Friday, January 30, 2015

$50 Gift Card GIVEAWAY + Cover Reveal/Excerpt: Losing at Love by Jennifer Iacopelli (OBX #2)

Hi guys! Today I'm hosting a cover reveal for Jennifer Iacopelli’s Losing at Love, the second book in a fantastic new adult series about professional tennis players. If you haven't read the first book in the Outer Banks Tennis Academy series, Game. Set. Match - trust me when I say you're in for a treat! It's super sexy and full of your favourite sports-y moments. And—bonus!— I'm also revealing athe new redesign for the first book in the series AND there's a giveaway, so read on!


book2-publicity-front
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Add to Goodreads

Grass courts, tennis whites and the fiercest competition in the world. Wimbledon. After two crazy weeks in Paris, the girls of the Outer Banks Tennis Academy are headed to London with just one thing on their minds: winning. 

Indiana Gaffney is fresh off a surprise win at the French Open junior tournament. Sponsors are clamoring for her attention, but what she wants more than anything—aside from a wild card to Wimbledon—is to be with Jack Harrison, but international fame and a secret relationship rarely mix well. 

When Penny Harrison dreamed of playing at Wimbledon she never imagined agonizing pain shooting through her ankle with every step. With just a month until the tournament and the whole world expecting her to win, she’s determined to play, with or without the support of her coach or the love of her life, Alex Russell. 

For the first time ever, no one expects anything from Jasmine Randazzo. After a crushing first-round defeat in the French Open juniors, the tennis world has given up on her, but worse than that, so have her parents, her best friend Teddy and maybe even her coach. With everyone writing her off, can she find it within herself to go after her dreams?

Excerpt:

Stepping into the sunshine, Indy shouldered her bag and turned towards the OBX library, her mind running through the assignments she still had to complete when a shadow crossed over her path, a large body falling into step with her, close, but not touching, their strides matching.

“Jack,” she said, glancing up at him sideways, a small smile threatening at the corner of her mouth.

“Indiana,” he said, echoing back her name, sending a shiver down her spine. He was the only one allowed to call her that, the only person who made the name she’d hated since forever sound friggin’ good.

They walked together without another word, turning the corner that separated the courts from the residential area of the complex, but her stride was suddenly cut off when Jack shuffled his feet, sliding his arm around her waist and pulled her into a shady walkway between buildings. Her bag slid off her shoulder, but he caught it before it crashed to the ground and smashed her laptop to smithereens. He let it settle on the ground gently before leaning over her, forcing her to step back into the wall.

Walls were their thing. Their first kiss had been against a wall in a random hallway at Roland Garros, their second pressed against the wall of their hotel in Paris and now that they were back in North Carolina, they found any excuse to push each other against a wall and kiss until they were gasping for air and their bodies begged for relief. Jack’s lips trailed from her temple, using the wall behind her as an anchor before bending his head to hers. Pushing up onto her toes, Indy met him halfway. She’d never been so grateful for every millimeter of her five feet ten inches as she was when she was kissing Jack. His hands slid through her hair, twisting it around his fingers, then cradling the back of her head, drawing her mouth more firmly against his. Indy brought her hands to his torso, gripping his t-shirt, letting her palms press against the cut of muscle that disappeared into his cargo shorts. The skin on skin contact made his breath hitch, his mouth opening just enough to allow her tongue to slide in, deepening the kiss, before letting her teeth nip at his bottom lip. A groan rumbled in his throat as he stumbled forward, pressing his body full length against hers. He wrenched his lips from hers, trailing his mouth over the line of her jaw to the spot just behind her ear. It was her turn to gasp and her head fell back as she arched into him. No one had ever kissed her there before. Jack smiled against her skin as her fingertips dug into his sides and she let a moan slip free as he focused his attention on that spot, scraping his teeth against it then soothing that small pain with a flick of his tongue. Her hands scrambled to get purchase against his shoulders, desperate for some leverage, anything to help her slide her body against his. Then he was gone, his hand gone from her hair, his mouth gone from her neck and his body inches then feet away. Indy blinked at him, trying to figure out what happened when the voices echoing down the pathway towards them finally reached her ears.

Bending down, he lifted her bag as she ran her fingers through her hair, knowing he’d made an unholy mess of it. “You’re fine,” he muttered, handing her the bag, then keeping the distance between them as a group of junior boys stomped past them, none giving them a second glance.

“You have good ears,” Indy said, biting her lip at the close call. If those boys had seen them, the news would have spread like wildfire through the OBX campus and everyone would have known by the end of the day. She was only seventeen for another few months, but that wasn’t really the problem, seventeen or eighteen wouldn’t matter to other people. She was a young tennis pro, he was an up and coming agent. The last thing either of their careers needed was the heightened publicity of a controversial relationship, even if Jack Harrison was far more of a gentleman than any guy she’d ever met. Sometimes a little too much of a gentleman, truth be told.

Jack shrugged, glancing back over his shoulder again before facing her fully. “I’m sorry about this.”

She reached out and took his hand, “We both agreed,” she said, entwining their fingers together, “it’s just between us for now. It makes sense for the both of us.” Pressing his lips together in a thin line, he nodded, but she knew he wasn’t entirely convinced. “Jack, we talked about this. You said you were okay with it.”

“I just wish it were different,” he said, tugging her closer, pressing a soft kiss to her forehead. His hands released hers and dropped to her hips, the edges of his thumbs brushing against her hipbones in slow circles sending shivers over her skin.

“Me too.” She wanted to scream it from the rooftops that this amazing guy was hers. That he had deep green eyes and a smile that brightened them whenever he looked at her. That he was brilliant in ways that she couldn’t even fathom with his degree from Harvard. That he’d fought their attraction for so long because of that ingrained sense of honor, like one of those heroes in a fairy tale, except Jack was real, flesh and blood.

"Have you thought...maybe we should tell Penny?" Indy asked, her fingertips landing on his forearms, gently stroking up to his elbows and back down to his wrists.

Jack let out a heavy breath. "Penny has a lot on her plate right now."

"I know, I just feel funny keeping it from her. Jasmine knows."

"We'll do whatever you want to do. This is your show, baby."

"I don't need a supportive…" she hesitated, almost using the word boyfriend, but that didn't really fit, did it? Not if they were keeping it a secret, "I need honest Jack."

He leaned back, looking her in the eye. "Honest? Honestly, my sister doesn't do well with change. It freaks her out and right now, I'm not sure that the idea of you and me will go over that well. On the other hand, if we don't tell her and she finds out?"

"She'll be pissed."

"Yep."

"Maybe we wait a little longer. We could tell her in London?"

Jack nodded, "Face to face instead of over the phone."

“There’s always Skype,” she said, not really sure if she wanted to know what Penny, the only girl who’d made an effort to befriend her when she first arrived at OBX, would think if she found out she and Jack were together.

“There’s that.”

Indy shook her head. They should do it in person. They should have done it before they left Paris, but Penny had been so devastated by withdrawing from the tournament that it hadn’t felt like the right time then either. “In London. We’ll be there in less than a week. We’ll tell her then.”

“Okay, in London.” They stood there for a moment, just breathing each other in until Jack leaned away. “I’ve gotta go. I have a meeting with a potential new client this afternoon and I’ve got to prep.”

Indy snorted a laugh. “Right, like you don’t already have a complete profile worked up along with potential sponsors to contact if they sign.”

“You know me so well,” he said, leaning around the building, checking the pathway for any more unwanted spectators. “I’ll go this way.”

Indy nodded back in the opposite direction. “And I’ll go that way.”

With a bow, he was gone, around the corner and out of sight, so she turned and adjusted her bag over her shoulder, heading out from between the buildings and towards the library. She’d have about half the time to get her Calc done than she originally planned. Fingertips pressing against that spot on her neck lightly recalling the feel of his mouth and the way her entire body was lit on fire by his touch, it was totally worth it.

“Are you sure that is a good idea?” a voice rang out from just a few steps behind her, the French accent giving its owner away, if the superiority and condescension weren’t enough of a clue. Indy spun around and came face to face with her agent, tall, blonde, perfectly put together in a silk blouse and linen skirt, somehow looking completely cool and calm despite the blaze of the sun. She was in town before they all left for England, mostly to go over her plans for Indy’s future off the court.

A denial formed on Indy’s tongue, but she knew it was useless. Caroline had seen them and it probably just confirmed what she’d suspected for a while. Her agent was damn good at her job and it wasn’t like she and Jack had been super careful about keeping private moments behind closed doors. “Good idea or not, it’s none of your business.”

Raising her eyes to the sky and shaking her head Caroline said, “You are my business, Indiana.”

“How many times do I have to say it? Don’t call me that, and my tennis is your business,” Indy corrected. “Keep your nose out of everything else.”

“It is not that simple,” Caroline insisted, her voice inching up in pitch.

“It really is.” She turned on her toe and walked away, wanting to look back, hoping that Caroline’s brow was furrowed and her hands were on her hips, lips pursed in aggravation. But looking back would ruin the moment because despite getting in the last word, Caroline now had the upper hand and it was only a matter of time before she used it to her advantage.

To celebrate the cover reveal, Game. Set. Match. is on sale for $0.99!!

book1-publicity-front
Publication date: May 1, 2013
Buy It: Amazon | BN | iTunes | Kobo | Goodreads

Nestled along the North Carolina coast, the Outer Banks Tennis Academy is the world's most elite training facility. In this pressure-cooker environment, futures are forged in blood and sweat, and dreams are shattered in an instant.

Penny Harrison, a rising female star, is determined to win the French Open and beat her archrival, Zina Lutrova. But when her coach imports British bad boy Alex Russell as her new training partner, will Penny be able to keep her laser-like focus?

Tennis is all Jasmine Randazzo has ever known. The daughter of two Grand Slam champions, she's hell-bent on extending her family’s legacy and writing her own happily-ever-after...until her chosen Prince Charming gives her the just-friends speech right before the biggest junior tournament of the year, the Outer Banks Classic.

With a powerful serve and killer forehand, newcomer Indiana Gaffney is turning heads. She’s thrilled by all of the attention, especially from Jack Harrison, Penny’s agent and hot older brother, except he keeps backing off every time things start heating up.

With so much at stake, dreams—and hearts—are bound to break. Welcome to OBX: Where LOVE is a four-letter word, on and off the court.



About Jennifer Iacopelli:

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 3.09.39 PM
Jennifer Iacopelli was born in New York and has no plans to leave...ever. Growing up, she read everything she could get her hands on, but her favorite authors were Laura Ingalls Wilder, L.M. Montgomery and Frances Hodgson Burnett all of whom wrote about kick-ass girls before it was cool for girls to be kick-ass. She got a Bachelor's degree in Adolescence Education and English Literature quickly followed up by a Master's in Library Science, which lets her frolic all day with her books and computers, leaving plenty of time in the evenings to write and yell at the Yankees, Giants and her favorite tennis players through the TV.



Enter Jennifer’s giveaway!

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

"What Do I Stand For?" Early Review: I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

I'll Meet You There
Author: Heather Demetrios (website | twitter)
Source/Format: ARC from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review (thank you!)
Expected publication date: February 3, 2015
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars. 

If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.


Review:


I'm not going to lie - for the first 100 pages of this book, I thought about putting it down. It took me a week to read just those 100 pages, and I was not feeling invested in the characters at all - I just couldn't fit myself into their voices. I couldn't hear them in my head. I felt like their words were cliche and pedestrian.

And then something happened around page 120. A switch flipped. And then I realized that those cliched words? They were barriers. Here were two hard, broken shells of people, trying to navigate every day by acting as "normal" as they could. Here were two people who kept running at the first glimpse of good because they couldn't believe that good was real or could last. And here were two voices that were crying out to each other, trying to break down the walls around each other, but it wasn't working because they couldn't even get past themselves.

That's what Josh and Sky were for the first 120 pages for me. It was so hard to want anything of them, because their world just seemed overwhelming and difficult. Demetrios built a landscape and mood with her words that just felt stagnant. I felt like I was suffocating in the dry heat of Creek View, with no chance of getting out, like Skylar. I didn't even care about Josh and Skylar together at first, because I just wanted them to be okay on their own.

And then, little by little, but I think right around the point that we really see Josh as someone who might have debilitating PTSD, but also when we see him as someone who believes that he can overcome that depression and scariness...that's when I started to fall for him and Skylar. That's when I started to see a lot more to this story, and how the walls they built around themselves could be chipped away with patience, understanding, and yes, love.

I read the final 280 pages in one day.

Bonuses:


All the Feels: This is a book where there are constant feels. Little moments become huge. Struggles become magnified. And thus, in contrast, the beautiful perfect parts, when everything works out, those are moments of wonderful joy.

Army of Research: It's impossible for me to talk about this book without talking about how much research and thought Demetrios put into the voices of the characters, especially Josh. She clearly spent a lot of time with former officers and it's that that makes Josh's character come alive.





Book Theme Song: 

Some Nights by fun.

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost 
Oh, Lord, I'm still not sure what I stand for...
I found a martyr in my bed tonight 
She stops my bones from wondering just who I am...
Well, some nights I wish that this all would end...
What do I stand for? Most nights I don't know anymore...

The Final Word:

Heather Demetrios' first book, Something Real, slayed me, and this one is no different. Delving deeply into character and behaviour, Demetrios draws out Josh and Sky in a way that makes your love for them bloom like a desert cactus flower in tepid air. For me, I'll Meet You There was a hard read, but one that's raw, unique, and rewarding.

I'LL MEET YOU THERE comes out next week. Will you be picking it up? Are you an "all the feels" kind of reader? How do you feel about difficult reads? Are you okay with slow beginnings? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley


Expected publication: September 29, 2015

Based on the Emmy Award-winning & "genius" (The Guardian) web series, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, this is a new novel starring Lizzie's spunky sister Lydia as she navigates the joys and pitfalls of becoming an adult in the digital age.

Before her older sister, Lizzie, started her wildly popular vlog, Lydia was just a normal twenty-year-old plotting the many ways she could get away with skipping her community college classes and finding the perfect fake ID. She may not have had much direction, but she loved her family and had plenty of fun. Then Lizzie' vlog turned the Bennet sisters into Internet sensations, and Lydia basked in the attention as people watched, debated, tweeted, tumblr'd, and blogged about her life. But not all attention is good.

After her ex-boyfriend, George Wickham took advantage of Lydia's newfound web-fame, betrayed her trust, and destroyed her online reputation, she's no longer a naive, carefree girl. Now, Lydia must work to win back her family's trust and respect and find her place in a far more judgmental world.

Told in Lydia's distinctive, eccentric, and endearing voice, The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet picks up right where The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet left off and "offers a fresh take on Pride and Prejudice without ruining it" (The Washington Post, on The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet). Featuring fresh twists, wonderful new characters, and scores of hilarious texts, doodles, and tweets, The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet takes you behind the webcam and into the lives of your favorite sisters in a way that's sure to satisfy existing fans and delight new ones. 

Some of you know that I'm a massive Lizzie Bennet Diaries fan - if you haven't heard of it, the LBD is a webseries/transmedia adaptation of Pride & Prejudice that's hugely popular and just a ton of fun. It's probably one of my favourite shows of all time, and I do not say that lightly. 


Last year, the creators wrote a companion book - The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet - which was SO wonderful and deepened my understanding of the characters (plus, the audiobook with Lizzie Bennet actress Ashley Clements narrating? AMAZING). But I'm more excited for this second novel. 

In the show, the creators made a conscious decision to expand Lydia's character from the original source material - the series' take on Lydia is really fun, but also more feminist and sees Lydia as a girl who has seriously been taken advantage of against her will. One of the drawbacks, however, to it being Lizzie's show, is that we never really get the rest of Lydia's story - she stops vlogging herself at a very bad period, and the ending is a bit unfinished for her. 

That's why I'm so glad that this book exists and that we will finally get the full story of what happened after the camera was turned off. I can't wait to see how she's grown and changed - and I'm unbelievably grateful that Kate Rorick, who spearheaded the writing of the first book exceptionally well, will be working with Rachel Kiley, who wrote most of Lydia's dialogue and big episodes in the show. 


To say I'm excited or waiting is a massive understatement. Lydia getting the ending she deserves AND getting to revisit one of my favourite shows?! I am ALL OVER THIS (and I really, really hope Lydia's portrayer, Mary Kate Wiles, will get to do the audiobook, because she's fabulous). 

What are you waiting for this week? Are you a fan of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries (if not, why the heck aren't you going to watch RIGHT NOW?)? Have you read the first book at all? If so, what'd you think? Let me know in the comments!

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"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

Friday, January 23, 2015

"Make Your Own Kind of Music" Early Review: I'm Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil

I’m Glad I Did
Author: Cynthia Weil (website | twitter)
Publisher: Soho Teen
Source/Format: eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss (thank you!)
Publication date: January 27, 2015 (next week!)
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | IndieBound | iTunesThe Book Depository | Audible

Mad Men meets Nashville in this debut mystery set in 1963, written by Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cynthia Weil.

It's the summer of 1963 and JJ Green is a born songwriter—which is a major problem, considering that her family considers the music business a cesspool of lowlifes and hustlers. Defying them, she takes an internship at the Brill Building, the epicenter of a new sound called rock and roll.

JJ is finally living her dream. She even finds herself a writing partner in Luke Silver, a boy with mesmerizing green eyes who seems to connect instantly with her music. Best of all, they’ll be cutting their first demo with Dulcie Brown, a legend who’s fallen on hard times. Though Dulcie is now a custodian in the Brill Building, JJ is convinced that she can shine again.

But Dulcie’s past is a tangle of secrets, and when events take a dark turn, JJ must navigate a web of hidden identities and shattered lives—before it snares her, too.


Review:


It’s 1963 and JJ Green is a New York City girl and a songwriter in a family of lawyers. JJ has always felt immense passion for songwriting, and because of that, she’s a total black sheep. But the summer before she starts at Columbia University, she gets a job as an assistant at a music publishing company, where she exchanges work for a short-term songwriting contract. Her parents make a deal with her: if she can get a song recorded before school starts, they will let her go with her dreams. If not, she will have to give up songwriting.

This book is such a lovely glimpse into a world that not a lot of teens will know much about–the sixties, music publishing, race relations, you name it. There’s a lot going on here, and I think the best part is how well Cynthia Weil evokes the feeling and atmosphere of the sixties. I really feel that only Weil, who is a huge songwriter who got her start in the sixties, could have written this novel. It’s not autobiographical, but there are moments when you really feel like you’ve escaped into the past and you’re working in the Brill Building with JJ.

The novel beautifully weaves together history with JJ’s summer. All throughout, you get glimpses of what’s happening in the world at that time, especially with race relations. JJ, who has always been quite sheltered, gets her eyes opened wide to the music world, to the complexities of relationships, and to the history behind some of the greatest musicians of the time.

While I loved the setting and the setup, I did feel a bit like we didn’t delve deeply enough into who JJ was. By the end of the novel, I knew that she was strong, feisty and a songwriter…but that was it. I didn’t really feel like I knew her, and I felt a bit of a distance from her. Because of that distance, the romance in the novel felt sweet, but didn’t quite get me to real feels levels.

Still, for a debut novel, this book is quite complex – there are strands of mystery, threads of race relations, and just a great message of doing what you believe in. It’s a fast read that holds together well, and I had a great time reading it.

Bonuses:


Kick-Ass Secondary Characters: I think JJ’s character development suffered a bit because we got so much of the people around her. From the mysterious boy in the elevator to JJ’s “perfect brother”, to JJ’s Uncle Bernie who is the “godfather of the music industry” to Rona who answered the phones at the music publishing company, there is a wide cast of characters. I really enjoyed meeting them, almost more than I enjoyed JJ herself.

It’s A Mystery: I can’t talk about this book without talking about how it goes from a simple music coming-of-age to a mystery – it happens naturally, and it’s an added element that gives this story a lot of its momentum. The mystery definitely has some darkness to it, and it’s a good whodunit. I wouldn’t call it especially realistic, but man, did I have fun reading about it.




Mad Men Fashion: There’s not a lot of it, but JJ’s mother, Janny, is a fashion plate, and Weil totally name-drops some of the great designers at the time. As a fashion lover myself, this was a little bit of a vintage clothing education for me. =)






Book Theme Song: 

Make Your Own Kind of Music by Mama Cass Elliot (written by Cynthia Weil & Barry Mann)

It may be rough goin' / Just to do your thing / The hardest thing to do / But you've gotta make your own kind of music...Even if nobody else sings along...

The Final Word:


I’m Glad I Did is a fast-paced YA historical about music, love, and intrigue in the early sixties. It’s fun, it’s sweet, and it nicely melds together history with what was going on in the music industry at that time. Great for classrooms looking for some context to sixties race relations, and good vintage fun for everyone else.

I’M GLAD I DID comes out next week, January 27! Will you be checking it out? Are you interested in music YAs, or historicals? Are you a fan of Mad Men or other things set in the sixties? Do you like a little bit of mystery and intrigue? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"Not Till We Are Lost Do We Begin To Find Ourselves" Mini-Review & Blitz: Island Escape by Viv Daniels

Covers created by Vania Stoyanova of VLC Productions

Source/Format: ARC provided by Mark My Words Publicity as part of release day blitz (thank you!)
My rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
Buy It: Amazon | iBooks | B&N 

ADAM
Luxury yacht, tropical seas, babes in bikinis…dream job, right? Wrong. The passengers are rich jerks who treat the crew like garbage, when they aren’t pretending we’re their whores. The best day was when that cokehead heiress Kalina tried to fire me just for doing my job. I swore I’d never go back home to my parents and their crazy fundamentalist ranch in the desert, but nothing could be worse than this.

And then the pirates attack.

KALINA
Luxury yacht, tropical seas, billionaire boyfriend…dream trip, right? Wrong. After catching my man getting “extra services” from the maid, I know I’m the laughing stock of passengers and crew. Every time I lay eyes on that quiet, handsome deckhand Adam, I can feel him judging me. I want to die, and when the pirates show up, I think I’m going to.

But Adam… he saves me. Now we’re alone together on a lifeboat in the open ocean. Adam thinks we don’t have a chance, but thanks to him, we’ve made it this far.
And then, in the distance, I spot an island…

Mini-Review: 


You all know my love for Viv Daniels/Diana Peterfreund, right?  I don't know an author out there who is so able to consistently keep me engaged in such a huge variety of topics, be it unicorns or bioengineering or post-apocalyptic Jane Austen adaptations.

So trust me when I say that you will want to devour this New Adult contemporary novella, and then immediately pre-order the rest of the Island series. It's sexy, it's unexpected, and it never falls into cliche.

Even though this is a short novella, Viv fully develops her main characters, giving them history, backstory and interests that are quirky and believable. Adam is incredibly sexy (seriously, ladies!) and a philosophy nerd with a chip on his shoulder at the beginning and Kalina is a substance abusing heiress with a tragic past who secretly loves The Princess Bride. You couldn't think of two more different people, but underneath it all, Adam and Kalina are both broken and beaten, and it's such an amazing thing to sink into their lives on the yacht and the island and watch them learn and grow and change together.

If I have one quibble (very minor spoiler), it's that I didn't feel like Adam's reasoning for staying away from Kalina was fully believable - I was so desperate to have them together and it really didn't quite make sense to me as to why they weren't already (in other words, I just wanted them to Skip to the Good Part).

It would be so easy for this story to never stray past where you think the Happily Ever After will go, but as always, Viv does you one better. It's not enough for characters to just get together - they have to earn it, and it's in the earning that this story really becomes a true romance. This is an ending that we, as readers, deserve.

Island Escape is free right now, and I implore you, go, download, and read it and soak in some South Pacific sunshine and love. You deserve it. 

Book Theme Song: Honestly, I couldn't stop thinking of LOST, so The Survivor's Theme from the LOST soundtrack should totally be your jam while reading.
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Want more from the Island Series? Pre-Order Island Born today!
Island Born (Island Series #1) 
Expected Publication Date: February 28, 2014

Once you come to the island,
You’ll never be the same.
Joshua Truman grew up on a private island in the South Pacific with only his philosophy books and the beauty of his surroundings for company. His billionaire parents raised him to be the perfect man, brilliant of mind and pure of spirit.
You know what? Purity be damned.
When tempting grad student Carrie Young arrives on his island with a group of researchers, Joshua makes his move. He wants her, and he’ll utilize every advantage of his gorgeous surroundings and exquisitely thorough education to seduce her.
Carrie is shocked by the things this supposed innocent is making her feel. But she must resist him, for Carrie is the keeper of dangerous secrets, and her boss has plans more devious than anyone knows…
The first of the 4-book ISLAND series.

About Viv Daniels
Viv Daniels writes love stories for the young and young at heart. Like many of her characters, she met her husband in college, and knows all the ins and outs of navigating that kind of relationship -- from how to date when you're both flat broke to how to fit two people in narrow dorm room bed.

Her favorite new adult authors include Tammara Weber and Sarina Bowen.

Viv can usually be found on her Facebook page or Twitter feed, chatting with readers about her favorite New Adult fiction, or sharing pictures of cute boys.
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It's Viv's birthday today - won't you do her a solid and download her book? Or leave a comment and let me know if you're interested in reading this series - it's perfect for the cold winter we're having now!

Monday, January 19, 2015

"Say You'll Remember Me" Early Review: Love, Lucy by April Lindner

Love, Lucy
Author: April Lindner (website | twitter)
Publisher: Poppy (Hachette Book Group/Little, Brown)
Source/Format: ARC provided by HBG Canada in exchange for an honest review (thank you!)
Publication date: January 27, 2015 (next week!)
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | IndieBound | iTunes | Google Books | The Book Depository

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.


Review: 


Check out a guest post from the main character of Love, Lucy and my thoughts before I read! 

I enjoyed Love, Lucy for what it was – a very light, sweet contemporary romance with a little bit of self-discovery. I read the whole thing in a few hours, and the action and drama kept the plot moving, and kept me wanting to finish.

Our MC, Lucy Sommersworth is a talented actress who has found success in high school and her community. But Lucy’s practical, businessman father doesn’t want her to major in drama in college. Instead, he gives her an ultimatum – he will pay for Lucy to go to his alma mater, and a month-long trip to Europe if she will major in business. Lucy, having recently had a bad audition experience, is questioning her choices, and reluctantly agrees. On her trip to Europe, though, Lucy meets Jesse, a musician living his dreams by staying in Florence and busking. Through him and through her own love of Italy, Lucy begins dreaming again.

What this book does best is illuminate some of the very real issues that teens – and adults - have in marrying the practical with the whimsical. If you’re an artsy teenager, or a teen who really wants to major in something where there is an uncertain future ahead, what do you do? Do you go with your heart and do what you love, or do you major in something practical and just follow your dreams on the side? It’s a question that I still struggle with even now in my adult life, and I think a lot of teens will relate to Lucy’s confusion.

I never got really feels-y with this book because it was written in third-person, making Lucy’s voice seem a little distant from me. It was heavy on description, which worked for the travelling part, but made me feel more like I wanted to actually experience the things that Lucy was going through, not just have them told to me.

I also found Jesse’s voice a little hard to believe – he just didn’t seem like a real teenage guy to me. He seemed far too self-aware – and observant of Lucy’s feeling and actions. He was definitely a fantasy guy in that way.

Despite my reservations, I enjoyed this simple love story and it was the perfect book to read on the beach during my holidays. It felt like a fluffy version of Just One Day by Gayle Forman – without the impact that book had – but nevertheless, if you love travel YA with a lot of romance, this one will satisfy that need.

Bonuses:


Old-School Writing: Unlike many YA books these days, Love, Lucy is written in third-person, which reminded me so much of the books that I read way back in the 90s. It feels very much like a throwback to older YA, and to a way of storytelling that isn’t done a lot these days.

I Want To Go To There: Author April Lindner has clearly done a lot of travelling to Italy, and the descriptions of Florence, Rome, and the rest of Europe made me want to go back there immediately.

Photo: Witthaya Phonsawat
The Realities of Travel: Linder describes – with frightening accuracy – what happens when you’re travelling with friends for a long time – especially if you’re backpacking or rooming together. Sometimes it’s just too close quarters, and money is tight, and you start getting a little snippy with each other. As frustrating as this part of the book is, it was vividly real for me and reminded me of a few bittersweet moments in my own travels.

Book Theme Song:

He said, "Let's get out of this town, / Drive out of the city, away from the crowds." / I thought heaven can't help me now...I can see the end as it begins...Say you'll remember me...Say you'll see me again / Even if it's just in your wildest dreams

The Final Word:

Love, Lucy is a book for dreamers. It’s for people who love contemporary romance, who have a bit of wanderlust, and who just want to escape into a romantic European adventure for awhile. A perfect beach or vacation read.

LOVE, LUCY comes out next Tuesday! Will you be picking up a copy? Are you a fan of travel YA like I am? Do you sometimes just want a fluffy escape from reality like this book? Have you had some struggles with the practical vs. your dream? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

GIVEAWAY + Early Review: We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg

We Can Work It Out (The Lonely Hearts Club #2)
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg (website | twitter)
Publisher: Scholastic Point
Source/Format: ARC provided by Scholastic Canada in exchange for an honest review (thank you so much!)
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&NIndieBound | iTunes | Google Books

When Penny Lane started The Lonely Hearts Club, the goal was simple: to show that girls didn’t need to define themselves by how guys look at them, and didn’t have to value boyfriends over everything else. Penny thought she’d be an outcast for life…but then the club became far more popular than she ever imagined it would be.

But what happens when the girl who never thought she’d date a good guy suddenly finds herself dating a great one? She doesn’t need a boyfriend… but she wants it to work out with this particular boyfriend. And he wants it to work out with her.

Only, things keep getting in the way. Feelings keep getting hurt. Words keep getting misunderstood.

Penny Lane worked hard to declare her independence. Now she needs to figure out what to do with it — and how to balance what she wants with what everyone else wants. In We Can Work It Out, Elizabeth Eulberg returns to the world of her first novel, The Lonely Hearts Club, and gets to the heart of how hard relationships can be… and why they are sometimes worth all the drama and comedy they create.


Review:


If you haven’t read Elizabeth Eulberg’s The Lonely Hearts Club, stop right there. Go back and read it immediately, then the three e-novellas that she’s written since. Done that? Good. Now you’re ready to read my review.

It’s not that We Can Work It Out is unable to be read as a stand-alone. It is, and it can be. But the thing is, you will appreciate this book so much more when you’ve experienced the entire story of Penny Lane Bloom. Because this time around, the stakes are higher, the club is bigger, and Elizabeth Eulberg has taken on the very difficult challenge of trying to show how a high school relationship really works.


It’s hard. As a reader, you see how Penny is desperately trying to be everything to everyone. She’s a leader at school and in the club, she’s still trying to stand up to jerks who think the club is “just for dykes”, she’s a confidante for most of the club, and Ryan gets shunted to the side a bit.

The thing that Elizabeth Eulberg does quite successfully here is remind us that a romance – especially one in high school, is often a mirror for a person’s insecurities. You see yourself reflected in that mirror, and with many girls in high school, you’re a bit scared of what you see because your thoughts about yourself are not fully formed yet.

That’s what happens with Penny in We Can Work It Out, and instead of trying to work with her feelings and thoughts about herself, she puts them – and Ryan aside. She says she’s fine when she’s not. She throws herself into planning an event because she can’t face up to her own fears and insecurities. She makes excuses for why she and Ryan can’t be together.

We Can Work It Out is so much about the growing pains of relationships. This book, to me, was a much harder one to write than The Lonely Hearts Club, because frankly, the idea of “what happens after they ride off into the sunset together” is not explored that often in contemporary YA – much less a whole book devoted to it. But Eulberg is up to the task.

Teens will relate to how much pressure Penny puts on herself – as a teenager, so many people are talking at you, and telling you what to do – and sometimes, that can be absorbed in a way that makes teens put a lot of pressure on themselves.

This book is a lesson in commitment and balance. It’s about learning from your friends and trying to see everyone’s perspective, and trying to balance that with what you believe. It’s also about admitting when you need help and learning to let go a bit.

I read We Can Work It Out in a few short hours, and it was so much fun to be back in Penny’s world again. This book was a tad more dramatic than the first, but I felt it had a lot more wisdom than the first.

And lest you think this book is all about serious stuff, there’s plenty of hilarity, cuteness and romance, too.

Bonuses:


Kick-Ass Friendships: For those of you who have read The Lonely Hearts Club, you know that Tracy Larson, Penny’s best friend, and Diane Monroe, perfect high-school-prom-queen-type-turned-Lonely-Hearts-Club-leader are the best. They perfectly balance out Penny’s confusion with much-needed humour and practicality. In this book, we get more of their self-discovery, and more of their amazing support.

Everyday Romance: What I loved most about Ryan and Penny’s relationship is that they are so funny and sweet and NORMAL together. The jokes they make at each other are so much like the jokes that my husband and I have with each other – they just feel comfortable and great together. You can’t help but root for them everytime they’re together. And yeah, Ryan is INCREDIBLE.

Idealism and Feminism: If you’ve read book 1, you know that Penny and her friends are world-class feminists. But in this book, they take that feminism and put it into action, inspiring a whole new league of girls to create communities of support and creating their own ways of giving back outside of their own Club. It’s beautiful and a bit idealistic, but I think it’s definitely a book that will empower and inspire young teens.

The Final Word:


Elizabeth Eulberg writes YA for girls who want to learn to stand alone and be there for one another. We Can Work It Out is no different. Although it's a little bit dramatic, this book was honest and authentic about being a teenage girl in her first really good relationship, and the good things that can come of having an amazing support system.

Recommended for: fans of The Lonely Hearts Club and Elizabeth Eulberg, younger teens who need a bit of empowerment and feminism, people who like sweet YA contemporary romance.

WE CAN WORK IT OUT comes out January 27, 2015. Want to win an Advanced Reader's Copy RIGHT NOW? Check out my giveaway below - US/Canada only because I want to get this out to you this weekend!

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

Author: Adam Silvera 
Publisher: Soho Teen
Expected publication date: June 16, 2015

Happiness shouldn't be this hard…

The Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto -- miracle cure-alls don't tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can't forget how he's grown up poor or how his friends aren't always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it's not enough.

Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn't mind Aaron's obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn't mind talking about Aaron's past. But Aaron's newfound happiness isn't welcome on his block. Since he's can't stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.

Adam Silvera's extraordinary debut novel offers a unique confrontation of race, class and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx. 

This week's WoW pick has been on my radar for a few months, thanks to Margot from EpicReads, who is friends with author Adam Silvera. Adam is no stranger to the book community, doing reviews for Shelf Awareness and being a general book pusher (he totally gave me that little push I needed to start writing again - thank you, Adam)!

I've been quietly stalking Adam online ever since I heard about the concept for this book - I mean, did you READ that synopsis for More Happy Than Not? One of my favourite movies EVER is be Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which has a procedure very similar to what Aaron decides to go through to forget Thomas. I watched that movie in the middle of a fight with an ex-boyfriend, and it made me so grateful for the moments that we had, even while we were imploding. 


More Happy Than Not sounds heart-rending and heart-breaking, and I know it's going to be one of THOSE reads for me. 

Are you excited for More Happy Than Not? Have you seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or any of Michel Gondry's other movies? Is that synopsis killing you? What are you waiting for this week? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #17: 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn't Get To

This week's TTT is a great way to spotlight some releases that I definitely wish I'd gotten to last year!


1. To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han: I really don't know why this is still on my TBR list - I feel like I *am* Lara Jean because I used to write letters to the boys I liked in HS! Must get to it soon.

2. Everything Leads to You by Nina Lacour: Another one I was desperate for that somehow just missed me. I'm determined to get to this beautiful book about a gorgeous Hollywood romance this year.

3. The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey: I really enjoyed The 5th Wave and needed to know what happened, but I had so many September ARCs that it just didn't happen.

4. Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot: This book is burning a hole in my Kindle. I'm desperate to get to it, but it somehow never gets read. WHY?!

5. Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle: I still haven't read a Rebecca Serle book and I've heard SUCH GOOD THINGS about this one - kinda like a twist on Win A Date with Tad Hamilton?

6. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer: SERIOUSLY? How did I not get to Belzhar yet after hearing her speak last year twice and wanting to hug her for her brilliance?

7. When Everything Feels Like The Movies by Raziel Reed: This one is a bit of a cheat - it actually doesn't come out in the US until April, but it's a Canadian book that I'm kicking myself for not having noticed until it won the Governor General's Award, which is a pretty big award for literature here.

8. The Jewel by Amy Ewing: I'm actually kind of upset at myself for not getting to this because I have an ARC and the author was SO nice at BEA. MUST. GET. TO. IT.

9. Landry Park by Bethany Hagen: This is one of those books where I heard the comp (Downton Abbey meets The Selection) and I immediately ordered it...and now it just sits on my shelf, collecting dust *hangs head in shame*.

10. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: I really, really, really need to read this one - I tried audiobooking it, but I didn't like the narrator. Then I was hoping it would come as a Christmas present, but it didn't and now I'm debating buying it because it's been on my radar for so long.

Have you read any of these books? If I were to choose one, which would you start with? What's on your Top Ten Tuesday - leave a link, I'll try to stop by!

Want to win an ARC of Ally Carter's ALL FALL DOWN? Come by and check out my giveaway!

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish to highlight a top ten list related to book blogging, and to get to know fellow book bloggers.

Monday, January 12, 2015

"Where Do We Begin/The Rubble or Our Sins?" GIVEAWAY + Early Review: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1)
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source/Format: ARC gifted to me by the lovely Sarah from You Should Read This! (thank you!)
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Expected publication date: January 27th 2015
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | IndieBound | iTunes | Audible 

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her--so there's no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can't control Grace--no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.


Review:



So I know you’ll understand when I say that I only liked, and didn't LOVE this book - but that I'm still breathlessly waiting for book two. 

Here's the thing: when I first dove into the world of Embassy Row and All Fall Down, I was completely totally flummoxed. The writing and Grace, the main character, seemed off-balance and abrupt. I wasn’t sure what was happening. The pacing of this book was super-fast – even faster than in the Gallagher Girls and Heist Society books. Each chapter is fairly short – only a few pages, and I think this is Ally Carter trying to show the frenetic pace of Grace’s mind, which is bruised and broken, and unsure. It’s really well done, but – I won’t lie – I was stressed out for a lot of this book.

I mention this because you might want to put down All Fall Down in the first 50 pages or so. I did. Grace is a prickly girl, and she’s got a major chip on her shoulder from being the girl that always seemed too young or was told that she was too feminine to tag along with her older brother and his best friend. Frankly, she’s a bit unlikeable. Add to that the fact that you aren’t even sure whether you can believe her or not – because she can’t even be sure of the truth, and you’ve got one messed up main character. It actually reminded me a lot of GG #5 when Cammie is not sure who she is or what she’s done.

But once I got into it and used to the writing (about 100 pages in, but for some of you, it might be less), I did like this book. I grew to like and care about Grace, and as with Heist Society and Gallagher Girls, there’s a sort of oddball team of characters that surround Grace and bring special skills to the table. I won’t give away who’s on the team, but you can kind of guess, and it’s so nice seeing how friendships and relationships are slowly established on Embassy Row. They were a big part of why I liked All Fall Down in the end.

I think my biggest frustration with this book is that it felt like a prequel for the rest of the series. Ally Carter needed to establish the setting, the characters, the motives, and the writing style, and because of that, I feel like the narrative wandered a bit for two-thirds of the book. It was only in the end that I understood what she was trying to build and why.

Overall, I did like it, but more importantly, I think it needed to be written and read in order to move on with the rest of the series. I can almost guarantee that now that the set-up is there, book two will have us all just as hooked as we were with Gallagher Girls or Heist Society

Bonuses:


It’s A Mystery: The action and pacing were very quick, and like in most mysteries or suspense thrillers, it had me guessing right until the very end – and I’m a guesser, so the fact that Ally Carter was, as usual, one step ahead of me right to the very end was a very good thing. I would say that the story here is less intricately twisted than Heist Society, but about as explosive as some of the early Gallagher Girls books.


http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Canada_House.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Canada_House.jpg
"Canada House" by James F. - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 1.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Intricate World-Building:
Ally has a way of creating a world that should feel foreign to her readers, but making it feel like home. They’re always worlds of intrigue and mystery, and they feel glamourous and dark at the same time. Adria is no different. I loved seeing its old world charm, its many embassies, and the secrets and red herrings that she left throughout the novel about the setting.



Strong and Weak Girls: The theme of the fragile teenage girl vs the strong teenager is really important in this book - and it’s a theme that Ally has spoken about at length in many interviews, saying that nobody is more underestimated than a teenage girl. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Grace, who has always been seen as a young girl who doesn’t know her own mind. That theme extends to whether people trust her as well, and whether she can be “contained” in her current state. It’s a fascinating theme, but it’s not one that really gets resolved in this book. I am curious to see whether it comes up again and as strongly in future books, because just the threads of it here made All Fall Down a stronger story. 

Book Theme Song: 

"Pompeii" by Bastille


"And the walls kept tumbling down / In the city that we love...And if you close your eyes / Does it almost feel like you've been here before?"

The Final Word:


I wanted to love All Fall Down, but in the end, I just liked it. The fact that it feels like a prequel for the rest of the series was big part of that. It’s not an easy book to read at times because you feel just as off balance and frustrated as Grace, but at the same time, it’s a book that you know you have to read in order to make this series a series worth reading. Stick with this series - I have no doubt that Ally will deliver a really good payoff if you do!


ALL FALL DOWN comes out January 27, 2015 and I have an extra ARC from Scholastic Canada to give away! As an #AllyAmbassador, I can think of nothing better than to share with you guys! Because this is coming out so soon, I'm doing a short giveaway, and US/Canada only so that I can get it to the winner on time. Good luck (and sorry, international readers, you know I love you!)!

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