Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Review: Finding Mr. Brightside

Title: Finding Mr. Brightside
Author: Jay Clark
Published: March 24th 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Source: ARC courtesy of the publisher for an honest review

"Abram and Juliette know each other. They’ve lived down the street from each other their whole lives. But they don’t really know each other—at least, not until Juliette’s mom and Abram’s dad have a torrid affair that culminates in a deadly car crash. Sharing the same subdivision is uncomfortable, to say the least. They don’t speak.

Fast-forward to the neighborhood pharmacy, a few months later. Abram decides to say hello. Then he decides to invite her to Taco Bell. To her surprise as well as his, she agrees. And the real love story begins."

Thoughts: First off, am I the only one who thinks the cover looks eerily similar to Jennifer E. Smith's books? Possibly a little too similar? Don't get me wrong, I love it, and it works well with the book, but I could see someone picking this up believing it's one of Jennifer's and not Jay's books.

FINDING MR. BRIGHTSIDE is a unique story about two teenagers caught between the crossfires of a marital, tragic, love affair. Both teenagers must pick up the pieces and take care of the parent that was left behind. It isn't until an encounter at the local CVS that their lives start turning into something more than this tragedy. Is it possible for two people to fall in love after everything they've been through, especially with the "enemy"?

The book is told through both Juliette and Abram's point of views. While both voices are distinct, both characters share similar attributes which will eventually (luckily sooner rather than later) draw them together. Of the two, I found myself pulled more towards Abram than Juliette. He's still hurt and dealing with it the best he can, but he also has this lightness to him that I appreciated. Juliette's spirit is shattered making her more cynical but still an interesting character and definitely a great contrast to Abram.

I enjoyed their relationship. I loved the way it developed and the way both characters matured because of it. As their relationship grew, so did they. This made me want to root and cheer for them. Finally, something that might lift the overbearing dark cloud, even if it's just for a scene or two.

The writing style is the only thing I had an on again-off again issue with. It's written well, but there were moments where I felt the story dragged a bit. It's not a very long book, yet these scenes kept me from finishing the novel faster than I originally thought I would. My favorite parts were the light moments that made me giggle and smile or the tender ones that had my heart reaching out for these two souls. Sadly, I felt like there were some filler moments I personally could have lived without.

Overall, I liked FINDING MR. BRIGHTSIDE, but I didn't love it. I adored the premise and felt like it had a lot of potential, however, it simply wasn't my favorite contemporary YA book. The ending was wonderful, and I think that is mainly what kept me from giving this book three stars instead of two.


3 Stars

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Orphan Queen Blog Tour (Review + Giveaway)

Welcome, welcome, to the next stop in The Orphan Queen Blog Tour.


I cannot tell you guys how much I loved, loved, loved this book. Wait, yes I can, ESPECIALLY since half of this stop involves a review. Woohoo! Let's start the show!

Title: The Orphan Queen (The Orphan Queen #1)
Author: Jodi Meadows
Published: March 10th 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books

"Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.

She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.

She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.

She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others

Jodi Meadows introduces a vivid new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s battle to reclaim her place in the world."

Thoughts: First off, thank you Jodi for reminding me of how much I simply adore fantasy novels. This book has it all- a beautifully sculpted world, a lovable herione, and a brooding, enigmatic guy who you'll want to pounce. ROAR!

First off, the title pretty much explains the book in a nutshell. Wilhelmina is the orphan princess of Aecor who must fight to overtake the kingdom that was taken from her. She only survived, because she pretended to be someone else. Since this worked before, the Ospreys decide to send Wil and her bestie Melanie back to the palace to spy and hopefully figure out a way to take Aecor back. Along the way, Wil begins to question this decision and those she trusts most. Is this the life she wants to fight for or should she simply move on?

Okay, can we please talk about what a badass Wil is? Often, when you hear the word "princess", you think of pretty dresses, proper, good manners, etc. Wil is so much more than that. Most kings and queens sit back and let their soldiers fight for them. Not Wil. She could kick all of our butts and still have time to grab a mani/pedi before lunch. As far as strong heroines go, she's the cream of the crop. She's also very humble. Sure she's the future queen, but that doesn't make her their leader. Wil feels like being queen and ruling is something she has to earn, and I cannot tell you how much this makes me respect her as their rightful queen and a person.

Next up, I cannot write this review without mentioning the Black Knife at least five or six hundred times. I loved how much he grew throughout the novel, especially with Wil by his side. He originally thought all magic was criminial and should be punished, but the more time he spent with Wil, the broader his views began to grow. He's strong, hot, and just oozing charm to the point where I wanted to jump inside the book and hug him. I could say he's swoon worthy, but that would be an understatement. Can we please have an "adult" novel that revolves around the Black Knife? Pretty please?

Overall, I devoured THE ORPHAN QUEEN and recommend it over and over again. It reminds me of a mixture between GRACELING, THRONE OF GLASS, and A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC (a great combination!). I personally cannot wait for the sequel and once you read the book, you'll see why.


5 Stars

Favorite Quotes:

“I was going to have to face the man who'd destroyed my kingdom, and the boy who was the reason.”

“'The pain of what happened – it won’t last eternity.' A lie. I knew very well how pain could last, and fester, and shape a person in unnameable ways.”

“'Try to be polite.'
'I'm always polite.'
'You're always eyeing people's valuables. That's hardly polite.'”

Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy*, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy and the forthcoming ORPHAN QUEEN Duology (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen). Visit her at www.jodimeadows.com

*a Kippy is a cat

GIVEAWAY: Thanks to the fabulous people at Harper Teen (And the fabulous Hannah at The Irish Banana Review blog for organizing this tour), I am giving away a signed copy of THE ORPHAN QUEEN. To enter all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is only open to US participants and ends March 28th. Be sure to visit the rest of the tour for more chances to win!

3/9 - Good Choice Reading
3/10 - The Irish Banana Review
3/11 - Reading W/ABC's
3/12 - Icey Books
3/13 - Alice Marvels
3/16 - No BS Book Reviews
3/17 - Supernatural Snark
3/18 - Book Shelfery
3/19 - Addicted 2 Novels (Me, duh!)
3/20 - Mundie Moms

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Caged In Winter Cookies

The other day, as I was rereading CAGED IN WINTER, all I kept thinking about was I was craving steak, pizza, and cookies. If you guys haven't read this novel yet, you simply must. It's told in alternating points of views between Winter, our protagonist with loads of baggage, and Cage, a chef with his own baggage as well. At any rate, Winter is a student/waitress, and Cage is a, get this, chef in training. That's right, you heard me. This sexy, brooding, fantastic guy can also add cooking to his swoon resume. Yum!

At one point in the novel, Cade tells Winter that while he can cook, he can't bake. In fact, the only thing he can bake are cookies which are actually his mom's recipe. At this point, all I kept thinking about was how I needed cookies and needed them now. Thus, that's how this fantastic novel inspired me to bake a batch. While I'm not the best chef nor the best baker, I do think the chocolate chip cookie recipe I have (one that I've tweaked several times) is the bee's knees. Dare I say they rival Cade's? Oh dear!

I guess the only way to see is to bake a batch for yourself. Keep in mind, this is one of those cookie recipes that requires you to refrigerate it for 24 hours. Trust me, you want all of the flavors to absorb, and this also helps with texture.

Caged In Winter Chocolate Chip Cookies


*3/4 cups of butter (1 1/2 sticks)- softened
*1 cup of light brown sugar (packed)
*1/2 cup of granulated sugar
*2 extra large eggs
*1 tbsp vanilla extract
*1 tsp baking soda
*3/4 tsp salt
*2 cups of chocolate chips
*1 cup of chopped nuts
*2 cups of all-purpose flour

Yields about 3 dozen cookies depending on how big you like your cookies.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, brown sugar, and butter and blend until smooth. Don't have a stand mixer? No problem! Combine the ingredients in a medium sized bowl, and blend with a hand mixer instead. Next, add the eggs and vanilla extract. Mix using your mixer on medium speed until fully blended. After that, add the salt and baking soda. Switch your mixer to low, and gradually add the flour 1/2 a cup at a time until it's all blended.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips and nuts with a spatula. Once it's all done, wrap the top in saran wrap, and place it in the fridge for 24 hours.

Fun trick: You can also place all of the cookie dough into a large freezer bag, zip it shut (But leave a small opening for air to escape. Just don't forget to zip it entirely shut once you're done), and press it down until there's no air left in there. You should end up with a giant rectangle of 1' thick cookie dough covered in plastic. Once it's time to bake them, open the bag, take a pair of scissors, and cut the block of dough out of the freezer bag. Place it on a cutting board, and cut the dough into 1'x1' cubes. No spooning necessary!

24 Hours later (This must be how Cage felt waiting for Winter outside of the bar)...

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on top of a baking sheet, and begin scooping a spoonful of cookie dough at a time onto the baking sheet. Be sure to leave enough space so the cookies do not touch while baking (see photo above). Bake for about 10-13 minutes, depending on how cold the dough is. The time will also vary as the dough begins to thaw a bit, especially if you place the spoonfuls onto a hot baking sheet. Just keep at eye on it!

Once the first batch is done, remove it from the baking sheet, and place it onto a baking rack. Repeat until all of the cookies are baked (or freeze the rest of the cookie dough and save it for later!).

Ta da! Behold, the glory that is the Caged In Winter Chocolate Chip Cookie. Grab a cup of coffee or a glass of milk, pick up your copy CAGED IN WINTER, and enjoy.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Seraphina Blog Tour- Review + Giveaway

Title: Seraphina (Seraphine #1)
Author: Rachel Hartman
Published: July 10th 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Source: Finished copy courtesy of the publisher for an honest review
Goodreads / Buy

"In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, "Some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy."

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life."

First line: "I remember being born."

Thoughts: Of all the genres out there, fantasy is probably my favorite. Being so, it comes as no surprise that I am beyond picky when it comes to fantasy novels, especially high fantasy. With that being said, I cannot tell you guys how much I absolutely adored SERAPHINA. Dragons, murder, secrets, forbidden love...I could really go on and on about all the things this book has to offer.

First, let's talk about the world building. It was spot on. Keep in mind, this book is more of a marathon and less of a sprint. If you're looking for a quick read, this isn't it. If you're looking to go on an adventure, a journey, than this is the book for you. I loved imagining dragons standing three stories high next to us pesky humans. Oh, and the music. I could probably hear the best music of my life, and it still wouldn't compare to Seraphina's talent. I'm not sure how the author did it, but I could hear the music coming out of the pages. What I wouldn't give to just hear her play one song.

Speaking of Seraphina (aka Phina), I cannot tell you guys how I reveled in her growth. In the beginning of the novel, she was a scared girl who just wanted to fade into the background. This is, of course, due to what she is. It also probably doesn't help that her father conditioned her to be this way. As the novel progresses, you see her become more of a woman and less of a girl. She's finding herself, and I'm assuming she'll continue to do so in the sequel.

Another character I couldn't get enough of was Orma. He's a saarantra (dragon) that mainly stays in his human form and mentors Seraphina. Like most saar, he thinks more with his head and less with his heart. Unlike most saar, he seems to care for Seraphina in his own special way. The ironic thing is, even though he's a dragon, he shows more affection for her than her father ever has. I enjoyed his quips and overall presence. He's definitely an intriguing character and one I think everyone will cherish.

Now, let's talk about romance for a bit, shall we? There's definitely some romance in this novel, but it's neither overpowering nor lacking. The porridge isn't too hot, too cold, but just right. There's definitely a lot of sexual tension between Phina and Prince Lucian Kiggs (Kiggs for short). Sadly, Kiggs is engaged to Princess Glisselda. It would be easy to outright hate her, mainly because you want to root for Seraphina, but it's not. Glisselda is a sweet character, one both Kiggs and Phina admire. I will admit, I originally found the concept of Kiggs and Selda being engaged kind of disturbing. They're cousins, but you have to keep in mind that almost all royal families, much like in world history, are married off to other royals aka relatives. With that said, I'll still continue to cheer for Phina and Kiggs because darn it, Seraphina deserves to be happy!

Like the majority of fantasy stories out there, this book includes a list of confusing names, places, beliefs, and words with many vowels. I probably spent more time attempting to say some of these phrases and name and still pronounced them incorrectly. If you're ever confused as to who's who, there's a glossary in the back of the novel. I don't know about you guys, but I love a good cheat sheet!

Overall, I cannot recommend this extraordinary novel enough. If you're a fan of GRACELING, FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK, and/or SHADOW AND BONE, you'll absolutely love this novel. Even if you're not or haven't read them, I highly recommend picking up SERAPHINA. All you have to do is read the prologue, and you'll fall for it the way I did.


5 Stars

Favorite Quotes

"Sometimes the truth has difficulty breaching the city walls of our beliefs. A lie, dressed in the correct livery, passes through more easily."

"We were all monsters and bastards, and we were all beautiful."

"I became the very air; I was full of stars. I was the soaring spaces between the spires of the cathedral, the solemn breath of chimneys, a whispered prayer upon the winter wind. I was silence,and I was music, one clear transcendent chord rising toward Heaven. I believed, then, that I would have risen bodily into the sky but for the anchor of his hand in my hair and his round soft perfect mouth."

Giveaway: Thanks to the fabulous people at Penguin Random House and to celebrate the paperback release of SERAPHINA, I am giving away a copy to one lucky reader. As you can see, this is one of my absolutely favorite novels, and here's your chance to win it. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to US/CA participants and ends on March 28th.

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Right Kind of Wrong Blitz + Giveaway

Sometimes wrong can feel oh so right . . .
Jenna Lacombe needs complete control, whether it's in the streets . . . or between the sheets. So when she sets out on a solo road trip to visit her family in New Orleans, she's beyond annoyed that the infuriatingly sexy Jack Oliver wants to hitch a ride with her. Ever since they shared a wild night together last year, he's been trying to strip away her defenses one by one. He claims he's just coming along to keep her safe-but what's not safe for her is prolonged exposure to the tattooed hottie.

Jack can't get Jenna out from under his skin. She makes him feel alive again after his old life nearly destroyed him-and losing her is not an option. Now Jack's troubles are catching up to him, and he's forced to return to his hometown in Louisiana. But when his secrets put them both in harm's way, Jenna will have to figure out how far she's willing to let love in . . . and how much she already has.

Buy Links:


About Chelsea Fine:

Chelsea lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where she spends most of her time writing stories, painting murals, and avoiding housework at all costs. She's ridiculously bad at doing dishes and claims to be allergic to laundry. Her obsessions include: superheroes, coffee, sleeping-in, and crazy socks. She lives with her husband and two children, who graciously tolerate her inability to resist teenage drama on TV and her complete lack of skill in the kitchen.

Forever publishing is also hosting a fun contest on FB, Instagram and Twitter inspired by the characters’ tattoos in the book. Fans who share a photo of their own tattoo and a little bit about the story behind it, along with #RightKindofWrong and Chelsea’s social media handle, are entered to win one of 10 signed copies of the book. The giveaway is open to US/Canada only and ends March 3 at 12 PM EST.

Social Media Links:


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Monday, March 2, 2015

The Duff Movie Review

Okay, I'm going to be honest and let you guys know that I haven't read the book since it first came out. That was in what, 2010? Yikes, time flies! At any rate, I kept wondering things during the movie like, "Did this happen in the book? I don't remember any of this happening. Wasn't this character like this? Bianca wasn't THAT innocent, was she?". Bare with me, I haven't read the book in ages, but even I could tell the movie (outside the characters and general theme) was completely different from the novel. The verdict? I absolutely loved it. In general, I usually hate when the movie version takes a left when it actually took a right in the book, but for this movie, for these characters, the screenplay was perfect.

First, let's talk about Bianca. She's not as cynical in the movie as she is in the book. In fact, dare I say she's more lighthearted and awkward but in all the best ways possible? I loved the casting. Mae Whitman was hilarious, and I couldn't have imagined her as a better Bianca. Originally, I had pictured Bianca more like Whitman's character in The Perks of Being A Wallflower (i.e. Mary Elizabeth) with more of a dry sense of humor. I wasn't expecting this ridiculously witty and amusing girl who had me cracking up nonstop. She reminded me of how hard it is to approach or even talk to someone you have a crush on let alone someone of the opposite sex. Needless to say, Whitman killed it in this movie.

Speaking of cracking up, we should talk about Wesley. Can we just take a moment and appreciate the glory that is Robbie Amell? This guy should never, ever wear a shirt. Ever. Outside his insanely good looks, he ends up also being witty but in a more crude sense (which I loved). I couldn't get enough of his banter with Bianca. They completely stole the show. He's also quite charming, thus concluding that Amell was indeed the perfect Wesley.

Overall, I absolutely adored this movie and cannot wait to see it again. Is it out on DVD yet? Because I kind of need to own it. I do ask fans of the book to please keep an open mind. Maybe do what I did and not reread prior to seeing the movie? This isn't one of those movies you want to overanalyze. Just sit back, enjoy, and LOL (laugh, not lying) the night away.


5 Stars

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Darker Shade Of Magic Blog Tour

Welcome to the next stop in A Darker Shade of Magic Blog Tour. Think of it as a twisted magic school bus ride. During this tour, we'll follow Kell as he flits through Red, White, and Gray Londons. Where are we today? Let's see...

Red London!

During the tour, we were given the opportunity to ask the fabulous V.E. Schwab one question. Maybe I'm bias, but this is a pretty fabulous question if I do say so myself.

If all of your past characters participated in a magical Hunger Games, who would be crowned the victor?

Victoria: Probably Victor :p Haha, sorry, couldn’t resist, Victor/victor/also superpowers. But in the ADSOM world, it would probably be Delilah Bard. Even though Kell is one of the most powerful magicians in the world(s), and Lila is just a street-urchin-turned-thief, she fights dirty ;)

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

About the author: V. E. SCHWAB's first adult novel, Vicious, debuted to critical praise and reader accolades. Schwab is the author of YA novels The Near Witch, The Archived, and The Unbound, and the Everyday Angel series for middle grade readers.

Giveaway: Thanks to the fabulous people at Tor, I am giving away one copy of A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC + one double-sided signed poster featuring the US and UK. All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is only open to US participants and ends March 28th.

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

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*Darker-Shade.com - a special website for A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC that is full of information and materials for readers.
*Watch V.E. Schwab explore London and discuss A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC
*A fun Buzzfeed Quiz you and your readers can take that will sort you into a magical London.

Find V. E. Schwab online
Twitter: https://twitter.com/veschwab

To purchase a print copy (I highly recommend this!):
Publisher’s page for book
Barnes & Noble
Books A Million

To purchase an e-book:
Google Play