Friday, May 31, 2013

Portrait of a Crossroads by Kelly Rand

Portrait of a Crossroads****

Since finding her father’s body at the bottom of the basement stairs, Annette’s been drifting through her days, watching cars pass down the rural Ontario crossroads beside her house. Her brothers have no great ambitions, but Annette remembers a time when she did. She just can’t remember what they are.

Then she meets her neighbour, Sadie, a tattooed, world-weary, newly single portrait artist. Something about Sadie awakens something in Annette—the essence she captures in her subjects, perhaps, or the way the old familiar crossroads seem so fresh and promising from the view out Sadie’s window.

Annette begins to help Sadie, cleaning brushes and filing invoices between long lazy afternoons of conversations and shared silences. Soon, though, Annette wants more from her enigmatic neighbor, and their slowly heating friendship melts into passionate nights. Somewhere along the way, Annette discovers that her lover has illuminated for her, as with the people Sadie paints, not just her essence but her own endless worlds of possibilities

Remember how I used to go on and on about how I hate short stories?  How they don’t have enough character development, blah, blah, blah?  Well apparently I just needed to start reading the RIGHT short stories because yet again I have been blown away.

Portrait of a Crossroads by Kelly Rand is an excellent coming of age story about a girl that is struggling with the aimlessness of her present and plans for the future.  Annette has been coasting through life in a bit of a haze since finding her father’s body.  She used to have hobbies and interests but now spends most of her time watching the sparse activity that happens at the rural crossroads she lives on.  While peering outside, Annette sees that one of the women next door is moving out.  After that Annette takes the first step in getting to know her neighbor.  Their simple and easy friendship blossoms into more and gives Annette the fearlessness and freedom she needs to make the first steps in creating her future.

This was a lovely story with just the perfect amount of steamy and sexy thrown in.  I highly recommend it if you are looking for an engaging fast read.

Thank you to Riptide publishing for providing this title for review on NetGalley.


~ Nat

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Paper Towns by John Green

* * * 1/2



Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life - dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge - he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues - and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer Q gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.


I have never read a John Green novel, something I needed to correct. My choice was between The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns. As Nat cautioned me that the former would have me crying buckets, I thought starting off with Paper Towns would be a good way to go.

John Green has a fantastic sense of sarcasm and humor - have you seen his vlog?  These highschoolers on the verge of graduation are very much normal and ridiculous.  Quentin is just a great guy. In fact, the entire time I was reading it, I thought to myself how much Nat would love him because he’s just one of those good guys, a forever boy.  His relationship with Margo is an interesting one.  As kids, they discovered the dead body of a man under a tree at a park. Quentin pinpoints that moment as the moment that their friendship changed and she became more withdrawn.

When she encourages him to join her on her revenge campaign against her cheating boyfriend and her lying best friend, Quentin feels it’s finally his chance to get close to her again before they graduate. (It doesn't mean that he's not nervous about what they'll get up to.) It’s almost as if the old Margo is back. Throughout the night he senses something is up with her. After an interesting night of activities they go their separate ways. Quentin thinks that now things will be different between them at school. But then she doesn’t show up to school the next day nor the days after. Turns out she has a history of running away and leaving clues behind. Her parents have given up on finding her and have decided to no longer play her games. Quentin though can’t let it go. He discovers that Margo did indeed leave him some clues and he and his friends decide to try and find her themselves. As all this is happening, Quentin can only wonder to himself who Margo has become, why she is doing this and why he’s obsessed with finding her.

I liked that Paper Towns aside from being about friendship and growing pains was also a neat little mystery. With every clue that Quentin came across, which includes the Walt Whitman poem "Song of Myself", I was trying to figure them out too. There were moments where I was worried about what he’d run into.  And while Margo is missing, life goes on as usual with their friends getting ready for prom and graduation. Quentin’s best friends are concerned about him being too caught up in the Margo mystery instead of enjoying the final few days of school with everyone.  I was bothered by Margo herself because I ended up feeling so protective of Quentin. I was annoyed by her mysterious motives for dragging him into her drama without giving him any kind of explanation.  The poor guy goes through hell worrying about her. He has no clue what is going on inside her head and yet he's still big-hearted enough to want to find her and help her.  Those good guys just get put through the ringer!

I will say that Paper Towns does have a satisfying ending for everyone in the sense that it works for each of the characters. It is about the nature of friendship and how it changes. What do you hold on to and what do you let go of? This is what Quentin has to come to terms with eventually.

~ Bel





Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (65)



Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that highlights future releases that we are excitedly anticipating.


The Sea of Monsters: The Graphic Novel (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)By Rick Riordan, Attila Futaki, Tamas Gaspar, Robert Venditti 
Publication Date: July 2, 2013


Seventh grade has been surprisingly quiet for Percy Jackson. Not a single monster has set foot on his New York prep-school campus. But when an innocent game of dodgeball among Percy and his classmates turns into a death match against an ugly gang of cannibal giants, things get...well, ugly. And the unexpected arrival of his friend Annabeth brings more bad news: the magical borders that protect Camp Half-Blood have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and unless a cure is found, the only safe haven for demigods will be destroyed.
In the follow-up to the wildly popular "The Lightning Thief, The Graphic Novel, "Percy and his friends must journey into the Sea of Monsters to save their camp. But first, Percy will discover a stunning new secret about his family--one that makes him question whether being claimed as Poseidon's son is an honor or simply a cruel joke.
Featuring a faithful adaptation by Robert Venditti, stunning artwork by Attila Futaki, and sumptuous colors by newcomer Tamas Gaspar, Rick Riordan's blockbuster book comes to life in The Sea of Monsters, The Graphic Novel.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Transcendence by C.J. Omololu


* * *


When a visit to the Tower of London triggers an overwhelmingly real vision of a beheading that occurred centuries before, Cole Ryan fears she is losing her mind. A mysterious boy, Griffon Hall, comes to her aid, but the intensity of their immediate connection seems to open the floodgate of memories even wider.

As their feelings grow, Griffon reveals their common bond as members of the Akhet—an elite group of people who can remember past lives and use their collected wisdom for the good of the world. But not all Akhet are altruistic, and a rogue is after Cole to avenge their shared past. Now in extreme danger, Cole must piece together clues from many lifetimes. What she finds could ruin her chance at a future with Griffon, but risking his love may be the only way to save them both.

Full of danger, romance, and intrigue, Transcendence breathes new life into a perpetually fascinating question: What would you do with another life to live?

Give me a book with some sort of historical element and I’m all over it. The Tower of London is awe-inspiring with its long history and many, many untold secrets. I was hoping for an alluring story with this splendid set up that also features one of my favorite cities, San Francisco.

Cole’s déjà vus  are becoming more familiar as they occur more regularly. It gets heightened when she meets Griffon and with his help she begins to understand them. Only a small part of the book takes place in London before Cole returns home to San Francisco. She's trying to live a normally as possible but still riveted by what she experienced in London and her strange encounter with Griffon. When they meet up again, there’s an undeniable attraction along with more questions than answers. She’s apprehensive but can’t keep away from him and what she might learn. After a string of near misses they’re convinced that Cole is in danger and that it’s from someone from her past life.

If you're looking for a different kind of paranormal, then Transcendence is a slow-burning but thrilling mystery to hold your interest. There’s Cole discovering who her present day enemy is and her trying to understand how her past lives are affecting her today. It made me question every new character introduced and what their agenda was, including when learned of the obscure group the Ahket. It was nice to read something different and I have to say there were elements of this book that made me think of the similarly themed movie Dead Again.

As much as I enjoyed Transcendence, I’m really looking forward to the next in the installment – Intuition coming in June. I’m hoping it will delve further into the Akhet and also further into Cole’s past. I’m making a guess here – certain things hinted at previously should play out on a larger scale. And those things may have some impact on Cole and Griffon.

~ Bel

If you're interested check out C.J. Omololu's site where you can take a tour of the Tower of London. It's nice to see the locations mentioned early on in the book.



Monday, May 27, 2013

A Peek In The BiblioBin #64







Welcome to our Stacking the Shelves post! Stacking the Shelves (or as we like to call it, A Peek in the BiblioBin) has been created by the lovely ladies at Tynga's Reviews.

Stacking the Shelves is a way for bloggers to share what books they have won, received for review, bought from the bookstore, borrowed from the library or friend, etc.  
What's in your BiblioBin?


This week Shel is cozying up with one of her favorite authors Josephone Angelini, Bel has cleared her schedule for the new Jessica Sorensen book out this Tuesday and Nat is rediscovering her author crush in Maggie Stiefvater. We've also scored a freebie, I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler which is a #BookoftheWeek. Get yourself a free copy courtesy of our friends at Sourcebooks until May 27. Click on the link below to learn more. 

Oh yeah - it's been a very nice, relaxing Memorial Day weekend indeed!











The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater



I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler


Friday, May 24, 2013

Dear Cassie by Lisa Burstein

Dear Cassie (Pretty Amy #2)* *

What if the last place you should fall in love is the first place that you do?

You’d think getting sent to Turning Pines Wilderness Camp for a month-long rehabilitation “retreat” and being forced to re-live it in this journal would be the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.

You’d be wrong.

There’s the reason I was sent to Turning Pines in the first place: I got arrested. On prom night. With my two best friends, who I haven’t talked to since and probably never will again. And then there’s the real reason I was sent here. The thing I can’t talk about with the guy I can’t even think about.

What if the moment you’ve closed yourself off is the moment you start to break open?

But there’s this guy here. Ben. And the more I swear he won’t—he can’t—the deeper under my skin he’s getting. After the thing that happened, I promised I’d never fall for another boy’s lies.

And yet I can’t help but wonder…what if?



Review:



I requested Dear Cassie because it sounded interesting.  I have wanted to read more contemporary YA and this looked like a great addition to that category.   Unfortunately, Dear Cassie just wasn’t for me.  

First I want to point out the great thing about this book.  Lisa Burstein did an amazing job of getting into her heroine’s head.  She got inside Cassie’s head and it was as if you really are reading the words of this hard on the outside and broken on the inside teen.   


The unfortunate fact of the matter is that Cassie is a frustrating and unlikeable character.  She is whiney and annoying and mean and so closed off.  Yes, she is very broken.  Yes, what happened to her has left her with a significant amount of pain and grief – understandably so.  Her inability to respect and love herself is sad and (because I’m not a monster – at least I don’t think so) I wanted to take her in and give her the love and parental support she really needs.  But because her story is told in the first person and I was constantly in her head full of whiney self recrimination, I found it hard to turn the page.   Ever chapter is titled “(number) of f***ing Days to Go.”  And all I could think was “(number) f***ing chapters I have left read.”  That is how frustrated I was with her character.  


I, personally, saw very little growth in her character.  And although I wouldn’t expect a ton of a growth in just a month’s time if I were dealing with a real live person, I guess I did kind of expect it with a fictional character that only has a few hundred pages to improve her outlook on life.


As for the other characters, I don’t have much to say.   I think if this story had been told in the third person or in alternating first person POV, I could have understood the secondary characters better.  Particularly Ben.  I never quite understood his motivation behind pursuing Cassie.  


This book was definitely not for me.  The reason I give it 2 stars instead of 1 is due to the author’s ability to absolutely and unapologetically own her heroine.  Even if I didn’t like this book personally, I can’t deny how impressive it is to have that ability as a writer.


Nat

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Losing It by Cora Carmack


Losing It (Losing It, #1)* * *

Virginity.

Bliss Edwards is about to graduate from college and still has hers. Sick of being the only virgin among her friends, she decides the best way to deal with the problem is to lose it as quickly and simply as possible-- a one-night stand. But her plan turns out to be anything but simple when she freaks out and leaves a gorgeous guy alone and naked in her bed with an excuse that no one with half-a-brain would ever believe. And as if that weren't embarrassing enough, when she arrives for her first class of her last college semester, she recognizes her new theatre professor. She'd left him naked in her bed about 8 hours earlier.








Review:

This was one of titles we received at the Romantic Times Convention.  I had seen it in passing but didn’t know anything about it.  I like the new New Adult genre so was definitely excited to learn more about it and receive a copy.  The  premise seemed both cute and romantic.  One of my many favorite combinations.

Bliss Edwards gives into peer pressure to lose her virginity.  By picking up a random guy at a bar.  Just when she is about to lose her nerve and go home alone, she meets Garrick Taylor.  The sparks fly between them so fast and furiously that she doesn’t think twice about chatting with him at the bar and then taking him home to her apartment.  But she chickens out at the last minute.  And I mean the LAST minute.  Leaving Garrick naked and alone in HER apartment.  After fleeing her apartment in only her bra and skirt, Bliss doesn’t think anything could be more mortifying.  The next day proves her wrong when she finds her one night stand that wasn’t is her new theatre professor.

I enjoyed this story.  Bliss is ridiculously awkward.  To the point that I was laughing and cringing every time she was in the same vicinity as Garrick.  She is what I imagine Stephanie Plum would be if Stephanie wasn’t so flaky.  I had a hard time connecting to Garrick.  I didn’t feel I knew enough about him to love him as much as Bliss did but their relationship was still engaging.

What no one who knows me will find surprising is that I absolutely fell in love with one of Bliss' BFF's.  Cade is a total forever boy and Bliss completely rejects him.  Let's be completely honest.  He might be the reason I couldn't connect to Garrick.  Why would I want the sexy British boy when I could have the sexy boy next door?  Fortunately for me, Finding It, which comes out in June is all about Cade.  Needless to say, I have a date with Cade on June 4th.  Don't bug me that day.

Although Bliss totally chooses the wrong guy, this book would make a great beach read.  Laugh out loud moments with a couple you want to both throttle and cheer on (yeah, even I cheered them on).  If you are looking for a light romance, this one might be for you.

Nat

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (64)



Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that highlights future releases that we are excitedly anticipating.

Midnight Frost (Mythos Academy, #5)By Jennifer Estep
Publication Date: July 30, 2013


Here we go again …

Just when it seems life at Mythos Academy can’t get any more dangerous, the Reapers of Chaos manage to prove me wrong. It was just a typical night at the Library of Antiquities — until a Reaper tried to poison me. The good news is I’m still alive and kicking. The bad news is the Reaper poisoned someone else instead.

As Nike’s Champion, everyone expects me to lead the charge against the Reapers, even though I’m still hurting over what happened with Spartan warrior Logan Quinn. I’ve got to get my hands on the antidote fast — otherwise, an innocent person will die. But the only known cure is hidden in some creepy ruins — and the Reapers are sure to be waiting for me there …




The Forever of Ella and Micha (The Secret, #2)
By Jessica Sorensen
Publication Date: May 28, 2013

Ella and Micha have survived tragedy and heartbreak. When they're together, anything seems possible. But now they are thousands of miles apart, and managing their long distance relationship will put their love to the test.

Ella is back at school, trying hard not worry so much about her future. But with her father in and out of rehab, she's having a hard time making it through the days. All she wants is Micha by her side, but she refuses to let her problems get in the way of his dreams.

Micha spends his days touring the country with his band, but deep down he knows something is missing. Being away from Ella is harder than he thought it would be. He wants her closer to him-needs her with him. But he won't ask her to leave college, just to be with him.

The few moments they do spend together are intense and passionate, but it only makes it more difficult when they have to part. They know they want to be together, but is wanting something enough to get them to their forever?








Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Portrait of a Crossroads Blog Tour - Interview with Kelly Rand






Do you remember when I went absolutely giddy over Riptide Publishing's presence at this year's Romantic Times Convention?  Well, they have just managed to make me MORE giddy.  Riptide has released it's first f/f stand alone story - Portrait of a Crossroads by Kelly Rand.   And to make this even more exciting for us, Portrait of a Crossroads is part of the New Adult category!   

We are super happy to be part of the Portrait of a Crossroads Virtual Book Tour.  Keep reading a special guest post and interview from author, Kelly Rand!



Guest Post and Interview:

Hello there! I’m Kelly Rand, and thanks for joining me on the virtual book tour for Portrait of a Crossroads, my new release from Riptide Publishing, which also happens to be Riptide’s first standalone F/F story—how exciting! As a writer of trans* fiction, f/f, m/m, and more, I’m thrilled to help Riptide expand their rainbow romance catalog. I invite you to comment on my guest posts all week long to share your thoughts on Portrait of a Crossroads, F/F fiction, the weather, or just to just say hello! One lucky commenter will even win a $5 store credit to Riptide Publishing, so don’t be shy! Comment below before midnight on 5/26 to enter.

Hi Kelly, and welcome! You’re a new Riptide author, so help us get to know you a little better. 

As an author yourself, who are your idols? Which other authors have influenced your writing the most?

It’s absolutely Billy Martin (Poppy Z. Brite). I’ve read almost everything he’s ever written. When I first picked up Drawing Blood, which is still my favourite book ever, I felt like he’d touched on everything I’d ever wanted to read or write about. He creates such alluring characters, and tells such beautiful, unorthodox love stories. He’s retired from writing now, but I want more than anything for him to come back. I keep hoping. He taught me to boldly follow my imagination – to fully go there, if you will – and it turned my world around. He said “I write about what turns me on” once, and that quote flashes through my mind at least once a week.

What’s the most common response you hear when you tell people that you’re a writer?

When I tell them my genre, they say “Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey?” Then they tell me their own views on Fifty Shades of Grey. 

Do you have any special writing rituals? 

I write for 10 minutes a day every day. It doesn’t seem like much, but if I think of writing as something that requires hours of concentration at a time, I’ll never write. So I sit down thinking “I’m just going to go this for 10 minutes,” I end up being a lot more productive.

Do you listen to music while you write?  

No. I need complete silence. I’ve written plenty of stories inspired by music though. I try to attach a Matthew Good song to every story I write too. The one for “Portrait of a Crossroads” is “Empty’s Theme Park.”

Do you have a writing tip to share with our readers? 

Try writing in a notebook. With a pen. I’ve read articles about how the act of writing with a pen and paper actually inspires creativity. I used to do it as a kid and have just gotten back into it, and I find I can’t wait to get home at night and write.





Portrait of a CrossroadsBlurb:


Since finding her father’s body at the bottom of the basement stairs, Annette’s been drifting through her days, watching cars pass down the rural Ontario crossroads beside her house. Her brothers have no great ambitions, but Annette remembers a time when she did. She just can’t remember what they are.


Then she meets her neighbour, Sadie, a tattooed, world-weary, newly single portrait artist. Something about Sadie awakens something in Annette—the essence she captures in her subjects, perhaps, or the way the old familiar crossroads seem so fresh and promising from the view out Sadie’s window.


Annette begins to help Sadie, cleaning brushes and filing invoices between long lazy afternoons of conversations and shared silences. Soon, though, Annette wants more from her enigmatic neighbor, and their slowly heating friendship melts into passionate nights. Somewhere along the way, Annette discovers that her lover has illuminated for her, as with the people Sadie paints, not just her essence but her own endless worlds of possibilities.




Purchase Portrait of a Crossroads from Riptide Publishing here.







About The Author


Kelly Rand lives in southern Ontario, Canada. She has worked as a journalist for more than fifteen years, covering court cases and elections and every kind of human interest story imaginable. She published her first erotic romance in 2012.
She has a particular interest in trans fiction, and has published some and wants to write more of it. She also writes male/male, female/female, and male/female stories that range from figure skater love to sexually disgruntled Canadian musicians. In her more highfalutin moments, she likes to think of her stories as a merger between erotic romance conventions and Southern Ontario Gothic.

When she’s not writing, she likes live music, spontaneous road trips, volunteering with street youth, obsessing over various celebrities, and looking at pictures of cats on the internet.


You can find her at http://www.kellyrand.net or on twitter as @Rand_Kelly.


Tremble by Jus Acardo

***1/2

From Entangled:

Dez Cross has problems.  She's almost eighteen and on the verge of losing her mind thanks to the drug the Denazen corporation used to enhance her abilities.  People close to her have turned their backs on the underground and are now fighting for the wrong side.  And then there's Kale...  Things couldn't get any worse.

Until, of course, they do.  Denazen is about to start a new trial - this one called Domination - and it works.  But that means out with the old and in with the new.  The order has been given to terminate all remnants of the second trial - including Dez.  The good news is that there's a survivor from the original trial.  A woman whose blood may hold the cure for the second generation of Supremacy kids' defects.  But the underground Sixes aren't the only ones who know about her.  

Dez's father is willing to throw away everything he has to keep Dez from getting the cure - including the one thing that might tear her apart from the inside out.  

I'm torn between liked and really liked...

Tremble was heartbreaking and hopeful, all at the same time.  Dez is facing her impending death and the hate and Kale's rage and anger, all at the hands of her father.  Even facing death, heartbreak and memory loss, Dez is full of sarcasm and spunk, making her an endearing heroine.  Tremble is about the power of love and lengths desperate people will go.  It's a great third installment and I recommend you all pick up this series.  Wit, humor, hot boys and great superhuman fun, who could ask for more?

~Shel

Friday, May 17, 2013

It Had To Be You by Jill Shalvis


****
From Grand Central/Forever:

Ali Winters is not having a good day.  Her boyfriend left her, everyone in town thinks she’s a thief, and now she’s about to be kicked out of her home.  Her only shot at keeping a roof over her head and clearing her name is to beg for help from a police detective who’s as sexy as he is stern….

After a high-profile case goes wrong, Luke Hanover returns to his hometown for some peace and quiet.  Instead he finds a bombshell brunette in a heap of trouble.  As he helps Ali put her world back together, the pieces of Luke’s own life finally seem to fall into place.  Is this the start of a sizzling fling?  Or are Luke and Ali on the brink of something big in a little town called Lucky Harbor?

It Had to Be You kicks off another branch of the Lucky Harbor family tree featuring newcomer Ali Winters and hometown boy Luke Hanover.  The twist?  Ali just moved to Lucky Harbor and Luke is returning after a long absence.  Have I mentioned that I love Lucky Harbor?  I so want to live there!  You have the best old people (Lucille and in IHTBY we meet Luke’s grandfather Edward), super-hot guys (see heroes in ALL Lucky Harbor books) and beautiful scenery (I mean besides the hot guys).  *sigh*  What a great place Jill Shalvis has created!

To be honest, IHTBY is probably my least favorite of the Lucky Harbor books, which is a lot like saying “This is my least favorite bite of my fabulous chocolate cookie.”  It Had To Be You is full of Shalvis’ trademark humor and steam, and this time we have a little mystery thrown into the mix.

Speaking of, in case you missed it, the BiblioJunkes met THE JILL SHALVIS at the RT Convention in Kansas City a few weeks ago.  Oh My God, people, I met Jill Shalvis!!!!  See, there’s photographic proof!




This was taken during Robyn Carr’s party, right after Jill HUGGED me and told me she LOVES me!! I may have just told her that she might have edged out Janet Evanovich as my favorite author, which is completely true.  That’s right friends, I have achieved my life goal and Jill is totally my BFF and we are going to live on BFF island with Nat, Bel, Helenkay Dimon, P!nk and others where we will be waited on by Ranger, Green Arrow, RDJ, Ian Somerhalder and more.  They will serve us cookies and cake and pie, OH, and drinks with umbrellas!  BFF island is completely awesome. 

Forgive my distraction, I was talking about the books you should read, by my BFF Jill Shalvis.  Of forget it.  Just read this book!  Unless you hate puppies, sunshine and all things good, you will enjoy any Jill Shalvis book.

~Shel


(Please forgive my fangirling.  I promise to only do it occasionally).  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

* * * *



"Bono met his wife in high school," Park says.

"So did Jerry Lee Lewis," Eleanor answers.

"I’m not kidding," he says.

"You should be," she says, "we’re sixteen."

"What about Romeo and Juliet?"

"Shallow, confused, then dead."

''I love you," Park says.

"Wherefore art thou," Eleanor answers.

"I’m not kidding," he says.

"You should be."

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.


Eleanor & Park is one of the standouts of the year and will definitely be a strong contender for my Top 10 of 2013. Between Rowell’s smooth writing, Eleanor and Park’s charismatic personalities and the amazing soundtrack as backdrop, I was completely under its spell.

Set in Omaha in 1986, Eleanor and Park first meet each other on the school bus. Park likes to keep to himself on the bus and occupies himself with his music and comics. New girl Eleanor shows up and threatens his peaceful, under-the-radar sanctum by sitting beside him.  Eleanor has no choice since most of the seats have been taken and Park looks the least threatening. What begins as a silent hostility evolves into steadfast friendship.

What did I love about the book? Pretty much everything. Above all, it was Eleanor and Park themselves.  I easily identified with Eleanor’s awkwardness and insecurities which are atypical of that age. There were so many times when I thought to myself, "yeah been there, felt that". She has a messed up home life with a stepdad who drinks constantly and abuses her mom. She’s the eldest child in a family that barely has any money and her house is a disaster as evidenced by the lack of a door on the only bathroom in the house. Eleanor is always trying to be invisible to her stepdad whom she despises because she doesn’t want to stir up any more trouble than there already is.

Park’s life is magical in comparison. His parents are still madly in love and their PDA tends to make Park a little uncomfortable. At that age who wants to see their parents make out? He’s essentially a good kid who is aware that he doesn’t necessarily live up to his father’s high expectations. His dad is more of a macho guy who was stationed in Korea where he met Park’s mom.  Park knows how different he is from is dad and even his younger brother. Where they’re taller, more athletically-inclined and even look more like each other, Park is shorter, not really interested in sports and looks more Asian.  Despite this, Park has carved out his own identity and carries himself with surprising self-assurance. He is the kind of boy any girl would be luck to have as a first love. He has that "forever boy" vibe going on that will seriously melt your heart. Oh and he wears guyliner. Yeah. I love him.

When Eleanor and Park meet, they’re an enigma to each other. Each is judging the other one based on first impression, day-to-day appearance and random encounters. As the school year progresses and Park catches Eleanor reading his comics over his shoulder, he decides to adopt a less hostile attitude towards his seat-mate and starts loaning her his comics. The best part of all of this is that they haven’t even spoken a word to each other yet – except when he yelled at her to sit down on her first day on the bus. I love how Rowell describes them starting to notice each other. It really feels like your inside their minds as they're daydreaming about each other. One of my favorite scenes is when they have their first real conversation and it's not even in person but over the phone. It's so innocent and sweet. As they get more comfortable with each other, Park introduces her to a new world where hanging out at his home is like Disneyland. But that bubble could burst because of Eleanor's insecurities about her appearance and her fear of her step dad constantly get in the way. 

I cannot say enough how truly awesome Eleanor & Park is. The description of their budding friendship and romance has so much heart. And it's their friendship that saves Eleanor from drowning in her depressing family life. Oh and let's not forget the soundtrack that had me giddy with nostalgia! From The Smiths to Joy Division to Elvis Costello, I was a happy, happy reader! It truly is a feel-good story that has clung to me. I find myself wondering what kind of people they'd be now, what they would have overcome and just for my amusement, what kind of music Park would have discovered along the way. And hopefully, he'd still whip out the guyliner on occasion. :) 

~ Bel






Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (63)



Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that highlights future releases that we are excitedly anticipating.


Spirit (Elemental, #3)
By Brigid Kemmerer 
Publication Date: May 28, 2013


With power comes enemies. Lots of them.

Hunter Garrity just wants to be left alone. He’s learned the hard way that his unusual abilities come at a price. And he can’t seem to afford any allies.

He’s up to his neck in hostiles. His grandfather, spoiling for a fight. The Merrick brothers, who think he ratted them out. Calla, the scheming psycho who wants to use him as bait.

Then there’s Kate Sullivan, the new girl at school. She’s not hostile. She’s bold. Funny. Hot. But she’s got an agenda, too.

With supposedly secret powers rippling to the surface everywhere around him, Hunter knows something ugly is about to go down. But finding out what means he’ll have to find someone he can trust…

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Crystal Cove by Lisa Kleypas


Crystal Cove* * *

As the proprietor of a successful boutique hotel, Justine Hoffman has the life she has always wanted. But there is still something missing: Love. A spell was cast on Justine when she was born, with the result that she will never find her soul mate. But she is nothing if not determined and eventually Justine finds a way to break the enchantment—never dreaming of the dangerous complications that will follow…

When Justine meets Jason Black, she accidentally unleashes a storm of desire and danger that threatens everything she holds dear…because little does she know that Jason has secrets of his own. And he wants more from her than fate will ever allow…








Review:


Justine is has succeeded in everything she has worked at….except love.  No matter how many men she dates, no matter how many spells she casts, no relationship lasts.  She never feels a connection beyond friendship.  Then one day she breaks the rules and looks at the one page in her grimoire that she was warned to never look at - the page that will show her how to achieve her heart’s desire.  But that achievement doesn’t come without a price.

Jason Black is ridiculously successful in life.  He is also extremely private and particular.  Due to his success people are constantly trying to learn more about and report on his public and private life.  But one thing that people will never know is that Jason doesn’t have a soul.  The key to acquiring the one thing he wants but doesn’t have is in an infamous old grimoire.  When trying to acquiring to the grimoire, Jason has to face the complication of falling for the witch that can deny him the one thing he has been searching for.

Unlike Rainshadow Road which I found to be too timid with the magic, Kleypas owns the magic within the story of Crystal Cove.  Probably a good thing since Justine is a witch.  Unfortunately, that is where the story stopped engaging me.  I had an extremely difficult time believing the romance between Justine and Jason.  There didn’t seem to be any real connection between them.  I felt like Jason just happened to be the closest guy in the vicinity after she broke the geas that was put upon her as a child.  That she would have fallen for the first guy she saw.  As for Jason, I felt that his interest in her never went beyond the grimoire.  Yeah, I know the story says differently but I never saw or felt the sparks that I usually feel in a Kleypas novel to make me FEEL differently.    In the end, I enjoyed the novel but it did not live up to so many of the amazing Kleypas stories I have read.


Nat

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Peek In The BiblioBin #63






Welcome to our Stacking the Shelves post! Stacking the Shelves (or as we like to call it, A Peek in the BiblioBin) has been created by the lovely ladies at Tynga's Reviews.

Stacking the Shelves is a way for bloggers to share what books they have won, received for review, bought from the bookstore, borrowed from the library or friend, etc.

It's taken us a whole week to get back into the swing of this after RT13. Wow - it feels like ages ago!  So with all the new books we managed to cram into the car ride home, you'd think we'd be set for a while. But no. Of course we had to be us and get more books. We will never learn :)


Purchased:








Freebie:







Friday, May 10, 2013

Escaping Darkness by Theresa McClinton - Book Blast and GIVEAWAY

While the three of us were embarrassing ourselves on the dance floor at Heather Graham's Freaky Friday Dinner and Dance Party last week, we met the very lovely author, Theresa McClinton.  First, she won us over with her outgoing and fun personality. THEN, she won us over when she proved to be the one person with the magical powers necessary to make Shel dance.

Theresa has written The Stone Guardian, Book 1 in The Stone Legacy series.  You will be seeing our review of this in the next month or so.  In the mean time we want you to know about her newest novella in The Stone Legacy series, Escaping Darkenss.  

Be sure to fill out the Rafflecopter form at the end for a chance to WIN the Escaping Darkness e-book, a $50 Amazon Gift Card or the Stone Guardian e-book!


About the Author

A long time enthusiast of things that go bump in the night, Theresa began her writing career as a journalism intern—possibly the least creative writing field out there. After her first semester at a local newspaper, she washed her hands of press releases and feature articles to delve into the whimsical world of young adult and new adult paranormal and contemporary romance.

Since then, Theresa has been married, had three terrific kids, moved to central Ohio, and was repeatedly guilt tripped into adopting a menagerie of animals that are now members of the family. But don’t be fooled by her domesticated appearance.  Her greatest love is travel. Having traveled to over a dozen countries and explored
dozens of U.S. states—including an extended seven-year stay in Kodiak, Alaska—she is anything but settled down. But wherever life brings her, Theresa will continue to weave tales of adventure and love with the hope her stories will bring joy and inspiration to her readers.



Synopsis:
She may have spent years in an asylum, but that didn’t make her crazy–just fearless.

Dropped in Moscow with her friends on an impossible mission against underworld forces, Tara is left to her feelings of overwhelming inadequacy. Her boyfriend is a healer, her best friend is “the Guardian,” and everyone else is a powerhouse of awesome strengths. The only thing she has been able to contribute are her memories, which has left her with nightmares of her time spent at the mercy of the evil Sarian–who everyone has gone to fight.

Alone with her emotions, Tara finds herself falling into a city of depravity and corruption. And amidst all this evil is a young man with an agenda of his own, who leads her down a road that will either prove she is a hero at heart, or drag her into a world she’s always feared.

He wants revenge, she wants redemption. And in an underground rings of missing girls and bloody sacrifices, only the fearless can survive…


Excerpt:
Rays of morning sun crept through the windows of Tara’s hotel room. She was already awake, frozen in bed and staring at the entrance. Harsh whispers echoed from the hall paired with rushed footsteps on the carpeted floors beyond the door. She gripped the blanket, her heart pounding in anticipation.

She flung the covers aside and hurried across the room. The knob rattled followed by several sharp pounds. She peered through the peephole before swinging open the door. Renato rushed in with a limp Hawa hanging in his arms.

“Oh my god! What happened?”

Renato laid Hawa on the bed. Black hair spilled over her face as she moaned.

Peter stumbled into the room, his eyes glossed over with sleep. Renato glanced over his shoulder and waved him over. “We need your help.”

Tara’s chest tightened while she stared at them. “Where’s Ashley?” Renato glanced at her and then back to Hawa without a word. Tara stepped forward, a knot forming in her stomach. She gripped the bedpost, her legs beginning to feel like mush. “Mr. Renato, what happened to Ashley?”

“She’ll be fine,” Peter said while examining Hawa’s bandaged leg. “I don’t sense any breaks or fractures. No lesions.” He stared up at Renato. “What the hell happened?”

Renato paced, rubbing the five o’clock shadow that darkened his chin and jawline. “Sarian was much stronger than we anticipated. When Ashley tried to retrieve the stone, he somehow sensed her, even with the masking spell.”

Figures. Tara knew it was bad news when that witch offered to help. She hated the idea from the start, but being outnumbered and a girl with no abilities to contribute, she thought it better to keep her mouth shut and let Renato and Ashley make the final decision. The masking spell could have been a dud. For all they knew, Contessa might have wanted Ashley dead to take her stone. The witch only helped to get revenge on Sarian in the first place. Who knows what other motives she had. Tara still wasn’t sure of the extent of the stone’s power, but since every underworlder seemed to want to get their hands on it, it had to be capable of some unworldly things.

“Who healed Hawa?” Peter asked.

“Contessa. At her home.” Renato glanced at his watch. “We arrived back less than an hour ago.”

“Well, it looks like she did a decent job.” Peter laid the back of his hand against Hawa’s forehead. “No fever. I think she’s just exhausted. We should let her sleep.”

Tara let go of the bedpost, anger peeling away her layers of patience. There was no way she’d let them keep ignoring her. With her fists perched on her hips, she glared at them. “If someone doesn’t answer me in the next two seconds, I swear I’m going to flip the hell out.” They both stopped and stared at her. Tara swallowed. “Where’s Ashley?”

Anger was as good as any other emotion right now—better even, since it kept her blood rushing fast enough to prevent her from passing out if the news was grim.

Renato gave a deep exhale. “Tara.”

The way he said her name sucked the heat right out of her body.

She wound her fingers into her mess of red curls. “Oh God. What?”

“Please don’t panic,” he continued. “She is not hurt.”

Tara exhaled a calming breath and gestured toward the door. “I’m gonna go talk to her.” When she took a step forward, Renato stepped to the side, cutting off her path. She stared up at his tight face. “I’ll be right back. I just want to go see how she’s holding up.”

“Tara.” But when he said her name the second time, his tone hadn’t changed, and the look in his eyes told her something was wrong. He ran his fingers through his hair, smoothing it down. “She’s not here.”

“What do you mean she’s not here? You said she’s all right.”

“Yes, that’s true.”

Tara shifted her weight. “Well, where is she?”

“She and Arwan left to get Jayden back.”

“Back?” Tara scanned the room. In all of the chaos, she hadn’t noticed Jayden wasn’t there. “Is he pulling another stunt to win Ashley over?”

“I don’t think that’s what’s going on this time,” Peter said.

“Sarian is stronger than we realized.”

“But…” Tara shook her head. “I don’t understand.”

“Jayden was killed in battle.”

She felt like someone had kicked her in the chest. “What?” She gasped, her bottom lip quivering with her voice. She had known Jayden almost as long as Ashley, and even if they weren’t as close, he was her friend. She swallowed past the ache in her throat.

Peter took her hand.

“She and Arwan rushed to Guatemala,” Renato continued. “To the caves of Naj Tunich.”

She tightened her grip on Peter’s hand while suspicion crawled over her. “Ashley hates caves. Why would she want to go there?”

“Ashley was determined. I attempted to convince her it was a dangerous, reckless idea, but she insisted. She and Arwan traveled to the caves to find Houn—the Guardian of Souls. She has the insane thought that they can get Jayden’s soul back in time.”

Tara pulled away from Peter, grabbed Renato’s collar, and jerked him forward. “Are you trying to tell me that my best friend is going to meet up with the Grim Reaper?”

Renato stared down at Tara’s fingers clenching his shirt.

She let go of his collar. “I want proof. Ashley wouldn’t just take off like that. Not without telling me first.”

Renato straightened his posture while smoothing out the wrinkles in his clothes. “I managed to rent a cold chamber for Jayden’s body in the local morgue.” He paused, watching her skeptical stare. His lips pressed tightly together. “If escorting you to see his body is the only way to convince you I am being honest, that is certainly an option.”

Tara took a step back. “Oh my God. You’re serious.”

“Unfortunately, yes. If Ashley and Arwan cannot retrieve his soul before Houn places it, the morgue is where Jayden’s body belongs. Either way, we need to preserve it the best we can.”

“Preserve?” She choked on the word and slowly lowered herself to the mattress beside Hawa’s feet.

Peter tucked a curl behind Tara’s ear. “It’ll be all right.”

She wanted to believe him, but something in her gut told her it wouldn’t be that simple. “Jayden’s dead and…Ashley didn’t even say goodbye. What if—” Her breath caught in her throat. “What if I never see her again?”



Escaping Darkness can be purchased via Amazon, BN, KOBO, and All Romance E-Books.



Ecaping Darkness is the second installment in The Stone Legacy Series.  The first book is The Stone Guardian.
Like any other teenager in America, Ashley just wants a normal life. But growing up in an orphanage for the insane is anything but normal. After endless therapy and increasing medication, her nightmares have only gotten worse.
Probably because they’re not nightmares.

When Ashley’s mysteriously abducted, she finds a reality even less normal than the orphanage. And she discovers something else—she’s no ordinary orphan. Faced with enemies thought to only exist in fairy tales, Ashley discovers she possesses a powerful Maya bloodline. She’s the daughter of an ancient Maya Guardian, whose duty is to protect the Stone of Muuk’ich, an enchanted relic blessed by the gods. But first she must get it back from Sarian, a power-hungry demigod who slaughtered the last guardian—Ashley’s mother. Without the stone, all will be lost.

When she meets Arwan, a hot Belizean time bender, his delicious olive skin and dark eyes make her feel a little less alone. But his gentle whispers and reassuring touch might not be all they seem. How can she balance love and duty when it’s up to her to prevent the rising of the underworld? Especially when the guy she loves might be its crown prince…



a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Mystery Of Mercy Close (A Walsh Sister Nove #5) by Marian Keyes

* * * *




Helen Walsh doesn’t believe in fear – it’s just a thing invented by men to get all the money and good job – and yet she’s sinking. Her work as a Private Investigator has dried up, her flat has been repossessed and now some old demons have resurfaced.

Not least in the form of her charming but dodgy ex-boyfriend Jay Parker, who shows up with a missing persons case. Money is tight – so tight Helen’s had to move back in with her elderly parents – and Jay is awash with cash. The missing person is Wayne Diffney, the ‘Wacky One’ from boyband Laddz. He’s vanished from his house in Mercy Close and it’s vital that he’s found – Laddz have a sell-out comeback gig in five days’ time.

Things ended messily with Jay. And she’s never going back there. Besides she has a new boyfriend now, the very sexy detective Artie Devlin and it’s all going well, even though his ex-wife isn’t quite ‘ex’ enough and his teenage son hates her. But the reappearance of Jay is stirring up all kinds of stuff she thought she’d left behind.

Playing by her own rules, Helen is drawn into a dark and glamorous world, where her worst enemy is her own head and where increasingly the only person she feels connected to is Wayne, a man she’s never even met.

I have loved Marian Keyes since I first read Sushi For Beginners. After that I read Watermelon the first book that introduced me to the Walshes, a funny, dysfunctional Irish family. Since then, I’ve read the subsequent books each featuring a different Walsh sister. Then I had to suffer through a long wait before The Mystery Of Mercy Close finally came out. 

This one features the youngest Walsh sister, Helen, who is perhaps the most hilarious of them. She’s in her early 30’s, has her own detective agency and “happily” seeing someone. Life goes pretty well for a while until she ends up losing her precious flat because she has defaulted on her mortgage payments. She then has to move back in with her parents. To make matters more confusing, her current beau Artie gets on so amicably with his ex that she’s always over at his place. A little overwhelmed, strapped for cash and feeling the need to have something to focus on so she doesn’t feel like such the loser, she takes on the case of pop star, Wayne Diffney, who has gone missing just days before a massive reunion tour.  This should be no problem. Helen has a peculiar way of looking at things and she’s proud of it so it shouldn't take her long to solve this case. The real problem is that she has been hired by her ex-boyfriend Jay, who has a huge stake in the band. Working together is not exactly her idea of fun but she puts up with him. Hey, if you're broke and been reduced to living with your parents, you can't exactly complain...too much.

So how does she cope with her current situation? She fixates on the case. She develops  a kinship with the mysterious Wayne whom she’s never met finding some distorted sense of comfort by crashing in his flat at Mystery Close every night.

The thing I love about Marian Keyes is that she gives each of her characters a distinct personality. Helen is one sarcastic, witty, dry-humored gal who has serious people issues. She basically has no filter and only a few people get her.  She has the kind of abrasive bluntness about her that I sometimes wish I could have. Her random irrational quirks such as her disdain for hot drink, love of somber-looking wall paint colors and her use of a "shovel list" to keep track of things that annoy her, only make her more of a curiosity. After only getting glimpses of her in the previous books, I was so happy to get a full dosage of Helen’s craziness. But as with all Marian Keyes books, there is a darker side to all her stories. Helen is very slow to accept that she suffers from depression though it’s glaringly apparent to the reader.  The motions she goes through including the things she latches on to are comical at first until you realize how much she’s struggling. Don’t worry though because Keyes with her typical panache cleverly balances Helen’s idiosyncrasies with light-hearted moments.

Any fan of Marian Keyes, particularly the Walsh Sisters series will recognize the formula she employs here. Does that make it bad or predictable? Not in the least. There's plenty aside from Helen's personal troubles such as the mystery of Wayne's disappearance and the introduction to the rest of the bandmates and their bizarre behaviors to keep things interesting and send you into fits and giggles. So was The Mystery Of Mercy Close worth the wait? Yes, it most definitely was!

~ Bel