Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Spring Fling Giveaway Hop

To thank my wonderful friends and followers for being all kinds of awesome, I decided to join the Spring Fling giveaway hop to give a little back! Plus, spring rocks my socks off (I mean, literally--hello flip flops)! Special thanks to I Am A reader, Not A Writer, and Eve's Fan Garden for hosting!

Review: The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston

 The Rules for Disappearing
Ashley Elston
Genre: YA Contemp/Mystery
Publication date: May 14th 2013
by  Disney-Hyperion

She’s been six different people in six different places: Madeline in Ohio, Isabelle in Missouri, Olivia in Kentucky . . . But now that she’s been transplanted to rural Louisiana, she has decided that this fake identity will be her last.

Witness Protection has taken nearly everything from her. But for now, they’ve given her a new name, Megan Rose Jones, and a horrible hair color. For the past eight months, Meg has begged her father to answer one question: What on earth did he do – or see – that landed them in this god-awful mess? Meg has just about had it with all the Suits’ rules — and her dad’s silence. If he won’t help, it’s time she got some answers for herself.

But Meg isn’t counting on Ethan Landry, an adorable Louisiana farm boy who’s too smart for his own good. He knows Meg is hiding something big. And it just might get both of them killed. As they embark on a perilous journey to free her family once and for all, Meg discovers that there’s only one rule that really matters — survival.
-A copy was provided by Disney Book Group for review-

Another fake identity for "Meg" means another town, another school, another life altogether. In a book like this, mystery becomes the main element of the plot; why and who are they hiding from. Even though the book is actually a pretty good contemporary with decent characters and a compelling romance, the mystery element lost its flair for me fairly quickly, leaving me with a lukewarm read with some sparks, but not enough to hold its flame.

The fire of this one initially died when the plot kept beating around the bush. It left me exasperated for some answers already. Then it lost its biggest appeal when the big mystery ended up being a little too underwhelming. It's the answer I was expecting; the one we don't even consider, or at least we hope it's not it because it's the obvious direction the plot could take. You also have to take it all with a grain of salt when you think how things would work in reality, this all made it difficult for me to take it seriously.

Although I don't mind predictability for the most part--seeing as it has become quite rare for me to be caught by surprise nowadays--I come to expect a certain amount of intelligence, or perception, when it comes to the characters figuring things out. In this case, Meg was a little too clueless, or dismissive. With a feeling of being watched, of being followed, then witnessing a couple of suspicious situations, Meg assumes it's "all in her head", every time. Then she puts her trust into someone who's acting "out of the norm" which, to the reader, immediately becomes a red flag. While some may forgive this with her excuses of chalking it up to paranoia and not wanting to be relocated again, I found myself incredibly irritated. In these types of stories, the smarter and more cautious the character, the more I connect to them. If this was a movie, Meg would be the heroine I'd be screaming at angrily for not seeing things clearly. This leads me to think it's more of an "not for me" type of read. Furthermore, when all is said and done, the ending left me with nothing but a cocked eyebrow. Not only is it anti-climatic, the last few pages didn't really make any logical sense when you think of the grand scheme of things--why would they care about her anymore? To be honest, it felt like a gimmick to get us interested in the sequel and nothing more.

Despite my issues with the plot it's not a complete loss. Aside from the previous mentions, I did like Meg's personality, how caring she was of her sister especially. Then the relationship she forms with a certain boy in town became my favorite part of this novel. Meg has a hard time allowing herself to fall in love or get attached to a guy since she's aware her family could be moved any second. This causes a hot and cold relationship where you both understand her hesitation, yet you hope she goes through with it anyways. And who could resist Ethan? Your adorable farm boy with a heart or gold and eyes only for Meg. Due to this reluctance, their relationship is slow paced, steadily sparking, with a great forbidden fruit flair. You really can't help but sigh at their adorableness!

A mysterious premise, good characters, and a sweet romance, I can see this book being a hit for certain readers, especially those who have not read as many similarly plotted books. Sadly for me the mystery--the heart of the book--fell short of my expectations. 

3 Hot Espressos

Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: If You Stay by Courtney Cole

If You Stay
Courtney Cole
Series: Beautifully Broken #1
Genre: NA Contemporary
Publication date: February 5th 2013
by  Lakehouse Press

24-year old Pax Tate is an asshole.


He’s a tattooed, rock-hard bad-boy with a bad attitude to match.
But he’s got his reasons.

His mother died when Pax was seven, leaving a hole in his heart filled with guilt although he doesn’t understand why. What he does know is that he and his dad are left alone and with more issues than they can count.

As Pax grew up, he tried to be the kid his father always wanted; the perfect golden boy, but it didn’t work. His dad couldn’t overcome his grief long enough to notice and Pax couldn’t keep up the impossible perfect façade.
So he slipped far, far from it.

Now, he uses drugs and women to cope with the ugliness, the black void that he doesn’t want to deal with. If he pretends that the emptiness isn’t there, then it isn’t, right?

And it’s never more apparent than when he meets Mila.

Sweet, beautiful Mila Hill is the fresh air to his hardened frown, the beauty to his ugly heart. He doesn’t know how to not hurt her, but he quickly realizes that he'd better figure it out because he needs her to breathe.

When memories of his mother’s death resurface from where he’s repressed them for so long, Mila is there to catch him when the guilt starts making sense. Mila is the one…the one who can save him from his broken troubled heart; from his issues, from the emptiness.

But only if he can stop being an asshole long enough to allow it.

He knows that. And he’s working on it.

But is that enough to make her stay?
-Source: Gifted from Amy at Book Loving Mom-

Starting with a bang--and I mean really: check out the opening paragraph for yourself ;)--If You Stay is narrated mainly by Pax, a drug addict with a past that has led him to want to give no shits about his life. Our second POV is a sweet and innocent young girl, Mila, who meets Pax in the most unfortunate of ways. I think this is one instance where a single POV would have been much better for me. While I understand the appeal of a dual POV when it comes to a love story, especially of this nature where both characters are such opposites, I felt like one character (Pax) was much more developed than the other, more likeable, too, which might seem improbable when you first meet him, turning this book into a good read that could have been great if only I had cared for both sides equally.

Fortunately for me, it's Pax's story above all. We meet him in his lowest of the lows as a drug addict who just doesn't give a f*ck. He's the ultimate bad boy whom every girl should stay away from. He's not created for us to "like" him as a character, not to mention a love interest, but he was created as an obviously broken character who you have the strange impulse to want to fix. This is what makes his character sympathetic. You get to understand what's going on in his head and how badly he wants to change--which makes all the difference. I came to see him as someone very sweet who needs to be given a chance. Mila takes that risk. This girl, though, did not click with me. She is the definition of a "good girl", but this is not the reason why I disliked her. She was simply too naive for my taste. She jumps into a relationship with this guy with the immediate belief that he will change to become the perfect boyfriend material, even after Pax tells her that "he will try not to her her"--he emphasizes on "try". Automatically, this would have become a red flag for me, Mila seemed to be oblivious to this warning, giving her heart to him so easily. I also didn't like how she reacted when Pax finally unfolded his past. Getting pissed at how he shut her out when he was dealing with such a traumatic memory was just not ok for me. He needed someone to understand and leave him to deal, not someone who made him guilty for it. Our personalities just did not mesh, mine and hers. Even without our clashing minds, however, I never felt like I truly understood or got to know Mila. She wasn't as fleshed out a character as Pax, which leads me to think I would have enjoyed this book much more had we not gotten her perspective at all, and only saw her through Pax's eyes.

The romance in the book is extremely hot and definitely R rated, they also do not lack chemistry, but on that note it's a primarily physical relationship. Instead of taking time throughout the book to get to know each other on a more emotional level, they focus on their physical attraction; which, in reality, is fine as some couples do base themselves on their physical relationship, but as a reader I felt like the romance was more superficial.

This book, however, is more than a love story. It's ultimately about Pax dealing with his past, and finding a way to get through it without ruining his life in the process. It was an emotional read, for sure, with some very hard to imagine scenarios where you can't help but want to put yourself in the MC's shoes to try to take some of their pain away. This is the part of the book that I liked the most and I think it was well executed.

Hard to read at times, but If You Stay is also an inspiring story when you consider how far Pax comes. While I didn't love both characters, I predict that Mila will resonate with some readers better than I, making it a great reading experience all around as it's far from being a bad book.

3.5 Hot Espressos

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Xpresso Weekly: Stacking the Shelves (53)

Xpresso Weekly is my edition of Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews featuring the books I got this week, and I also mention blog news/happenings of the past week.

This week at Xpresso Reads
How is everyone this week? Spring is finally starting to show its face and I'm so happy! And is everyone ready for BEA, too? I know I am and am stoked to meet everyone there! :D So this week on the blog was pretty giveaway-tastic! For my Canadian peeps you can win a copy of The Beautiful and the Cursed! And my international lovelies can win book 1-3 of the Revenants series by Amy Plum which is awesome!

Reviews on the blog this week:

copyright Xpresso Book Tours

Stacking the Shelves

 (Click on covers or title links for Goodreads)
I received for review:

*Big thanks to Macmillan Publishers, All Night Reads, Simon & Schuster, and Coliloquy for these pretties!*

I bought 
Rhiannon's new serial! Duh! ;)

That's all for me this week, lovelies!
Link me to your book haul and I'll go stalk you! ;)


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fresh Batch (April 28th - May 4th)

Exclusively titled for Xpresso Reads, Fresh Batch features the hottest releases of this upcoming week.

Flavor of the week:

Sweet Peril
Wendy Higgins 
Series: The Sweet Trilogy #1
Publication date:  May 1st 2012
by HarperTeen

Anna Whitt, the daughter of a guardian angel and a demon, promised herself she’d never do the work of her father—polluting souls. She’d been naive to make such a vow. She’d been naive about a lot of things.

Haunted by demon whisperers, Anna does whatever she can to survive, even if it means embracing her dark side and earning an unwanted reputation as her school’s party girl. Her life has never looked more bleak. And all the while there’s Kaidan Rowe, son of the Duke of Lust, plaguing her heart and mind.

When an unexpected lost message from the angels surfaces, Anna finds herself traveling the globe with Kopano, son of Wrath, in an attempt to gain support of fellow Nephilim and give them hope for the first time. It soon becomes clear that whatever freedoms Anna and the rest of the Neph are hoping to win will not be gained without a fight. Until then, Anna and Kaidan must put aside the issues between them, overcome the steamiest of temptations yet, and face the ultimate question: is loving someone worth risking their life?

Sweet series so far:

After earning a Creative Writing degree from George Mason University and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Radford, I taught high school English until becoming a mommy. I've always had a heart for teens, and writing YA stories gives me the opportunity to delve into the ambiguities of those pivotal years before adulthood.
I live in the D.C. area with my husband, daughter, son and puppy Rue.

Giveaway: The Beautiful and the Cursed

The Beautiful and the Cursed
Page Morgan
Series: The Dispossessed #1
Genre: YA Gothic
Publication date: May 14th 2013
by Delacorte Books for Young Readers 

After a bizarre accident, Ingrid Waverly is forced to leave London with her mother and younger sister, Gabby, trading a world full of fancy dresses and society events for the unfamiliar city of Paris.

In Paris there are no grand balls or glittering parties, and, disturbingly, the house Ingrid’s twin brother, Grayson, found for them isn’t a house at all. It’s an abandoned abbey, its roof lined with stone gargoyles that could almost be mistaken for living, breathing creatures.

And Grayson has gone missing.

No one seems to know of his whereabouts but Luc, a devastatingly handsome servant at their new home.

Ingrid is sure her twin isn’t dead—she can feel it deep in her soul—but she knows he’s in grave danger. It will be up to her and Gabby to navigate the twisted path to Grayson, a path that will lead Ingrid on a discovery of dark secrets and otherworldly truths. And she’ll learn that once they are uncovered, they can never again be buried.

Gothic novels are my favorite type of books so I'm excited to be sharing this giveaway with my fellow Canadians. The fabulous people at Random House of Canada have generously offered up one finished copy of The Beautiful and the Cursed for giveaway to one of my lucky duck Canadian readers. This giveaway will run until I post my review on May 7th!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Review: The Program by Suzanne Young

The Program
Suzanne Young
Series: Program #1
Genre: YA Dystopian
Publication date: April 30th 2013
by Simon Pulse

In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.
-A copy was provided by Simon & Schuster Canada for review-

If I wasn't so bored with dystopians lately, this one might have been more enjoyable for me. Although it has a little contemporary feel to it more than most, and the plot direction it takes is different from the expected and clichés "run and hide from the big bad government", in the end I still felt that it was yet another dystopian novel that doesn't particularly stand out from the rest.

A little reminiscent of Delirium, The Program involves teen suicide and how its become an epidemic, and the cure involves wiping them out into a clean slate. This means memory removal of anything that could cause negative feelings. Thus, if you're a teenager and you show any sort of negative emotions like crying, you better make sure no one sees you! I liked the idea of this world and I personally found it much more believable than Delirium, in the sense that I can see how society agreed to this mind erasing program if it will save their children from suicide (I had difficulty believing that society could be convinced love was a disease--but that is a review for another time >.<). I found the system intimidating and quite the paradox--some rather die than go through the program if they're flagged, for others, having your best friend, or anyone you love, not remember who you are is heartbreaking in every sense turning you emotionally vulnerable. Although it delivers a fairly predictable story arc, The Program is ultimately a tragic love story and this part was done quite well.

While the plot itself was enjoyable, I did not find myself connecting to the characters as much as I would have liked. They were likeable characters, but Sloane didn't strike me as an especially memorable MC. Same goes for the side characters, Sloane makes a few friends throughout the story, and none of them were well developed. They were used as nothing more than "extras". There is even one character who was kind of a creep for the bigger part of the book that annoyed me senselessly. He seemed to always be sneaking around intimidating Sloane every chance he got, and I didn't see the point of it. The book could have gone without him; he was gross, his storyline felt random and out of place, and when he had done his "task" to help the plot along (which could have been achieved without him), he was just gone and forgotten. He might be back in the sequel, but really I don't see the point--it seems his only role is to add unnecessary ickiness.

In the end, The Program is a love story. The main reason I didn't love this book is due to my distance from the romance itself. I have a hard time falling for a romance when one is already established beforehand. I love seeing connections strike and relationships bloom, when I get into a book with it pre-existing, I don't get that fluttery young love feeling towards it as much. There were flashbacks that showed the strength of their love for each other which helped, though this helped me understand their relationship, it didn't leave me swooning over it. Therefore, while I cared about the protagonist and what she was going through, and I deduced the implied sadness or tragic nature of it all, I felt like I was more of a curious observer than someone invested into the heart of it.

With so may previously failed dystopians this year, The Program is easily one of the better ones I've read lately. If I hadn't read so many I might have given this one more slack; as it stands I liked it but I don't see it sticking out from the masses in the cluster of dystopians in my memory.

3 Hot Espressos

If I Should Die Tour Stop: Guest Post + Giveaway

Being a fan of this series I'm excited to have the If I Should Die blog tour drop by the blog today. We've got a fun Video-filled guest post featuring Kate's (the MC) favorite fight scenes, and a fab giveaway!

If I Should Die
Amy Plum
Series: Revenants, #3
Publication date: May 7th 2013
by Harper Teen

I will not lose another person I love. I will not let history repeat itself.

Vincent waited lifetimes to find me, but in an instant our future together was shattered. He was betrayed by someone we both called a friend, and I lost him. Now our enemy is determined to rule over France’s immortals, and willing to wage a war to get what they want.

It shouldn’t be possible, none of it should be, but this is my reality. I know Vincent is somewhere out there, I know he’s not completely gone, and I will do anything to save him.

After what we’ve already fought to achieve, a life without Vincent is unimaginable. He once swore to avoid dying—to go against his nature and forsake sacrificing himself for others—so that we could be together. How can I not risk everything to bring my love back to me?

Kate's 5 Favorite Fight Scenes

Uma Thurman in Kill Bill: the scene where Black Mamba fights the Crazy 88

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: the scene where Ziyi fights Michelle
(could not embed the video for this one it wasn't available in my country)

Princess Bride: the fight between Inigo Montoya and the Dread Pirate Roberts

Matrix: The Lobby Scene

Return of the King: Eowyn vs the Nazgul with one of my FAVORITE LINES EVER!!! (Guess which!)

About the Author

Amy Plum is the author of the International Bestseller DIE FOR ME, which is an Indie Next List pick, Romance Times top pick, and recipient of a starred review from School Library Journal. DIE FOR ME is the first novel in a YA trilogy set in Paris. Book 2 in the series, UNTIL I DIE, releases in May 2012. Amy grew up in Birmingham, Alabama before venturing further afield to Chicago, Paris, London and New York. An art historian by training, she can be found on most days either daydreaming or writing (or both) in a Parisian café.

This post is a part of:
Click on banner for tour schedule!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Girls Don't Cry: Blogging Schedules

Inspired by Book Buzzers, Book Girls Don't Cry is a weekly feature where we each discuss/vent/advise on the chosen weekly bookish topic. Don't miss Jenni on Mondays, and Amy on Saturdays:

Planning is half the battle!

When you start a blog most people go in with absolutely no clue what it entails, nor how much organization goes into running one--especially if you want good constant content AND respect what publishers ask as far as reviewing the books they send to you on time.

My first few months of blogging were craz-ay! I was not using anything to keep track and just going about it with the flow, and it got pretty unorganized. I would forget tours I had signed up for, and I lost track of what was due for review (mostly Netgalley books then which are easier to "forget" you have at all). But first thing's first, and I didn't learn this until a few months after I started blogging hence why I'm mentioning it, but when you receive an ARC from a publisher, they like you to review them close to the release date. Some ask within 2 weeks, some within 4, and a few I've worked with had strict deadlines and wanted it no more than 1 week before, so how the heck was I supposed to keep track when NG started approving more and more and print copies would arrive? I'm very impressed to those who do blog successfully without a schedule as I know some do, and it may just be in my OCD nature, but I need more structure. And since publishers are feeding my reading habit, I like to respect their wishes as far as timing the best I can.

So here is what my blog calendar looks like--for those on a Mac, iCal is the best invention since sliced bread or something. But for PC I know there are some desktop calendars that exists, too, or Google Calendar is a good online one. Or if you're more of an old fashioned gal/guy, a good paper calendar works--though online is nice because you can sync them to your phone (in most cases) and access them from anywhere.

(click for larger)

How to be a successful scheduler

It might look a little intimidating or time consuming to create a blogging schedule--I mean blogging is not a chore, right?--but it's barely something I even notice doing and I admit I kind of like it. All you gotta do is open your calendar--do it! Now add in your weekly regular posts like any memes or features (the iCal has an easy "repeat" feature to make that super easy). Then, whenever you get an ARC--print or digital--go in Goodreads, add it on your ARC shelf (I know y'all have one ;), and since the release date is right there, pop up your calendar, select a few days or a week prior to release, and put it in! That was so not hard, eh? Then did you sign up for any tours? Even before you get confirmation that you were selected, put it in your schedule (most tour organizers will give you the date you requested during sign ups). This avoids double booking, and worst case,  deleting an entry is extremely easy I promise ;). Then what happens if you get an ARC and nothing is free close to its release (yes this will happen!)? Pick a random day where another review is scheduled and add it in; when the time comes you pick the one you want to read the most--we're not machines! It's also a good habit to schedule reviews realistically--don't schedule 5 a week if you can only read 2.

On that note, will you get punished for skipping a review book? No! I'm not saying go request a book if you don't have every intention of reviewing it, but publishers are aware that not all ARCs will get reviewed. Sometimes this is due to readers losing interest after the early reviews (or Blythe) convinces us it will not be our cup of tea (believe me pubs prefer no review at all than going in knowing you will hate it), and other times we just simply don't have time. I have had to skip many ARCs that I have received and I have never been cut off from a publisher--although try to review at least "most" as these are not free of cost for them. With this said, if you can't fit a new ARC into an empty review slot, double book and decide later on. Note that pubs also appreciate post-release reviews so don't stress if you have to wait until after it's released! If you see my screenshot I have a habit of putting "extras" on Saturdays and I keep moving them forward as months go buy--those are my "I should review when I can" book list. Yeppers, I've got a system for everything! >.<

A guide, not a rule

This leads me to talk about how you follow your schedule once you have it going. Don't treat it as something set it stone. Don't stress yourself out if you still have not read a book that is scheduled next week. Use your schedule as a guide, not a rule book. Don't let it run your reading schedule either. If your next book on the list is a dystopian but you're really not in the mood for that, switch it with another one. You have no idea how much my schedule gets moved around every week, but at least I'm aware of which book is due for review soon so that when I am in the mood for a dystopian, I should probably read that one. I have used a schedule for well over a year and not once has it caused a reading slump, a feeling of reading being work, or a dislike towards reading or blogging at all. Knowing how to use it and giving yourself slack is just as important as creating it.

So this is how I manage my blog! Anything blog related, even mailing out giveaway prizes and special notes for tour stops, I add it my calendar. I need order in my life! I don't know how some do without *pulls hair out*.

How do you manage your blogging/reviewing schedule?
Seriously! I want to know your systems! :)

Also, don't forget to leave suggestions for future topics you'd like to see! :)

You know you love me!
Xoxo, Book Girl!