Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review: YA Bound Book Tours featuring Phoenix Awakens by Eliza Nolan

A paranormal debut about a high school senior who finds herself in a fight with a secret society for control of ancient magic.
Julia never believed in magic.
 Julia Long is starting her senior year with an extra dose of crazy. The dreams of cultish, bloody rituals are weird enough, but the victim in her lifelike dreams is her new classmate, Southern charmer Graham.
Graham admits he was a Phoenix - part of a centuries old secret society - but swears he left it all behind. As Julia works with Graham to figure out why she is dreaming about his past, she's discovering she has other abilities. She heals Graham's migraines with a touch, and there's her superhuman strength that comes and goes. Julia doesn't know where her new talents come from, but there's no denying that when Graham is near, her powers kick into overdrive. 
But the Phoenix Society wants Graham back. They need his blood to awaken the magic they seek, and they'll do whatever it takes to get it back.
Can Julia uncover the truth behind her connection to Graham? How far will Julia go in order to save Graham and stop the Phoenixes from harnessing this powerful magic?

Phoenix Awakens by Eliza Nolan
Release: 12 October 2015

Add to Goodreads
To purchase:  Amazon

Rating: 3 Stars

This story had a lot of good elements: magic, teenager with a missing parent, a secret society. It has all the markings of a good beginning to a series, which is good because this is apparently book one.

While there were a lot of good points, I felt that there were a few other things that detracted from the story that, had they been rectified, could have led to a stronger narrative overall.

The Good Parts

  • The plot has a great scope and could very well become at least a trilogy, if the author decides to go that way. There's a lot of history that could be explored, particularly regarding Julia's family.
  • The concept of powers that come and go was interesting, even if it did have some difficult parts. It's bad enough, right, when you're suddenly saddled with magical powers, but to not even know when they'll appear or how to control them? Scary.
  • Minneapolis was an interesting choice for the majority of the setting. I don't think I've ever read a book set there, so that was a nice change. I hope to hear more details about the town Julia lives in next time around.
  • The mythology set up was another unique aspect that I think was really interesting and could be really great if it's expanded. Julia's mother's family is Turkish in history and that opens up a world of legends that haven't been explored in recent young adult literature. These days there are a lot of works about Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology. What would an in-depth exploration of Julia's family reveal?

The Not So Good Parts

  • The first 50% of the book dragged on quite a lot. There was too much focus on Julia's ordinary day when it could have been summed up much quicker. The plot would have benefited from this in that it would have moved along quicker and gotten to the point.
  • There were a couple characters that I didn't feel were fleshed out very well. Graham, for instance, did not seem to have much going so far as a personality. I would have liked some time taken to discover more about what he was like. All I've got is that he's a guy who got into a bad situation, left, and is the love interest. 
  • Samantha was another character that seemed out of place. She felt like little more than a plot device and not a particularly successful one. I see it as this: everything she "taught" Julia could have easily been Googled. There were some connections regarding the trains that were important, yes, but her development felt weak.
  • Julia was a bit trying at times. She read younger than seventeen a lot of the time in her words and her thoughts.
This part might not be a bad point per say, but it is a thing that I had a problem with. There were a lot of questions that were left unanswered that should have been wrapped up within this book. Now they may get wrapped up in the second book, but these didn't feel like things that are being stretched to another book, rather things that were forgotten about or not thought out.

  • Aydan, Julia's dream guide, is never really explained. Who is she? Why is she appearing in Julia's dream? The only clue we get is that they're related somehow.
  • Why does Julia dream about Graham's past and the things that happened to Clara? This doesn't really get explained either. I assume it has something to do with the Phoenixes and her powers, but that's simple guesswork on my part.
  • Is Julia's mother really dead? There's speculation that whoever was supposed to kill her might not have. Which is it? This, while unanswered, is something I can live with waiting for until the next book.

Music Recommendation

What with the pull that exists between Graham and Julia, how fate seems to tie them together, I thought this song would be an appropriate choice. It reminded me also of the beginning, when Julia is watching Graham hang out with Libby and the other girls at school before realizing that Julia is who he's supposed to be with in terms of the story.

Special Excerpt from Phoenix Awakens

I rush down the wooded path as fast as I can. My legs throb and my lungs burn as I rush down the wooded path as fast as I can. My legs throb and my lungs burn as a I push forward through the night.

I should be heading in the other direction, away from danger, but my survival instinct is overpowered by an even deeper need. A need so primal I can't name it; I only feel its pull and have to obey.

A man's yell cuts through the forest. I race even faster towards the bloodcurdling sound. But when I get there, it's too late. I hide behind a tree at the edge of the clearing. 

Light from a bonfire illuminates a group of men in hooded cloaks. At their feet kneels a teenage boy. He's wearing jeans and nothing else. Blood drips down his chest from fresh cuts. One of the men stands over him, a bloody knife in his hand. The boy wavers on his knees and collapses to the ground. The others move away, leaving him where he lies, motionless.

The shuffle of their feet fades as they towards the swamp.

The only sound left is the racing thump, thump of my heart, so loud I'm sure all the creatures in the forest can hear. I tiptoe out into the clearing and, seeing no one else, rush over to the guy. Still breathing, he is curled up in a ball on the ground. His body is covered in a mixture of dirt and his own blood. So much blood!

"Hey." My voice comes out in an unsteady whisper. "Are you okay?"

He turns to face me and I startle when I recognize him.

My hands shake as I reach out to him. I brush his shoulder with my fingertips and sharp pain shoots through them and up my arm. It's like a million pink pricks at once.

I jerk my hand away, crying out.

About the Author
Eliza Nolan was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She lived in Charleston, South Carolina, for a few years, after which she return to icy Minnesota where she now lives with her two cats in a house smaller than your closet.

She is an avid reader and writer of YA. She has ghostwritten a novel or two, but also writes her own stuff and is finally getting ready (to get ready) to publish her debut young adult urban fantasy novel, Phoenix Awakens.

Author Links:

Website - Goodreads - Twitter - Facebook

GIVEAWAY: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blitz organized by YA Bound Book Tours

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Top 5 Wednesday: Halloween Reads

This week is one of my favorite of the year. The temperature is finally cool, if not quite cold. The change in the trees is amazing, and the bounty of a fall harvest is come home at last. The best part? Halloween is this Saturday! It is a great holiday, lots of fun, and we've got our own traditions in my home that I look forward to. My son's four now, so he's a good age to really get into things, particularly the trick or treating.

This week for Top 5 Wednesday I've got five reads for you that would be ideal for the Halloween season.

The Box by Richard Matheson

This short story is very creep and asks you a terrifying question: how well do we really know anyone, even those closest to us? The ending will leave you with a chill.

One Day at Horrorland by R.L. Stine

I read a lot of the Goosebumps books as a child and this one was my absolute favorite. Imagine the best amusement park in the world...and then imagine that it exists only in your nightmares. This book is a lot of fun and works particularly well for the nostalgia factor.

The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs

This story will teach you an important lesson: be careful what you wish for. Whenever I think about what it would be like to have wishes, this is one of the stories that I remember and it reminds me: it is ALL about phrasing your wish and thinking it out. Same goes for if you're dealing with Faeries.

One of my favorites animes, xxxHolic, had an episode based around this legend that illustrates what happens when you think you can beat the power of the Monkey's paw.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz

For those of you out there with children, this title is one of my favorites to read to my son. I loved Snoopy and the gang growing up and I've been trying to get my son interested in them as well. The Christmas special is my favorite of the lot, but Linus's faith and belief in the Great Pumpkin really touches me in this story.

Demon in My View by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

This is the second book in the Den of Shadows series and is my favorite, I think. It has some of the same characters from the first book, In the Forest of the Night. It tells the story of Jessica, a teenager at odds with her classmates. She is an author whose debut book has just been released, though no one at her school knows it. It's a novel chock full of vampires and their goings on. What Jessica doesn't realize, however, is that all of her characters are real.

A fast read, Demon in My View is something that I would have dreamed about as a teenager and still love revisiting to this day.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Debut Authors

I was introduced to the concept of Waiting on Wednesday by Talina over at Sassy & Dangerous. Basically, these are some titles that I am really looking forward to that have not been published yet. For my first Waiting on Wednesday, I am focusing on Debut Authors.

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

A socially awkward teenage genius needs to save the world? Color me intrigued at the very least! I wrote a letter to Katie all about why I was looking forward to this book and it just bears repeating! I can't believe it's going to be so long before this book is published. I can only pray that I pick up an ARC somewhere!

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Time Travel? Check. Messing with the past? Check. Set in Hawaii? Now that is something I can get behind. If it has time travel, I'll probably always check it out. However, this sounds downright cool, different, plus it's set somewhere that I rarely see in fiction.

Nix's dad can sail his ship anywhere in time and space, so long as he has a map. That alone sounds awesome. Now he's got a map to a time before his wife died in childbirth. You know something's going to go down because you just do not muck with fixed events like that! Stuff will change if you succeed! I need to know what the repercussions are going to be if he succeeds and what Nix is going to do about it.

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

What is Breezy? Is she a zombie? Why is she waking up in her grave a year after the funeral? There are so many questions I have about this book brought on by the synopsis! Thankfully this book comes out sooner rather than later (January '16).

Monday, October 26, 2015

Review: His New Jam by Shannyn Schroeder

Sydney Peters can’t wait to finally drop the cymbals in marching band and devote time to her true love: drums. With the semester coming to a close, she’s blocking out the cacophony during practice, especially sax serenades from Hunter Reed. But when Hunter offers her a paid gig as a drummer in his band, Sydney quickly changes her tune. The two favor different styles, but they make beautiful music together…in more ways than one. 

Hunter is fascinated by Sydney’s distant allure. He might be a ladies’ man on campus, but the sarcastic cymbalist is impervious to his advances. When Hunter sees how passionate Sydney is behind the drums, he orchestrates a plan to find out if she kisses like she plays. What he doesn’t anticipate, however, is falling so hard. But will the repercussions of his past crash down on his chance at something real?

I received this ARC from NetGalley & the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Rating: 3 Stars

Having read the other two Hot & Nerdy books from this "trilogy", I wanted to jump right in to this one. It is Hunter's story, a character that has been mentioned in His Work of Art and His Dream Role. Having read those two books first, I fully expected Hunter to be some sort of playboy character that wouldn't be sympathetic at all. It turns out he was the best part of the book.

I didn't agree with a lot of what Sydney seemed to feel and act upon. She was incredibly negative about a lot of things, least of which was the marching band that she was in due to a scholarship. Being there gave her this incredible opportunity to get an education, but she looked down her nose at it the entire time.

I thought that her character also went a bit back and forth. One minute she's a fairly confident young woman who loves to drum, the next she's reduced to a bit of a whiner. I understand that she has a history of bad decisions, mostly centering around her high school sweetheart, but she never lets herself move on. It seems like she's about to multiple times, but then she runs away emotionally and sinks back into this version of herself that is much weaker than the face she puts on the rest of the time.

Also, she is admittedly extremely jealous, even though Hunter has proven that he can be trusted multiple times. I'm not sure whether this stems from her experience in high school, but it felt unrealistic to me. I think that, had the story continued, Hunter might have gotten sick of her jealously, assuming she doesn't figure out a way to deal with her insecurities.

The story moved along as a good pace and the characters, despite their flaws, were amusing and engaging. I wanted very much to find out how things would end for them, again despite the problems I had with their personalities.

I've noticed something about this series, though. With the exception of Adam from His Work of Art, neither Hunter nor Free (His Dream Role) want to make careers out of what we are introduced to as their main passion. I can't decide how I feel about that. In most novels, if a guy wants to be an actor or a musician despite his wealthy family's wishes, he is going to do it. In these novels, the passions are more hobbies than true loves. It's a different perspective that, while refreshing, is a bit confusing and disheartening. This is what would happen in the real world and when I'm reading a book, I don't always want reality to show itself in this way.

Music Recommendation

The funny thing about this book is that the song Let Her Go by Passenger, which I recommended for His Work of Art, makes an appearance in this book as played by Hunter. Since I couldn't recommend the same song twice, I had to think about this for a bit and finally decided on Waiting for Love by Avicii. I heard this song before I watched the videos, so perhaps the story in the music video doesn't quite sync with what you'd see happening in His New Jam, but from the lyrics alone I heard a bit of Hunter and a bit of Sydney.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

October Owlcrate Box Review: Spooky

This is one of my most anticipated boxes yet. I love Halloween and, really, the whole fall season. When I saw that the theme for this month was spooky, I got very excited. Look at all this cool stuff!

A view of the box after opening, but before unpacking (minus the shredded paper that buffers everything).

This is a pretty cool satchet that has an adventure scent. The company that makes them has a variety of things that, when you're reading the right book, you sniff and it's almost like you're in the story! This packet is Vampire Lair. Mwahahaha. *lol*

Here you have a small bag from Out Of Print that has Edgar Allen Poe's face all over it. Who better to feature during October?

Tiny magnetic bookmarks? A skeleton and a witch? All for me! :D These are adorable and perfect. I prefer magnetic markers because they're less likely to fall out.

Here you've got some sugar skull erasers. I think I'll use these for decoration rather than their intended purpose for two reasons. 1) I don't use pencils. 2) They're too nice looking.

And, the best part of the box (of course!) is the book for this month: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis. I forgot that this was on my TBR until I read the inside flap. It's so deliciously spooky that I think I'll dive into it just as soon as I finish up some books I have for review. I can't wait to share my review of this book with you in the near future!

Friday, October 23, 2015

TAG: The Sleeper & the Spindle Tag

Margot from Team Epic Reads posted a tag recently: The Sleeper & the Spindle Tag. I read The Sleeper & the Spindle when it was first published as a short story in Trigger Warning, Neil Gaiman's third collection of short fiction. There was an edition published a little bit ago that was fully illustrated by Chris Riddell, the same artist that illustrated Gaiman's children's classics in the UK: Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and Fortunately, the Milk. It is a lovely book with a see through dust jacket and a binding with scenes taken straight from the book.

So pretty!

What would you change about your favorite fairy tale?

My favorite fairy tale is actually Beauty & the Beast, but the ending works out alright for the characters in that story, so for this question I'll go with my second favorite: The Little Mermaid.

In the original version of the story, the Ariel character gets a raw deal in the end. She sacrificed everything for her prince, who ends up marrying someone else. She ends up dying and although she is given  the chance to earn a soul, that didn't sit well with me. She shouldn't have had to go through another 100 years or so as an angel figure to get her supposed happy ending. Why couldn't the prince have just been happy with her as she was: loving and faithful, albeit voiceless?

If you were cursed to sleep forever, where would you sleep?

If I'm going to be cursed to sleep, then a peaceful place like Snow White's forest seems like a good choice. I assume the sleeping curse is something like being in a coma and it's been said that people in comas can sense what is going on around them, even hear their loved ones speaking to them. I'd be protected here by my family of dwarves and the woodland animals, and maybe I'd even sense the changes in the forest through the seasons. There are worse places to be than this.

If you could live in any fairy tale, which one would you choose?

I'd choose something like the show Once Upon a Time. A haven of magic in a world without magic, this series of stories has all the best fairy tales mixed together, but I confess, there is one pairing that I would want to be a part of more than all the others.

Rumple and Belle are my favorite pairing from this work and I hold the highest of hopes that they'll find their happy ending someday.

What is the worst curse a witch could bestow upon you?

The absolute worst would be blindness. I could not take the feeling of helplessness at not being able to see anymore, not to mention the fact that I wouldn't be able to read anymore. Listening to audio books, learning Braille, that's all well and good, but losing the ability to pick up any volume and flip through it at will would crush me.

Would you choose to be Snow White or Sleeping Beauty?

I would choose Snow White. While the original Disney movie versions were on the same level (didn't do a whole lot in the grand scheme of things), other retellings have made me more Snow White than Sleeping Beauty. She becomes a stronger character than that of Sleeping Beauty and I'd rather take a chance with a poisonous apple than with a "poisonous" spindle.

What fairy tale would you want to read as a YA retelling?

There are so many retellings out there already that it's hard to choose something that hasn't been done. I'm always up for a Beauty & the Beast retelling, but I have a feeling that a YA version might come across as too shallow, especially if it were set in modern times. I would love to see more Snow White retellings. I can't think of one off the top of my head that I've read recently.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review: His Work of Art by Shannyn Schroeder

Reese Carter is definitely not your average college girl. She'd prefer to spend Saturday nights playing Hero's Crusade than attending a wild frat party on campus. When she bands together with Adam, fellow comic enthusiast and illustrator, it appears that Reese has formed a dream team sure to propel her writing into the comic hall of fame.

Adam Hayes has never met a girl like Reese. She's sassy, smart, and loves talking comics, although he can't see why she'd choose DC over Marvel. He's thrilled to finally put his artistic chops to use in their upcoming comic project. But. this relationship is strictly professional. Or so he tells himself. When the two combine forces, they churn out magic in more ways than they had planned; they never expected to develop a steamy romantic sub-plot of their own...

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Rating: 4 Stars

I accidentally started reading this series in reverse order, having started with His Dream Role, but luckily that doesn't seem to matter. I thought that Free from His Dream Role would have been my favorite character, what with his fascination with pop culture and the constant costumes that he wore. However, having since read His Work of Art, I think that Adam and Reese are a more interesting couple to read.

Adam had relationship issues from the start because he was attracted to Reese, a problem for him because she was white. He wasn't prejudiced himself, but rather his father had abandoned the family because he couldn't take the constant comments and insults that he got because his wife was white and he was black. Being a mixed race child, this made Adam particularly sensitive to what it might be like if he were openly involved with Reese. He's genuinely interested in her, but even before they begin dating they meet up for coffee and he hears a racial insult directed toward Reese. He becomes protective of her, but he goes about it in all the wrong ways, figuring that distancing himself from her without really telling her why is the right way to go.

Reese, now that I think back on it, was slightly underdeveloped. We get her basic history: she and her mom are living on their own because her mom left her dad due to his abuse. This sets up her distrust of men, but it's a very bare bones backstory. It isn't fleshed out much, which is more annoying after the fact than a real problem during the course of reading the story.

I would like to have heard more about Adam and Reese's stories, particularly since what happened to them as children has such a huge impact on them as adults. I did enjoy their interactions and their resolution though, as well as the interaction with the other men from the Hot & Nerdy series.

Music Recommendation

This music video by Passenger reminded me of some of the hangups that Adam had regarding his relationship with Reese. His problem was that he thought that because his dad abandoned his wife due to racial intolerance of their marriage, he would be subject to the same situation. He didn't know what he was doing to himself, though, by letting the past cloud his view of a relationship with Reese until he nearly lost her.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Top 5 Wednesday: Authors You've Discovered This Year

This was the year that I really found and got interested in watching Booktube. This increased my exposure to new books by an insane amount. I couldn't be more thankful for it because I am finding new books and reading more genres than ever before.

Below are some of the authors that, while I might have heard of before, I really discovered by picking up their works and really delving into their worlds.

Sarah J. Maas, author of the Throne of Glass series

This was one of the first authors that I really discovered when entering this crazy bookish world. I only read Throne of Glass recently and am very much obsessed with that world now.

Leigh Bardugo, author of the Grisha trilogy and Six of Crows

Another author who has a few books out so at least I have some works to catch up on! I started Shadow & Bone when it was on sale on my Kindle and I've fallen in love with the characters and the world within it. I can't wait to read more, especially now that Six of Crows has been released.

Maggie Stiefvater, author of The Raven Cycle and The Wolves of Mercy Falls

I started reading The Raven Boys. Then my husband picked it up. Now we're both reading our way through the series. There aren't a lot of authors that make us want to read their books together, so that definitely gives Maggie more points in my book.

Kiera Cass, author of The Selection series

A lot of the books I read are heavy emotionally. There is a lot to love about The Selection, but what I love most is that it doesn't make me cry when I'm done reading it. I think Kiera's writing is lovely and just the right thing when I need to take it easy. I'm glad to have read her books so far and that I made it to the fandom in time for the last half of the series.

Patrick Ness, author of the Chaos Walking series and A Monster Calls

And here is an author that writes just what I was talking about in the last bit. The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy, is a good book so far, but it bears down on you as you write. You really feel the pressure that the world is succumbing to. A Monster Calls is a spooky tale that bears down on you as well, as any good creepy read should. Glad to have found this good sir, as his books are there for when you need something with meat on its bones.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Trees of Reverie October Read-A-Thon: Daily Bookish Challenges | Day Four: Tuesday, October 20

In all the excitement over the past weekend, I forgot to mention that I was participating in Trees of Reverie Readathon. It started 17 October and runs for a week. Now it is Day Four already, so I'll jump right in.

Currently reading: His Work of Art by Shannyn Schroeder
                            Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
                            A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

For the daily challenge, see my answers below!

Daily Bookish Challenge
Trees of Reverie October Read-a-thon
Day Four: Tuesday, October 20

If you liked...

The Selection by Kiera Cass

You might like...

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

One of my favorite parts of The Selection was the description of beauty all around America once she became part of the competition. The dresses, the dinners, etc. America is a bit of a lady figure, though, so if you were looking for something with a bit more meat to it, Throne of Glass has it. Celaena also enters a competition, though this one's for the King's Assassin. However, while she is waiting for the challenges to arise, she is dressed every bit as fine as America was. The palace is described beautifully and the library! Wow, you'd think you'd walked into the Beast's castle and right into Belle's own library.

If you liked...

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

You might like...

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

In Shadow and Bone, you'll enter a world of magic and war. Alina learns of her great ability and meets the Darkling, a man who promises to help her learn how to wield this party. He isn't all that he seems, however, as much as I kept hoping that he was, in fact, a hero that would be worthy of Alina.

In The Young Elites, Adelina is much the same way. She learns about her power, meets people that promise to help her learn how to use it, but in a twist, she becomes the anti-heroine of the piece. This is a great book and one that seriously twists your notions of good and evil and who you should be rooting for.

If you liked...

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

You might like...

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Dragons, obviously! That's the first of many fabulous things you might like about both books and what would draw you from one to the other. The fact that Christopher Paolini himself gave a blurb for the book speaks volumes!

In Eragon you've got one of the last dragons in existence, learning to be one with her rider and save the world from the evil king who has the other dragon.

In Seraphina, the dragons can shape shift into humans. There's political intrigue, a mysterious murder, and a secret the main character is keeping for the sake of her life.

All of these epic story-lines, in both novels, weave together and create an supreme narrative that encompasses the best of dragon inclusive fiction.

Friday, October 16, 2015

TAG: The Lunar Chronicles Book Tag

I'm a sucker for fairy tales, especially when it's a reimagination. The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite series to do this. Brittany from The Book Addict's Guide created this tag to celebrate the series, whose final volume Winter is coming out at the end of this year.

Gorgeous, isn't it? In honor of its publication, due 12 November 2015 (the week after my birthday), I decided to take on the questions in the tag.

Cinder - The Cyborg
A book that's often misunderstood or unappreciated

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan

This book about a food service crew on the last night that their restaurant really hit home for me. My first job was in food service and I commend people that work at a restaurant for any length of time. It is hard, not because of the tasks you have to complete alone, but because of the people that you have to deal with. It seems like a larger than average number of ignorant and stupid people antagonize the workers of such establishments because they think the workers are unintelligent, overpaid, etc. Wow, what a far reach from the truth!

O'Nan gets it right when he describes the feeling that the staff might have considering the situation they're in. They're all losing their jobs at the end of the shift. That they manage to care at all, much less during a snow storm!, is a miracle.

Apparently this book got a lot of praise on NPR, but I never hear it talked about. I think more people should read it so that it can get at least some praise from ordinary people instead of an organization for a change.

Kai - The Prince
A book about royals/royalty

Ellie and the Elven King by Helen A. Rosburg

I'm not usually a big fan of hyper romance novels, which this book does kind of trend towards. What I liked about this book, though, was its combination of illustrations and photographs that had a fantastical beauty to them that complemented the story. It's a nice, short illustrated story that takes you away for a little while.

Adri - The Evil Stepmother
A book with a horrible/cringe-worthy parent

Josephine Hurst from Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

The controlling grip that this woman has on her family, both before and during the course of this story, is insane. You don't even realize how crazy she is until the end of the story. The sort of dominance displayed by her is emotionally abusive, particularly toward her son. I think one of the scariest things about this sort of person, let alone parent, is the artificial face they put on that makes everyone else think that things are perfect.

Iko - The spunky sidekick
A book with your favorite happy-go-lucky character

Bob the Skull from The Dresden Files (first appears in Storm Front)

Bob is a spirit of intellect bound to serve the owner of his skull. He is addicted to romance novels and is at least as sarcastic as Harry is. His smart ass remarks and his help through many difficult situations makes me love him as Harry's sidekick, though I'm not sure he'd approve of the word sidekick.

Scarlet - The Rescuer
A book with a character on a mission

Kate Thompson from Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

This is one of my most anticipated reads of 2015. I haven't finished it yet, but I did start it while I was in Barnes & Noble the other day. I was drawn in from the first chapter and I think that the journey that Kate is on for revenge and justice is something that has the great possibility to be epic.

Wolf - The Fighter
A book with a brutal fight (with words or fists)

The Lords of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Admittedly I'm only partly finished with this series, but there are several battles that take place within this series. Sometimes I can view them more from a strategist's position, but when you let yourself open your eyes, there are some rather brutal and tragic moments in combat.

Levana - The Villain
A book with the absolute worst villain

Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

What I find most evil about Umbridge is she is in a position where she is supposed to be supportive of her students. She is meant to help them and at first this is the face that she prevents. However, even as she continues to project the loving teacher, her evil seeps out and infects everyone she comes into contact with. She abuses her students, subtly and not so subtly threatens them. 

The scariest villains are the ones that don't look or act it when you first encounter them.

Throne - The Rascal
A book with the biggest schmoozer

Rhy from A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Unlike a lot of characters that schmooze and try to impress everyone, Rhy is actually a likeable character. He's close to the main character, Kell, and he is open to "loving" anyone, though whether he has met The One yet is up for debate. I think he's having a good time and enjoying himself; can't fault him too much for that.

Cress - The Hacker
A book about technology, or sci-fi

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

This book changed the way people thought about robots. It established the 3 Laws of Robotics. It's a frightening thought that this is what our world could come to someday: a world dependent on robots and all they can do for us.

Erland - The Doctor
A book with an illness or revolving around medical issues

Adelina from The Young Elites by Marie Lu

The blood fever that swept her world is what shaped the course of Adelina's future. This book is amazing in that our heroine becomes something of an anti-heroine because of what has been done to her by those that should have loved her, and the mysterious powers that the blood fever left her with.

Winter - The Unsound Mind
A book with the craziest character you've ever read

Sebastian/Jonathan Christopher Morgenstern from The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare

This guy pushes all the wrong buttons. He kills children, corrupts Shadowhunters, and is eerily close to his sister. He is one big ball of bat crap craziness.

Jacin - The Solider
A book with a military theme

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabba Tahir

The writing sucks you in and the story makes you never want to leave. Elias is a solider about to commit treason. Laia wants to save her people and avenge her family. Excuse me while I go weep in the corner, waiting for the sequel.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Review: His Dream Role by Shannyn Scroeder

Free Mitchell loves the theater. In his dreams he's the one taking the spotlight. But so far he's played against character by following in his father's footsteps as an investment banker. When he's masquerading as Dr. Who or Sherlock Holmes to help his brother, he feels he can escape his shy, dorky persona. But nothing's prepared him to play boyfriend to a gorgeous girl like Samantha Wolf.

Samantha isn't quite sure what to think of Free. He's cute, sweet, and quirky, but his outlandish costumes make him seem crazy. However, it turns out Sam has a soft spot for theater nerds. And the more time they spend together, the more their steamy romance begins to take center stage. Only problem is, there doesn't seem to be a script. And it's anyone's guess how this one will end.
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Rating: 4 Stars

I wasn't sure what to expect from this novel, as it was a new author to me. Having read it, I would now say that I would be more than happy to read more books by Shannyn Schroeder, especially if they're a part of of Hot & Nerdy series.

One of the first things that I liked were the pop culture references. There were a lot of them, some of them favorites of mine, but I never felt like they were overpowering or just thrown in there to keep the book relevant. Free, for example, cosplays as a way to help draw attention from his self conscious brother while he exercises.

The family dynamics in this book could easily have gone over the top and become cliches of problem families: rich parents that think they know what's best for their kids, pressuring them into the parents plans, etc. While the narrative easily could have gone that way, the author chose to humanize Free's parents as well as Samantha's (the female MC). It was refreshing to see that happen, for the parents to be overbearing as parents can be, but to not spiral into these awful people that care more about image and status than the happiness of their children.

Which leads me to the main characters, Free and Samantha. They were each a joy to read, together and on their own. Usually I'd expect a character like Free (an actor in his spare time) to rebel against his investment banker dad and say how his acting was his art, man! In this, however, while he loved acting, it didn't have to be everything to him. He was getting the best of both worlds: his acting which was a break from the real world, and the banking job which he liked and was very good at.

Samantha was a good person, studying to be a social worker. She did have a few of the rich girl trying to make it on her own traits (refusing Daddy's car, dating boys that she knew would annoy her dad), but I didn't think that they overpowered her personality. She genuinely wants to help her "clients", the women and children at the domestic abuse center she volunteers at. You could feel it through her involvement with projects for them, reading through practice case studies, and so on.

I liked how the problem of the story, the thing that might break them up, wasn't ludicrous as I see in romance novels sometimes. It was believable and while, yes, I think Sam bore rather more responsibility in it even becoming a thing, it wasn't something that they let blind them to the power of owning up to your mistakes and pursuing a future together.

Music Recommendation

I found this video on my Youtube Favorites list from ages ago and it reminds me perfectly of Free, especially with his costumes, but also Samantha because she is deciding who she wants to be regardless of expectations and pursuing it wholeheartedly.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Diverse Characters

This is an interesting topic and one that is, of course, very important. I had to think long and hard about some of these choices.

What I like when I'm reading is to be able to picture the character as clearly in my mind as possible. This isn't always possible, though, because a lot of authors are very basic about their character descriptions. They might say what hair color or eye color the character has, but then they won't mention what ethnicity the character is which is just as important as the basics I just mentioned.

Here are my choices for this week's topic, in no particular order.

Madeline from Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

There wasn't much made of Madeline's diversity, exactly, but I appreciated that she was well described and I was therefore able to care about her more through being able to see her in my mind's eye.

Shahrzad from The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

I loved getting a peek into the world of Shahrzad and what it is like for a woman in her culture, especially under the rule of Khalid. The description of her life, the intricate parts of it from behavior to food to clothing and surroundings was one of the my favorite parts of the story.

Park from Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

I would have loved to hear more about Park's mother in this book and his relationship with her. There wasn't as much focus on his racial identity, which as a huge part of his identity might have explained some of why he acted the way he did in his relationship with Eleanor.

Lara Jean from To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

What I liked about Lara Jean and her culture in this book is that there are actual opportunities for us to see it. There are gatherings with her mother's side of the family that show us Korean culture and traditions instead of being casually mentioned and then forgotten. I really felt for her father, who is white and therefore "other" to his deceased wife's relatives. It must have been so hard for him to interact with this culture that he wasn't exactly a part of anymore except through his daughters.

Claudia from The Baby-sitter's Club series by Ann M. Martin

I think that Claudia was probably one of the first diverse characters that I ever read. She is at least the earliest one that I remember. She comes from a fairly traditional Japanese family and was the character that I most wanted to be from that series. Claudia was intensely passionate about her art, which was frowned upon by her parents and more intellectually inclined older sister. Despite the pressure she was facing, she wasn't afraid to follow her dreams. That was an important lesson for me at the age that I was when I found these books.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.