just to find yourself.

At the beginning of this book, I did not care for Erin very much, despite (unfortunately) seeing a great deal of my former self in her. Despite having the opportunity to fix her mistake, she was focused only on what had gone wrong in her life and her parents’ worldview, which translated into being rather snobby toward and judgemental of her host family and those around her. However, it doesn’t take long for Erin to start to realize how life is different in New Zealand—slower, more relaxed. This calm gradually rubs off on Erin, and she starts to reevaluate what is really important in life.

This is a true story of self-discovery and proof of why travel is so important. She meets new friends—Jade, Marama, and Hank—who help to show her how life can be different. Honestly, I loved all of the New Zealanders that Erin meets. Her kiwi friends are the kind of friends everyone wants—welcoming and supportive without expectations. Her host family, despite having to learn how to get along with her, is warm and loving, and her younger sister is adorable. I especially enjoyed Hank’s life philosophy and hope that I am able to keep the words in mind as I move forward.

"New Zealand was changing her--or revealing parts of her she didn't know existed."

Erin’s journey resonated a great deal with me on a personal level. The lush, rich descriptions of the New Zealand landscape almost do justice to what must be breathtaking views. I cheered as Erin started to find her own voice and found something that made her truly happy—it was almost enough to make me want to go rock climbing, until I remembered that I’d likely die in such an attempt. Still, anyone who has ever had to rediscover themselves, break away from expectations, or simply wants to be transported will find something to love about this book.

Most Memorable Aspect: The New Zealand setting. I’m in love with all of the scenery described!

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

I was born in Trumbull County, the only square county in Ohio, where books were my favorite means of escaping an unhappy childhood. Writing was my transparent attempt to create the things I craved: big happy families, international adventures and unconditional friendship. From a young age, I was drawn to people’s stories, and I still want to know how you met your best friend or fell in love with your partner.

In high school, I embraced my inner geek and wrote my first novel. In college, there were short stories and still more novels. I graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.A. in English, with concentrations in critical theory and creative writing.

Full-time work sapped my creative brain for several years, but my professional life was one of reinvention. In state government, business management consulting, and nonprofit fundraising, I adapted easily and absorbed the languages of different professions. My last paying job was as an independent fundraising consultant for nonprofit organizations. That was seven years ago.

Since then, I have been writing and traveling (and, let's be honest, chasing down small people who don't like to wear clothes). I've traveled to all 50 states and dozens of other countries, always collecting pieces of characters and ideas for stories. I recently spent a year on sabbatical in Christchurch, New Zealand, where I may have left my heart at Ilam School. Now that we've settled back in the States, I'm writing for adults and young adults, exploring the Pacific Northwest, and baking like a fiend. (You'd thinking baking would be the same everywhere, but it's not. Something is different about kiwi butter.)

When an idea strikes, I scrawl sweeping plot outlines, character idiosyncrasies, and ideas for scenes on the nearest blank spot of paper. My current manuscript was born of those torn slips of paper, used envelopes, lollipop wrappers, fuel receipts and--once--that little paper bit that keeps a nursing pad sticky until it's time to use it. My manuscripts are better than the quality of papers where they began. Promise.

Outside of writing, I am a tabletop game enthusiast, passionate skier, and lover of prime numbers. I also am a mentor at the Moving Words Writing Clinic, and a freelance copyeditor.

I live in Seattle with my husband and three growing children.

Find Her Online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
3/26/18 - Pretty Deadly Reviews - Interview
3/26/18 - Here's to Happy Endings - Review

3/27/18 - Katie's Bookaholic Rambling Reviews - Excerpt
3/27/18 - Lattes & Paperbacks - Review

3/28/18 - Wonderstruck - Review
3/28/18 - Portrait of a Book - Review

3/29/18 - Bookhounds YA - Interview
3/29/18 - Shelf Rider - Review

3/30/18 - The Reading Life - Excerpt
3/30/18 - RhythmicBooktrovert - Review

Week Two:
4/2/18 - YA Books Central - Interview
4/2/18 - Blushing Bibliophile - Review

4/3/18 - Lilly's Book World - Review
4/3/18 - MetalPhantasmReads - Review

4/4/18 - Caffeine and Composition - Review
4/4/18 - Two Points of Interest - Review

4/5/18 - The Infinity Words - Review
4/5/18 - Novel Novice - Guest Post

4/6/18 - Paulette's Papers - Excerpt
4/6/18 - Books Are Love - Review


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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Blog Tour and Book Sketch: Cold Hard Truth by Anne Greenwood Brown

By: Anne Greenwood Brown
Published By: Albert Whitman Company
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Series: None
Pages: 371
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Emmie O’Brien is a former good girl now on the fringe. She spent a crazy year involved with Nick, her mom’s drug dealer; after her arrest she was lucky to go back to her old life. But she’s haunted by the choices she made—first, to be with Nick, and then later, to testify against him. Max Shepherd is a senior varsity hockey player with serious anger issues. His grief over the death of his girlfriend causes him to see injustice wherever he looks. When they meet in community service, Max is drawn to Emmie’s calm energy, but Emmie knows better than to get too close to anyone. When friends of Nick show up seeking revenge, Emmie is forced to come to terms with her past, while Max has to control his protective instincts. They must trust one another, especially when Emmie’s situation takes a dangerous turn.

First Thought After Finishing - I hope there is a companion novel!

I wanted to read this book because it involved a hockey player and I’m a slight (read: huge) hockey fan. And, I admit it, I wanted to live vicariously through the girl dating a player. But this story was even more than just a romance—it was a story of learning to trust you and finding someone who completes you.

Emmie has been dealt a rough hand in life. After a year living with her meth-addict mother, doing anything she could to make sure her mother didn’t suffer from withdrawals, Emmie finds herself in trouble with the law and back living with her father. Only trouble didn’t stay away just because Emmie left. Enter Max, who has some baggage of his own. When they meet on their community service crew, the attraction is undeniable. But is that enough to overcome the truth they’re both trying to hide?

Emmie is a tough, no-nonsense girl who doesn’t want anyone to know that she’s not okay. She’s used to taking care of herself and her mother with a support network that was anything but supportive. As an adult reading this, my heart broke for a teenager who had to live like this. As much as Emmie wants to be free, she also can’t quite shake the guilt she feels from testifying against Nick (her mother’s dealer) and leaving her mom alone. It was hard for Emmie to trust again, but with every new interaction, I only wanted the best for her.

Then there is Max, struggling under guilt of his own and trying to learn how to control his anger. At first, Max was a great example of when a protective guy can go too far. Still, despite what Max had suffered, wanted to care about someone else. He recognized something special in Emmie and wanted to break through her walls, and isn’t that what every girl wants? Once again, he was someone I just wanted to hug.

Max (and later Emmie) has a great group of friends, and I loved watching them interact together. It was really fun to see behind-the-scenes glimpses of a hockey team. (I’d love to be a fly on the wall in my team’s locker room just to know what really happens.) The girls were also accepting of Emmie and Marissa, and that was refreshing to see.

Throughout the book, it wasn’t too difficult to guess at the truths both Emmie and Max were hiding, but I still wanted them to trust each other enough to actually share them. Honestly, I wanted to see so much more emotions from both of them. This book had the potential to be a complete tearjerker, but something kept me from fully giving in to that. The story was missing an element of depth and complexity that would have pushed this book to a new emotional level. Despite that, I sound myself turning pages quickly, as it was not hard to get drawn into the story. I would also love to see companion novels with this group of friends. More hockey books are always a good thing!

Most Memorable Aspect: Emmie’s Story and the fun of the hockey teammates.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Anne Greenwood Brown lives in Minnesota with her patient husband and three hilarious children. She is the author of the following Young Adult novels:
COLD HARD TRUTH (contemporary/romance);
GIRL LAST SEEN (contemporary/suspense); and the paranormal mermaid trilogy: LIES BENEATH, DEEP BETRAYAL, PROMISE BOUND. She also writes adult romance under the name A.S. Green.

Find Her Online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
3/26/18 - Angelic Book Reviews - Excerpt
3/27/18 - Portrait of a Book - Review
3/28/18 - Bookhounds YA - Interview
3/29/18 - The Desert Bibliophile - Interview
3/30/18 - Here's to Happy Endings - Review

Week Two:
4/2/18 - Wonderstruck - Review
4/3/18 - Adventures Thru Wonderland - Review
4/4/18 - Falling for YA - Review
4/5/18 - Literary Meanderings - Interview
4/6/18 - Eli to the Nth - Review


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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Book Sketch: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

By: S. Jae-Jones
Published By: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Series: Wintersong
Pages: 436
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Bought
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

First Thought After Finishing: Honestly, I still don’t know how I feel! 

From the first time I heard about it, Wintersong seemed like the perfect book. With its historical German setting, the Erlkonig lore, and all of the references to music, I knew that this book would make an impression, and it’s definitely been on my mind since I read the last page.

Liesl has grown up hearing her grandmother’s stories of the Goblin King. As a child, she fancied him her friend, but then she was forced to grow up and help her family stay together. A musician and dreamer at heart, Liesl has had to sacrifice much of her identity in the face of her sister Kathe’s beauty and her brother Josef’s musical talent. But when legends of the Goblin King resurface as more reality than dream, Liesl finds herself trying to navigate Der Erlkonig’s underground world to save her sister...but she may just lose her heart in the process.

"'Life,' he said softly, 'is more than flesh. Your body is a candle, your soul the flame. The longer I burn the candle...'

He did not finish.

'A candle unused is nothing but wax and wick,' I said. 'I would rather light the flame, knowing it will go out, than sit forever in darkness.'"

From the beginning of the story, I felt an immediate kinship with Liesl. She was a musician at heart who had to shoulder responsibilities other though music, though she never forgot the pull of the song. Liesl’s identity is wrapped up in her family, and throughout this book, she is rediscovering who she is as an individual. Enter the Goblin King, who fuels Liesl’s musical dreams. S. Jae-Jones’s reimagining of Der Erlkonig’s character honored the original story while creating something beautifully unique. From the descriptions of the Underground to its inhabitant creatures, the world was thoroughly infused with magic. Beyond this, I loved reading the shy, at times unsettling, but always tender romance that blossomed between the two. Liesl may have agreed to become the Goblin Queen, but their relationship still had a slow burn that made the story that much more intense. Like Liesl, I wanted to discover all of Der Erlkonig’s secrets and to see what happened when they both became the best version of themselves.

I’ve been thinking for some time about how to adequately describe the one sticking point I had with this book. Several times LIesl credited her intimacy with the Goblin King with helping her to become authentic and free, and that struck a dissonant chord. I wish she would have chosen that path because she wanted to share herself rather than find herself.

Regardless of the reason, the emotional journey of Liesl and Der Erlkonig was nothing short of magical. I cannot wait to read the second installment of this story and discover the future for them both.

Most Memorable Aspect: The musical references and lush writing style.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Book Sketch: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

By: Leigh Bardugo
Published By: Henry Holt & Company
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Series: Six of Crows
Pages: 452
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Bought
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done - and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable - if they don't kill each other first.

First Thought After Finishing: WOW! I need more now!

Even though Six of Crows has been out for a while, I hadn’t gotten around to reading it because I’m about 382,746,988 (yes, that’s an EXACT count) books behind on my TBR pile. I actually started listening to this book on a trip with my family, and may I just say that the audiobook is phenomenal! Needless to say, I was immediately sucked into the story and continued to read furiously once out of the car.

Set in the Grishaverse, Six of Crows tells the story of Kaz “Dirtyhands” Brekker and his exploits in Ketterdam. Known for his shrewd cunning and ruthless deeds, he has become the de facto leader of The Dregs, one of Ketterdam’s rival gangs. After (unknowingly) displaying his skills to a council member, he is approached with an impossible proposition: to rescue one of the most-wanted people from the most secure place in the land. Together with a hand-picked team, Kaz sets out on what might well be a suicide mission, but one that offers riches only dreamed of if he succeeds.

If it’s not obvious, I love Kaz. He definitely qualifies for book-boyfriend status. He has a troubled past—because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a bad boy with a troubled past?—but I don’t love him for the sympathy angle. Kaz is a schemer and a visionary. How could anyone help but fall for his skill with tactical maneuvers and the way he takes the weight of everything onto himself? If that sounds unromantic, it might be because Kaz struggles with emotions himself.

Enter Inej, the Wraith. She might technically be second to Kaz, but she earned her reputation with skills that Kaz could never have. Inej is the master of stealth and gathering secrets, which fuel many of Kaz’s plans. I loved Inej’s strength and her devotion to her Suli saints even in the face of everything that said she had no reason to believe in the good anymore. At this point, I hardly think it’s a spoiler to say that everyone knows she and Kaz should be together, but as with all good stories, it could hardly be that easy.

The rest of the cast of characters is also wonderful. From Nina, who embraces who she is and is willing to make sacrifices for those she loves, to Mathias, the strong, stoic, somewhat silent type, who shows what you have to risk to pursue what’s right, to Wylan and Jesper, who bring much-needed comedic relief but are no less heroes in their own right. I loved this subsection of the Dregs and would read about any of their adventures any day.

Six of Crows might be a fantasy, but it’s also an action-packed thriller. Plot twists came with every turn of the page, but the conversations and development of the characters were woven so thoroughly into the adventure that I never felt like anything was sacrificed. The only thing that bothered me (aside from wanting MORE) was the fact that Kaz was supposed to be 17. I know it’s YA, and I know it’s fantasy, but in this book it bothered me more than normal, because his character just seemed to be so much older. But all of my feelings on that subject will be in their own post soon.

With every book she writes in the Grishaverse, Leigh Bardugo proves why she is a storytelling sorceress. “Loved” hardly seems to be a sufficient description for how I felt about this story and these characters. It has earned a place on my favorites shelf, and I’m only delaying reading Crooked Kingdom because I want the magic of the story to last a little longer. But I have no doubt it will be just as magical as Six of Crows.

Most Memorable Aspect: Kaz. Inej. All of the Dregs.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Teaser Tuesday (118)

I'm very excited to be one of the many blogs participating in Teaser Tuesdays! TT is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Books and a Beat. To participate:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
(Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"Like her grandfather, Kyra wanted to study storytelling. She collected the town's myths and legends, and she was always curious about what lay beyond. But Lost is a town that thrives on secrets, and in Kyra, all of Lost's secrets lay exposed."

Taken from pg. 16 of BEFORE I LET GO
by Marieke Nijkamp

Please share your teasers - post them or link to your blog!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Book Sketch: Rules of Rain by Leah Scheier

By: Leah Scheier
Published By: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: December 5, 2017
Series: None
Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: A dramatic new novel about the bond between a teen and her twin brother.

Rain has taken care of Ethan all of her life. Before she even knew what autism meant, she's been her twin brother's connection to the hostile world around him. She's always prepared—when her father abandons them, when her mother gets sick, when Ethan is tortured by bullies from school—Rain is the reliable, stable one holding them all together. She's both cautious carer and mad chef, preparing customized meals for her family and posting crazy recipes on her cooking blog.

Each day with Ethan is unvarying and predictable, and she's sure that nothing will ever change—until one night when her world is turned upside down by a mistake she can't take back. As her new romance with her long-time crush and her carefully constructed life begins to unravel, she discovers that the fragile brother whom she's always protected has grown into a young man who no longer needs her. And now, for the first time, she finds that she needs him.

First Thoughts After Finishing: What a rollercoaster!

Initially I was drawn to the synopsis of this book because it features a character with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I teach at a school for autistic children, so I was curious to see how an autistic teenager would be represented in literature. Add to that a neurotypical twin and what seemed like a dramatic contemporary plotline, and I was sold. And Leah Scheier did not disappoint.

For as long as Rain can remember, she’s been taking care of her family. Her twin Ethan has autism, and she has been his support and caretaker, helping him navigate safely through the world. When he couldn’t talk or didn’t understand why something was happening, she was there to fix things. When Ethan became gluten-free, she started inventing new recipes and blogging about them. Rain thinks she has her family’s entire future mapped out. But Ethan, who never changes, seems to be changing. And one misstep has her questioning what she thinks. And if Rain isn’t holding everything together, who will?

Rules of Rain isn’t the kind of book that you fly through, but it is the kind of book that draws you in and doesn’t let you go. I started reading this on vacation, and I found myself wanting to steal moments to read to see how everything developed. This book is about relationships: Rain and Ethan, obviously; Rain and her parents (her mother is dysfunctional, to put it mildly), Rain and her crush, which unfolds in an interesting way, and Rain and her friends, who are purely awesome. I would have loved to have seen more from her friends, particularly Hope. She is completely endearing and a great best friend to Rain, and I wish that we had been able to read more of her storyline.

Then there is Ethan and the treatment of ASD. Excuse me while I hop onto my soapbox for a moment. There’s a saying about autism: If you’ve met one person with autism, then you’ve met one person with autism. Each person is different, which is why it’s considered a spectrum. Still, certain tendencies are common. I thought Ethan’s manifestation of autism was handled very well; it was most peoples’ treatment of Ethan that bothered me. People with autism shouldn’t be ridiculed for it any more than people should tease others who are different. Moreover, autism isn’t a disease to be “fixed” or “cured.” It’s just a different approach to the world. Autistic individuals are still capable of leading richly fulfilling lives complete with any experiences they want. And with that said, I’ll hop down now.

I loved reading about the world from Ethan’s point of view. Even after working with autistic individuals for a number of years, it’s still not always possible to fathom how their brain works, but it is fascinating to explore. In a way, this book was as much Ethan’s journey as Rain’s, and I was cheering for him every step of the way. I would love to know what happens next for him.

Overall, this book took me through every emotion, and I never stopped caring about the characters or where they would end up. Nothing was one-sided, and that was such a refreshingly honest depiction of real life. I look forward to reading more books from this author!

Most Memorable Aspect: The treatment of ASD.

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