Sunday, March 31, 2013

Xpresso Weekly: Stacking the Shelves (49)

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
HAPPY EASTER! Yay! I'm so excited to be doing an egg hunt with my kid this year for the first time--even though he has bronchitis, but he's a trouper. So this week I had the If You Find Me blog tour drop by which is a book I loved, and you can enter to win a copy of your own, here! I also went over two of my favorite Google Reader alternatives on this week's Book Girls Don't Cry post!

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:

-That Time I Joined the Circus by J.J. Howard (the pic is only the jacket bc I was reading it >.<)

*A big thanks to Scholastic Canada, St. Martin's Press, and Random House Canada for these pretties!*

I got this gifted from the the lovely Amylicious from Book Loving Mom. Thanks so much, dollface! I can't wait to read it it's so pretteh!! Look: 

That's all for me, lovelies!
Link me to your book haul in the comments! :)


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Vengeance Bound Tour Stop: Guest Post + Giveaway

Today I've got the Vengeance Bound blog tour dropping by Xpresso Reads! I've got a guest post by Justina, as well as a fab giveaway! Thanks to AToMR Tours for having me on this tour!

Vengeance Bound
Justina Ireland
Publication date: April 2nd 2013
by Simon & Schuster BFYR

The Goddess Test meets Dexter in an edgy, compelling debut about one teen’s quest for revenge… no matter how far it takes her.

Cory Graff is not alone in her head. Bound to a deal of desperation made when she was a child, Cory’s mind houses the Furies—the hawk and the serpent—lingering always, waiting for her to satisfy their bloodlust. After escaping the asylum where she was trapped for years, Cory knows how to keep the Furies quiet. By day, she lives a normal life, but by night, she tracks down targets the Furies send her way. And she brings down Justice upon them.

Cory’s perfected her system of survival, but when she meets a mysterious boy named Niko at her new school, she can’t figure out how she feels about him. For the first time, the Furies are quiet in her head around a guy. But does this mean that Cory’s finally found someone who she can trust, or are there greater factors at work? As Cory’s mind becomes a battlefield, with the Furies fighting for control, Cory will have to put everything on the line to hold on to what she’s worked so hard to build.

The Paranormal in Vengeance Bound, by Justina Ireland

So, writing about the paranormal aspect is kind of hard for me.  Quite a few folks have asked me where I came up with using the Furies in the way I did, and the short answer is “Because I solve plot problems by throwing in something ridiculous.”  

The long answer?  I find writing books without magic to be incredibly boring.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love reading contemporary, especially contemporary YA.  But I cannot write it.  It’s boring.  I find my characters moving from place to place, doing mundane things like buying groceries and having conversations about the weather.  And every time I think to myself that I need to spice things up, well, that’s when things like chimaeras show up.

But that’s another book.  This post is about Vengeance Bound.

I settled on using the Furies because I needed a vehicle for Amelie to exact her Justice.  She’s an angry girl, and with good reason.  She’s had a lot thrown at her, a lot of pain and a lot of loss.  At first I thought to make her a Harpy, but that didn’t jive with her personality (although I do have a Harpy character in my arsenal.  Again, another book).

But the Furies? They worked perfectly.  I tweaked their back story a little to fit the needs of my story (my Furies are evolved from a serpent and a hawk, and they only prey on men), but otherwise, they are very nearly the same creatures that populate Greek mythology.  By placing them in Amelie’s head I was able to create this back and forth that really propels the plot forward.

And that is always a good thing.

About the Author

Justina's Website / Goodreads / Twitter
Justina Ireland enjoys dark chocolate, dark humor, and is not too proud to admit that she’s still afraid of the dark. She lives with her husband, kid, and dog in Pennsylvania. Vengeance Bound is her first novel.


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Fresh Batch (March 31st - April 6th)

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

Flavor of the week:

In the Shadow of Blackbirds
Cat Winters 
Publication date: April 2nd 2013
by Amulet Books

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

Official Book Trailer:

Cat Winters was born and raised in Southern California, near Disneyland, which may explain her love of haunted mansions, bygone eras, and fantasylands. She received degrees in drama and English from the University of California, Irvine, and formerly worked in publishing.

Her debut novel, IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS—a YA ghost tale set during the World War I era—is coming April 2, 2013, from Amulet Books/ABRAMS. She currently lives outside of Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two kids.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

This Is What Happy Looks Like
Jennifer E. Smith
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication date: April 2nd 2013
by Poppy

If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.

Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?
-A copy was provided by Hachette Book Group Canada for review-

If you want a read that leaves a smile on your face, This Is What Happy Looks Like is the perfect choice! A sweet romance, a small town, and fun characters make this a great summer read that you should definitely bring on vacation!

A modern day fairy tale is what this story is, really. It's not the kind of love story that's particularly believable--no one accidentally pen pals a stranger who ends up being a movie star--but if you enjoy those lightweight romance books where the story is more of a dream than anything, this one fits the bill. It's fun for a different reason; instead of being a love story that burns with the fierce realness of two people who fall in love, Jennifer goes into almost every teenage girl's dream and plucks the most famous movie star into the arms of your every day small town girl. You will likely find yourself pondering on what this would actually be like, which is fun, you have to admit! Getting to see Graham's POV also brings up what it truly means to be famous. Not the glamorous red carpet side, but how nothing you ever do can be private, and no one truly knows the real you--he even feels like a stranger in his own family. I liked how his side of the story was just as developed as Ellie's, showing us his true feelings toward his stardom; he does not rejoice being recognized by the masses. While it's impossible to relate to that lifestyle (at least for most), it's easy to understand how not all of it is dazzling. It was nice that Ellie wasn't the star struck fan that some might expect, as well. She was basically unperturbed by stars in her town--at least until she finds out who, exactly, her email buddy is. But she wasn't pretentious about the relationship at all which made her character very likeable; how many do you know who would not immediately blast Facebook with their relationship had it been them? She actually had her reasons for wanting it to be kept on the down low which creates more than a few bumps along the road between these two. Although, it remains a lighthearted read nonetheless.

Like every small town, the people who reside in it know everyone else, this makes for a small but lively cast of side characters, as well as a great small town atmosphere which I genuinely felt throughout. Being from a tiny town not so different than Ellie's, I easily found myself roaming the streets along with her, enjoying the family owned quirky shops and town events. This small town garners more than just romance, too. We have some family issues that are visited throughout the story, friendship quibbles with her best friend, along with a scandal or two. Not everything is complicated, though; I especially loved Ellie and her mother's relationship. They have an easy going dynamic where they can actually talk to each other; no unconcerned parenting or melodramatics involved. And to add a great touch of charm to the story, we get snippets of emails between Ellie and Graham at the beginning of every chapter which I thought was a great way to keep the romance in the air.

Light, charming, funny, and sweet, this is one you pick up when you simply want to escape into a romantic lala-land! In short, this book is what happy looks like! --- You know I had to! ;)

4 Hot Espressos

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Book Girls Don't Cry, They RSS!

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:

Goodbye Google Reader, Hello Something Better!

You heard me! Google Reader leaving is not exactly the end of the world, nor is it even bad at all. There are tons of other readers out there, some free, others that require a fee but give out a little something extra for it.

Today I will feature two of my favorite alternatives which also seems to be the ones most liked by the majority so you might learn some tips and tricks if you're new to these, or it may help you choose!

Bloglovin' is close to being the same experience as Google Reader but with some obvious differences, as well as a few pros and cons, but it remains a very solid alternative.

Just a note since I've seen this being said a few times; if a blogger is NOT signed up on Bloglovin, you can still follow their blog on it! (When I signed up I already had over 80 followers!) So don't worry that you will miss out on any of your blogs if they're not on Bloglovin! Bloglovin is a feed reader, so if a site has a feed, you can follow it! The account is to register you a user, then you can claim your blog, but whether you're signed up or not, your blog can be read through it!

(click to enlarge)

The sidebar only shows blogs with unread posts, so don't get all pissy if you don't see your blog! 
(I know you checked! :P ) 

Bloglovin Pros:
  • Notifications. You can choose to be notified via email every time someone follows your blog, as well as every time a post goes up (from all blogs or just our favorites). This is nice if you have a small list of favorites that you like to read every day.
  • You can very easily follow/unfollow blogs either through bloglovin icons often found on sidebars now, or directly in Bloglovin by using the search and looking up blogs by name. (I used to have the hardest time managing my GFC/GReader subscription list.)
  • Liking! Bloglovin gives you the ability to Like any post. These go into your "Liked Posts" section making them easy to get back to. You're perusing and you're super interested in a post but your dog just puked on the floor? Like it, and get back to it later without sifting through an endless stream! Want to save a post you really enjoyed to reference or re-read at a later date? Like it!
  • When you're visiting a blog through Bloglovin, it give you the ability to click on the next post, or to select your next blog right from the top toolbar when you're reading a post (it only lists the blogs with unread posts!)
(click to enlarge)

    Bloglovin' Cons:
    • For those who liked to read all at one place without clicking (lazy making and all), Bloglovin only gives you a short snippet of the post and you do have to click on it to read the whole thing. Clicking opens the blog through the Bloglovin frame so you do have some pros to this as mentioned above, but if you just want to be a silent lurker, though, it's more effort to read more posts (yes, clicking is effort!). 
    • No search within posts. This is something I used when I was looking for specific posts/topics in GReader. Bloglovin doesn't have this search function, yet, you can only search for blogs.
    • GFC has no more meaning! Because Google Reader could be synched with your blogger, any blog you followed with GFC would automatically go in your Reader. With Bloglovin, however, that is not the case. When you first create you bloglovin account it will ask if you want to import your Google Reader which imports all your current GFC follows, but after this, and especially once GReader is gone, any new GFC follows will not appear in your Bloglovin--thus make sure to ALSO follow blogs on Bloglovin (or other RSS reader).
    • The unfortunate follow button art. I mean, what is this? I don't know about you, but I don't want no boobies on my blog! Fortunately, you have other (normal) options! You can also blend 2 together like I did if you want a "Follow this blog" button AND to show your following #.
    Eeeh kind of weird:

    Less weird:
    Follow on Bloglovin
    Follow on Bloglovin

    If you want more of the same feel as Google Reader, Feedly is the way to go! It's free, it's user friendly, and easy to use (at least once you spend an hour or so to set it up how you like it). I even like it better than Google Reader, actually. Any blog you follow via RSS, or GFC will get added to your Feedly (though I am not sure if GFC will still be linked once GReader goes away).

    (click to enlarge)

    Feedly Pros
    • Feedly Mini! I freaking love this little thingy! It makes it so easy to follow blogs AND share a post. No more searching for an RSS icon or share buttons. Once you have the Feedly plugin installed on your browser, any site that has a feed will have a small icon on the bottom corner (pic 1), when you click on it (pic 2) you can 1) follow the blog via Feedly, 2) save the article/page you're on for later, and 3) share the post (Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Email). It's ingenious! >.<
    • Options! Options! You can do a LOT with Feedly, and it still remains easy to use! This includes connecting Twitter and Facebook to it to see what posts people are sharing etc. Sharing/saving posts. You can customize a lot with it, as well, which is where I think it wins over Bloglovin by quite a bit. You can change colors, theme, and the way you see the post layout. When I first logged it it looked like a magazine-style of which I was not a fan, but don't worry you can change this layout very easily under the tool icon you can choose six different viewing options. Examples (click on image to enlarge):

    • Because of the last pro mentioned, you can read whole posts through Feedly! This is also a big win over Bloglovin. Like Google Reader, you can scroll through posts and read without having to visit the direct post/blog (this is great for slower comps and lazy people, work comps with internet tracking or blocking of sites, or blogs that are especially slow to load that you would otherwise not bother to read so often). Sure it doesn't give stats to the blog but are we here for stats, or are we blogging to have our stuff read?
    • Search! You can search for any keyword, blog, or even hashtag! Search is very important! *glares at Bloglovin*

    Feedly cons
    •  It takes some getting used to because the interface and options are much less simplistic than Bloglovin, it's a great idea to read these short and informative tutorials here and here on how to get the best from it. But honestly it took me less than an hour and I was all set.
    •  I don't really see any other con at this time, to be honest. This is a very good RSS Reader that will suit all the same needs you had with Google Reader and more!

    *Note that if you want a counter for Feedly/RSS, Feedburner has a counter you can use that displays your RSS subscription # (example on my blog footer).

    There are tons of other alternatives, too. I didn't want to get into each one. I only tried one other: The Old Reader, but it was way too simplistic for me you couldn't even sort them in folders (favorites etc.). Use Google to find and test alternatives until you find one that you prefer. I urge you to do this BEFORE JULY 1ST though because after that, no more easy import to get all your Google Reader subscriptions changed to another reader!

    And while you're at it! Follow me via either of these readers! :D

    Follow on Bloglovin


    What reader have you adopted?
    Anything to add on these pro/con lists?

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

    You know you love me!
    Xoxo, Book Girl!

    Wednesday, March 27, 2013

    Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

    The Fault in Our Stars
    John Green
    Genre: YA Contemporary
    Publication date: January 10th 2012
    by Dutton Books

    Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

    Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

    Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind
    -This novel was listened to via audiobook-

    My first John Green book y'all! It was about time I checked out what everyone was going on about with this author. I've, of course, heard of many of his novels before and have almost all of them on my to-read list, but since this is his most recent one I figured I'd give it a go. (Also, I was just perusing Goodreads for this book and came upon the author's page; I always pictured John Green as an old man--because his books seem to have been around for ever--and he is… well he is not old! *mind blown* )

    Where was I? Aside from under my rock, I mean. I was hesitant to read The Fault In Our Stars for two reasons. One being the rave reviews; a book getting so much hype is usually a bad sign for me where I tend to be the black sheep. And two, books that deal with cancer, or any disease for that matter, often have me paranoid and checking myself for lumps, thus I need time to mentally prepare myself for them, and to put my doctor on speed dial. For those suffering the same hypochondria have nothing to fear, however, as this is much more about the characters, and less about the cancer itself. I did not request an MRI once! As for the hype, I do think it's the reason that this was a 4 for me and not a 5. My expectations were through the roof for this novel, so while it was definitely good enough to meet them, it wasn't able to blow my mind. No doubt in my mind that John Green is a fantastic writer. He has a way with words that pulls every single string of your heart into these characters' lives, even though you know the unstoppable is coming. BUT, that is just the thing, though, I felt like the book was performing to make me cry. Instead of the emotions coming naturally to a story, I felt they were manipulated into it. It reminded me of most Nicholas Sparks or Jodi Picoult books in that sense. Emotional manipulation is nothing new and it's not necessarily bad, I have simply had my fill of them in the past and thus have become a little immune--or expectant? Therefore, even though I did truly enjoy this as it's clearly a remarkable novel, I found it more or less the same as other cancer books/movies I've come upon. I have read and watched quite a few; If I was new to this emotional formula, I'm sure this book would have swept me into oblivion like the majority of its readers.

    Hazel has been living with cancer for a long time, and when she meets Augustus, another cancer kid, things get just a little more happy for her. If you're as big a character reader as I, let me tell you that character development in this novel is superb. I loved watching these people grow and connect to each other. Developing the main characters don't take away from the supporting roles either which are just as present and well rounded. This includes the parents which are supportive but realistic in their reactions. I loved that a book with such a dire subject had so many quirky and humorous moments, as well. I got quite a few laughs from the often witty dialogue. The characters also speak very eloquently. While some have mentioned it makes them sound a little unrealistic, I thought it was actually a way to show how something life changing like a cancer diagnosis can mature someone. These kids live their lives like there's no tomorrow, every single day, because they know that one day soon that will be the truth. This grows people up, this living in fast forward. Hazel was already schooled beyond her years and is doing college courses at 16. It's true that Green might have gone a little overboard in their speech and they surely do not sound like real teenagers, but I have an inkling this was intentional. Plus I actually found the book even more captivating by how intelligent it all was. The plot, the dialogue, the literary references, the grandiose metaphors, the romance; it makes the book elegant; refined.

    I'm sure you have read countless reviews on this novel so I doubt anything I say here will be anything new to add to the slew of opinions. You've all been told already that John Green is immensely talented and with this book he pulls out all the stops on your emotions, and that by reading it you're sure to read something truly worthy of your time. It's a piece of YA literary art that is deserving of its awards!

    4 Hot Espressos

    Tuesday, March 26, 2013

    If You Find Me Blog Tour: Guest Post + Giveaway

    Today I'm excited to have the If You Find Me blog tour drop by--a book I absolutely loved! (find my review here). I have Emily here today with a great guest post and you can enter to win this fantastic pretty! Thanks to Wendy at The Midnight Garden for having me on this tour!

    If You Find Me
    Emily Murdoch
    Publication date: March 26th 2013
    by St. Martin's Griffin

    There are some things you can’t leave behind…

    A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

    Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

    Guest Post by Emily Murdoch

    To The Books (and Authors) Who Raised Me Up 

    I get a panicky feeling at the thought of where I’d be without books. Over a lifetime, my love for books and reading grew from ember to flame to wildfire, and the fiery love continues to burn to this day.
    Books save. Yes, I’m a writer, and I know how dramatic that sounds. But I mean it literally. And I want to use this post as a way to give thanks to a handful of the books that impacted my life.
    Are you there, Judy? It’s me, Emily.

    Judy Blume – Ah, where to start? All. The. Books. You were the best friend, the hip, cool Auntie, the good mother. The honest one. At a time in society when people didn’t talk about so many things, you did. You pointed out the naked emperors. You guided girls back to their bread crumb trails and out of the woods into themselves. You broke it to the world that children should be seen AND heard.
    I owned all of your books. I used to rake leaves and fetch neighbors’ mail and whatever else I could do to earn money to buy your books.
    Thank you for being the writer you are in this world.

     Anne Sexton – One of my favorite poets, for your confessional style. You opened Pandora’s Box. Your mind was flashbulb bright, your words brilliant. I pored over your poetry, which awoke something winged inside of me.
    Laughter may be the best medicine, but so is art, and you knew that.

    Second Star To The Right by Deborah Hautzig
    There is Vivaldi in If You Find Me, and it’s a smiling thank you in your direction. A thank you, not only for turning readers on to Vivaldi, but most importantly, a thank you for your book, published when eating disorder fiction was scarce. And not just your book, but the depth and honesty of your writing – you blazed trails. You offered a voice for the voiceless suffering from anorexia. You used your talent to change a corner of the world.

    Wasted by Marya Hornbacher
    Wow, did you go there. Your 90s, in your face style shook things up. When I was your age and starving myself, all we had was Karen Carpenter’s death and a world puzzled by this new malady.
    With this blog tour, I know what it’s like to break silence and speak out, in an effort to use ones voice for the good of others. You gave so many lost people courage and, most of all, the truth in all its majestic grittiness. The truth really does set us free.

    Hunger Strike* by Susie Orbach
    You get it! A professional who gets it! The earth shook beneath my feet, it was that much of a moment, for me.
    I can’t thank you enough. You and your book were another link in the chain of eating disorder survival, and part of my own writing process, in the sense of matching language to the thought processes that were pretty much pre-language and, at that time, just beginning to become a conversation in the arena of public consciousness.

    Solitaire by Amy Liu
    As a teen, I used to sneak between the stacks, heart hammering in case anyone saw me, hunting down the one or two eating disorder books in existence, if the library even stocked them.
    The first book I ever found was Solitaire, and it gave me so much hope. THANK YOU. If I could fly a thank you banner through the sky, I would. A seed of life grows inside us, when we find out we’re not alone.
    I just bought Ms. Liu’s recent book, Gaining: the truth about life after eating disorders
    I look forward to reading it as soon as I get a chance. It’s very important to show the other side: recovery.

    The Forest For The Trees by Betsy Lerner
    Words don’t exist for how much I love this book. I read it before I even began what I call the beginning of my publishing journey, Query Road, and as a writer, it was a friendly Mr. Tumnus sort of guide that provided both the street lights along the way and the encouragement every aspiring author needs.

    And there you have it. Perhaps, like Carey, I wear my own “pee” coat, worried about how to answer the question: what books are your favorites, and who are your favorite authors?
    Those are some above, and I’m forever grateful to these brave, shining, generous human beings.
     Growing up, I read to stay alive, to find my way, to find the light. And if any of my books can do that for someone else? For the children, most of all?
    <3 br="">What books changed your life? Saved your life? Brightened-opened-enhanced your life? Please join us in the comments with a book or author and let’s give them a proper tribute!
    *Author’s Note: I did not steal this library book! I bought it at the English Town Auction in English Town, NJ, for the ridiculously low price of $1.25.

    About the Author

    Emily is a writer, a poet, and a lover of books. There's never a time she's without a book. Her debut novel, If You Find Me, will be available from St. Martin's on March 26, 2013 and from Orion/Indigo UK on May 2, 2013.

    When she's not reading or writing, you'll find her caring for her horses, dogs and family on a ranch in rural Arizona, where the desert's tranquil beauty and rich wildlife often enter into her poetry and writing.

    If You Find Me Blog Tour

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