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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han (ARC)

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (#1) by Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster BYR, 368 pages
US Release Date: April 15, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them... all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren't love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she's written. One for every boy she's ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control.
-------------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
"…it's a lot of responsibility to hold a person's heart in your hands."
There are very few books I’ve ever read that I wish I’d actually written. There are the ones I adore, the ones I want to marry, the ones I want to be or read again immediately—but few make me wish I’d had the ideas and magic to create it.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is one of those books I wish I’d written. It is every bit the perfect contemporary with all the elements I want and love: friendship, family, relationships, love, humor, nerdiness. It’s all here in various amounts that tie together and make this wonderfully sweet story. Even on the writing side I loved it! The concept is so original and fun (who didn’t write love letters to boys they’ve loved?!), and the story just follows through wonderfully in tone and voice.

One of my favourite parts was definitely the sisterhood between Lara Jean, Margot and Kitty. It’s sweet and real and though I’ve never once wanted a sister, this one made me a little sad I hadn’t experienced what they have. (Don’t get me wrong, I love my brother. But he’s no sister.) I loved all their fights and teasing, and it was just the perfect portrayal of siblings.

The plot of this book was also so, so wonderful. Surprising and unique and lovable all rolled into one, I never really knew what to expect next. I love that while the cause of most of this are the mysteriously mailed out love letters, they’re not really the main focus. They’re there, you even get to read a few, but it’s so much more than that. It’s not like a checklist, going through the letters and what happened to each boy and how they affect her now—it’s about her life and what happened and what ensues. There’s some heartbreaking moments, there are definitely hilariously funny blunders, and a whole bunch of love throughout.

I can’t not talk about the boys, because uh…I kind of love them. All of them, no matter what. All of her friends and almost-loves and past-loves and maybe-future-somethings are so personable and funny, with such distinct characteristics to all of them. I loved the portrayal of both Josh and Peter—they’re so different, but with some similarities, and it was enough to really make it interesting. The entire concept of…well, I can’t quite say, but there’s some hijinks that ensue, and I love it all.

Also, while writing this review, I found out this is actually a duology – and I am SOSOSO happy about that! Not that I didn’t like the ending. It was actually pretty perfect for how the entire book goes, and it leaves just enough or us to create something wonderful in our heads. But I just love these characters together so much, I’m so excited to find out more. And the title suggests it may come back around to Josh and Margot, and I adore that. Even if it doesn’t, I’m happy with it—as long as I get more time with this bunch, I am all good.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is seriously one of the best contemporaries I have ever read. It is sweet and cute and thoughtful and everything I could ever really want in one. The only disappointment is having to wait until next year for Book 2!
5+ stars
and many, many love letters worth more

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Review: Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd (ARC)

Her Dark Curiosity (The Madman's Daughter #2) by Megan Shepherd
Balzar + Bray (an imprint of Harper Teen), 420 Pages
US Release Date: January 28, 2014
Format/Source: Print ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

To defeat the darkness, she must first embrace it.

Months have passed since Juliet Moreau returned to civilization after escaping her father's island—and the secrets she left behind. Now, back in London once more, she is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget Dr. Moreau’s horrific legacy—though someone, or something, hasn’t forgotten her.

As people close to Juliet fall victim one by one to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes, Juliet fears one of her father’s creations may have also escaped the island. She is determined to find the killer before Scotland Yard does, though it means awakening sides of herself she had thought long banished, and facing loves from her past she never expected to see again.

As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in the midst of a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer—Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.

With inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this is a tantalizing mystery about the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves.
-----------------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
"No serum can change who you are. Nor should you change. Genius or madness--it all depends on who's telling the story."
To quickly get this out of the way: I LOVE YOU MONTGOMERY. I FORGIVE YOU.

Moving along.

I love this series so much, you guys. The Madman’s Daughter was a surprise favourite for me last year, and it’s looking like Her Dark Curiosity will be the same. There seemed to be a bit of Book Two Syndrome in that it’s a means to get to the end, a bit of filler to get to the real conclusion, but it’s so, SO good that I don’t even care. I loved that it took from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—one of my favourite creepy classics.  I kind of wished there were more from that, but still…it’s good.
 
In general, I’m still not into Horror…except for when it comes to this series. Megan Shepherd does this so well, so gritty and gruesome and riveting, I can’t look away. I mean, she talks about carnage and actually means it! Blood literally pools and spills and spreads—and it means something. It’s a function in the novel, it adds to the story and doesn’t just make it blood for the shock factor. 

Some reviews talk about gagging regarding the love triange, and ok-I get that. I wasn’t too fond of it either…but it makes sense. It shouldn’t be a surprise, and it makes total sense, especially carrying over from Book 1. I think my main annoyance was driven by how much I love and adore Montgomery; how could anyone even think about going for anyone other than him?! Impossible.

The family/father figures in this novel were fantastic. I love that even though Juliet’s father…well, we know what happened to him at the end of Book 1, but I love that he’s still quite an influence on her life. Every decision, every thought, everything about her and the others tied to his work are irrevocably twined together, and I love that. I quite liked the Professer and his sister as well; they were great additions, adding a lot of heart and love amongst a dark, dreary story.

Lucy, Juliet’s best friend, was my dark horse of this novel. I didn’t expect to love her so much. She’s such a great character, as a writer and a reader. She’s full of life and personality, and she pops off the page; and her interaction with every other character is so amazing and awesome. She is herself to a fault, and she’s great with Juliet. And I like that she’s turned into more than just the friend. I can’t give away what happens, but her role has increased, and I heavily support it and love it.

I want to talk so much about the last half of the book, but obviously can’t—just trust me that Book Three sounds like it will be even more amazing and mind-blowing than the first two. And considering how much I love them, that’s saying quite a lot. I so look forward to more of this world, to more of this story, to more of everyone and everything. Megan Shepherd really created a world filled with horrors and tender moments that I can’t look away from it. Even when it’s murders and attacks and more murders.

Her Dark Curiosity is a fantastic addition to the The Madman's Daughter series; it just keeps getting better and better. If you haven’t started this yet, you’re definitely missing out.
5 stars

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Review: Let the Storm Break by Shannon Messenger (ARC)

Let the Storm Break (Sky Fall #2) by Shannon Messenger
Simon Teen, 400 pages
US Release Date: March 4, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Vane Weston is haunted. By the searing pull of his bond to Audra. By the lies he’s told to cover for her disappearance. By the treacherous winds that slip into his mind, trying to trap him in his worst nightmares. And as his enemies grow stronger, Vane doesn’t know how much longer he can last on his own.

But Audra’s still running. From her past. From the Gales. Even from Vane, who she doesn’t believe she deserves. And the farther she flees, the more danger she finds. She possesses the secret power her enemy craves, and protecting it might be more than she can handle—especially when she discovers Raiden’s newest weapon.

With the Gale Force weakened by recent attacks, and the power of four collapsing, Vane and Audra are forced to make a choice: keep trusting the failing winds, or turn to the people who’ve betrayed them before. But even if they survive the storms sent to destroy them, will they have anything left to hold on to?
-------------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
"…I would rather die with the rest of the good than live on in the emptiness without it."
As I always write when reviewing some of these author’s works, I have an obligatory “disclaimer” type: I know Shannon Messenger in real life – I’ve gone to almost every one of her San Diego events, we share a set of friends, we’ve vaguely hung out after events. And I don’t mean this as an “I’m so awesome I know her I’m famous”, I mean it that I know Shannon’s tone and I’ve heard her read from her books. Whenever I read any of her novels, I hear it in her voice in my head.

That all said, I think this book would have been amazing and fun even if I didn’t know her. I’m always afraid that second books in series will just be kind of a boring bridge (I call it Book Two Syndrome), but this one was shockingly not at all! I felt like Let the Storm Break brought a lot more to the story line, and had a nice mix of teenage angst and action along with it. Let the Sky Fall definitely felt a little more of a romance to me, with the windwalking as a bit of a device—but Let the Storm Break really brought the story into itself.

I will have to say I don’t think the characters developed much more though. They’re pretty solid from book one, and they never waver much—which is fantastic since I like Audra and Vane as is. But they don’t surprise me much in this book, and they definitely follow the path we all think they will go on. One one hand, it would have been nice to get one or two more layers to these characters, but I enjoy them as they are, too.

The secondary characters that come in though more than made up for the missing development in the main ones. I adore Gus and everything he brought into the story. I liked Fang/Feng, even though…well. You know. Even the development of Audra’s mom and Raiden was pretty decent, though terrifying as well. There’s some seriously dark stuff in this book, man—some of the tortures and punishments could probably give me nightmares, if I thought about them too long.

Not to say this book is scary, not at all. Shannon does so well pulling humor into it, mixing with the negativity and humanity to make it this really fantastic mix. Vane’s signature sarcasm and teenage boyhood are there in full force, and it’s so much fun. I even liked him around Solana—whose story was sad and beautiful all at once. I feel for her, I really do.

Let the Storm Break is a great second book to the series—it brings in so much plot and action that I felt like it was just more and more intense as the pages went by. I’m eager to see where this goes, where the wind will take them and what it will say them. And with any luck, there will be plenty more Westerly-made haboobs.
4 Stars

Monday, March 10, 2014

[Blog Tour] The Art in Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington

Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington
SoHo Press, 280 pages
US Release Date: March 11, 2014 - Today!!
Barnes & Noble | Amazon | IndieBound | TBD

When Liv Bloom lands an art scholarship at Wickham Hall, it’s her ticket out of the foster system. Liv isn’t sure what to make of the school’s weird traditions and rituals, but she couldn’t be happier. For the first time ever, she has her own studio, her own supply of paints. Everything she could want. 

Then she meets Malcolm Astor, a legacy student, a fellow artist, and the one person who’s ever been able to melt her defenses. Liv’s only friend at Wickham, fellow scholarship kid Gabe Nichols, warns her not to get involved, but life is finally going Liv’s way, and all she wants to do is enjoy the ride. 

But Liv’s bliss is doomed. Weeks after arriving, she is viciously murdered and, in death, she discovers that she’s the latest victim of a dark conspiracy that has claimed many lives. Cursed with the ability to see the many ghosts on Wickham’s campus, Gabe is now Liv’s only link to the world of the living. To Malcolm.

Together, Liv, Gabe, and Malcolm fight to expose the terrible truth that haunts the halls of Wickham. But Liv must fight alone to come to grips with the ultimate star-crossed love.
--------------------------Goodreads Summary
Art In Liv, Forever
by Amy Talkington
My title character, Liv, is an artist. She’s obsessed with art—making it and knowing everything about it. Basically, she sees the world through art. So I thought I’d write here about the ways I tried to layer this obsession into her character and her voice.

First, and most obviously, Liv references artists and artworks. Why? Well, it’s what’s on her mind. It’s just how she thinks. These are her cultural reference points. Like, it’s not about Justin and Selena, it’s about Pablo (Picasso) and Dora (Maar). But my favorite art references are when Liv uses artworks to help explain her emotions.

Like when Malcolm does something really awesome she says:
“Impressive,” I said, downplaying the fact I was dying inside. Brain exploding like a Pollock. Heart melting like one of DalĂ­’s clocks.
Pollack
Dali
Or when Liv hears something potentially scary about Malcolm, she says:
Something washed over me right then, a feeling of sickness and powerlessness. I was Christina in Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World: stranded in a field, helpless and alone. Faceless. And Malcolm was the house: safe, secure, poised on top of the hill. I knew it had all been too good to be true, that there was something wrong with him, there had to be.
Wyeth
Or after Liv and Malcolm first connect, dancing.
Like Klimt’s famous lovers in The Kiss, we formed a single unit, as if we were wrapped in that same glistening, golden robe, protected. We were an island in a swirl of waltzing couples, a steadfast island amid a swarm of conformity.
Klimt
Another thing Liv does is references art materials and artistic styles. Among other things, it was a handy way to describe the way the other ghosts looked to her. Like:
When I turned, I suddenly came face to face with a pale girl. She was faint, as if painted in watercolor.
And, finally, Liv talks about seeing herself and her interactions from different angles, like a painter. Often, she disengages from a scene and imagines it from different vantage point. I hoped these moments would foreshadow when Liv is dead and actually is looking at herself from an invisible, “other” vantage point. All these moments lead up to this moment:
My body was cold and dull. Plump with death. My eyes were clouded, but I looked almost serene. My dark hair spread around my head, kind of like that famous painting of Ophelia floating in the river. Funny, I’d made so many self-portraits and yet I’d never really looked at myself and realized I was actually kind of pretty.
It’s bittersweet, I think. Liv was looking at herself all those years—drawing herself, painting herself—but she wasn’t really seeing herself (or loving herself) until it’s too late.

I’ve posted most of the art references on my website www.amytalkington.com (on the Liv page). If you want to know all the latest on Liv, Forever follow me on Twitter @amytalkington and Tumblr http://amytalkington.tumblr.com/
Meet The Author
Amy Talkington is an award-winning screenwriter and director living in Los Angeles. Before all that she wrote about music for magazines like Spin, Ray Gun, Interview, and Seventeen (mostly just as a way to get to hang out with rock stars). As a teenager in Dallas, Texas, Amy painted lots of angsty self-portraits, listened to The Velvet Underground and was difficult enough that her parents finally let her go to boarding school on the East Coast. Liv, Forever is her first novel.

Connect With Amy
Thanks so much Amy for joining my blog, I love seeing inspirations and depth to characters! I can't wait to read Liv, Forever.

To Purchase
Barnes & Noble | Amazon | IndieBound | TBD

Review: 16 Things I Thought Were True by Janet Gurtler (eARC)

16 Things I Thought Were True by Janet Gurtler
Sourcebooks Fire, 304 pages
Expected US Release Date: March 4, 2014
Format/Source: eARC via NetGalley - thank you!

Heart attacks happen to other people #thingsIthoughtweretrue

When Morgan's mom gets sick, it's hard not to panic. Without her mother, she would have no one—until she finds out the dad who walked out on her as a baby isn't as far away as she thought...

Adam is a stuck-up, uptight jerk #thingsIthoughtweretrue

Now that they have a summer job together, Morgan's getting to know the real Adam, and he's actually pretty sweet...in a nerdy-hot kind of way. He even offers to go with her to find her dad. Road trip, anyone?

5000 Twitter followers are all the friends I need #thingsIthoughtweretrue

With Adam in the back seat, a hyper chatterbox named Amy behind the wheel, and plenty of Cheetos to fuel their trip, Morgan feels ready for anything. She's not expecting a flat tire, a missed ferry, a fake girlfriend...and that these two people she barely knew before the summer started will become the people she can't imagine living without.
-------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
But remember, if the world didn't suck, we'd all fall off it.
I’ve only read one other Janet Gurtler book (review of How I Lost You here!), but I knew even then that she was a force in YA lit. She can tackle so many things, so many emotions with a bravely and raw real approach…reading her books always makes my heart constrict somehow. And 16 Things I Thought Were True was no exception.

First and foremost, I freakin’ love Amy. She comes barging into the book at nonstop and it just takes off from there. She is the perfect supporting character, the perfect new friend, the perfect secondary character that adds and takes away and enhances all the points you want. She has her own personality (does she ever!), and even though she really is loud and candid, she never overtakes Morgan.

I was kind of surprised how much I liked 16 Things I Thought Were True  I don’t really have any first hand knowledge of most of what happens in this book (thank goodness!), but there’s a great amount of emotion that you can relate to. I don’t know what it’s like to have a mother with a heart problem, but I know what it’s like to be scared for her health. While I am thankfully an outsider to the problems, I can feel it all pretty well.

At the same time, what happens…ok. I get it. I don’t want it to have not happened, but I felt like it was a lot to throw into a book so late in the game. There are so many problems and elements of YA novels tossed into this one, I felt a little bit rushed and crammed. Dying mom, absent mom, work drama, viral video, road trip, new love, cancer, lies, tweets, follower goals, ex-best friends…if you can think it, it’s probably somewhere in here. And there were definite moments where the plot was moving fast—almost too fast. Like, 3 sentences would span an entire gammet of emotions. Sometimes I just needed a moment to absorb what was happening.

However, I freakin’ loved so much of all that happens that I was kind of willing to look past it. The road trip was so much fun, and even though quick, it was a fantastically funny and real way to get to know Adam and Amy along with Morgan. I liked the twist with the father and that entire struggle—it was different and not what I expected.

And of course, I have to talk about Adam…I’m not too crazy about him, but he did seem to be pretty real. He wasn’t an immediate Prince Charming, he was kind of a dick for a lot of his parts…but that was kind of appealing. He meshed well with Morgan and the overall tone of the book (I swear I did not mean to call this entire book a dick haha)—it was a good complement to the vibe of the novel, is all. He’s normal, and that in itself is pretty refreshing.

16 Things I Thought Were True tackles a ton of issues (sometimes too many), but so much of it was fun and interesting that I sped through the novel and fell in love a hundred times. I wish to all the bits I have I could be friends with Amy in real life—and while I think the rest of the novel deserves to be read, she is the real reason I will push someone to read this book.

PS. Make sure to check out my blog tour post that features 2 things Janet Gurtler thought were true!
4 Stars

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

[Blog Tour] Guest Post: 16 Things I Thought Were True by Janet Gurtler (& me!)

16 Things I Thought Were True by Janet Gurtler
Sourcebooks Fire, 304 pages
Expected US Release Date: March 4, 2014

Heart attacks happen to other people #thingsIthoughtweretrue

When Morgan's mom gets sick, it's hard not to panic. Without her mother, she would have no one—until she finds out the dad who walked out on her as a baby isn't as far away as she thought...

Adam is a stuck-up, uptight jerk #thingsIthoughtweretrue

Now that they have a summer job together, Morgan's getting to know the real Adam, and he's actually pretty sweet...in a nerdy-hot kind of way. He even offers to go with her to find her dad. Road trip, anyone?

5000 Twitter followers are all the friends I need #thingsIthoughtweretrue

With Adam in the back seat, a hyper chatterbox named Amy behind the wheel, and plenty of Cheetos to fuel their trip, Morgan feels ready for anything. She's not expecting a flat tire, a missed ferry, a fake girlfriend...and that these two people she barely knew before the summer started will become the people she can't imagine living without.
-------------------------Goodreads Summary
Purchase!
I am so stoked to have Janet Gurtler on my blog today! She is a powerful voice in contemporary YA lit, and I can't wait to read more of her books. In celebration of her new book, 16 Things I Thought Were True (my review will post Friday, and spoiler: so emotional and thought-provoking!), I get to post a couple things that Janet thought was true, and throw in my own things! I cheated and split mine, but I hope you enjoy anyway.
And of course, please do pick up 16 Things when it releases on March 4!

16 Things Janet Gurtler & I Thought Were True
(Or: 2 Things Janet Thought Were True, 8 Things I Thought Were True, and 6 Things I Found Out Were, In Fact, True.)
(I thought that title would be too long.)
(I was right.)

1. I thought Mall Santa’s were Santa’s employees.
2. I thought the Easter Bunny pooped chocolate eggs.

1. James Marsters is British.
Not even lying when I say finding out he isn’t is among one of the top disappointments in my life.
2. Every traffic light was monitored by people.
They manually changed the lights according to the need or car presence, and I thought they were in bad moods when they took awhile to change the lights.
3. Peppermint mochas are only seasonal.
4. Everyone loves and adores the TV show Friends.
Everyone will automatically understand every quote or reference I make.
5. Social media isn't addictive.
6. It’s easy to keep personal and professional life separate.
7. High school attitudes and drama stays in high school.
8. Friendship is forever.
The effects of friendship are forever, and if you’re lucky some are—but friendship itself is unfortunately not.
1. Justin Timberlake really did marry Jessica Biel.
This is an old one that still depresses me to know.
2. White mochas are grossly more unhealthy than a regular mocha.
3. All blue nail polish stains.
ALL.
(Unless you get a good base coat. I recommend CND Stickey.)
4. People expect an immediate response when they text you.
They’ll get immensely offended if you don’t.
5. A heart never really heals.
Sometimes you think it does, and it could be for years, but then you see something, smell something, remember something and you realize your heart has only rebuilt around the hurt.
6. Family doesn't require a blood relation.
Thanks so much for joining my blog, Janet!
Connect with Janet