Friday, September 22, 2017

Another September Book Haul (YA Novels)

Check out the YA Books I purchased this week! I'm super excited about these books. Look for these book reviews in the upcoming weeks.

Warcross by Marie Lu
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: Sept. 12, 2017
Pages: 368

Trell by Dick Lehr
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publicaton Date: Sept. 12, 2017
Pages: 320

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: Feb. 28, 2017
Pages: 320

Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: Feb. 27, 2018
Pages: 325

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, 481 pages
Published September 10th 2013 by St. Martin's Press

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & Park. A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

My thoughts:

It's weird to start reading more YA again after such a long hiatus, especially now that it is for a class and I couldn't necessarily choose to not read this book if I found it too slow at the beginning. Having a YA book chosen for me makes me really appreciate whether or not I truly enjoyed it since I have to stick around till the end. Had a publisher sent me this book to read I would always have the option to stop reading had the book seemed actually terrible and I couldn't get to the end. With a class though, I had to finish no matter what opinions I could get about it because I had a quiz at the end that would factor into whether or not I pass.

At first, I'm not sure whether it was because the book was chosen for me or because it was just a while since I read young adult, Fangirl seemed a little slow to me. It didn't feel like it was picking up until I realized how engrossed into it I was by the second half of the book. It was an especially great book for me to get back into reading YA since it was set in a relatable time period of life, college, something I'm experiencing right now.

Cath, the main character, really relies on narrative intimacy. She loves a series so much that she has it woven into her own life and even writes successful fanfiction based on it. What makes this story so easy to get into and relatable for me is seeing a socially awkward girl learn to come out more as she begins college. Though at times, even I couldn't completely sympathize with Cath, I could totally see myself having the same problems when I first started college- being scared of going to the dining hall or being intimidating by a totally new person being my roommate. As the book progresses, I really appreciate that Cath comes out of her shell and really discovers what lengths she can take her talent in writing. For any high schooler afraid of starting college or even someone who has already been through freshman year, this book is a nice read to learn that sometimes it takes a while to come out of your shell.

Anyone who loves being drawn into books and feels like it takes them forever to leave the world of a book even after reaching the last sentence can see how Rainbow Rowell used that feeling and built a whole novel to explore the effects it can have on a book lover.

As I mentioned before though, the beginning of the book for me was slightly too drawn out though I do recommend sticking it out until the end if you are given the choice to put it down. I also had a problem with the end and felt like it wrapped up so many things way too soon.

My rating:

I would give this book 4/5 stars for an honest and well-written exploration of such an interesting concept found so often in the universe of bibliophiles.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review: Breakfast Tea & Bourbon by Pete Bissonette (A Real Treasure Hunt Book)

     Breakfast Tea & Bourbon by Pete 
     Publisher: Learning Strategies 
     Publication Date: February 9, 2017
     Genre: Adventure; Self-Help; Mystery
     Pages: 208

Goodreads Synopsis: Pete Bissonette hid $50,000. He wrote a novel about a treasure hunt. Follow the hints and clues in the novel to find the $50,000.

Solve this novel’s mystery to find real treasure worth $50,000! Follow five best friends who sign up for a treasure hunt, rent a dilapidated RV, and head out on the search. This funny and quirky novel is a story within a story, because woven between the lines are clues to an actual treasure hidden for you to find.

My Review:   I was super excited to read this book about friends going on a treasure hunting adventure. It sounded so cool. And the cherry on top that attracted me even more to this book, was that the book was filled with lots of hidden clues and hints that led to a REAL treasure in the U.S. for the readers to find worth $50,000 (YES that is not a typo! Can you believe that?!).  So of course I had to read this book. This book got so much publicity on YouTube and real treasure hunting blogs since the book came out in February. A lot of people actively searched for this treasure.

I had so much fun trying to decipher the clues to figure out where the treasure was hidden, even though I was unsuccessful in determining the correct location. Some clues were easy and others were just too hard for me. You had to put the clues together somehow and according to the author, follow what the characters in the book did. The actual hidden treasure itself was not disclosed to the readers, so based on reading the book, you would just know it was the treasure when you saw it.  So that added some extra fun by guessing what it could be.  Once the item was found, it would be exchanged for $50,000 in dollar coins or a check, plus a $5000 donation to your favorite charity.  How awesome is that?!

In terms of the story itself, it wasn't as great as I'd hoped, unfortunately. The story had a quirky feel to it, but that's not what disappointed me, the structure and flow did. The story jumps all over the place and I was left confused at times.  The story gets pulled away from the plot through various distractions, which relate to the author's company called Learning Strategies, so at times it feels like a self-help book.  On a more positive note, you are left with a bunch of good moral lessons. When the story did stick to the plot, it was an OK read. I was definitely interested in whether or not the friends would find the treasure, and appreciated the dynamic of their friendship. 

I had a hard time deciding how to rate this book, because it felt like such a bipolar read, in terms of me loving the real treasure hunt solving part of it, but not loving the story as much. But at the end of the day, I had to base it on the merit of the book writing itself, and not the money that could be won from it. Although I did give the rating an extra half star just for including the actual treasure giveaway.

By the way, the REAL $50,000 treasure was found in July of this year (a few weeks after I finished reading the book). BUT, you still have a chance to win some money (possibly a reason to buy the book?). The author Pete Bissonette said he included clues to THREE real treasure hunts in this book, so there is a high likelihood that there will be a second and possibly a third REAL treasure hunt associated with this book. The author announced that the "missing chapter" of this book will be released to activate the second treasure hunt once a sponsor is found, which he is actively searching for.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

September Book Haul


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Review: The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

                  The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
              Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
              Publication Date: July 2016
              Genre: Adult Mystery/Thriller
              Pages: 352

Goodreads Synopsis:  In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another intense read.

My Review:
This was a captivating read filled with non-stop (but fun) detective-like work to figure out the mystery of the girl in cabin 10. Intelligently done and well thought out. It's filled with red herrings, great cliff hangers that make you want to read more, and interesting twists and surprises. It keeps you guessing until the end. And best of all, the ending was awesome! I love it when i feel satisfied after reading a book. And you will too. I loved it so much, I already ordered her other two books, In a Dark, Dark Wood, and The Lying Game. I went from not knowing this author before reading this book, to now being a big fan of her work. Ruth Ware is definitely an author who I will follow for a while.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Friday, March 11, 2016

Book Review: Troubled Mission by John Wagner

Troubled Mission
by John Wagner  Published July 2015 by Kelly House
Summary from Goodreads:
What happens when, after a life-changing study-tour of Peru, a successful US attorney abandons his law practice to volunteer with a religious organization and travel to Peru to fight for human rights in the midst of a culture of violence and terror? Not what he expected. In his sometimes romantic, sometimes terrifying, always inspiring memoir, John Wagner searches for love, spirituality, and the chance to fight against injustice and oppression in a country not his own, while working for a religious organization he could not trust. Wagner lives under a death threat from the fanatical Sendero Luminoso terrorist organization that he must keep secret from his religious community. He develops an on-and-off love affair with Bella, a beautiful but mysterious Peruvian teacher. He faces dramatic betrayals. He accidentally travels into the heart of the drug capital of the world. Day by day, he sees the increasing violence in Peru and overnight, he sees Peru’s president become a dictator, shredding the rule of law. After a terrorist attack in a small town, he confronts Peruvian Army officers head-on to gain access to the scene. Then he must help prepare for burial the bloody, ravaged, body of a campesina woman killed in that attack. In this story, Wagner skillfully interweaves his inner struggles, including coming to grips with a new language, a new culture, a lower station in life, and a new perspective on his native Catholicism. Finally, he stumbles into what would become a landmark human rights case, stopping the Peruvian government from persecuting human rights lawyers. Ultimately, Troubled Mission is the story of human redemption. Many people seek personal change only to find unexpected obstacles. Troubled Mission shows how we can find redemption—or redemption finds us—in so many unexpected ways.

This novel is a memoir written by John Wagner, a successful lawyer who left his career and life behind in the United States to go to Peru. It talks about his life-changing experiences and struggles there that have brought him to where he is today. The novel definitely had a very interesting story to tell. It is definitely not a dry biography or memoir. The way the book is structured also adds to its drawing nature, making it an interesting but not overly clean cut or too easy read. His choice to go to Peru and its aftermath is really a story I recommend to readers who are looking for more in story past a good plot or ending. You really get to see the life-altering experience through his eyes and experience it with him.
The novel is written in a candid manner that doesn't purposefully glorify or hide any of his experiences. The reader really gets to see Peru and the human rights issues surrounding the country in the same manner as Wagner. Being a possible Public Health major at UC Berkeley and only recently talking about International Public Health in one of my classes while reading the book also really helped me connect with the human rights issues presented in the novel. The novel also has a personal side to the issues presented during his time in Peru. His rural placement instead of working in the city of Lima also gave him a chance to put forth attempts to connect with the people and culture of the country. These attempts really shaped the story, sometimes even more than the human rights issues that came up. The story follows his personal growth as he attempts to justify his choices to take the trip and give it and him a real value instead of just being ignored and being in the way of the people. I recommend this novel for anyone looking for a real story about the hardships one faces while trying to find a meaningful place in their work or any other experiences in life. 
Overall, I'm trying to give the reader a feel for what to expect should they choose to read the novel without delving too far into the actual story and issues Wagner is trying to present. Hopefully, my review of the novel has made you want to read the story for yourself and experience the richness of his experiences with me. 

Buy Links:

About the Author
John Wagner was a successful lawyer with a prominent U.S. law firm in the 1990s. A frequent adventure and spiritual traveler, his life changed dramatically during a study tour on the history and culture of Peru, including studying Sendero Luminoso, the violent terrorist group. He gave up everything, and risked his career and his life, to join a mission organization to work for human rights in Peru—in the face of a death threat if he did so. In Peru, he deepened his spirituality, worked on a landmark human rights case and fell in love with Bella, a local teacher. After his work in Peru, he returned to the U.S., resumed his legal career, and married Bella. He holds degrees from Western State Colorado University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin Law School. An early Baby Boomer, he has been a civil rights and antiwar activist, a disc jockey (loving rock n roll, jazz, and opera), a world traveler, and a motorcyclist. He is now retired from practicing law and lives with Bella in Sacramento, California, near their children and grandchildren. Find out more at

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Trailer Reveal: The Letting by Cathrine Goldstein

The Letting
by Cathrine Goldstein  Release Date: 12/15/14 335 pages
Summary from Goodreads: What if the Devil doesn’t know he’s the Devil?

This is the question Veronica “Ronnie” Billings poses to Phoenix, her sworn enemy, the leader of the Peaceful Revolution, and the one she loves.

Kidnapped by Phoenix’s rebels, Ronnie learns how wrong she has been. She had no idea that her patriotism was wasted on a corrupt government. Ronnie was proud to be a Leader; taking hundreds of harvested girls to the Letting facility. After all, she was saving them from future Couplings and bringing them to the safety of the New World. Or so she thought…

Confused, Ronnie realizes the only way to discover the truth is to trust her heart. Together, Phoenix and Ronnie devise a plan to stop their corrupt government and preempt the dangerous rebel coup which is approaching. But when their plan goes awry, will Ronnie be strong enough to save Phoenix, her country, and herself?

Buy Links:

About the Author
Given my love for cities and all that is gritty, my new obsession with trees really has me stumped. (Sorry.) Maybe it's because trees are the inspiration behind my new YA/NA novel, theLETTING. Whatever the reason for my new infatuation, some things remain constant -- like my love for: coffee (although sadly, it's now decaf); yoga; Luna bars (I am petitioning for them to bring back Chocolate Raspberry!); running in my neighborhood; Hemingway; Bukowski... and, above all, my husband and my girls.

I am the author of the bestselling novel, Sleeping With Mortals: The Story of a New York Mistress, and I'm also a playwright. I have my B.A. in English and my M.A. in Theatre. 

Author Links:
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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Book Blitz: Beautiful Curse by Jen McConnel, Excerpt and Giveaway

Beautiful Curse by Jen McConnel 
Release Date: December 2014
Swoon Romance 
Summary from Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Mya Jones is cursed.  She is, hands down, the most beautiful creature on earth. But beauty can wound, and Mya finds herself reviled and shunned by her peers. If there is even a chance that she could start over, Mya longs to take it, no matter the risks.  So when the strange Mr. Merk offers her a new life away from home, Mya is hesitant but hopeful. Only she didn't count on the mysterious Ross, or her feelings for him.  BEAUTIFUL CURSE is a contemporary retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid.  
        Buy Links: Amazon

The weekend ended way too quickly, and on Monday morning, everything went back to my new, horrible version of normal. By the time I showed up to the art room after my classes, I was in a foul mood.
Ms. Amboulia took one look at me and declared, “Chopping wood is just what you need.”
She led me around the back of the shed to a pile of discarded lumber. “We need this chopped smaller for the wood kiln. Make the pieces about this big,” she held up her hands in front of her torso, “but don’t worry if you chop them smaller.”
The art teacher hesitated for a minute. “Can I trust you not to do harm to yourself with that axe?”
I looked up at her, startled. True, I’d been depressed lately, but I didn’t think I’d been that low. “Of course! It’s just been a really crappy day.”
“Fine. Take your frustrations out on the wood, not yourself.” Ms. Amboulia disappeared back into the shed, and I pulled out my iPod and set it on shuffle. With music filling my ears, I fell into an easy rhythm with the axe, and was surprised when I ran out of pieces of wood to chop. The pile had seemed so massive to begin with, but now I was surrounded by small logs ready for burning in the kiln. I hadn’t even noticed the work, not really.
I set the axe down and went inside, taking my ear buds out as I walked. Ms. Amboulia looked up in surprise as the door creaked, and I smiled.
 “That’s done. What else do you want me to do today?”
Ms. Amboulia looked at the clock and then looked back at me. “That’s a lot for one day. Why don’t you head home and take a nice bubble bath?”
I stared at her. Ms. Amboulia didn’t seem like the bubble bath type. She chuckled.
“You were attacking that wood with a vengeance, girl. Soaking your muscles is just what the doctor ordered.”
When I got home, I took her suggestion and filled the tub. After a moment’s hesitation, I grabbed the jar of mint and lemon scented bath salts that Mom used to love. She had left them, but
I still felt guilty using them. I dumped the salts into the water, inhaling deeply. The sharp scent brought tears to my eyes.
I used to sit on the edge of the tub in my bathrobe and paint my toenails while Mom soaked in the water. It had been one of our weekly rituals: spa time, Mom had called it. Some weeks, we would braid each other’s hair, and other weeks we experimented with Mom’s vast makeup collection. I never really cared much about the makeup, but Mom enjoyed it, and I liked spending time with her.
As I eased myself into the hot water, I felt a pang of loneliness. I missed Mom so much: maybe things wouldn’t be so bad if she was here to talk to. But she’s gone because of me. I lowered my head into the water and blew bubbles through my nose, trying to ignore the gnawing guilt I felt whenever I thought about her.
I stayed in the tub until my skin was wrinkled and the water was lukewarm, and I would have stayed longer if I hadn’t started to shiver. When I was getting dressed, I checked the clock and felt a twinge of anger. It was almost eight, and there was still no sign of Dad.
The weekend had been perfect, but once Monday came around, I should have known better than to expect that things had changed for good. I checked the garage to be sure, but his car wasn’t there.
“Come on, Rex. Duty calls.” The dog panted up at me happily as I clipped on his leash and we headed out into the crisp, cool night.

I shivered, pulling my light fleece closer around me. Fall was certainly here; I’d be wearing boots and a winter coat soon. I hadn’t really minded the walk to Mac’s every night this fall, but once I was faced with another harsh Ohio winter, the short walk would really become a chore. Maybe, I thought, Dad would stop going to the bar once the weather got cold.

About the Author:  

Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. Since then, her words have appeared in a variety of magazines and journals, including Sagewoman, PanGaia, and The Storyteller (where she won the people’s choice 3rd place award for her poem, “Luna”).
She is also a former reviewer for Voices of Youth Advocates (VOYA), and proud member of SCBWINCWN, and SCWW.
A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. A graduate of Western Michigan University, she also holds a MS in Library Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. When she isn't crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches college writing composition and yoga.
Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time.
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