January Wrap-up/February TBR

January

ARCs
Worlds of Ink and Shadow – Read and reviewed
The New Guy (and other Senior Year Distractions) by Amy Spalding – Read and reviewed
Every Big and Little Wish by E.C. Moore – Read, blog tour post
Not Okay Cupid by Heidi R Kling – Read and reviewed
Under the Dusty Moon by Suzanne Sutherland
Any Other Girl by Rebecca Phillips
These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas – Read, review coming
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Other
Winter by Marissa Meyer – Read and reviewed
Kissing in America by Margo Rabb – Read and reviewed
The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West – Read and reviewed
A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas – Read, review coming

Book Club
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown – Currently Reading

Author Requests
Opening Bell by J.B. Garner – Read and reviewed
Outspoken by Lora Richardson

This month I read 10 books.

February

ARCs
Rebel, Bully, Geek, Pariah by Erin Jade Lange
Holding Court by K.C. Held
You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

Blog Tours
Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas – 2/20
Gambit by C.L. Denault – 2/28
Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Tanner – 3/1
Meritropolis by Joel Ohman – 3/8
Blackheath by Gabriella Lepore – 3/10

Other
The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger
The Amber Room by Steve Berry (for school)
Bird Box by Josh Malerman (for school)
Dying for Chocolate by Diane Mott Davidson (for school)

HW Assignment: Prompt Response 1

With this assignment we were supposed to answer a few reader advisory questions using NoveList or some other RA tool. For those of you who don’t know what NoveList is, it’s FANTASTIC. You can access it through your local public library (note: not all public libraries have it) and you can use it to get reading recommendations! It’s seriously so awesome. I’m definitely going to be using it from now on!


1. I am looking for a book by Laurell K. Hamilton. I just read the third book in the Anita Blake series and I can’t figure out which one comes next!

There are so many books in the Anita Blake series so I understand your confusion! I looked on Novelist for you just to be sure—it looks like the next book in the series is “The Lunatic Café”.

2. What have I read recently? Well, I just finished this great book by Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer. I really liked the way it was written, you know, the way she used language. I wouldn’t mind something a bit faster paced though.

I’ve got a few great choices for you—all faster paced with a wonderful use of language. If you’re interested in reading about China right around the time of the Boxer Rebellion, I would recommend “Yellow Emperor’s Cure” by Kunal Basu. It’s about a surgeon searching for a cure for his father and he ends up falling in love along the way. It’s dramatic and definitely fast-paced but still with a lot of detail. If you’re in the mood for something funnier, I would recommend “The Plot Against America” by Phillip Roth. This is an alternative history where Lindbergh becomes president instead of FDR and he actually ends up making an accord with Hitler. It’s suspenseful and very character-driven with writing that is both lyrical and witty at the same time. But if you’re interested in sticking with the ecological themes from “Prodigal Summer”, I would recommend “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood—it’s the first book in her MaddAddam trilogy and it has wonderful world-building. It’s set in an apocalyptic world that is both thought-provoking and a little disturbing.

3. I like reading books set in different countries. I just read one set in China, could you help me find one set in Japan? No, not modern – historical. I like it when the author describes it so much it feels like I was there!

I’ve got three great choices for you. First, I would recommend “The Teahouse Fire” by Ellis Avery. It’s set in 19th century Japan and is about a young American girl who is adopted by a tea master. This book gives a lot of cool information about Japanese tea ceremonies. This book is a moving coming-of-age story. My next recommendation is also set in the 19th century, but instead of looking at Japan’s traditions, it focuses on some of the modernization that occurred during that time. The book is based on real events with very descriptive writing. My last recommendation, “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden, is set during WWII. It’s a rags-to-riches story about a girl who is sold into slavery and her journey as she becomes a Japanese geisha. This book is very atmospheric and the writing has a lot of detail.

4. I read this great mystery by Elizabeth George called Well-Schooled in Murder and I loved it. Then my dentist said that if I liked mysteries I would probably like John Sandford, but boy was he creepy I couldn’t finish it! Do you have any suggestions?

You should try “NYPD Red” by James Patterson. This book is about a detective who is investigating several crimes that happen to coincide with the arrival of a bunch of celebrities. It’s suspenseful and dramatic without being disturbing. If you’re looking for a little dark humor, I would suggest “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” by Michael Chabon. Instead of Israel, Alaska is the homeland for Jews and we follow two policemen as they investigate the death of a heroin-addicted chess prodigy. The writing style is a little different than you might be used to, but it’s still descriptive and suspenseful. If you’re looking for a classic, you can’t go wrong with Wilkie Collins. I would recommend “The Woman in White”. Our main character sees a woman dressed all in white on a moonlit night seemingly in distress on the streets of London. He has to find out what was wrong with her and that leads us on this psychologically thrilling journey. It’s atmospheric and Gothic without being disturbing.

5. My husband has really gotten into zombies lately. He’s already read The Walking Dead and World War Z, is there anything else you can recommend?

Of course! First, I would recommend “The Zombie Autopsies” by Steven C. Schlozman. This book is about a doctor and his staff who have isolated themselves on an island in order to find a cure for the zombie epidemic that has taken over. While there, however, they start to fall victim to the disease themselves. This book is written like a diary and has a lot of dark humor in it. If he’s interested in reading a graphic novel, I would really recommend “Rot & Ruin” by Jonathan Maberry. It’s about four friend who are travelling through the Sierra Nevada mountains while trying to stay ahead of zombie hordes that are after them. This graphic novel is seriously action-packed and has great world-building. If he has any interest in steampunk, I would recommend “Boneshaker” by Cherie Priest. While trying to build a machine, an inventor accidently releases a deadly gas that turns people into zombies. Years later, his teenage son tries to repair the family’s reputation. This book is atmospheric and suspenseful while maintaining a fast pace.

How do you find books to read?

I’m pretty active in the book blogging community so I get a lot of book recommendations and ideas from blogs that I follow. If I’m really stuck, I’ll take a look at Goodreads lists related to authors that I know I enjoy. Of course, I always make sure to be aware of when one of my autoread authors has a new book coming out as well. Now that I’ve discovered Novelist though, I’ll definitely be using it a lot to help me find new books to read!

Not Okay, Cupid by Heidi R Kling [ARC]

Hazel has her entire future planned out. She and her boyfriend are going to get into the same college, then the same grad school, and then they’ll have 2.5 kids together and live in a house with a white picket fence. At least that was the plan until he cheated on her with her best friend Kimmy. Now Hazel doesn’t know what to do. Luckily, someone else does. Felix the Player of La Playa (also Kimmy’s older brother) has a plan for revenge.

518w2bi66fml-_sx331_bo1204203200_This book had so much potential. I really mean that. The premise of this book was great, but the execution was not. The whole book is very surfacey. I felt like there was the potential to go in depth several times with the characters (since Hazel’s dad had died and Felix’s was out of the picture) but nothing ever happened. The book just stayed on the surface when it could have been so much deeper. The story really would have benefited from some character development throughout, but I feel like all of the character development (and there wasn’t even very much) was packed into the last few chapters of the book. This made it hard for me to really care too much about the characters. They didn’t seem deserving of my feelings.

Another thing that seriously bugged throughout was the multitude of inconsistencies that this book had. First Felix’s eyes are blue–glacier blue. Then they’re “sweet chocolate brown”. Next they’re green, only to end up turning back to brown by the end of the story. Other inconsistencies: Does Felix have his surfboard or not? When did they get out of the car? Did Hazel see Felix waving from the shore or not? Does Hazel see Felix while he’s standing by the punch bowl or is the first time she sees him out on the dance floor? Just A LOT of inconsistencies that made it hard to lose myself in the story. I ended up having to reread certain pages to make sure that I didn’t miss something that was there. It almost seems like the author had the beginning and the end of a scene planned out, but then forgot about what she had planned while she was writing the middle. Just very frustrating as a reader.

The last thing that I was so confused about was the relationship between Felix and Kimmy. Okay, we know they’re siblings and we find out pretty early on that Felix is older than Kimmy. But at the same time I thought Kimmy and Hazel were the same age and we know Hazel is a senior…so does that make Kimmy and Felix twins? But that’s never mentioned and I feel like if they were twins, that would have been said at least once. Finally we find out (very near the end of the book) that Felix is older than Kimmy, but he was held back a year so they’re in the same grade. I just feel like this should have been explained much earlier in the book. Or Kimmy and Hazel should have just been juniors or something.

Overall, I was not happy with this book. As I said earlier, there was so much untapped potential! Based on their family situations, Kling really had the opportunity to make us care about these characters but she didn’t capitalize on it. I just feel really frustrated as a reader because I can see what this book could have been but wasn’t.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten ARCs

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week there is a new topic and this week’s topic is a freebie! So I’ve chosen to do a list of the top ten ARCs I’ve reviewed.

1) Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
2) The Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig
3) The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
4) A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston
5) Whippoorwill by Joseph Monninger
6) Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
7) The Heartbreakers by Ali Novak
8) The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
9) Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
10) They Call Me Alexandra Gastone by T.A. Maclagan

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Gia has the perfect boyfriend–Bradley. Unfortunately, he decides that the best time to breakup with her is in the parking lot right before Prom. Gia’s friends already thought she was lying about him, so if she shows up to Prom without a date, there’s no way they’ll believe that he was ever real. That’s when she sees him in the parking lot. She makes him a deal–pretend to be her date for the night and she’ll owe him. If he needs a fake date in the future, she’s his girl. What could go wrong?

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Kasie West is back in my good graces. After On the Fence, I was really on the fence about her (pun intended). I really liked this book. I thought the characters were interesting and mostly realistic. Gia’s not very likable at first, but I think that’s the point and she really grew on me as the book progressed and as she develops as a character. I liked Bec A LOT. I tend to like characters like her and I’m not really sure why…maybe because they act as a good contrast to the typical protagonist in these stories. Hayden seemed like a good guy and I was happy to finally see a “good guy” love interest as opposed to the “bad boy” one. The last character I want to talk about is Jules. What even is her problem? That’s really one of the main things that bothered me. I just didn’t understand her motivations for anything. Why is she on Gia so much? I think they tried to explain this in the book, but it was just really never made clear to me.

As far as the plot goes, we all know what’s going to happen, but that doesn’t make the story any less enjoyable in my opinion. In fact, I think it actually keeps the reader in suspense a little bit. We know what’s going to happen, but not when or how. I still liked seeing the different stages play out. I liked how West uses Gia and Hayden’s families to contrast each other and help with the character development. Overall it was a quick, clean read and I found the resolution really satisfying.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: None

The Opening Bell by J.B. Garner

Leilani Ito has wrestling in her blood. As a rookie she’s not expecting to win all of her fights, but she is willing to work hard and do her time to get to the top. What Leilani doesn’t realize is that there is more than just wrestling in her family history. There is also a curse that could end her wrestling career–maybe even her life–forever.

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First of all, I just want to say that I know NOTHING about wrestling. I think if you have any sort of background or knowledge about wrestling that this book would instantly become more enjoyable. That being said, I thought this book was pretty good though it did have some flaws. I thought the overall plot was interesting. There was a lot of conflict and interesting relationships developed between characters. There are fights in the ring as well as fights out of it and that creates an unusual dynamic that I think really contributed to the overall story.

One thing that was hard for me was that sometimes the wrestling scenes got kind of technical. A wrestling move would be described and I could only guess at what was going on. That just made it a little hard to follow the story in those particular scenes. Another thing that made the story hard to follow was that there were a lot of characters and basically all of the characters went by several different names (first name, last name, wrestling name/nickname, and any combination). I had a hard time remembering who was who at times. Lastly, I think that the narration (especially during fight scenes) shouldn’t have come from one perspective. There are several moments when we’re following Leilani’s perspective but she’s also on the verge of blacking out so we have no idea where her opponent is. I think the fight scenes would have benefited from the reader being able to see the whole picture as if they were watching the fight on TV.

Overall, I think if you’re a fan of wrestling, you might enjoy this book. If not, the book is still enjoyable, but you may feel lost at times.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Heavy. A lot of moderate language.
Violence: Extreme
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

Note: I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Kissing in America by Margo Rabb

Eva knows who Will is (everyone knows who Will is). When he starts coming to her tutoring sessions, she senses that they have a connection (despite the fact that Will has a girlfriend). School is about to end and finally the timing seems right–Will is single and Eva is confident that he feels something too. Unfortunately, Will is about to move across the country to live with his father and his father’s new wife. What’s a girl supposed to do when she lives in New York and her soulmate is in California?

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Who doesn’t love a good road trip book? I, personally, LOVE THEM (see Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour). This book grabbed me right from the beginning and did not let go. Eva and Annie are both such great characters. I loved reading about smart girls who are also just fun, normal people. They’re focused, but not myopic. They have goals, but they’re not unrealistically narrow-minded. They have this great friendship and a natural understanding of each other that only comes from years of quality time spent together. I also loved that, in this case, our main character is kind of the sidekick. I thought Will was a really well-written character too. We’re seeing him mostly from Eva’s perspective and I felt all of the same feelings that she did when they finally see each other again. My only complaint about characters was that they seemed a tad too mature for their age, but at the same time they have experienced things that would naturally mature them…so maybe it is realistic.

The adult characters were also extremely well-written. I loved just how present they are throughout the story and not in the typical way. They’re humorous and embarrassing and well-meaning and just so real. I loved that. In this book, we’re given such a good portrayal of the imperfect relationship that can exist between mother and daughter–it’s not always a buddy/buddy relationship like you see in other YA books. Overall, the adults in this book really add another layer to the story and gave me one more reason to fall in love with it.

I thought this book also had really great character development. Throughout the journey, Eva learns things about herself and about her various relationships with other characters. I really feel that by the end of the book, Eva has grown a lot as a person and has come to some really important conclusions. The ending was real and so perfect.

From my description and review, this book may seem like a lightweight, but I assure you it is not. It deals with death and loss in a couple of different ways and perspectives. Overall, I would highly recommend this book. It’s not going to be about what you think it is. I won’t elaborate much more beyond that, but it took me by surprise.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild. Some mention of underage smoking.
Sexual Content: Moderate. Nothing crude or too explicit (our main character loves romance novels so there are some brief, non-explicit “quotes”).