Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review--Stats and Favorite Books

I read 63 books this year, 3 more than last year.  I read 19,624 pages.

I read 1 5 star book.

Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

I read 7 4.5 star rated books.

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Divergent by Veronica Roth

The One (The Selection #3) by Kiera Cass

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Whatever Life Throws at You by Julie Cross

The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver

Book Review- My Heart and Other Black Holes

I finished reading My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga today for an Around the World ARC Tour.

From Goodreads:

A stunning novel about the transformative power of love, perfect for fans of Jay Asher and Laurie Halse Anderson.

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There's only one problem: she's not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel's convinced she's found her solution—Roman, a teenage boy who's haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner. Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other's broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together.

This was a pretty dark story with rays of light.  I don't think I've read a story that was so open and direct about suicide.  And I think there should be more.  I think this is an important story for teens to read so that they know that they're not alone in their feelings.

I liked getting to know Aysel.  I felt so bad for her and for Roman.  They were so different yet had so many of the same feelings.  I liked watching their relationship grow.

I really wasn't sure where the end was going to go.  I kind of guessed it right at the last minute but I wasn't sure.  And while it's heartbreaking, its real.  Such a tough subject but such a real one.

I gave this book a rating of 3.5/5.

My Heart and Other Black Holes will be released on February 10, 2015.

*FTC Disclosure: I was given this book for free for an honest review as part of the Around the World Tours.

Monday, December 29, 2014

In My Mailbox- December 29, 2014

In My Mailbox: Here's what I got in my mailbox in the past few weeks:

Allegiant (Divergent #3)- Veronica Roth--PaperbackSwap

Finding Mr. Brightside- Jay Clark--review for an Around the World ARC Tour

Undead and Undermined (Undead #10)- MaryJanice Davidson--PaperbackSwap

My Heart and Other Black Holes- Jasmine Warga-review for an Around the World ARC Tour

Willowgrove (Hemlock #3)- Kathleen Peacock--from publisher for review

Twisted Fate- Norah Olson-from publisher for review

The Sunday Salon- December 28, 2014

Whew!  What a rough week!  I started feeling bad on Monday, ran 20 miles and thought I was going to die on Tuesday, and was diagnosed with Strep Throat on Wednesday ( Christmas Eve).  What a rough Christmas!!

The Sunday Salon

I finished and reviewed the following book in the last 2 weeks:
The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord 

Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth

I am currently reading My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga and up next is The Taking by Kimberly Derting.

Book Reviewing Degree

Wooohooo!  I earned my degree in Book Reviewing!  Thanks Booksparks!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Review- Allegiant (Divergent #3)

I just finished reading Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth.

From Goodreads:

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered--fractured by violence and

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature--and of herself--while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

I really enjoyed the first two books so I was eager to read the ending to the trilogy (although I need to get my hands on the Four novellas).  Once again, I couldn't remember what had happened in Insurgent and only vaguely remembered parts from the Divergent movie.  But I think I quickly caught up.

I really liked Tris and Tobias's relationship in this book.  I think it grew in the right ways and after not being too sure of it and him in the previous book, I think I decisively liked him in this one.  And of course, I still loved Tris.

We got more background on the factions and where the group came from.  And while at first I found it a little confusing, I did ultimately find it intriguing.  To think of how their "city" came about was interesting.

I remember that when the book came out, a lot of people didn't like it.  But the only problem I had with it was the switching back and forth between Tris and Tobias telling the story (I can't remember if this occurred in the other two books).  Most of the time it alternated, but sometimes two chapters in a row were told by the same character but I'd forget to pay attention.  Anyways, yes, the ending was way sad.  But it was right and it fit and it made sense.  It just felt complete.  And with that, I can't wait for the next two movies!

I gave this book a rating of 4/5.

*FTC Disclosure: I traded this book with a friend.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review- The Start of Me and You

I finished reading The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord last Sunday for an Around the World ARC Tour.

From Goodreads:

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for a year, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

I really enjoyed this book.  I felt so bad for Paige. I'm not quite sure of the right words, but I found it so real that she was grieving and yet she knew that she didn't know him that well but that part of the hard part of moving on was that everyone pitied her.  If that makes any sense.

I liked that she knew who she was and stuck to it.  And yes, the ending is totally predictable but that didn't stop me from enjoying the journey of getting there.

The whole cast of characters was pretty great, actually.  I loved all of her friends.  Such a great group of girls.  Normal girls.  Not the popular ones, not the outcast type.  Just your typical great group of tight-knit gal pals.  And Max and Ryan were great guys.  Since we knew early on that Paige had crushed on Ryan for a while, I thought maybe we would find out that he was a jerk or something.  But I was happy to see that we didn't.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Paige's journey in dealing with her grief and growing into the person that she would become.

I gave this book a rating of 4/5.

The Start of Me and You will be released on March 31, 2015.

*FTC Disclosure: I was given this book for free for an honest review as part of the Around the World Tours.

Monday, December 8, 2014

In My Mailbox- December 8, 2014

In My Mailbox: Here's what I got in my mailbox last week

Autumn in the City of Angels- Kirby Howell--for review from publisher

The Start of You and Me- Emery Lord--review for an Around the World ARC Tour

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Sunday Salon- December 7, 2014

The Sunday Salon

Only 2 more weeks until Christmas break! I can't wait!

I finished and reviewed the following book in the last week:
Stillwater Rising by Steena Holmes 

I am currently reading The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord and if I don't get another tour book, I don't know what I'm picking!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Blog Tour- Stillwater Rising

I just finished reading Stillwater Rising by Steena Holmes for a Booksparks University Fall Reading Challenge.

About the book:

After losing her son in an elementary school shooting that devastates the tight-knit community of Stillwater Bay, Jennifer Crowne finds herself unable to settle back into her role of perfect stay-at-home mom and committee organizer. Meanwhile, her best friend, Mayor Charlotte Stone, struggles to keep the town together, and Charlotte’s husband, the school principal, may not be the hero everyone thinks him to be.

As they try to heal from this irrevocable trauma, Jenn and Charlotte find themselves at a crossroads—within the town and within their friendship. For Jenn, broken and grieving, there is no going back, and she demands that the school be closed so that she can bury the past. Yet Charlotte is equally desperate to hold the town together, fighting the school closure and helping the shooter’s mother regain her place in the community. Jenn and Charlotte’s relationship is put to the ultimate test as each weighs her own interests against the bonds of their friendship.

School shootings are terrifying.  Even more so because I'm a teacher.  So this one struck me deeply.  But it's not just a story about loss.  It's also about grieving, hope and friendship.

I can't even begin to image when Jenn had gone through.  And honestly, I'm surprised that more of the parents of the kids who were killed didn't feel the same way.  I certainly didn't blame her or fault her for her feelings.  And I found myself disliking her husband Robert because I didn't feel like he did care about what happened.  

I also felt so bad for Julia, the mother of the teenage who murdered the kids.  I could feel her pain.  And I can't even begin to imagine what SHE felt knowing that her own son had done the unthinkable.

As for the other characters, they were hit or miss for me.  We know Jordan, the school principal had a secret.  I thought I knew what it was but I was wrong (and I should have seen it!)  The mayor of the town and the reporter were okay but I felt like some of their actions and thoughts were misplaced.

This definitely wasn't an easy book to read but it does show how a community can band together in a time of tragedy to survive.

I gave this book a rating of 3.5/5.

*FTC Disclosure: I was given this book for free for an honest review as part of the BookSparks University Fall Reading Challenge

Buy the book:
·         Amazon Kindle
·         Amazon Paperback

About the author:

With a passion for storytelling, Steena Holmes took her dream of being a full-time writer and made it a reality, writing her first novel while working as a receptionist. She won the National Indie Excellence Book Award in 2012 for her bestselling novel Finding Emma. Steena currently lives in Calgary, Alberta, with her husband, three daughters, and two dogs. She likes to celebrate completing each new novel with chocolate.

Connect with the author:
·         Facebook
·         Twitter
·         Website
·         Goodreads

Monday, December 1, 2014

In My Mailbox- December 1, 2014

In My Mailbox: Here's what I got in my mailbox

Yup, forgot to do this for the whole month

Invaded (Alienated #2)- Melissa Landers--review for an Around the World ARC Tour

Stillwater Rising- Steena Holmes--review for a BookSparks tour

What Waits in the Woods- Kieran Scott--from publisher for review

The Reason (Ghost Huntress # 3)- Marley Gibson--PaperbackSwap

Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless- Liz Czukas--review for an Around the World ARC Tour 

Stray- Elissa Sussman--received from a friend

The Retribution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #3)- Michelle Hodkin--PaperbackSwap

The Iron Knight (The Iron Fey #4)- Julie Kagawa--Bookmooch

Immortal Hearts (Vampire Kisses #9)- Ellen Schreiber--PaperbackSwap

Shadowspell (Faeriewalker #2)- Jenna Black--PaperbackSwap

The Return (Titan #1)- Jennifer L. Armentrout--review for an Around the World ARC Tour

The Secrets We Keep- Trisha Leaver--review for an Around the World ARC Tour

The Sunday Salon- November 30, 2014

The Sunday Salon

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I know I did---going to see my grandparents in Virginia, running in 2 races, and eating lots of yummy food!

I finished and reviewed the following books in the last week:
The Wonder (Queen of Hearts #2) by Colleen Oakes

The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver

I am currently reading Stillwater Rising by Steena Holmes and up next, if I don't get a tour book, is a toss-up.  Maybe Endlessly by Kiersten White.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Book Review- The Secrets We Keep

I started AND finished The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver for an Around the World ARC Tour.

From Goodreads:

A girl takes over her twin sister's identity in this emotionally charged page-turner about the complicated bond between sisters.

Ella and Maddy Lawton are identical twins. Ella has spent her high school years living in popular Maddy's shadows, but she has never been envious of Maddy. In fact, she's chosen the quiet, safe confines of her sketchbook over the constant battle for attention that has defined Maddy's world.

When—after a heated argument—Maddy and Ella get into a tragic accident that leaves her sister dead, Ella wakes up in the hospital surrounded by loved ones who believe she is Maddy. Feeling responsible for Maddy's death and everyone's grief, Ella makes a split-second decision to pretend to be Maddy. Soon, Ella realizes that Maddy's life was full of secrets. Caught in a web of lies, Ella is faced with two options—confess her deception or live her sister's life.

I know I've said it before, but I've always been fascinated by twins (and even married one) so I knew I had to read this story.  And it didn't let me down.

I was instantly hooked reading this story and finished it in about 2 hours--all without getting off the couch.  I was so drawn in to Ella's world.  I could FEEL her pain.  And I could understand why she decided to be Maddy but I can't even imagine how hard that must have been.

There was a little twist in the story, with Maddy's secret but it wasn't the main point of the book.  It was more about the pain of losing your other half and coming to understand just who she really was.

As for the boys, I really liked them both.  I didn't want to like Alex since it seemed like Maddy's choice of friends was questionable but he fully and completely loved Maddy.  And then Josh.  How oblivious were both he and Ella not to see that there was something there from the beginning?!?!

And while the story does wrap up quite nicely, I would eagerly read a story about what happens next!

One of my favs of the year!

I gave this book a rating of 4.5/5.

The Secrets We Keep will be released on April 28, 2014.

*FTC Disclosure: I was given this book for free for an honest review as part of the Around the World Tours.

Book Review- The Wonder

During my Thanksgiving trip, I finished The Wonder (Queen of Hearts #2) by Colleen Oakes for a Booksparks University Fall Reading Challenge!

About the book:

Volume Two of the Bestselling and Award-Winning Queen of Hearts Saga Awards for Volume One, The Crown: *YA Winner, 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards* *YA Fiction Finalist, 2014 International Book Awards*

An Exiled Princess. An Ancient Tribe. A Dangerous Stranger. Dinah, the former Princess of Wonderland Palace, has been chased into the wilds of Wonderland after the murder of her brother and the ruin of her coronation. Now, as her half-sister Vittiore sits on the throne beside her father, the brutal King of Hearts, Dinah finds herself alone in the forbidding Twisted Wood with only Morte, a homicidal beast, for company. Hunted by the King and his army of Cards, Dinah struggles to evade those who long for her head, including Cheshire, the King's clever advisor, who is slowly tightening his grasp around her.

The former Princess finds herself at the center of a web of conspiracy reaching far beyond the Palace and deep into the mysterious Yurkei mountain tribes. But Dinah knows something that her allies and enemies do not: that the most dangerous conflict of all has already begun as she battles the rage inside of her, and love slips further from her grasp. But be warned...not every fairy tale has a happy ending. This is the story of a princess who became a villain.

Once again, I loved reading this take on Alice in Wonderland and seeing how the characters in this story relate to the original (both novel and Disney movie).  We see a lot of the same characters, but we also get a quick glimpse into who the caterpillar was.

There were some twists in this book.  One I didn't see coming at all.  The one towards the end, I did.

I liked Dinah more in this sequel than I did in the original book.  I thought that she was stronger and not so naive. 

 The end of the book definitely had me turning the pages.  I didn't realize I was at the end of the story until I turned the page and I wanted more!  I'm looking forward to reading the final book of the trilogy!

I gave this book a rating of 3.5/5.

*FTC Disclosure: I was given this book for free for an honest review as part of the BookSparks University Fall Reading Challenge.

Praise for the book:

Named one of the Most Cinematic Indie Books ----Kirkus Reviews
"Queen of Hearts will keep you dreaming of Wonderland long after you read the last page. I want more of these characters, more of this fantastical world!" --Lorie Langdon, author of the Doon series

Buy the book:

About the author:

Colleen Oakes is the author of the Elly in Bloom Series and the YA fantasy The Queen of Hearts Saga, both published via Sparkpress. She lives in North Denver with her husband and son. When not writing, Colleen enjoys swimming, traveling, and immersing herself in nerdy pop culture. She is currently at work on the third Elly novel and another YA fantasy series titled Wendy Darling.

Connect with the author:
·         Facebook
·         Twitter
·         Website
·         Goodreads