Monday, September 28, 2015

ARC: 352 pages
Publisher: Forever Romance
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Second Chance #3
Connor McClain knows what he wants. And after four harrowing years in Afghanistan, that's a quiet life in the lakeside town of Evergreen Cove. But coming home has land mines of its own-the most dangerous of them being long-legged bombshell Faith Garrett. Now getting her into his arms this holiday is going to require more than mistletoe . . .

With a cheating ex behind her, all Faith wants is a relaxing holiday free from man drama. And even though every moment with gorgeous Connor is a sweet temptation, Faith is determined not to give in. But Jack Frost has other plans, and soon Faith and Connor are snowbound in a winter wonderland with only the sparks flying between them to keep them warm. As one hot kiss leads to another, they'll have to decide if they're ready to give each other the best gift of all-love.

Jessica Lemmon continues to impress with her Bad Boys books (aka Second Chance series). I really loved Evan's book Bringing Home the Bad Boy (my review) and Donovan's book Rescuing the Bad Boy (my review), and now we have Connor's book A Bad Boy for Christmas. Since I loved the first two books so much, I had high expectations that I'm going to love A Bad Boy for Christmas too. It did not disappoint.
In Rescuing the Bad Boy Faith and Connor reconnected, and had a flirty thing going on. But Faith just got out of a relationship (after she discovered that her fiancé was cheating on her) and wasn't ready to get back to dating. Also, even though there were attractive men around Evergreen Cove she just couldn't feel any spark of attraction for any of them... with the exception of sexy landscaper Connor. For him, Faith felt major sparks. Connor, who spent four years in Afghanistan and recently returned to his hometown of Evergreen Cove, was very much attracted to Faith from the very first time he laid eyes on her. When there might be someone trying to break into Faith's new apartment, Connor steps in to try to figure out who it was. 

Connor is my new favorite out of the bad boys. I swooned over all the things he said to her and did for Faith. He was just so sweet, patient, sexy, flirty and so protective of her. His family was wonderful too, especially his sisters. I love the scenes with them. 

I really liked Faith's character also but, man, did she frustrated me. After her break-up, she wanted to regain her independence, and she felt she's finally at the point where she can stand on her own two feet. She moved to a new apartment and she's working at a job she enjoys with her best friend Sofie. She didn't want to give that up, afraid she'll lose herself again if she let's Connor in too deep. But Connor was such a great guy and I was a bit frustrated with Faith when she kept trying to deny herself from truly being with Connor because she's afraid she'll lose her independence. Hello, Faith, you're going to lose the best guy ever if you keep pushing him away! Urgh!

But, oh, I rooted for them. Like with Evan and Charlie and with Donovan and Sofie, Connor and Faith has such great chemistry together. I loved that they were friends first and their relationship developed over the fall and winter months. They really got to know each other as they did all the fall and winter holidays together--all the holiday scenes, from Thanksgiving all the way to New Year, was especially fun.

I want to say that A Bad Boy for Christmas can be read as a standalone, but you'll probably want to start with the first book in the series, Bringing Home the Bad Boy and work your way to this one. But, I promise, all the books are so good it's hardly a hardship. Evan, Charlie, Donovan, and Sofie were around quite a bit and you'll appreciate them more if you knew their stories, and there's also that BIG thing about Asher and Gloria (omigosh, I need their book NOW!) that happened in this book that you wouldn't really get unless you're already familiar with them from Bringing Home the Bad Boy.

A Bad Boy for Christmas was fantastic! I loved it so much! It is such a perfect read for this holiday season. Ms. Lemmon continues to impress me with her characters and her writing. After reading her last three releases, she's up there with some of my favorite contemporary romance authors like Jill Shalvis, Kristan Higgins and Susan Mallery in terms of swoon-worthy heroes, strong heroines and small-town setting for me. I highly recommend you pick up her Bad Boys books--they're not to be missed.

She came to a halt at the threshold of the kitchen, her breath clogging in her throat.

Part of it was shock over the fact that Connor was leaning over the countertop inhaling one of her cupcakes. The other part, and the part she was having trouble reconciling, was the fact that there was a tear beneath one of the pockets of his jeans, and the slash of skin she was currently staring at was his bare ass.

He stood, chewing and smiling with his lips closed. She knew because she hastily redirected her gaze to his face. The way he licked the frosting off the corner of his mouth and lifted his brow suggested he may have caught her eyeballing something she shouldn’t.

“Tore them on a nail on the fence this morning.” He turned to look over his shoulder, splitting the tear with his fingers to show her a faint red scratch on one chiseled butt cheek. “Hurt like a bitch.” His eyes found hers and he gave her a sly smile. “Don’t suppose you’d be willing to patch me up.”

She choked on her laughter, shaking her head for effect. “I don’t think so,” she said, trying to sound disgusted and not turned on.

His smile erased as his brow went down like she’d hurt his feelings. “You would deny me medical care in my moment of need?”

Flustered, she stepped past him and snatched the small white box off the counter, determined to change the subject. “I hope you know you owe me a cupcake.”

“Cupcake, I took that in payment for the kiss you never gave me.”

So he didn’t forget.

“You’d rather have a carrot cupcake than a kiss?” Her pulse pounded against her neck. She knew which one she would prefer, and hoped she was doing a good job hiding it.

“Hmm…” He made a show of craning his neck to look at the remaining cupcake in the bottom of the box. “It was a pretty good cupcake.”

Her mouth opened in argument, but the argument never came. And the reason it never came was because Connor covered her lips with his, launching his tongue into her mouth. She tasted sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg from the frosting, and his mouth, which tasted wonderful because it tasted like him. The smell of lavender filled her senses, that earthy, spicy smell mingling in her nostrils and making her lean into him. Cupping the back of his neck, she tilted her chin, continuing their sparring session with fervor.

Noses bumped, his unshaven chin scraped her jaw, and his hands—his big, manly, rough hands—grasped her at the waist and pulled her flush against him.

This went on until finally, she had to pull back to inhale or suffocate. Not a bad way to go, she’d admit. Now she was panting and trying to recalibrate her brain cells, which had apparently oozed right out of her ears since Connor put his mouth on hers.

He looked as dazed as she did for a second before his smile snapped into place. “Nope. That was much better than the cupcake.”

For other holiday romances from Forever, check out Snowbound at Christmas by Debbie Mason and Unwrapped by Katie Lane.
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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
For twenty years, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find.

Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she's been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.

Beautifully written, and richly imaginative, The Weight of Feathers is an utterly captivating young adult novel by a talented new voice.

The Weight of Feathers is hands-down the most beautifully written book I've read this year. Wow.

The title and the cover of this book initially caught my attention. A fantastical title like The Weight of Feathers plus a silhouette of a couple in an embrace? I couldn't resist. And I am so glad this book came into my life because reading it was an experience--a gorgeous and whimsical experience. Sabaa Tahir (who blurbed it) compared it to The Night Circus and I totally agree. It has the same magical feel. So, if you enjoyed The Night Circus like I did, I guarantee you'll enjoy The Weight of Feathers too.

First of all, I love the chapter headers. Each chapter begins with a quote--like the one below--in Italian, French or Spanish that kind of gives us hints of what's to come. They really added to the story and I loved that they were translated. The entire novel is actually interspersed with words and phrases in Spanish and French, which I loved and really added to the characters' differing culture. I happily made use of Google translation while reading this novel.

I love the characters Lace and Cluck. We get both of their perspective and it was great being able to see inside both of their heads. Lace struggled with her weight as she tried to stay thin to be play the beautiful mermaid with her cousins. Cluck works behind the scene making the wings his family wears for their performance. An old injury prevented him from performing a wild acrobatics with his family and he's constantly being bullied by his brother Dax. They're both outsiders within their respective families and there's abuse and hatred in both families and I just felt for Lace and Cluck. But them together I loved so much! I wouldn't call this a slow burn romance but it definitely wasn't insta-love. Lace and Cluck were just so great together. They're star-crossed lovers like Romeo and Juliet because their families are rivals and hate each other, but they're nothing like Romeo and Juliet who annoyed me to no end. Lace and Cluck were perfect--imperfectly perfect.

There are a lot of family secrets on both sides and the big mystery was what started the feud in the first place. The ending was unexpected and I don't know if I wasn't reading closely enough but I totally didn't see it coming! I won't say anymore because I don't want to ruin your reading experience. Suffice it to say, it's good!

The Weight of Feathers was an amazing read! Very beautifully written--I can't believe it's the author's debut novel, because wow! I am so excited to read future books by her. I highly recommend The Weight of Feathers to everybody. I love everything about it--the gorgeous writing, the swoon-worthy romance, the whimsy, the ending that I did not see coming. It's one of my favorite reads this year! 

The feathers were Lace’s first warning. They showed up between suitcases, in the trunk of her father’s station wagon, on the handles of came-with-the-car first-aid kits so old the gauze had yellowed. They snagged on antennas, turning the local stations to static.

Lace’s mother found a feather in with the family’s costumes the day they crossed into Almendro, a town named for almond fields that once filled the air with the scent of sugary blossoms and bitter wood. But over the last few decades an adhesive plant had bought out the farms that could not survive the droughts, and the acres of almonds dwindled to a couple of orchards on the edge of town.

The wisp of that black feather caught on a cluster of sequins. Lace knew from the set to her mother’s eyes that she’d throw the whole mermaid tail in a bucket and burn it, elastane and all.

Lace grabbed the tail and held on. If her mother burned it, it would take Lace and her great-aunt at least a week to remake it. Tía Lora’s hands were growing stiff, and Lace’s were new and slow.

Her mother tried to pull the tail from her grip, but Lace balled the fabric in her hands.

“Let go,” her mother warned.

“It’s one feather.” Lace dug in her fingers. “It’s not them.” Lace knew the danger of touching a Corbeau. Her abuela said she’d be better off petting a rattlesnake. But these feathers were not the Corbeaus’ skin. They didn’t hold the same poison as a Corbeau’s body.

“It’s cursed,” her mother said. One hard tug, and she won. She threw the costume tail into a bucket and lit it. The metal pail grew hot as a stove. The fumes off the melting sequins stung Lace’s throat.

“Did you have to burn the whole thing?” she asked.

“Better safe, mija,” her mother said, wetting down the undergrowth with day-old aguas frescas so the brush wouldn’t catch.

They could have cleaned the tail, blessed it, stripped away the feather’s touch. Burning it only gave the Corbeaus more power. Those feathers already had such weight. The fire in the pail was an admission that, against them, Lace’s family had no guard.

Before Lace was born, the Palomas and the Corbeaus had just been competing acts, two of the only shows left that bothered with the Central Valley’s smallest towns. Back then it was just business, not hate. Even now Lace’s family sometimes ended up in the same town with a band of traveling singers or acrobats, and there were no fights, no blood. Only the wordless agreement that each of them were there to survive, and no grudges after. Every fall when the show season ended, Lace’s aunts swapped hot-plate recipes with a trio of trapeze artists. Her father traded homeschooling lesson plans with a troupe of Georgian folk dancers.

The Corbeaus never traded anything with anyone. They shared nothing, took nothing. They kept to themselves, only straying from the cheapest motel in town to give one of Lace’s cousins a black eye, or leave a dead fish at the riverbank. Lace and Martha found the last one, its eye shining like a wet marble.

Before Lace was born, these were bloodless threats, ways the Corbeaus tried to rattle her family before their shows. Now every Paloma knew there was nothing the Corbeaus wouldn’t do.

Lace’s mother watched the elastane threads curl inside a shell of flame. “They’re coming,” she said.

“Did you think they wouldn’t?” Lace asked. Her mother smiled. “I can hope, can’t I?”

She could hope all she wanted. The Corbeaus wouldn’t give up the crowds that came with Almendro’s annual festival. So many tourists, all so eager to fill their scrapbooks. That meant two weeks in Almendro. Two weeks when the younger Paloma men hardened their fists, and their mothers prayed they didn’t come home with broken ribs.

Lace’s grandmother set the schedule each year, and no one spoke up against Abuela. If they ever did, she’d pack their bags for them. Lace had watched Abuela cram her cousin Licha’s things into a suitcase, clearing her perfumes and lipsticks off the motel dresser with one sweep of her arm. When Lace visited her in Visalia and they went swimming, Licha’s two-piece showed that her escamas, the birthmarks that branded her a Paloma, had disappeared.

Lace’s mother taught her that those birthmarks kept them safe from the Corbeaus’ feathers. That family was el Diablo on earth, with dark wings strapped to their bodies, French on their tongues, a sprinkling of gypsy blood. When Lace slept, they went with her, living in nightmares made of a thousand wings.

Another black feather swirled on a downdraft. Lace watched it spin and fall. It settled in her hair, its slight weight like a moth’s feet.

Her mother snatched it off Lace’s head. “¡Madre mía!” she cried, and threw it into the flames.

Lace’s cousins said the Corbeaus grew black feathers right out of their heads, like hair. She never believed it. It was another rumor that strengthened the Corbeaus’ place in their nightmares. But the truth, that wind pulled feathers off the wings they wore as costumes, wasn’t a strong enough warning to keep Paloma children from the woods.

La magia negra,” her mother said. She always called those feathers black magic.

The fire dimmed to embers. Lace’s mother gave the pail a hard kick. It tumbled down the bank and into the river, the hot metal hissing and sinking.

“Let them drown,” her mother said, and the last of the rim vanished.

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore. Copyright © 2015 by the author and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Griffin.

Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and grew up in a Mexican-American family. She attended University of Southern California on a Trustee Scholarship. A Lambda Literary Fellow, she has had work featured by the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, Crate Literary Magazine's cratelit, Camera Obscura's Bridge the Gap Series, and The Portland Review. The Weight of Feathers is her first novel.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Hello everyone,
I hope you're all having a great Saturday. I have series spotlight for you today, and it's for Meredith Wild's Hacker series. The fifth and final book, Hard Love, recently came out so it's the perfect time to pick up all the books and binge read them, which I plan to do during fall break in a couple of weeks.

I already read and reviewed the first book, Hardwired, and I really enjoyed it. This series is romance readers who enjoy the mysterious dominant billionaire plot line, but the smexy scenes are not overdone and there's a strong, solid plot and writing.

Here's the synopsis for Hardwired.

Determined to overcome a difficult past, Erica Hathaway learns early on how to make it on her own. Days after her college graduation she finds herself face to face with a panel of investors who will make or break her fledgling startup. The only thing she didn't prepare for was going weak in the knees over an arrogant and gorgeous investor who's seemingly determined to derail her presentation.

Billionaire and rumored hacker Blake Landon has already made his fortune in software, and he's used to getting what he wants with very little resistance. Captivated by Erica's drive and unassuming beauty, he's wanted nothing more since she stepped into his boardroom. Determined to win her over, he breaks down her defenses and fights for her trust, even if that means sacrificing a level of control he's grown accustomed to.

But when Blake uncovers a dark secret from Erica's past, he threatens not just her trust, but the life she's fought so hard to create.

If you're interested in reading the synopsis for the other four books, visit the Goodreads series page. If you already read books 1-4, here's an excerpt from Hard Love. But I think it's okay to read even though you haven't--there's no big spoilers. It's just a sweet moment between Blake and Erica.

We walked the now familiar path back to our hotel, through the dark uneven streets out of Dublin’s city center. A hint of rain and the lingering scent of the fresh flowers that had been sold on the streets hours earlier filled the air.

I held Blake’s hand, admiring the details of the building architecture framing the old streets, greeting the bright-eyed faces that met us on the sidewalk. It was almost midnight, but our schedule was a mess and I was in no rush to be anywhere as long as we were together. Seeing my old professor again had been a flashback to a simpler time in my life. So much had happened since that first meeting in the Angelcom boardroom that he’d arranged with Max’s initial support. I could have never known then that I’d fall head over heels for the cocky investor sitting across from me…that I’d be his wife. But here we were, bound together as closely as two people could be.

Blake caught me closer to his side and brushed a soft kiss over my cheek. “I like Brendan. I can see why he’s become a friend.”

I smiled. “It seems odd to call him that, but it’s true. He encouraged me to build the business when I had so many doubts. He’s the reason I took the path I did."

“A path that led you straight to me.” He squeezed my hand. “Lucky me.”

I was lucky too. I couldn’t deny it. But I could have never imagined traveling the road I had.

“You’re quiet. What are you thinking about?” he asked.

I blew out a breath and shook my head. “The business, I guess. I can’t help but feel like I…failed somehow.”

He glanced down at me. “You didn’t fail. You learned.”

I scuffed the sole of my boots against the stones as we walked, avoiding his stare.

“I’ve been around the block a few times, you know. You should trust me.”

I smirked. “That’s why I married you, of course. For your business acumen and wealth of knowledge.”

He lifted an eyebrow.

“And your mountains of money,” I added quickly.

He frowned. “You’re trying to tell me you didn’t marry me for my dashing good looks? I might be insulted.”

I pursed my lips, trying to look serious. “If I had to pick one thing that tipped the scales, I’d say it was your exceptional skills in bed. I think that’s where you really excel.”

“Well then”—he laughed, his eyes twinkling—“at least my purpose is clear.”

He gave my ass a firm squeeze. Laughing, I pushed him away as we approached a street performer who was crooning for the barest of audiences. A small group of French-speaking tourists stood nearby, and an older man, dirty from the streets, sat on the opposite side of the street with a sloppy grin.

We slowed to listen as the tourists dispersed. The song was sad, but rich with love—raw and emotional the way he delivered each verse. Blake turned me to him, bringing us chest to chest. Our fingers laced, his breath warm against my hair, he led us into a simple nameless dance. I swayed toward him and closed my eyes, clinging to his muscular frame the way I clung to every magical moment between us.

Straining for the lyrics through the singer’s thick accent, I caught the verses.

When misfortune falls sure no man can shun it.

I was blindfolded I’ll ne’er deny.

Now at nights when I go to my bed of slumber,

the thoughts of my true love run in my mind.

Another moment passed as the young man’s voice faded into the night. The song was a somber one, made light only by his passionate delivery of it. Like so much of life, the pain was what you made it. He’d made something sad beautiful.

I sighed, still tight against Blake’s chest. His body emanated warmth. His heartbeat was a steady reminder of his support, his love—a force that had saved me, changed me, and healed me in ways I’d never thought possible. He tipped my chin up, the glint in his eyes matching the passion in my heart. He parted his full lips, but hesitated, a wordless moment passing between us.

“I’m going to show you the whole world, Erica.”

“I can’t imagine enjoying a minute of it without you,” I whispered.

He stilled our slow dance, tracing a fingertip over my lips, his countenance now serious in a way that threatened my next breath.

“And I’m going to make you fall in love with me all over again. Every morning and every night. In every city and at the edge of every ocean. I’ll remind you why you’re mine and why I’ve always been yours.”

I drew in an unsteady breath, feeling his promise all the way to my soul.

Swallowing hard, I found my voice. “I think you’re on the right track.”

I arched toward him until our lips met. Soft and slow at first, the kiss went deeper, stealing every thought that didn’t revolve around his taste and touch.

We broke apart slightly when a gravelly voice interrupted us.

“Go make love to her, lad, before she changes her mind already.”

Behind us, the man who’d made his home for the night in the entryway of a high-end store offered an imperfect grin, pairing his words of wisdom with a friendly tip of his small bottle of liquor.

I smiled, and Blake, by the dark look in his eyes, seemed to immediately accept the stranger’s challenge.

“I plan to,” he murmured, his tone all velvet and delicious threat. My skin tingled and he took my mouth again with a kiss that promised so much more.

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Happy reading,

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: August 11, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
The third in a sexy romance series from the bestselling author of Saxon and Toxic Girl about the bad boys of the Wind Dragons Motorcycle Club and the women who fall in love with them.

Tracker is everything I’ve ever wanted.

I see him. I’ve watched time change him.

I’ve been patient, but he still hasn’t noticed me. Not the way I want him to. The more time I spend with the MC, the more I understand.

When you want something, you have to take it. You have to fight for it.

And Tracker is more than worth fighting for…

I've only read two other motorcycle club-themed books before Tracker's End--Kristen Ashley's Own the Wind, which I didn't like, and Joanna Wylde's Silver Bastard, which I really like. I'm giving Tracker's End...
I definitely like Tracker's End. So much so, that even before finishing the novel I was already buying the first two books in the series. Tracker's End is the third book in the series, but it can be read as a standalone. But meeting the other characters, especially the previous characters in the first two books, I already knew I wanted to read their stories. Like in other MC books, the Wind Dragons members are like one big family and I love reading about them all and the way they interact with each other.

Lana was great! She's shy, the good girl to her best friend Anna's more bold personality. She's used to always being in the background. But, Lana was hiding as secret--beneath that shy demeanor and unbeknownst to anyone she's an erotic romance writer.  Unfortunately, she's suffering from writer's block. Hoping to get out of it, she agreed to look after the Wind Dragon's President's adorable daughter, Clover. 

Tracker had been eyeing Lana for a long time, but never made his move because he thought he wasn't right for her. Also, he wasn't 100% single then and had this sort of loose relationship with another woman, Allie. But he's single now and he wants Lana. I liked Tracker for most of the novel. He was a sexy alpha, cocksure and rough around the edges, but he was really gentle with Lana. He also had a sense of humor that I appreciated. But there were times when he was pushy for the sake of protecting her and he kind of got on my nerves. However, when I did my research for this book before deciding to pick it up, many reviewers on Goodreads put GIFs of sexy Chris Hemsworth (who is one hunk of a man) as Tracker. Then, I realized even the cover model might even be Chris Hemsworth (see his hair!)... I don't usually picture specific people in my head for characters in books, but Tracker as Chris Hemsworth all the away!

There was always mutual attraction between Lana and Tracker since the day they met--it was at a simmer for a year (and I bet that simmer was seen in the previous two books). After Tracker decided he wanted to pursue Lana, things came to a boil and their chemistry was scorching. There was a strong attraction and lust between them and they said their "I love yous" midway through the novel but...I don't know, you guys... I guess my biggest issue with this novel was that I wasn't quite convinced it was love yet between them when they said it. Also, I thought he overreacted when he learned about Lana being an author. Then, Tracker did something (while they were broken up, but still) in the end that made me lose some of my affection for him.

One of my favorite things about Tracker's End was the author's writing style. It was very... conversational the way she wrote the novel. Reading Lana's characters was like hearing the story from a friend. The author's style helped me to read through the novel very quickly and it kept my attention. If you like MC romance novels, I highly recommend Tracker's End. It's lighter in tone than the other two MC books I previously read, but I was fine with that. I'm really looking forward to reading the previous two books and upcoming books about the other members.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

ARC: 256 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
In modern-day London, two brilliant high school students, one Sherlock Holmes and a Miss James "Mori" Moriarty, meet. A murder will bring them together. The truth very well might drive them apart.

Before they were mortal enemies, they were much more.

FACT: Someone has been murdered in London's Regent's Park. The police have no leads.

FACT: Miss James "Mori"Moriarty and Sherlock "Lock" Holmes should be hitting the books on a school night. Instead, they are out crashing a crime scene.

FACT: Lock has challenged Mori to solve the case before he does. Challenge accepted.

FACT: Despite agreeing to Lock's one rule--they must share every clue with each other--Mori is keeping secrets.

OBSERVATION: Sometimes you can't trust the people closest to you with matters of the heart. And after this case, Mori may never trust Lock again.

Lock & Mori initially caught my interest because it paired Sherlock Holmes with his archenemy James Moriarty. When I read the original Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, Moriarty didn't really make an impression. It was only when I started watching BBC's Sherlock that his character stuck with me (thanks to Andrew Scott's electrifying performance). With than in mind, I didn't quite know what to expect from Ms. Petty's James Moriarty, who is, in fact, a female in this novel. 
I knew Mori was the narrator, so I didn't think the author was going to make her a psychopath--it wasn't that kind of novel. What I soon came to learn was that while the author took many names from Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, Lock & Mori was it's own story. This was completely fine with me--while I enjoyed the author's nod to the original, I liked and welcome that she took it in her own direction--and gave us a compelling origin story for Sherlock and Moriarty.

Lock & Mori was told through Mori's first-person perspective, and we learned right away that she's quick-witted, out-spoken, perceptive, and had no patience for stupidity. She attends the same private high school in London as Lock, who was the school's eccentric. He had his own lab in the school's basement, and during a fire drill Mori was tasked to fetch Lock from his lab where they initially meet. Later that day, they happen to meet again at Regent Park where a recent murder had occurred. He challenged her to solve the crime before he does.
"How about we make this a bit of a game?"
I tried to roll my eyes and act like I wasn't completely intrigued, but I was a piss-poor actor on a good day, despite my years of drama. "Go on."
"First one to solve the crime, wins."
"Wins what?"
"Wins the game."
"And what will be the rules?"
"No rules," he said.
"All games have rules."
"Fine. The only rule is total transparency. We must both know what the other knows."
But Mori realized that the murder was connected with her deceased mom, and she couldn't share some of the things she learned with Lock. Also, she's developing feelings for her rival (and vice versa) despite their having very different viewpoints and ideas. Mori also made decisions that pushed her further away from Lock and trust became a big issue between them. I really liked how their relationship evolved throughout the novel, though. There was disagreement and friction between them, but I liked it. They are two highly intelligent individuals--and obviously, they are inspired by Sherlock and Moriarty, so they're going to clash.

But the quieter, more vulnerable moments between them were my favorite parts. They both have problems at home, especially Mori is dealing with an drunk abusive father and three younger brothers at home. A warning to those readers sensitive to physical abuse scenes: there were a couple of scenes that were very violent and graphic. I myself had a hard time reading those scenes. As for Lock, we got some background on him, but we didn't really get to know him as much as we did Mori. I really like him, though. He's socially awkward and moody, but so sweet and adorable. He's kind of the opposite to Mori, who had a more brash temperament and brushed aside ethics to serve her own agenda.

The mystery aspect was easy to figure out, but it kept me engaged anyway because it wasn't really about catching the murderer but more about how Mori and Lock respond or react to the events and the clues. This novel was really about how Mori's character evolved--how the events that happened changed her point of view and we see her step closer to the dark side. The last few chapters were crazy and I was at the edge of my seat. I'm really looking forward to seeing where the author will take Lock and Mori's story next and what will happen to their relationship after the events in this novel. Lock & Mori was a fast read that kept me engaged and entertained. I thoroughly enjoyed it overall! If you like young adult mysteries, definitely pick this one up.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

SAY WHAT?! First & Then Blog Tour + Giveaway

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 with
Hello everyone,
I am so excited to be part of the First & Then blog tour! It's superlatives-themed and I got SAY WHAT?! This was perfect for me because I'm a collector of quotes. I'll be sharing my favorite quotes from First & Then and author Emma Mills will be sharing her favorite YA quotes.

But first...
Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

Here are my favorite quotes from First & Then.
If you read my review of First & Then, you'll kind of understand why I picked the quotes I did.

Here are Emma's favorite YA quotes.

If you guys are curious about my thoughts on First & Then, you can find my review here (spoiler alert: I LOVED it!!).

Now that you all are all pumped up about First & Then, you probably want to get your hands on a copy of, yeah? Well, one lucky winner will received a finished copy of First & Then. Just fill out the rafflecopter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The blog tour is just getting started! Visit the other blog participating for more fun posts and giveaways.
Good luck and happy reading,

P.S. If you're curious where my sister created the two quote graphics, she used an editing website called
ARC: 266 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.
Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

What attracted me the most to First & Then was the cover. It's simple, colorful, bright and cute--just the kind of cover I'm attracted to. When I read the synopsis, I was sold because, I mean, come on, "Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights"? This had Leslie written all over it.

I'm happy to say that I absolutely enjoyed First & Then more than I even expected to when I initially picked it up. There was not a single moment while reading it that I felt bored, restless, or frustrated. The plot was unexpected and deep; the characters, particularly Devon, her cousin, and her love interest, were likable and relatable; and the writing flowed and was easy to consume and understand. As soon as I finished it, I knew I couldn't give it less than

Although its blurb says "Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights," First & Then isn't really a straight-on retelling of Pride and Prejudice with football helmets and screaming fans. To my initial confusion and then eventual surprise, it actually combines the two--so well that it is not obviously one or the other but rather an imagined story that branches from concepts featured in each of the two. I mean, yes, there was a prejudging and blunt heroine and seemingly equally prejudging and arrogant hero interacting in the cliche realm of high school football, but while I was reading First & Then, I didn't get the full impression of Pride and Prejudice nor of Friday Night Lights. Unlike in Jane Austen's well-known book, the hero and heroine in First & Then slowly and gradually develop feelings for each other with little to no contempt toward each other; they talked, laughed, joked, and acted as pretty good friends as the chemistry between them deepened. The drama that escalated as the couple's relationship changed was not as crazy and melodramatic as it was in the popular TV show, yet it still retained that that addicting quality. 

The lack of Pride and Prejudice-esque romance and lack of Friday Night Lights-esque teenage angst melodrama made First & Then all the more enjoyable for me. It made the story less predictable and it gave more focus to the other elements of the novel, such as that of the dynamics of sibling relationships, the importance of sympathy and empathy, and the need to accept one's self and life. Each one of those elements really hit home for me as I read First & Then. A couple of times while reading the book, I had to stop and think about what was just said and reflect on how true it rang for me. Once, I was even moved to tears. The plot never, not once, bored me; I was riveted and excited by all the events and their meanings until the very end. I found First & Then interesting and thought-provoking and an overall engaging read for me.

First & Then was made even more interesting for me since I was able to relate to the main character Devon so well. I saw a lot of myself in Devon: totally ordinary with a loving family, a good school record, a few close friends, and no tragedy to write about for college app essays. I empathized with her as she silently and hopelessly crushed on her best friend Cas (a cliche but true experience), and I felt for her when she would compare herself to others--the talented, the intelligent, the weird, the comedic, the beautiful, and the popular--those who were obviously not just ordinary. Through every revelation that she had about her eccentric cousin Foster and her aloof acquaintance-friend Ezra, I was with her in learning about and understanding more people and the self. I definitely rooted for Devon in First & Then as she became a more content and grateful person. As I got to know her and watch her grow, I learned more about my own self.

Devon's cousin Foster was a character I also really liked getting to know in First & Then. Unabashed and unpredictable as he was, I absolutely loved him. He was enthusiastic, passionate, caring, and kind, yet, also complex as his complicated relations with his parents made him thoughtful, self-conscious, confused, and hopeful. His relationship with Devon was great. It was the typical weird little brother and annoyed older sister interaction, and it was fun and humorous to watch them grow closer and closer together. Their opposing personalities made for a different kind of conflict ensued by pride and prejudices to showcase, not a surprising romantic love, but a strong familial love. Foster was a character that moved me to his very last scene in First & Then.

Ezra, the Mr. Darcy of First & Then, was lovely, and his romance with Devon was wonderfully just so. As aloof, prideful, and taciturn as he was, Ezra was one of those people who impressed upon others a sense of harmlessness as well as a feeling of reserve. I had a hard time making him out in the beginning, unsure of whether or not he should be considered as a threat, a friend, or a possible book-boyfriend. Even with the hindsight I had from reading the blurb, for a while as I read, I could not anticipate what chemistry that was to take place between him and Devon. However, in his rare moments of kindness and downright swoonworthy-sweetness, I did not allow myself to write Ezra completely off for he did seem to have a heart, a broken and complex one at that. So, alas, ever so slowly and subtly, his and Devon's romance grew, and although Devon was often deluded by her feelings for Cas, I knew, with all my Pride and Prejudice fangirly-ness, that Ezra was the one pulling at her heartstrings; he was definitely pulling on mine. I loved how the couple's romance burgeoned and blossomed throughout the story, and I really liked seeing the character development of Ezra as he dealt with his own insecurities and issues by trying to get to know Devon. I'm a total sucker for uptight heroes who put down their guard for their heroines, and Ezra was one of those heroes. I rooted for him and him with Devon in First & Then.

On top of an interesting plot and likable characters, the writing of First & Then was great as it was easy to understand and flowed very nicely. There was nothing fancy or complicated about the writing style of Emma Mills, and for a debut novel, I believe there was little to no awkwardness either. The book is short, only over 200 pages, and it was just right for the pacing and escalation of the story. First & Then was an easy and quick read I enjoyed very much with every page turn.

First & Then has everything: an engaging plot, a set of likable and relatable characters, and a flowing writing style all within the familiar ideas and settings of Pride and Prejudice and Friday Night Lights. When I initially picked it up, I wanted a quick, fun, and easy read and it delivered that and so much more. I recommend it to anyone looking for that same kind of read. A reading slump will be deterred with this gem of a book that will remind you that whether or not you are the talented, the intelligent, the weird, the comedic, the beautiful, or the popular, we are all really just ordinary in our own crazy, flawed, extraordinary ways. Embrace it. Love it.

For more First & Then fun, check out our post for the First & Then blog tour here. It includes my favorite quotes from the novel, plus author Emma Mills shares her favorite YA lit quotes. Also, you can win a copy of First & Then there. Visit the other blog tour stops (see the graphic below for the schedule) for more content and giveaways.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Q+A with LOCK & MORI Author Heather W. Petty

Monday, September 14, 2015 with
Hello everyone,
I am so excited to share with you all my interview with author Heather W. Petty. She wrote one of my most anticipated fall books, Lock & Mori--a modern re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty.

Intrigued? Here's the synopsis.

In modern-day London, two brilliant high school students, one Sherlock Holmes and a Miss James "Mori" Moriarty, meet. A murder will bring them together. The truth very well might drive them apart.

Before they were mortal enemies, they were much more.

FACT: Someone has been murdered in London's Regent's Park. The police have no leads.

FACT: Miss James "Mori"Moriarty and Sherlock "Lock" Holmes should be hitting the books on a school night. Instead, they are out crashing a crime scene.

FACT: Lock has challenged Mori to solve the case before he does. Challenge accepted.

FACT: Despite agreeing to Lock's one rule--they must share every clue with each other--Mori is keeping secrets.

OBSERVATION: Sometimes you can't trust the people closest to you with matters of the heart. And after this case, Mori may never trust Lock again.

Author Heather W. Petty
Inquiring minds want to know... among the three, who's your favorite actor to play Sherlock Holmes: Benedict Cumberbatch, Jonny Lee Miller, or Robert Downey, Jr.?
I refuse to answer this on the grounds that I love them all the same. (I will play the role of Switzerland in this fanwar.) But Jeremy Brett will always be *my* Sherlock. I used to come home from school and watch reruns of the old ITV Sherlock Holmes series from the 80s & 90s on A&E like it was my religion.

I love the cover of LOCK & MORI! What was your reaction when you first saw it? Were the models used a good representation of the Lock and Mori in your head when you were writing them?
I love it too! Which actually surprised me, as I'm not usually drawn to covers with people on them. But this really fit the book so well. When I write I don't really see faces, so I wasn't much help when they asked me who the characters resembled. S&S did an amazing job of finding the cover models, though. In fact, almost everyone who had read the book before the cover came out said that the cover model for Mori was exactly how they'd pictured her while reading.

What is Lock and Mori's theme song?
Broken by Lauren Hoffman is probably closest.

If you get to hang with Lock and Mori for a whole day in your hometown (or state), where would you all go and what will you do?
I think I'd rather go to their hometown, if I'm being honest. There is way more to do in London than in Reno, especially for someone still in high school. But really, it's so weird to think about hanging out with them for a whole day. It would probably be the most awkward day that has ever been. I'd be like, "Sorry about all the trauma, guys." But that would be a total lie. Authors are mostly evil—especially to their characters.

What was your favorite scene in LOCK & MORI and why?
This is actually harder to answer than I thought it would be, because there are scenes that were super fun to write and those that I really loved after the fact, even if they were hell to write at the time. But... if I have to pick one, I'll go with the scene where they are out on the lake in Regent's Park and Mori is explaining her views on Feminism.


A big thank you to Heather for answering my questions, and for Simon & Schuster and Audrey for the opportunity to interview Heather. Bookish friends, Lock & Mori will be released tomorrow Tuesday, September 15.

For more info about Heather and her upcoming books, stop by her website, Twitter and Facebook. I'll be posting my review of Lock & Mori on Wednesday.

Happy reading,

**We are not affiliated with any of the retailers listed and will not earn any referral fees if you click on the links.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town.

Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much -- except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There's too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.

Dream Things True initially caught my attention because it was blurbed by one of my favorite authors, Huntley Fitzpatrick. I'm glad I did pick it up because it was a fantastic read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Dream Things True is a "wrong side of the tracks" story set in a small town in Georgia around 2006-2007, before Obama's immigration reform. It tells the story of Alma, an undocumented immigrant, and Evan, the town's golden boy and nephew to a conservative Southern politician. After Alma and her dad's initial hesitance, they started dating. Alma was the smartest girl in school and she's on her way to a very bright future, so Evan's family readily accepted her... until they found out that she's undocumented. Then, everything changed.

I really liked Alma's character. She left for Atlanta for her freshman year of high school to attend a more rigorous high school that offered the AP classes that will challenge her. But by junior year, her dad made her move back to their small town, and to go an academically not-as-good high school, to help out her family. We share similar backgrounds--I'm not Mexican or undocumented, but I was an immigrant and, like her family, my family also struggled to make ends meet. I am also familiar with her frustration. I had peers who were in the same boat as Alma. Their parents discourage them to take AP classes or participate in extracurricular activities so that they can take after school jobs to help support their families. I had peers who had so much potential, but their parents discouraged them to pursue higher education after graduation and instead urged them to find full-time jobs. I had similar thoughts as her about rich people--when she started hanging out with Evan's friends, she wondered what they were so unhappy about when they have all the privilege and the money to get anything they wanted. I related a lot with Alma's character.

I liked Evan's character too. He was a nice boy--the kind of boy you'd want to bring home to your mother. I liked how he pursued Alma and courted her. He was so sweet to her! I liked how he befriended Alma's family and won them over through his mad soccer skills. He was naive in the beginning, but he grew up by the end. I liked how he stood by Alma through everything she was going through, even when his family urged him to break things off with her. Evan was the perfect guy, but maybe too perfect? He didn't really have any flaws and he felt one-dimensional at times.

I did enjoy the other secondary characters, like Evan's cousin Whit, who brought humor to the story. He was this crazy, alcoholic poor-little-rich-boy type and it was interesting learning his back story and how he became that way. I also liked Mrs. King, the retired middle school counselor who stood by and was always there to help Alma. 

I guess my biggest issue with Dream Things True was the romance. Things went too fast--the time they met to when they officially became a couple happened a few weeks, but we didn't really get to "see" those weeks. Then, we fast forward six months later and everything went to shit when Alma's brother and dad were arrested by the police and they were going to get deported. I wish there was more of a build up to their relationship. We were told rather than shown most of it, so I wasn't quite convince of their feelings for each other. I didn't really feel the love between them.

The author is definitely an expert on immigration issues and it showed in the novel. There are really no easy answers in Alma's situation, so I understood why the author ended the novel the way she did. I am actually glad Alma made the decision that she did in the end. She didn't pick the easy road, but I think it's the right one. It was an okay-for-now ending, and I want to believe that down the road Alma and Evan will be more than okay. But an epilogue would've been nice, especially one that includes what happened to Alma's brother who decided to go back to the U.S. illegally after being deported. 

With illegal immigration a hot topic right now, Dream Things True is a timely read. For anyone interested in illegal immigration and seeing thing through an undocumented immigrant's eyes, this is a really good book to pick up. 

Evan led her onto the dock, where a dozen people she didn’t know were climbing into ski boats. She watched as all of these strangers, presumably students at her new school, casually distributed themselves into boats.

Do teenagers own boats? Alma wondered. Evan led her onto his boat, where two other people were already rummaging around under the seats for life jackets. An athletic-looking girl with long brown hair threw her one.

“I’m Caroline,” she said, “and that’s Logan.” She motioned toward a short, muscular guy with a shaved head. He had his back to Alma, and was untying ropes from the boat. Hearing his name, he turned and grinned.

¡Bienvenidos!” he said in terrible, Southern-accented Spanish.

“Just ignore him when he acts like an idiot,” Caroline said. “That’s what I do.”

Evan got behind the wheel and started the engine. Just as he was backing out, an amazingly beautiful girl came running down the dock.

“Evan, hon! Wait for me!” she called out.

The girl reached the edge of the dock and, without hesitating, leapt gracefully across the water and toward the boat. She was wearing nothing but a bright-red string bikini. Her sandy-blond hair bounced and shone like a model’s in a shampoo commercial.

Evan pulled her safely onto the boat, and she collapsed into the passenger seat.

“Thanks, sweetheart,” she said to Evan.

“This is Alma,” Evan said, nodding in Alma’s direction. “She’ll be starting at Gilberton next week. And this is Mary Catherine,” he said, grabbing onto the beautiful girl’s shoulder and squeezing hard. “She’s my perpetually late neighbor.”

“But he loves me anyway!” Mary Catherine proclaimed.

Then she smiled, revealing perfect teeth to match her perfect body.

Were they flirting? Alma felt a tightness in her chest, knowing that she was no competition for this girl.

The engine rumbled, and the boat lurched forward from the dock. Evan grasped Alma’s arm to steady her and then pulled her toward him. “Ready to learn how to drive?”

“You’re mocking me,” she called out above the noise of the engine. “I don’t think you even need a license to drive a boat,” Evan said. “Plus, no brakes, so we’re safe.”

Keeping one hand on the steering wheel, he wedged her body in front of his and guided her hand to the throttle. “Do you want to go faster?”

“No.” The wind pressed her back against him, and she felt the heat of his chest through the T-shirt.

“Are you scared?” His lip brushed her ear as he spoke.

“Yes,” she said. Her body was off balance, as if the floor of the boat were shifting under her.

“Get over it,” he replied, lifting her hand gently and placing it on the throttle.

Together, their hands guided the throttle forward. She tried looking across the lake, in the direction that he was steering, but all she noticed was his hand on hers. The floor kept shifting. She wondered if this was what it felt like to be drunk.

He slipped out from behind her.

“I’m gonna dig out the skis. Just keep going straight, Alma. It’s easy.”

She grasped the wheel hard to avoid falling back. The boat skittered over the water, and the wind fused Evan’s T-shirt to her practically bare skin. Alma tried hard to ignore the dull ache spreading at the pit of her stomach.

After a few minutes, Evan took the wheel. Caroline and Logan both dived into the water and began to swim fast as Evan tossed a ski rope in their direction.

“This should be entertaining,” he said as they wrestled with their slalom skis.

“Entertaining?” Alma asked. “Yeah, they’ll both show off.”

“Are they, uh, a couple?”

“Most of the time. They fight all the time and break up every couple of months.”

Evan shoved the throttle forward and the boat lurched.

“Logan gets bored easily,” he said. “He’s always looking for a rush.” Logan and Caroline both popped out of the water, crisscrossing each other as they leapt and dived over the wake. “So they just break up for fun?”

“Yeah, I think it runs in his blood. Everybody says his dad was the same, back in the day. He stole boats and stuff, just for the hell of it.” He shrugged and continued, “Which is weird, since he’s the sheriff now.”

The sheriff. Evan said it like it was nothing, like he was describing the color of Logan’s dad’s car, or his height—not like he knew this man had the power to throw people in jail and keep them there.

Evan gestured toward Logan and Caroline and winced. “That’s gotta hurt.”

Caroline was spinning in rapid circles as Logan did strange contortions with his arm.

Maybe, Alma thought, they were all so used to being around powerful people that they didn’t even notice it anymore. Maybe they never had.

“Come back here, Alma!” Mary Catherine called from the back of the boat. “I can’t hear what y’all are saying and I’m lonely.”

Alma glanced at Evan and shrugged. She made her way back and settled into a bucket seat next to Mary Catherine.

Alma wasn’t sure how to make conversation with Mary Catherine. She seemed so unapproachable—this girl who wore a bikini confidently, like she was hanging in comfy sweats. But within moments, it became clear that Mary Catherine—or M.C., as Evan called her—was not your typical Southern belle.

“So, when did you and Evan start hooking up?” she asked. For starters, she was excruciatingly blunt.

“Uh, we’re just sort of friends,” Alma replied, shrugging.

“Alma, honey,” she said, “I’ve known that boy forever, and the way he looks at you, he doesn’t wanna be your friend.”

M.C. let out a deep, bellowing howl that sounded like it should come from a balding white guy with a beer gut. Alma was so surprised by M.C.’s laugh that she forgot to be embarrassed.

“OK.” Alma shrugged. “Maybe we’re not exactly friends. But we’re not hooking up.”

“Makes sense,” Mary Catherine responded, sort of talking to herself. “Evan doesn’t really hook up. Plus, I would have known.”

Confused and desperate to change the subject, Alma asked, “So how did you two meet?”

“Meet?” M.C. asked. “We’ve been neighbors for as long as either of us can remember. I mean, we used to play doctor together! I was the doctor. I always made Evan be the nurse.”

Mary Catherine bellowed again.

“So when you and Evan do hook up,” she said, “you can thank me for his gentle, nurturing touch.”

Now Alma was blushing. “You mean, you and Evan were, uh...”

“Together? Lord, no. He’s like a baby brother to me, Alma. I think I went through puberty something like four years before he did.”

Alma and Mary Catherine turned to look at Evan, his perfectly toned arms casually gripping the steering wheel, his broad shoulders gleaming in the sun.

“My baby’s all grown up,” Mary Catherine continued. “Now, he’s what my grandmomma calls a ‘tall drink of water.’ ”

They both laughed, catching Evan’s attention.

“What are you ladies talking about back there?” he asked.

“Nothing that concerns you, Ev, sweetheart,” Mary Catherine replied. “You just drive the boat.”

“Not unless Alma gets back up here to finish her driving lesson,” Evan said, reaching his arm out toward her.

Mary Catherine laughed and nudged her out of the seat.

“You heard him,” she called out. “You better get on up there, darlin’, because I’m sure as hell not driving.”

Alma closed her eyes and stood up slowly, her head spinning and her legs quivering.

He took her hand and pulled her body back toward the wheel, and she realized, finally, the meaning of the word “swoon.”

From Dream Things True (St. Martin's Griffin) by Marie Marquardt
Here's a video of the author talking about how people can get involved in the issue of undocumented immigrants.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: n/a
Ror was raised on a commune with her dad as the leader. She never attended a day of school, but she can build a house, or cut down a tree with a chainsaw. All she really cares about is drawing and painting. To her, it’s like breathing; it’s how she makes sense of the world.

When her father burns down the commune with himself inside, she ends up in Manhattan, where the streets are filled with art. There she runs into trouble - and falls into crazy love - with Trey, the leader of Noise Ink, a graffiti crew.

On the city’s streets, and in its museums and galleries, Ror finds herself pulled in different directions. Her father wanted her to learn the classics. Noise Ink insists she stay within their lines. Her teacher urges her to go to college. What does she want? What kind of artist is she?

Ror’s journey is a seamless blend of words and pictures, cinematic in its scope - a sharp-edged, indelible creation that will live inside your head.

This book was quite unexpected, but in a very good way.
I have to admit, I was ready to feel indifferent towards this book. The cover and the synopsis didn't really appeal to me, but I picked it up because I was intrigued by the art. I flipped through the book, and some were beautiful while others were strange and the graffiti made me cringe (more on that later). But as I kept reading Into the Dangerous World I was absorbed by Ror and her journey of self-discovery. 

First, of all I didn't know going in that Into the Dangerous World was set in the 1980s in New York City. The synopsis mentioned Ror growing up in a commune, but that didn't click with me. The time and place really added a different dimension to the story. I really enjoyed it all the more.

The story began with a bang. Ror's father burst into her room with a large roll of paper and was spouting about how he was going to save her. But he ended up burning down the commune, with him trapped inside. This left Ror, her older sister and mom homeless. They had to leave Staten Island and moved into a really crappy apartment and live on food stamps. Ror lived her whole life in the commune and Manhattan was a different world. All she had was her art, which was heavily influenced by her father. She ended up meeting Trey at school and she joined their graffiti crew called Noise Ink. She's exposed to a different kind of art that went against what her father taught her.

I'm not an art person. I do have some vague knowledge of different art styles and some classic and modern artists. The novel mentioned Dadaism a few times and I was able to associate it with art pieces in my head. That was a really fun for me. It brought me back to the Art 101 class I took in college years ago and I realized that I remember quite a bit from the class. This novel also name dropped a lot of artist names and it spurred some Googling on my part, and that was really fun as well.

The biggest impact Into the Dangerous World had on me was about graffiti. I've always associated graffiti with vandalism and didn't really give it much attention. When I see new graffiti on walls as I'm driving or walking in my neighborhood, my first thought was the delinquents struck again. When I first flipped through the book to look at the pictures and saw the graffiti, I was skeptical. But I got a different perspective on it from reading this novel. I didn't know about the unique tags names--it just looked like scribble scrabble to me--and its meaning to the individual. I haven't completely changed my mind about it (as an art form, it's not really my cup of tea) but I've come to appreciate graffiti art a bit more. It bears looking at a little more closely.

If you want a different kind of read, definitely pick up Into the Dangerous World. If you're an artist or interested in art discussion, you should definitely pick this book up. But if you're like me and not very well-versed in visual art, you'll enjoy it anyway. It was wonderfully written with an interesting main character, and the art pieces were striking and, at times, thought-provoking and really added to the story and Ror's journey as an artist. It brought up a lot interesting discussion about art and being an artist. To me, it's not a book that's going to stand out on its own among the other flashier YA titles, but if you pick it up you'll be surprised at how really good it is. I really enjoyed it, so much more than I ever thought I would. I hope you all give Into the Dangerous World a chance.

Favorite art piece from the novel: It was really hard to chose just one favorite, but I went with this one. The very first time I looked at it I just saw the ear. Then, I had to stop and look back and then I saw the fist. I've always loved hidden picture art and this one is really awesome.