Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hello everyone,
This post is looong over due. I read all three books over winter break and I've been meaning to talk about them on this here blog, but, well, you know how that goes. If you read any of the Woodfalls Girls books, let me know your thoughts. Here are mine.

Publisher: Berkley Trade
Pages: 304 pages
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Source of my copy: bought
Ashton Garrison walked away from her current life to escape the one thing she's unwilling to face. She knows her decision may be selfish, but in the end, leaving will be far less painful for everyone. Now she has one goal: live life to the fullest with no regrets and no attachments. What Ashton doesn't count on is how fate always seems to find a way to screw up any good plan. Nathan Lockton specializes in locating a mark. He's done it over and over again-no attachments and no emotion necessary. What he thought was a routine lost-and-found job has forced Nathan to deal with something he has always ignored-his feelings. He's never fallen for a target, yet he's never met anyone like Ashton. Now deep in a dilemma, Nathan must decide to follow his heart, or complete the job he was hired to do. Love can come when you least expect it. The question is: If the odds are stacked against you, how far are you willing to go for the one you love?
Michelle's Thoughts:
No Attachments is on the lighter, fluffier side of NA. It's a akin to Sophie Jordan's NA series Ivy Chronicles, but not as well-written as the Ivy Chronicles books. I wasn't terribly impressed with the writing in this one to be honest. I did appreciate the fact that the chapters alternated between their first person perspective--I like knowing what both were thinking. But their voices weren't distinctive enough. There were a few times when I was confused as to whose perspective I was reading.

I liked both Ashton and Nathan's characters but I didn't particularly connect with either of their characters. I didn't swoon when Nathan did all the sweet things he did for Ashton. And when Ashton was going through her awful, sad ordeal I didn't feel for her as much as I should.

However, No Attachments surprised me because I thought it was going to be a typical spoiled rich girl story where she's running away because of a scandal, so I didn't see the twist coming. I do wish there was more of her dad early on because he seemed like a cool guy. I would have liked more scenes between Ashton's dad and Nathan because the ones we did get were great. I don't think we get enough positive interactions between a female protagonist's dad and a male protagonist in NA novels so it was nice getting that here.

All in all, No Attachments was a good read. I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it.

Publisher: Berkley Trade
Pages: 304 pages
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Source of my copy: bought
Two years after a devastating breakup, Brittni Mitchell has moved on from Justin Avery--or so she tells herself. But when she returns to Seattle for her best friend's engagement party, Brittni finds herself the victim of a disastrously timed elevator breakdown. She's trapped with the last person she wants to face, and forced to recount the past she desperately wants to forget. She's going to have to look back . . . When Brittni left her podunk hometown for a big-city college experience at the University of Washington, hooking up with a guy like Justin Avery was not part of her plan. Between Justin's attention-grabbing tattoos, cigarette smoking, and bad-boy attitude, Brittni quickly chalked him up as "Mr. Wrong." But his charm was unrelenting, and Brittni's decision to give Justin a chance quickly turned into the worst choice she ever made. So that she might be able to move forward.
Michelle's Thoughts:
I enjoyed Misunderstandings a lot more than No Attachments--I'm a sucker for second-chance romance stories so of course I ate this one up. But besides that, the writing was much more solid and the character development was better. I connected with Brittni and Justin so much more.

Unlike No Attachments, Misunderstandings was told entirely in Britti's POV. But the chapters switch back in forth between the present time (when Britti and Justin were stuck in the elevator) and the past (when they were at university and first started going out). In the "past" chapters we see how they meet and why they eventually broke up. I was interested more in the "present" chapters because the tension between them was so palpable in the elevator. Justin was sooo angry at Brittni that I was scared he was going to hit her.

At the same time I wanted to know what happened to them. But when the reason why Brittni and Justin broke up was finally revealed it was a bit of a let down. I mean, I already suspected what had happened WAY before so I wasn't surprised at all. Regardless, that wasn't my main issue with this book. The reason I took away a star was the fact that as soon as Justin learned about what really happened, everything was resolved too quickly. These two people hated each other for two years over this misunderstanding--seriously, the first time Justin saw Brittni again, he was so vicious. You'd think there'd be more of a fall out or a bit more drama even after he found out the truth. The ending was anti-climatic for me.

But other than that Misunderstandings was a solid NA read. I really, really enjoyed it.

Publisher: Berkley Trade
Pages: 304 pages
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Three years into college, Tressa Oliver's life is a nonstop party. She's skating by in her classes, and there's no shortage of drinking, dancing, and general hell-raising. The only aspect that hasn't been much fun: She can't shake the toxic jerks that always seem to gravitate toward her. Trent Lawson is the classic anti-bad boy: smart, boring, and way too serious. To a wild girl like Tressa, there's no way in hell they're compatible--especially since Trent seems to see straight through her defenses. To set her right. When a college prank goes terribly wrong, Tressa starts to suspect that her partying ways are leading nowhere fast. Now she has to turn to the last person she ever thought she'd ask for help--and quickly discovers that there's more to Trent than meets the eye

Michelle's Thoughts:
Contradictions is my favorite so far in the Woodfalls Girls series. I have no complaints or issues in this one--well, except maybe that it was told in a dual perspective so that we see things through Trent's POV too. But it's no big since I liked Tressa so much. I already love Tressa in No Attachments and Misunderstandings because she's the wild child party girl in the trio that was Ashton, Brittni and Tressa and her outgoing personality was really fun to read about. I loved reading about all the college antics she got into because it reminded me of my college experiece (although it was a lot tamer than Tressa's). I also liked seeing the growth in her character as she became a more mature Tressa (which came about because of a tragic incident that Tressa was indirectly involved in) but she still retained her outgoing personality and I really appreciated that.

And Trent! I LOVED Trent. I finally got my wish for a true nerd hero in Trent. Yes, he's a true nerd--a glasses-wearing, socially awkward, very book smart, collector of superhero action figures nerd. Okay, so he's also a nerd who works out, lifts weights and has washboard abs (really?!) but I'll forgive that because that bit adds to the hot nerd fantasy. Tressa called him Clark Trent and I approve.

Contradictions was soooo good! I love everything about it, especially the romance between Tressa and Trent. If you're looking for a fun, engaging opposites attract romance, you cannot go wrong with Contradictions. Tiffany King's books just keeps get better and better with each book. I cannot wait to read more by her!

Happy reading,

P.S. All three books can be read as a standalone.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

 Hello everyone,
I am so excited to be part of the Bringing Home the Bad Boy blog tour. I absolutely loved this romance novel and I am so excited to read the next book in the series.

For this blog tour, author Jessica Lemmon shares with us her Top Five Hottest Tattooed Men of Hollywood. I asked her for this particular list because the hero in Bringing Home the Bad Boy, Evan, is a tattoo artist and has tattoos himself (check out the cover of Bringing Home the Bad Boy--the tattoos you see on the cover model are the actual tattoos Evan has on his arms!).

I'll also be sharing my thoughts about Bringing Home the Bad Boy. But before we get to that, here's the cover and synopsis, just in case you need it.

The Bad Boy Is Back

Evan Downey needs a new beginning. Since the death of his wife five years ago, the brilliant tattoo artist has shut himself away in a prison of grief that not even his work can break him out of-and what's worse, Evan knows his son Lyon is bearing the brunt of his seclusion. Moving back to the lake town of Evergreen Cove where he spent his childhood summers is his last chance for a fresh start.

Charlotte Harris knows she owes it to her best friend's memory to help Evan and his son find their way again, but she can't stop her traitorous heart from skipping a beat every time she looks into Evan's mesmerizing eyes. Charlotte is determined to stay strictly in the Friend Zone-until a mind-blowing night knocks that plan by the wayside. Now, if they're brave enough to let it, Charlotte and Evan might just find a love capable of healing their broken hearts . . .

Question: Top Five Hottest Tattooed Men of Hollywood

Author Jessica Lemmon
Thanks for having me! This list was difficult to write! I love Hollywood guys, and I love guys with tattoos. I narrowed them down as best I could.

5: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. HELLO.
4: Lenny Kravitz. The piercings aren’t hurting my feelings either.
3: Adam LeVine. You can only see the nude picture of him with a girl’s hands covering his (ahem) what-nots so many times before you develop an Adam crush.
2: David Beckham. The underwear commercials alone. *bites knuckle*
1: Johnny Depp. I’ve loved him since I was fourteen, and seeing this man even now makes my breath catch. I gave an upcoming hero (Donovan Pate in Rescuing the Bad Boy) Johnny’s blackbird tattoo.

Who’s your favorite tattooed Hollywood hottie?

For more info on Jessica Lemmon and her books, visit her website, her Twitter and Facebook page.

Bringing Home the Bad Boy is my second book by Jessica Lemmon. I read The Millionaire Affair (my review) a while back and I liked it, but I LOVE Bringing Home the Bad Boy.

Evan and his young son Lyon moved to Evergreen Cove to escape the memories of his beloved wife, Rae. Charlie had a crush on Evan when she was a teenager but gave him up when she saw that he only had eyes for her best friend Rae. When Rae died, Charlie vowed to take care of Evan and Lyon for her friend.

Evan is one hot, sexy man--with his tatted, muscular arms, his passion for his art and his love for his son, Charlie started to fall for him again. But Charlie's insecurities, self-doubt, and her guilt about "stealing" Evan and Lyon from Rae threaten their new-found relationship. Evan already knew Charlie was a wonderful person and a great friend, but now he also see her as an attractive woman. And once he realized he wanted her, nothing and no one deviated him from his pursuit of her. Can Evan convince Charlie to give them a chance? Can Charlie overcome her issues and find her own HEA? Read Bringing Home the Bad Boy and find out!

I don't always come across a heroine and hero whose characters I love equally, but I found it in Charlie and Evan. Usually, there's some action or personality about a hero and heroine that makes me like one more over the other. Not in Bringing Home the Bad Boy!

Charlie was a sweetheart and a wonderful person. She's the kind of person I see myself being friends with. We do come to learn that she has her issues. I really felt for her! She didn't have an easy life after her mom died and then her best friend died too and she distanced herself from people. Her ex-boyfriend Russell was a dick (I wanted to throat-punch that guy, but he got his just deserts in the end!) and he really did a number of her self-confidence and self-worth. But despite all this, she's still a warm, caring person with so much heart.

As for Evan, well, where can I get myself an Evan? He was a good man. Forget book boyfriend; Evan is book husband material. He loves his son Lyon, but he doesn't coddle him. He deeply loved Rae and was sad and angry that she died too soon, but he also recognized that she wasn't perfect and their marriage wasn't either. He didn't idealize Rae or their relationship--he was actually the one who reminded Charlie of that. He's honest and hard-working, but he also knew how to relax and have fun with his friends. You don't find too many heroes like him in romance, you know? Usually they're workaholics and do not know how to relax and unwind, or they're hung up a past relationship and cannot see what's in front of them. I loved how balanced he was.

I rooted for Charlie to work through her issues and for them to find their HEA. I love their scenes together and all the funny situations they get into like the time Charlie got drunk from Mad Cow Tinis. They were just so gosh darn great together--I didn't want my time with them to end!

I also thought the author did a good job on Lyon's character. Sometimes authors tend to over do it with kid characters and they become too saccharine and cutesy and unbelievable, so I appreciated that Lyon acted like a real kid--like how my second graders would act.

Bringing Home the Bad Boy was just such a fun, wonderful romance to read. The story flowed and I savored my time with Evan, Charlie, Lyon and all their friends, and I almost didn't want the book to end. Believe Lori Foster when she said "everything I love in a romance!" Yep, Bringing Home the Bad Boy has everything I love in a contemporary romance: a small-town setting, a hero I really fell for, a sweet heroine I can see myself being friends with, wonderful secondary characters (whose books I cannot wait to read) with just the right amount of steam.


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Happy reading,

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hello everyone,
Today, we have author Jenny Elliott on this her blog. Her debut novel Save Me, which was published by Swoon Reads, came out two weeks ago.

Debut-novelist Jenny Elliott’s thrilling romance, chosen by readers, writers, and publishers for the first list in the new Swoon Reads imprint, pours on the tension and danger in an addictive combination that will keep you turning pages!

Something strange is going on in the tiny coastal town of Liberty, Oregon. Cara has never seen a whale swim close enough for her to touch it—let alone knock her into the freezing water. Fortunately, cute newcomer David is there to save her, and the rescue leads to a bond deeper than Cara ever imagined.

But then she learns something about David that changes everything, and Cara is devastated. She turns to her best friend for support, but Rachel has changed. She’s suddenly into witchcraft, and is becoming dangerously obsessed with her new boyfriend….

Cara has lost her best friend, discovered that her soul mate is off limits, and has attracted the attention of a stalker. But she’s not completely alone. Her mysterious, gorgeous new friend Garren is there to support her. But is Garren possibly too perfect?
Isn't that a gorgeous cover? I love it! For our blog tour stop we asked Jenny our favorite question.
Who would you Kiss, Marry and Kill among these three and why:

Group 1: Mr. Crawford (from Mansfield Park), Mr. Wickham (from P&P), Mr. Willoughby (from Sense & Sensibility)

Group 2: Edward Cullen, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson

Group 3: Peeta, Gale, Finnick
Here's what Jenny has to say...

Author Jenny Elliott
In the first group, I certainly wouldn't kiss or marry any of these arrogant, abusive jerks. I also wouldn't go so far as to kill any of them, though I believe that Mr. Wickham would deserve the worst punishment. Not only did he display way less than swoonworthy behavior, but, unlike the other two, he never felt, or at least didn't show, any remorse for his myriad of indiscretions.

In the second group, again, I'm not sure about kissing or marrying, but I'd swoon most over Edward Cullen. He might be an obsessive, peeping Tom type, and he has a bit of a temper at times, but I would definitely appreciate his true love and devotion. Also, he looks 17, but has (or should have) the maturity of someone over 100. Harry Potter and Percy Jackson seem like babies to me in comparison...

I have a tougher time deciding between the guys in the third group. Peeta is one to secretly love a girl for years and he remains true to that love, which is definitely swoonworthy. Gale is a best friend, and that can be hard to come by in a guy who would also be a romantic partner. Then Finnick is so devoted to his love, he still pines after her when she goes insane--even when she dies. I'd kiss any of these guys. :) But all things being equal, if I were to have to choose to marry one, I'd have to go with the one I felt the most chemistry with. As far as book (and movie) boyfriends go, for me, that would be Gale...

Thanks for having me! Hope readers love Save Me as much as I loved writing it...

About the Author
Jenny Elliott is a lifelong resident of Washington State and lives in Spokane with her husband and four kids. Writing fiction is her favorite method for avoiding insanity. Other avoidance techniques include reading, playing Scrabble, and browsing social media sites. Save Me is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter at @jennykelliott.

About Swoon Reads
Swoon Reads is the crowd-sourced teen romance imprint founded by Jean Feiwel and published under Feiwel and Friends, a division of Macmillan. Swoon Reads is a community where members are included in every step of the publishing process, from acquiring manuscripts to choosing cover directions. To find out more and discover the best in swoon-worthy novels visit or follow us on Twitter at @SwoonReads.

For more Save Me blog tour-y goodness, you can find all the links to the participating blogger on the MacTeen Books website. I will be posting my thoughts about Save Me later this week.

Happy reading,

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hello everyone,
I am so excited to be part of the What's Your Winner's Curse? blog tour to count down the release of The Winner's Crime (the sequel to The Winner's Curse), which will be out on March 3rd.

All of the participants of the blog tour was asked to answer this question.
The ‘Winner’s Curse’ is an economics term that means you’ve gotten what you wanted – but at too high a price. What would you pay too much for?
It's a hard question to answer. Kestrel (one of my all-time favorite characters) sacrificed a lot of things to save Arin, the people and the country of Herran from being destroyed. Did she pay too high a price? If I am in her place, am I willing to pay as much as she did? I want to say yes. But since I'm not clever like Kestrel, chances are I'll probably end up paying even more.

But what am I willing to pay too much for in my life, in my current situation? I am definitely going to pay or sacrifice whatever is necessary when it comes to my family and their safety and/or health. I'm also willing to pay a lot to be able to build a career doing something I love. I'm currently a second grade teacher and while it's a good job and I'm satisfied at where I am right now, it's not something I want to do for the next 30 or 40 years. I like teaching, but I don't love it.

When it comes to material things, I don't really have to think too hard--my answer is BOOKS. I have a job now that pays a decent amount so it's not too bad, but when I was a poor undergrad and grad student there were more than a few times I spent what little money I had on YA or romance novels (my genres of choice). Then, for the rest of the week I'd just eat ramen noodles. Books make me happy so I'm willing to pay for books that I really, really want.

I am also willing to pay to travel to the mainland to attend a large bookish event. I attended the ALA annual conference last year and I am planning to pay the big bucks and go again this year because I had such a great time. I have a library degree (albeit unused) so I feel legit going to an event for librarians to catch up on the latest and greatest in the library world. It's also really fun to attend the different events and signings to meet authors (which I do not get to do at all on Maui--we have zero YA or romance author events) and other readers as well as catch up with my library school friends.

Some of my Vera stuff
Besides books and bookish events, I have a fondness for Vera Bradley stuff. Ever since I bought my first Vera bag back in 2010, my collection of bags and accessories have grown. I love their products--the colors and patterns are really fun, I love their trademark quilted cotton design and everything I've gotten from them were all well-made and they last a long time. The bags usually run between $50-100 so it's not too expensive and I usually just buy the stuff on sale, which are half the original price. But I still make about one or two orders a year, especially because they keep having really awesome online sales and they are very generous with coupons. I also wouldn't mind paying a little extra for a certain colors that I really like.

If we're talking in a magical realism kind of situation, I'd definitely pay a lot for a device that will take ideas from my brain and produce it with very minimal work for me--I basically think it and, voila, it's there. It'll save me so much time and I'll never write another lesson plan again! I'll also finally be able to "write" that novel I've been thinking about writing for years!

I'd also pay a lot for the ability to time travel. There are so many time periods and different places I'd want to visit. At the top of my list are the Regency Era and the Victorian Era in England, 1900s New York, Ancient Greece and Rome, Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, etc.

What would you pay too much for?

Follow the rest of the blog tour here.

If you have not heard of The Winner's Curse or The Winner's Crime, here ya go.

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

For more info about the Winner's Trilogy, visit the website dedicated to the trilogy. You can also play the Bite & Sting game from the book. You can also visit author Marie Rutkoski's website and chat with her on Twitter.

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Happy reading,

Thursday, January 15, 2015

ARC: 304 pages
Publisher: Poppy
Release Date: January 27, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: standalone
While backpacking through Florence, Italy, during the summer before she heads off to college, Lucy Sommersworth finds herself falling in love with the culture, the architecture, the food...and Jesse Palladino, a handsome street musician. After a whirlwind romance, Lucy returns home, determined to move on from her "vacation flirtation." But just because summer is over doesn't mean Lucy and Jesse are over, too.

In this coming-of-age romance, April Lindner perfectly captures the highs and lows of a summer love that might just be meant to last beyond the season.

I really needed Love, Lucy after my last book--it was a light, fluffy, sweet and I'm giving it

I picked up this book just at the perfect time, when I was in the mood for something easy to read  and Love, Lucy delivered.

Lucy was a gifted actress in high school, but for college her dad wanted her to attended his alma mater and major in business. She agreed to her dad's plans and he funded her travel to Europe for the summer before she headed off to college. Towards the end of her trip, while she was in Italy, she met a fellow American Jesse. He was a musician and a nomad, working at small jobs here and there and busking to earn money. Lucy and Jesse spent a few days together and fell in love. But Lucy had to go back to the States to start college and she wonders if her romance with Jesse was just a summer fling after all. 

I devoured Love, Lucy in two days. I really loved the setting. Florence and Rome weren't really at the top of my list of placed to visit in Europe (the Scottish Highlands and the Irish countryside are--blame all the historical romance novels I read), but they got bumped up after reading this book. It was just really fun "traveling" by book. I felt here the same feeling I felt when I read Anna and the French Kiss. Now, after reading Love, Lucy, I'm on the hunt for more books to travel vicariously in.

To be honest, Jesse didn't really left much of an impression on me in Part One (Love, Lucy is divided into two parts: Part One was set in Italy and Part Two was in Philadelphia). He was a nice guy, but his character did not feel unique to me. But towards the end of the book, I warmed up to him. You know when your friends start dating a new guy, and at first you're not sure what you feel about him? That was me with Jesse. I was just waiting for him to break Lucy's heart and I couldn't fully trust him. 

As for Lucy, I liked her right away. She's the kind of girl I'd be friends with in real life. She was a nice girl, a sweetheart. She wasn't really sure what to do with herself after high school, the thing she thought she wanted maybe wasn't something she wanted to do anymore, and her parents were pushing her to major in something she's not really interested in--all of these things I went through after graduating high school. She really gained my respect when, the night before she travels back to Philadelphia, Jesse asked her to stay in Italy with him and she told him no, saying her life was back in the U.S. She spent an exhilarating few days with Jesse and she was caught in the romance of it all, but she was still able to say no. She didn't get caught up in the moment and the romance of it all and I thought that was really mature of her. She did lose some of my respect for her when she did that with Jesse when she was with Sh-- Well, she did a thing (saying more is a spoiler) I couldn't get behind, but she's not a perfect person and she's still growing up. She made mistakes along the way and will keep making mistakes. I know I did when I was her age. 

Love, Lucy was one of those books where you pick it up and you just kind of want to read straight through because it's such an easy read and you want to know how the all the drama will unfold and things will turn out--I love reading contemporary YAs like this. It was an easy, light, coming-of-age romantic read in that vein of Lauren Barnholdt's Two-Way Street and Jennifer Echol's Love Story with the added bonus of traveling vicariously to Italy. If you like those books by those authors like I did chances are you'll also enjoy Love, Lucy

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: January 13, 2014
Source of my copy: Forever
Series: Finding Fate #1
Pixie Marshall wishes every day she could turn back time and fix the past. But she can't. And the damage is done. She's hoping that a summer of free room and board working with her aunt at the Willow Inn will help her forget. Except there's a problem: the resident handyman is none other than Levi Andrews. The handsome quarterback was once her friend-and maybe more-until everything changed in a life-shattering instant. She was hoping to avoid him, possibly forever. Now he's right down the hall and stirring up feelings Pixie thought she'd long buried . . .

Levi can't believe he's living with the one person who holds all his painful memories. More than anything he wants to make things right, but a simple "sorry" won't suffice-not when the tragedy that scarred them was his fault. Levi knows Pixie's better off without him, but every part of him screams to touch her, protect her, wrap her in his arms, and kiss away the pain. Yet even though she's so close, Pixie's heart seems more unreachable than ever. Seeing those stunning green eyes again has made one thing perfectly clear-he can't live without her.

Best Kind of Broken have always been under my radar. I enjoy new adult, especially in the vein of Jennifer Armentrout and Cora Carmack--you know, dramedy type of reads. I am so glad I finally picked up Best Kind of Broken because it was just the kind of new adult I love to read and I've added Chelsea Fine on my list of go-to dramedy NA authors.
About four chapters into Best Kind of Broken I was hooked. First of all, I really like the writing and the voice. The chapters alternate between Pixie and Levi and there was never an instance where I was confused at whose perspective I was reading in. Both Pixie and Levi had distinctive voices--this does not always happen in alternate POVs. 

Another thing that hooked me was the plot line. I've already mentioned in previous posts that I am a sucker for the friends-to-lovers trope and that was Pixie and Levi. Pixie has a horrible mother, so she spent a lot of time at her best friend's Charity's house. Levi was Charity's older brother (best friend's brother trope--another love!) and the three of them formed a close friendship, with Pixie looking up to Levi as her hero. Pixie and Levi were just at that stage where their friendship might be turning into something more when tragedy struck. It left Pixie and Levi's relationship broken and seemingly irreparable. They haven't spoken to each other for a year, until they found themselves working at the same inn and living next door to each other. 

I thought the story started pretty slow. Nothing really happened for the longest time to move the plot forward. For first half of the book, as a reader, we are trying to figure out just what exactly happened to Pixie and Levi a year go. What drove them apart? Why were they so angry with each other and at themselves? Why were they so broken? These were the questions that kept me reading all weekend long. Only after we finally get all the answers that Pixie and Levi start to come together and the main plot moved. Usually, the lack of plot development would bother me, but surprisingly it didn't here. I enjoyed piecing together what happened to Pixie and Levi and why they were acting the way they were. I also really liked the interactions they had--how they got under each other's skin, the pranks they played on each other, their exchanges--it was all very fun and entertaining. I also liked the scenes with the secondary characters, especially the ones who are the focus of the companion books in the series like Daren and Kayla and Jenna and Jack. Meeting them in Best Kind of Broken made me excited to read their books.

I did warm up to Levi's character sooner than I did Pixie's character. Right away we see a vulnerability in Levi that made me want to hug him. Pixie's character was prickly and she pushed people away so it took me a bit longer to warm up to her character. But I rooted for them to repair their relationship and find their happy-ever-after with each other.

Best Kind of Broken was a very engaging, entertaining NA read, with the light, humorous moments and the more serious, dramatic moments was perfectly balanced. If you enjoy Jennifer Armentrout, Cora Carmack or Sophie Jordan's Ivy Chronicles series, then Best Kind of Broken will easily satisfy you and I recommend you pick it up. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the Finding Fate series and future books by Chelsea Fine.

My black and white paint tubes are still out from the last time I painted. I’m not sure where my colored paints are. Maybe in one of the unopened boxes I brought from my dorm? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter, though. I’m not really in a red or green or yellow mood, and haven’t been for quite some time.

A few blonde curls fall into my eyes as I stretch my arms out, and I hastily blow them away. Once again, I didn’t bother to straighten my hair after my warm shower last night—I needed to rinse Matt’s buttery saliva trails from my skin—so of course my locks are a poofy mess, which is why I hate showering at night!

Holding the paintbrush between my teeth, I quickly pull my hair into a haphazard bun and imprison my curls.

Sunlight pours in through my bedroom window, warming the floorboards beneath my feet as I wiggle my toes and stare at the blank canvas.

Still staring.

A good twenty minutes goes by before I finally set my brush to it, and when I do, it’s a giant black stroke. Then another. I brush at the canvas until it’s nearly covered in darkness. I add white. I smudge it into gray. I change my mind and jab more black on there.

I don’t know what I’m painting yet, but that’s not unusual. I typically don’t know where I’m going when I start a painting. The image just… happens, and sometimes it’s not even a real image. Sometimes—most times, lately—it’s just an array of colors and brushstrokes that feel like something more than look like something.

A few quick knocks pull my attention to my door.

“Come in,” I call out.

It creaks open and Ellen steps inside with two canvases. “Here you go.”

“Thanks,” I say. “And thanks for lending me your spare keys yesterday too. My set is lost somewhere in this mess.” I gesture at the mounds of laundry, books, and boxes about my room.

“No problem.” She sets the canvases by the wall and watches me paint for a moment. “Why is everything you paint only black-and-white? What happened to those beautiful color paintings you used to do?”

Why does everyone care?

“Don’t overthink it,” I say. “I’m just in a phase.”

“Right,” she says with knowing eyes. “Well. Enjoy your day off.” She turns and disappears into the hallway.

I go back to painting, thinking about all the times Ellen encouraged me to pursue my passion for art.

She bought me my first set of paints. My first real paintbrushes. She paid for my first art lessons and hung my first real painting—a bright orange sun shining over a purple lake surrounded by yellow flowers—in the center of her living room like it was a priceless piece of art. Like it was special.

I stand back and look at the muddled gray colors in front of me. I frown. It’s not quite what I want to see. It looks… wrong, somehow.

My eyes skip to my bedroom window, drawn by a flash of movement outside. I see Levi running up and down the stone steps behind the lavender field. He does this almost every day.

About the Author
Chelsea lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where she spends most of her time writing stories, painting murals, and avoiding housework at all costs. She's ridiculously bad at doing dishes and claims to be allergic to laundry. Her obsessions include: superheroes, coffee, sleeping-in, and crazy socks. She lives with her husband and two children, who graciously tolerate her inability to resist teenage drama on TV and her complete lack of skill in the kitchen.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Happy New Year everyone! It's me, Leslie, finally back on the blog here, however brief it may be before I must go back to my studies in college. I hope all of you are happy and well this first month of 2015 and are enjoying your winter; I'm surely happy to be back home with my family and friends, and am feeling satisfied with spending my long, lazy afternoons reading, sleeping, and reading some more.

With this new year of 2015, the publishers at Macmillan are launching an awesome event to celebrate--wait for it--the 40th anniversary of Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt! My sister and I loved Tuck Everlasting when we first read it all those years ago--she was in the fifth grade when she first read it, and later on, when I was in the fourth grade, I read it as well upon her recommendation--and we are both excited and honored to be part of its celebration.

To celebrate this event here on the blog, I've reread Tuck Everlasting, and now, cannot help to express to you all my experience reading it now as compared to before.

My Reading Experience Past and Present
Going into Tuck Everlasting again after so many years since I first and last read it was a nostalgic experience. Growing up, my and my sister's bookshelf held very few books, a few adult novels and some middle grade and young adult novels, so as a burgeoning book-lover, I often read books by reading those few novels over and over again. Tuck Everlasting was one of those few books we owned and I read and reread. Back then, I didn't quite appreciate the novel, for I thought it was a bit boring and the profound messages of the story flew right over my head, so I only reread it once and always forgone it thereafter for the other books we owned. I liked the curious toad and the bittersweet epilogue, though, and these were the few things I remembered from the book while rereading it now, as an avid reader in college.

From the very first page, the omniscient narrator of Tuck Everlasting paints a picture of a hot, hot week in summer of some peculiar yet restless people inexplicably coming together at a point that redefines life and living. As the peoples' story unfolded, I came to adore the narrator's relaxed and sage voice. Every time I picked up the book to continue reading from where I left off, I always found myself falling into the narrator's voice with awe and fascination like a small child looking up at an adult telling a fantastical story. I eagerly took in all the words and images as if I was reading the book for the very first time, but since I knew I wasn't, I felt a bit worried for myself as I read and imagined it all. None of it felt or sounded familiar to me, and this may have been because I had forgotten the story after so many years, but I was still afraid that when I read Tuck Everlasting in the fourth grade, I was not really reading but merely looking at and sounding out words. The story didn't register in my mind as vividly and meaningfully then as it was now, and the thought made me feel guilty. My naive, nine-year-old self missed out on a book that could have taught me a very valuable lesson that could have made me a better person, and now I am faced with my own ignorance. I was grateful to be rereading the book again now, as an older and wiser person, so that at least I was giving myself a second chance at learning. I suppose that's the challenge and beauty of rereading a literary piece: its meaning takes on more shape as you interpret it with the new experiences and new perspectives you've gained since the last time you've read it.

40th Anniversary Edition
So while coming to appreciate Tuck Everlasting more than I did before, I came to like other elements of the story as well besides the aforementioned toad and epilogue. Like Winnie, the main character of Tuck Everlasting, when I was nine and first reading the story, I thought the members of the Tuck family, with their shared, big secret and, consequently, their long, endless lives, were crazy and their backstory was not to be fully believed in or trusted. But, unlike Winnie, no matter how endearing the Tucks showed themselves to be, my younger self could not come to like them; they were just a family of crazy people to me. Now, however, I understand why Winnie likes, even loves, the Tuck family. Even though they may seem odd and strange and, as they were often criticized for in the book, ignorant, as you get to know them and their struggles and knowledge, you come to realize how truly wise and intelligent these people are, and when you relate their burdens to your own, you grow to love and care for them. I guess, when I was nine, I did not grasp this message of sympathy and care for others, let alone understand the significance of the Tuck family itself, but now that I do, I feel enlightened and renewed in my perspective of life and humanity. Also, because of this understanding that I've gained from the book, I now actually really like Winnie as a character. While my younger self saw nothing of Winnie except rebelliousness, I now see that some of my own self can actually be found in Winnie's restlessness and innocence as well as her rebellion. I also admire her utter maturity. Unlike the proud adults in the book and, admittedly, my nine-year-old self, she, as only a ten-year-old, was able to comprehend the greatness and consequentiality of immortality as well as show love and care to some of the most criticized populations in the world, from the lone and ugly toad to the poor and reclusive family.

“What if you could live forever?”
Rereading Tuck Everlasting had also got me thinking about the idea of forever and living forever, and if I were given the choice like Winnie, would I take that chance and, if I did, what would I do with my endless amount of time. Well, first of all, the mere thought of forever scares me to the point that my mind can't and won't comprehend. I do not wish to be left behind on the cycle of life like the Tucks and watch time and space go by around me. I want to grow and learn and live for however long I'm given to live and then, hopefully, pass away satisfied and content. Also, as much as I like my youth as much as the next person, I'd be sad to remain eighteen forever. People my age can only do so much until others question our credibility and competence, and no matter what and how many experiences I may go through in my life that I may know I am capable of doing more, everyone around me will only see a petite eighteen-year-old who can pass as sixteen. Significant life events, such as getting married and raising my own family, will also be rendered impossible because such things are experienced later in a person's life, and my life will no know such "later," only a kind of cruel pause. But, if my situation were to suddenly become like the Tucks' and the choice was made for me so that I had to live forever, I think I would take on various, well-paying jobs (assuming I (somehow) continue with my current education and academic plans), save up my money, and finally travel the world. My sister and I have endless fantasies of traveling and visiting the homes of our heroes and the settings of our favorite books, so if I am to watch the world change and evolve until the end of time, then I will watch from various points of the world itself. I'll hike up to Manchu Picchu, tour the remnants of the Renaissance, and visit the hallowed plains of battles won and lost to reflect on the historical past I will never truly know as intimately as I will the future. Then I will look toward the now-infinite future by settling in and then moving away from different states and countries like they are only mere chapters of my newfound immmortality. I'll no longer be able to measure my life in days, weeks, months, and years for they will only blur together; I'll measure my life by what is truly transient and evolving: places and people and things.

I really enjoyed rereading Tuck Everlasting and revisiting Winnie, the Tuck family, the toad, and the mysterious woods of the Foster family. Gaining all this new knowledge and perspective from a book that I had read nearly a decade ago has moved me in so many ways, I highly recommend everyone, both of those who have already read Tuck Everlasting and those who have not at all, to read this book, maybe not today or tomorrow, but soon, and discover/rediscover its beauty and sincerity.

Get your copy of the Tuck Everlasting 40th Anniversary edition (which includes a foreword by Gregory Maguire) here and follow the #Tuck40th blog tour here.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 [Bookish] Wishes and Goals

Thursday, January 1, 2015 with
Happy New Year Everyone!!

It's the first day of a new year, so I thought I'd start the year with my bookish wishes and goals for 2015.

First, my most wished for books for 2015. 

Six of the books below I already pre-ordered, two I already own the ARC and two I am planning on pre-ordering very, very soon (like, after I have this blog post posted).

Number 1: Suddenly One Summer by Julie James
A Julie James novel is always such a treat--I wish she'd publish more than one book a year. I know this one is going to be another fantastic contemporary with a fantastic hero and heroine, witty banter, and emotion-filled story. Also, we're finally getting Ford's story--Brooke's male BFF from Love Irresistibly--I've been waiting for it since 2013.

Number 2: The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
I have so much love for The Winner's Curse so, of course, The Winner's Crime is on top of my list. I am so excited to get back to Kestrel and Arin's world.

Number 3: Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh
It's Aden's book!! I'm so excited for him to finally get his happily ever after. And Nalini Singh is the queen of lyrical writing, emotional roller coaster, epic world building, swoon-worthy romance, among other things. Shards of Hope is the 14th book in the series but don't let that scare you off. The entire series is AMAZING.

Number 4: I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
I fell in love with Heather Demetrios' writing after reading her fantastic debut Something Real. She's up there with Huntley Fitzpatrick and Stephanie Perkins as one of my favorite contemporary YA writers. I'll Meet You There promises to be another amazing read.

Number 5: All Fall Down by Ally Carter
After reading Carter's Heist Society series (did you know there's going to be a fourth book?!), I wanted to read more by her. All Fall Down is about an ambassador's granddaughter who uncovers an international conspiracy that maybe connected to her mother's death. Who could resist a premise like that? I definitely couldn't.

Number 6: Last Year's Mistake by Gina Ciocca
This a debut novel but I love the synopsis. It's a second chance at love and I'm a huge sucker for those. Add the totally swoon-worthy cover, and you better believe I'm adding this one to my TBR.

Number 7: Joyride by Anna Banks
I have not read anything by Banks but I have her entire Syrena Legacy trilogy, which I heard mixed things about but I'm hoping to pick up sometime this year. With Joyride, she's turning to contemporary YA--my favorite YA sub-genre--with an irresistible plot line. Also, love the cover.

Number 8: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
Seraphina was my favorite fantasy read of 2013. I am so HAPPY that we are finally getting a sequel. And Shadow Scale promises to have a map included, which Seraphina lacked. Because, a map is requisite of fantasy novels, you know?

Number 9: The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace
I've been getting into YA fantasy lately and this one promises to be a good one, with a very intriguing premise.

Number 10: A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Yeah, everyone and their mother is excited for this one. I mean, come one, how can you not?! With a cover like that, an intro by the author like this, and all the hype, it's inevitable.


Now, for my bookish goals and resolutions.

1. Read 80 books (or more) in 2015. I set my Goodreads goal for 80 books this year, which is 20 less than my usual but I'm working full-time and I don't want to stress myself out too much. It's a good, doable goal. I'll adjust it as needed throughout the year.

2. Accept less review books and read more of the books that I bought/buy. I have a sh!t-ton of books on my shelf, plus I was on a book buying binge in the last four months of 2014 (even more books!). But review books take precedence, you know? So, less review books mean more time to read my own books.

3. Finish series. This was a goal I had in 2014, but I didn't do a good job with it. I have so many complete series books sitting on my shelf. I'm hoping to marathon read one series a month. 

4. Blog more, comment more and make more bookish friends on the Internet. I kind of lost my blogging mojo towards the end of 2014. I want to get excited about blogging again, rather than it feeling more like a chore most of the time. I think a way to get that excitement back is by commenting more on other blogs and getting a conversation going and making more bookish friends online that will get me excited about reading again... If you're reading this and you're a book nerd too, I want to be your friend and I want to buddy read with you.

5. Buy less books. My wallet wasn't very happy with me in 2014--my book buying was at an all time high with over 200 books. I want to stop buying books just because they're so cheap (Bookoutlet, I'm looking at you) and only buy books I really want to read. 

Here's to a new year filled with bookish goodness!

Happy reading,